Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Finally, A Hike in the Desert

Monday, we joined Ron and Barbara for a hike in the Coon Ridge Recreation Area, north of Mesa. Here are John, Barbara and Ron as we were ready to head out from the parking lot.

I love saguaros and could take pictures of them all day long, especially since this is our first time to be out among them since returning to Arizona in early October. The desert around Coon Ridge is beautiful.

We had some good views of the Salt River (we think) that runs through the area.

One parking lot was full of horse trailers and we saw two riders coming toward us on the trail.

There was a great grove of mesquite trees by our parking lot. It almost looked like it had been planted as an orchard.

We had a nice hike. But one of the reasons we came to this area was to see the wild horses that live nearby. We have never seen wild horses except in Teddy Roosevelt National Park in North Dakota. Apparently, the horses are easiest to find at dawn and dusk. Because of the recent cold weather here, we didn't even pick up Ron and Barbara until 10 am, way after dawn. Needless to say, we didn't see the horses. However, a friend of a friend of Barbara's did see the horses and took some pictures. They were obviously near the river in the mesquite grove. Thanks, whoever took this photo. We really have to go back to see them ourselves.

One more photo, this one from dusk on Christmas Eve. Look at this sunset!

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Working With Wood

We finally found some time to work in our shop. It has been two years since we did any intarsia projects. John wanted to refresh his skills before making something complicated. First, he made a fish, all out of one piece of wood.

He is working on a butterfly out of three different woods. It is more difficult to get the pieces to fit when they come from different pieces of wood.

For the past two years, he has been carving large figures for a nativity scene. He finally finished enough to make a display. First he had to paint them. We display them in a window in the shop. They look great, I think. Unfortunately, the photos have some reflections.

I got some experience with my new lathe. I made a candle holder from a piece of birch and a box out of some of the aspen we gathered this summer. I look forward to having time to make more bowls.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

It's the Simple Things

After spending eight days in motels, we really came to appreciate great shower heads. And we realized how lacking the shower head in our Gold Canyon home is. So, what did we do? We went to Lowe's and bought a new one.

This one is wonderful! It makes such a difference in our morning showers. And I love that it has a hand-held section that can be used to rinse down the shower walls. We are now happy campers--or happy bathers.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Travel by Train

We love trains and ride tourist lines whenever we can. The old trains are always fun and the scenery is usually interesting and worth the time we spend. We have ridden on Amtrak several times in the past--to Glenwood Springs in Colorado, to California and to Illinois. We learned quickly that, if we are going to try to sleep on a train, it is best to get a roomette or bedroom. With that in mind, we took the train from Tucson to Austin and back for our time in Texas attending our granddaughter Kylie's swim meet. We had a roomette.

We were on the train for 23 hours east bound and 24.5 hours west bound. What is it like to travel by train? First and foremost, you to slow down. There is nothing to hurry for except meal times. And all meals are free when you are in a sleeper car. Only alcohol need be paid for. And most of the food is pretty good. Nothing like you may have read about in days gone by, but pretty good.

We took our Kindle readers, our cell phones, my computer and John's iPad with us. I had to take my computer so I could download all our photos from the camera and phones, freeing up space for even more photos. I also could blog from the computer. I am still catching up on all we did, but some of the events were covered right away. Thankfully, there was an electrical outlet in our room--for charging all this equipment. They were also available in each seat in coach and in the snack car and viewing dome. Everywhere, you saw passengers watching videos on their computers and tablets or playing games on their phones and computers.

Our roomette had two chairs facing one another, some space to hang clothes and our backpack, room for one suitcase under the chair, and a large window. At night, the two chairs slid down to make one bed, the other folded down from the ceiling. I always sleep on the bottom bunk. I can no longer crawl on the upper bunk. If we had chosen a bedroom, we would have had a double bed instead of bunks--at an increased cost. Bedrooms also include a sink and toilet. We didn't take pictures of the room set-up, but John did take one of me on my computer.

We were free to walk through the train. Each time we did, we were so glad we weren't traveling coach. Many of the people nap a lot--probably because they don't get good sleep at night, sitting in a chair. Therefore, it was quiet in the coaches. You would feel you almost had to whisper if you were traveling there. The train travels as speeds up to 80 mph at times, making walking an activity calling for good balance and outstretched hands to grab something if there were big bumps.

A couple of times a day, there were station stops that lasted long enough to get out of the train and walk. I am so glad I stopped smoking 35 years ago. The train is non-smoking. In fact, if you are caught smoking, you are put off the train at the next station and were on your own to get transportation from there.  That happened once on the east bound trip. When we boarded in Tucson, the conductor announced that the next smoke stop would be in El Paso, Texas, 6 hours down the track.

Sometimes train travel provides great scenery--like on the Zephyr that goes through the Colorado Rockies and the Coast Starlight that travels along the pacific coast. But eastern Arizona and western Texas don't provide that kind of scenery. Here is some of what we saw. Nice, but not spectacular. There was a good sunset somewhere east of El Paso.

We will most likely travel this way again, possibly just to take a long trip. We will get a bedroom if we go again. But riding a train is relaxing. None of the stuff that takes our focus when we are at home is there to keep us busy. Where there is nothing to do and nowhere to go, the only choice is to sit back and relax. A hundred years ago, when trains were the only good way to travel--unless you drove yourself--it was certainly a different experience than flying is today. You really ought to try taking a train sometime.

Main Street of Texas

That is what they call Congress Avenue in Austin. From the State Capitol on the north to South Congress across the Colorado River, there are many different sights and opportunities. The skyline reveals numerous new skyscrapers. Mixed in are historic buildings that have been preserved and are still in use.

This is the Congress Avenue bridge across the Colorado.

This is the Austin skyline from the bridge.

This burger bar is so popular, office workers from nearby buildings join long lines to purchase their food--just so they can eat it standing up on the sidewalk.

When I researched the ten top tourist attractions in Austin, South Congress was at the top. We had to go there. One shop was Allen's Boots. Are they ever beautiful--and expensive. Those for women are often more colorful than the men's.

Other shops were more off-the-wall. One was called Uncommon Things and were they ever!

Tesoros had goods from all over the world, including these containers made from old tires.

One of the employees of a costume shop was as flamboyant as the costumes they rent.  Click the photo to enlarge and get a better look.

Other than the boot shop, we weren't impressed with South Congress Avenue. However, we did enjoy our long walk from one end of the street to the other and back again.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Texas State Capitol

The Sunset Red granite Texas State Capitol is the largest in the US and is 308 feet taller than the US Capitol. The building dominates the Austin skyline at the north end of Congress Street. We decided to tour the building on our first day in Austin.

On the grounds we saw a statue dedicated to Terry's Rangers, a group of Texas Rangers that fought in the Civil War.

Another was dedicated to Texas' Confederate Dead.

We enjoyed exploring the interior of the building. The building's dome is beautiful.

I loved the hallways with each office door framed in dark wood.

Texas is the Lone Star state and much of the decoration, from chandeliers to doorknobs to window etchings, exhibit the star.

The desks in the Senate and House chambers are interesting. And the Christmas tree in the House chamber is spectacular.

Look at the posts in the stairway hand rail. Aren't they beautiful?

We were glad we had the opportunity to visit this wonderful building.