Driving to Salt Lake City

11 11 2014

We left Moab about 8:30am for the final day on the bus – the mostly desolate drive to Salt Lake City.

Not only was it the final day on the bus,  but it was our final day with the lovely Tristan, our bus driver on our LeBus luxury coach. He has been such a delight and a great driver to boot. The whole group has really bonded with him and him to us. He made a lovely thank you speech to us on the way back to SLC, and said we were in top 3 groups he’s driven in the past 9 years. He got the assignment a few days before and it wasn’t until he was on his way to  Albuquerque that he found out he was picking up a group of Australians,  and then later that it was a group of Australian women,  many of whom were old enough to be his mother or even grandmother (Gretchen is 82; Tristan is 32). He approached us with some trepidation,  but after 8 or 9 days together it was sad hugs all round when we had to say goodbye at the hotel in  SLC. As a group we gave him a sketchbook with lots of messages from each of us and special Aussie slang sayings. And his tip! He must’ve wondered about us not tipping him along the way, but we were saving all the tips until the end. He wants to take his family to Disneyland and hopefully our envelope full of cash will help him do that. Thanks for driving us,  Tristan,  and for your infectious laugh and helping us eat all the food at dinner each night 😉

Before Tristan left us,  he dropped us at Gardner Village in  West Jordan for lunch and to wander around the quirky shops there.  Then he drove Helen and Michelle to the airport so they could pick up 7-seater rental vans,  then drove back to pick us up,  then back again to our hotel.

After a couple of weeks on the road,  I did some laundry (yes,  Skechers Gowalk2 shoes can go in the washing machine and the dryer and will not shrink!).

Then the Handi Quilter trainers we’ll be with the next two days introduced themselves  and joined us for supper. Tomorrow we get to quilt!

Oops! I forgot to mention that we had pretty much summer and winter in the one day. When we left Moab the weather was balmy – T-shirt weather at 8 am! By the time we got to a pass, the temperature had dropped to 33F, and there were light show flurries. Some of the ladies had never seen snow falling, so we stopped for a few minutes in the very strong winds for them to experience it.

Some photos from today…

Photos from the entire tour: https://www.flickr.com/photos/rhondamadeit/sets/72157648980759492/

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Awesome Arches National Park

10 11 2014

I’ve been to Arches once before, quite some time ago. I’d forgotten how awesome it was.

But before we got to Arches, we had to drive from Cortez, CO to Moab, UT.

We stopped at the Hole in the Rock  on the way there. It was an aptly named place (‘hole’), in my opinion. Cheap,  tacky,  tourist crap and a ‘zoo’ they should be ashamed of. I wish I hadn’t spent any money supporting that hell-hole for animals. The only vaguely interesting thing for me was some of the ‘found object’ metal art sculptures. This is the sort of place that might have held interest to travellers in the 1950s or so,  but not now. Some in our group must have found something of interest as several bought stuff there.

Next stop was Subway in Moab where we picked up sandwiches etc for our picnic lunch in the park, and my friend Kris who has retired to Moab. Kris was able to tell us a lot about Arches and how it was formed, gave us info about the flora and fauna of the park, etc. We had our picnic lunch on the rocks below Balanced Rock, then visited Windows, then the lower viewing area below Delicate Arch, and finally the magnificent jaw dropping Park Avenue.

This is such an awesome place where you are dwarfed not only by these magnificent structures, but by the magnitude of forces that were – and are – at play to create them. And the time-scale of these changes. Visiting Arches makes you realise how insignificant your place is in this world.

I took close to 100 photos in Arches today. Here are just a few.

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Contrails on the way to Moab.

 

Photos from the entire tour: https://www.flickr.com/photos/rhondamadeit/sets/72157648980759492/





Theory about why I don’t sleep on planes

9 11 2014

I’ve travelled to the US/Canada from Australia about 20 times since 1985, with most of those trips occurring from 2001,  which is when I started attending and speaking at conferences. You’d think I’d be used to the long flight across the Pacific and would have got the sleeping on planes thing worked out by now,  especially since much of the travel since 2001 has been in Business Class, and in more recent years on lie-flat beds.

However, I’ve never been able to do more than cat nap in short bursts. Sleeping on the plane had been impossible. I’ve tried prescription and over-the-counter sleeping medications,  to no avail. Ear plugs and noise-cancelling headphones (provided in Business Class on Qantas) dull the noise of the plane, but don’t eliminate it entirely. I’ve always assumed that my issue is related to the noise and vibration of the plane.

But perhaps that isn’t the reason at all. I had a light bulb moment in Santa Fe, New Mexico earlier this week – perhaps it is a combination of several other factors unique to me.

Here’s my logic…

I start getting altitude sickness symptoms at approx 7000 ft. I’ve known this from when I trekked in Nepal back in 1987 or thereabouts, and have had it confirmed whenever I go above 7000 ft. Well it seems that the air pressure inside an aircraft is set to be the same as the air pressure at an altitude of 6000 to 8000 ft. All the recommendations for flying and dehydration etc. are to ‘avoid alcohol’. Typically I have a couple of glasses of red wine with dinner when on the plane, not thinking that the combination of air pressure and alcohol might be affecting me.

I had three margaritas the night we arrived in in Santa Fe from Houston. Santa Fe is 7000 ft above sea level. Some 2+ hours later I felt very strange… Just like I feel on the plane when I can’t sleep. I should have been tired but I was wide awake and my pulse was a little faster than usual – almost tingly. At 10:40pm Santa Fe time it was 12:40am in Houston and I’d been up since 4am Houston time. I should have been dead on my feet (I walked more than 10,000 steps again that day… in low air pressure, but not thinking about it), but I didn’t feel the slightest bit tired. I had no symptoms of a hangover next morning.

Could alcohol plus air pressure plus my propensity for altitude sickness symptoms be the reason I don’t sleep on planes??

I searched for altitude sickness and alcohol and found a few medical sites that stated that anyone with that condition should not drink alcohol, and preferably not have caffeine, and that some sleeping meds should also be avoided as they don’t work – something to do with oxygenation of the blood, from memory.

As I can’t change the air pressure or my low tolerance of altitude, I guess I should have NO alcohol at all on the flights home and see if that makes any difference. And no Diet Coke either, thus avoiding the diuretic effects of caffeine too. I had two glasses of Diet Coke with lunch that first day in Santa Fe too, so that might have also contributed to the plane-like feeling I experienced that night.

Does this make sense? It could also explain why sleeping drugs don’t work on me, and why I have no  trouble sleeping at sea level, despite Diet Coke and alcohol.

I’ll provide an update after my long flight home in about 10 days time…

Update June 2015: Realised I hadn’t updated what happened… For 24 hours prior to the long flight home from the US (Salt Lake City to Los Angeles to Sydney to Perth), in the lounge, and on board, I had no alcohol or Diet Coke (I don’t drink tea or coffee). I cat napped, perhaps a little more than usual, but not appreciably so. And I may have got 2 hours actual sleep, which is definitely more than usual. So while no alcohol or caffeine may help, it didn’t put me into a long restful sleep on the flights home.





Quirky in Cortez

9 11 2014

Seen in Cortez, CO…

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This is a rental van. Beats the graffiti art on those vans from Wicked in Australia.

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A sewer (perhaps a quilter) was here 😉

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I cannot believe this price! Even in raspberry season in Australia you would rarely get a punnet of raspberries for less than $4  let alone less than $1.

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Fancy being able to buy these varieties of corn.





Mesa Verde

9 11 2014

We had a short drive from Durango to Mesa Verde today,  then 20 mostly hairpin bend miles up to the top of the mesa where the cliff dweller ruins are. It was then quite a steep (but paved) walk down to one of the main ruins (Spruce Tree House), where the ranger (in a Smokey the Bear hat) told us a lot about how the cliff dwellers lived and theories on why they left in about 1275AD.

After we got back up to the top, we walked to the cafe where there was only one person to take the orders and to make them up. So Helen and I offered to help the cook (there were about 30 people in line) and start processing some of the orders. It was simple stuff like soup and chilli beef,  hot  dogs,  chilli  dogs,  toasted cheese sandwiches etc. Most was already prepared so all we had to do was set out the paper plates,  add the crisps and pickles, heat the hot dog buns and split them and add the hot dogs etc.,  and call the numbers for people to collect their food. The cook did the cheese sandwiches and the small pizzas once she’d finished taking most of the orders. Helen and I had to wash our hands thoroughly before starting and had to wear a hair net too. We were glad to help out – there’s no way she could have dealt with all those orders by herself without really upsetting the customers. She gave us both a small gift and a thank you hug at the end too. Our good deed for the day 😉

After Mesa Verde we drove back down the same way we went up. Stunning scenery and views in all directions. At one point from the top of the mesa I could see Ship Rock, a weird formation that rises off the plains. It was probably at least 20 miles away in New Mexico,  but the views were so good we could see it in the distance.

Another magic day for weather,  and another T-shirt day.

Some of my photos…

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Photos from the entire tour: https://www.flickr.com/photos/rhondamadeit/sets/72157648980759492/





Driving to Durango

8 11 2014

We were on the road early this morning for the 4+ hour drive to Durango, travelling the whole way on highway 160.

We experienced a wide range of landscapes from high desert plains to national forest to snow covered mountains to 10,500 ft passes (Wolf Creek Pass) then to meadows and pastureland.  This sure is pretty countryside. Some of the ladies in the group had never touched snow,  so we stopped at one place high in the pass for them to get out and touch it. Unfortunately it was quite hard and icy, not new snow.

Durango was our overnight stop,  and we got there about 1pm so there was plenty of time to check out the quaint shops  and have lunch before we hit the quilt store around 4pm. They didn’t know we were coming… I bet they had their best November Friday takings ever!!

Here are some photos from today’s drive to Durango. As you can see we had perfect conditions for driving. And it was T-shirt weather too!

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Photos from the entire tour: https://www.flickr.com/photos/rhondamadeit/sets/72157648980759492/





A day with Ricky Tims

7 11 2014

Ricky Tims  is  a famous quilter who lives in and has a studio in La Veta,  CO. We were fortunate and very privileged to be able to spend a day with him today,  learning all sorts of techniques and tricks,  and shared dinner with him and Justin.

A day for learning and laughing. And for admiring his work and some quilts from his  personal collection. In addition, Ricky played some of his own compositions for us.

And some of us saw some of the mule deer that wander the streets of La Veta.

Here are a few of the many photos I took today.

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Photos from the entire tour: https://www.flickr.com/photos/rhondamadeit/sets/72157648980759492/





Taos and southern Colorado

6 11 2014

After two nights in a small luxury hotel  in Santa Fe,  we were brought down to a thud when we reached our accommodation in southern Colorado 😉 It is spartan by comparison, but I think we’re probably staying in the best place in town… We don’t have a lot of choice here – we need to be close to where we are doing a one-day class tomorrow and this is the closest town.

After we left Santa Fe this morning we travelled to Taos and then out to the Taos Pueblo,  which is a listed living world heritage site,  as it has been inhabited by the Red Willow tribe for more than 1000 years. Interesting place,  and our guide (Kevin) was a wealth of information.

We were there for an hour or so,  then back into Taos for another two hours of shopping,  sightseeing,  eating lunch etc. My first stop was right where the bus stopped  and was a great store that sold rocks,  things made from rocks,  and things found in rocks (e.g. fossils). There were some very beautiful rocks on display. The store was http://www.touchstonegalleries.com

I went into quite a few other stores as well, but to be honest,  nothing interested me enough to  buy.

Back on the road again,  heading north of Taos and towards and over the Colorado border into southern Colorado, where we are staying for a couple of nights as we will be doing a workshop with a world-famous quilter here  (that’s tomorrow).

It was a magic day today.  The sun was shining and the temperature was mild (it was meant to be 16C in Taos today,  and it was 9C (and quite hot) when I was basking in the sun in just a T-shirt and light trousers while having lunch. And just after we checked into the hotel,  the almost full moon rose over the desert fields opposite.

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Rio Grande River

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Taos Pueblo

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Photos from the entire tour: https://www.flickr.com/photos/rhondamadeit/sets/72157648980759492/





Santa Fe day tour

5 11 2014

We did a coach tour of Santa Fe for much of today. We had on board a tour guide,  David,  who directed our driver as well as gave us information about various landmarks,  buildings,  etc.

Let’s see how my memory is… We visited (but not necessarily in this order) the state Capitol building,  Museum Hill,  Canyon Rd galleries (where we stopped for lunch),  San Miguel  church and Loretto church (I didn’t go into that one),  and various little shopping areas, including one containing a fabric store (mostly dress fabrics).

This evening was our last night in Santa Fe and we went to dinner at the Cantina at La Casa Sena, where the wait staff sing songs from Broadway musicals. Very different! Great food,  great atmosphere.

A selection of photos from today…

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Photos from the entire tour: https://www.flickr.com/photos/rhondamadeit/sets/72157648980759492/





Santa Fe

4 11 2014

Our tour group was awesome this morning and on time for bus pick-up at 6:30am, but the bus didn’t arrive…  Many phone calls and stress for Michelle (our tour organiser) later,  the bus turned into the hotel just on 7am, with the mechanic at the wheel (Michelle was already at the concierge about to order taxis for us to get to the airport for our 9am flight and then charge the bus company!). The mechanic had got to the depot to start work and counted the buses and realised he had one more than he should,  so he checked the schedule and realised we hadn’t been picked up so high tailed it to the hotel to get all 25 of us and all our luggage! The driver who was meant to pick us up has now been sacked! Seems he’s been unreliable before… What reactive thinking on the part of the mechanic!

Got to the airport terminal and did group check in only to find we had to be in a different terminal than the one that was on Michelle’s itinerary.  Fortunately there’s a monorail between terminals! Then the gate changed between check in and the flight,  but fortunately it was the gate next to the one we were at. Finally we were on the flight leaving Houston,  all present and correct,  though not without some very stressful moments for Michelle.

When we got to Albuquerque,  our bus for the rest of the trip was waiting for us. And it was  luxury bus too. We found out we have the same driver the whole trip (we were originally told by the travel agent that the drivers would change each day). The bus has a toilet, is fully air conditioned, has a power outlet for each seat,  wifi,  clean windows (some of the other buses have not been so clean), pull down see-through sun shades for each BIG window,  very comfy sprung upholstered seats,  half a dozen or so TV screens down the middle of the bus, and a microphone for Michelle or Helen or Tristan (our driver) to make announcements.  It’s very comfy too,  with excellent vision out the windows.

The hotel where we’re staying for two nights in Santa Fe is very top class!

We had a free afternoon to wander the central plaza area in Santa Fe. Then several of us meet at a bar and grill across the central plaza (about 3 mins walk away), where they had happy (two) hour $5 margaritas and $3 food plates (nachos etc).

You can see from the photos below that we’re in Santa Fe! The air is so blue and clear here and the influence of the various Amerindian tribes is evidenced in all the art and jewellery that Santa Fe is famous for.

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And then there’s the margaritas….

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Photos from the entire tour: https://www.flickr.com/photos/rhondamadeit/sets/72157648980759492/