It’s been a long time since I’ve participated in Cee’s black & white challenge, but this one seemed a perfect fit for where I was this week!
Thanks Cee, for continuing to support the photo challenges!
It’s been a long time since I’ve participated in Cee’s black & white challenge, but this one seemed a perfect fit for where I was this week!
Thanks Cee, for continuing to support the photo challenges!
I left you last in the wide open spaces of Monument Valley, where you can see for miles across a desert spiked with rock formations that lend themselves to imaginative interpretations.
And what’s the opposite of wide open spaces? Why slot canyons, of course!
A slot canyon is exactly what it sounds like, a narrow canyon formed by wind and water, winding it’s way through rock.
You’ve probably seen photos taken in slot canyons, the orange, reds and greys swirling rock and light together. The images look like modern art.
And if you’re a photographer or a painter you’ve wanted to see one of these for yourself.
I know I’ve always wanted to.
So I was excited when we were able to book a tour to one of the Antelope Canyons near Page, Arizona.
I didn’t really know what to expect.
But we were lucky, our group was small and our guide was all about photography. He stopped us at several places and told us where to look for the iconic shot.
He even suggested camera settings and took a few pictures of each of us using our cameras.
I wasn’t sure what I got until that evening when I downloaded the images. There were a few that made me stop and say ‘oh’ and then grin.
I hope they made you grin too.
And for absolutely sure, if you’re near Page you need to get yourself booked on a tour. Try to go in the off season so you get a smaller group, but go, no matter when you can go, just go.
Camera or no camera, you’re going to be in awe as you walk through these canyons. And you won’t forget it, guaranteed.
One more post about this Southwest trip is coming up. Stay tuned.
Meanwhile…Katie-girl, we’re coming home soon sweetheart. I’ll make it up to you I promise.
We’ve been in the west a week now, and every post I do about our travels out here should be connected to Trent’s weekly smile post because there are smiles just about everywhere I look!
When I last left you we were in the painted desert which was beautiful in an entirely different way from the next places we visited. I don’t remember ever visiting Monument Valley before, so I was excited to see if it was as dramatic as they made it seem in all those old cowboy movies.
But first we happened on the Valley of the Gods, which is just a little dirt road off of Highway 163 in Bluff Utah. We missed the road the first time we went by. There’s just one little old faded sign with an arrow telling you to turn down a nondescript dirt road.
If you’re ever out in this part of the world, and you’re driving an SUV, not a low riding car, and it’s not raining, because the sign said the road was impassible if wet, then I highly recommend you take the hour or two or three it will take you to meander through this country.
There were huge towers of stone everywhere. It’s the kind of place that would make for wonderful night photography.
But it also might be kind of scary to be out there alone in the dark.
Going through the Valley of the Gods was so worth it, even if it did put us behind getting to Monument Valley.
We drove up to the gate about 4:00, and they ‘close’ at 5:00. The woman was glad to take our $20 though and said we had plenty of time to drive the loop, even if “we were headed back out by 5:30 the gate would still be open.”
We figured we’d start and see how far we got before we were kicked out. Plus the low sun made everything shine.
It’s about here that I lost my phone, getting in and out of the car to get pictures. But I didn’t realize it yet.
Around the next corner was a stone monument I call the ‘broken finger’ because it looks so much like my right hand with it’s broken (and sort of crooked now) little finger.
The light was starting to go, making everything even more dramatic.
When I got back in the car after that last shot I realized I didn’t have my phone. I started walking back along the road frantically looking. No luck. We tried to remember the last picture I had taken with the phone and narrowed it down to three stops where I might have lost it.
We drove around the last loop again, as fast as we could go over the rocky, bumpy, dusty road. No luck. My stomach hurt and I felt sick.
I didn’t feel like taking any more pictures. But my husband said, rightly so, we couldn’t change anything, so we should try to enjoy the last of the light.
And so we did, though my stomach still hurt and I was so sad that my phone was out there in the cold desert all alone. I know. That sounds silly. But that’s how I felt.
No one ever came by to ask us to leave and there were plenty of people still in the Valley even at 6 when the last bit of light left the sky.
In fact, up at the visitor center there were a couple dozen photographers with their fancy cameras and tripods waiting for that last purple light. We waited there with them.
And when the light was finally gone we drove the 4 miles to our hotel, and sitting in our room my husband, for whatever reason, called my phone. And someone answered it. Turns out the visitor center has a hotel and someone found my phone and turned it in to the front desk. And the front desk guy heard it ring and answered.
Happy dance! My husband drove right back over there and picked it up. I am so grateful to that anonymous couple, and don’t you just love a happy ending?
So where will we be next? You’ll have to wait and see. But I can tell you it is amazing. I don’t know if I’ll get it posted before we get home but it will be worth the wait.
Here I am, still trying to catch you all up. It’s hard when there’s so much to see. I’ll try not to rush you, but really we need to move along.
So let’s visit Meteor Crater near Winslow Arizona. It’s a natural landmark that is privately owned by the decedents of the man who homesteaded the area way back in the 1800s.
The crater was made when a meteor hit the earth about 50,000 years ago. It’s about 3/4 of a mile wide and over 500 feet deep.
There’s an information center with a movie about the discovery and exploration of the crater over the years, a very large fragment of the actual meteor that you can touch, and guided tours along the rim.
I remember visiting when I was a kid, maybe in the late 60s. It’s much the same, though the guide told us there has been significant erosion which is one reason they don’t let people wander on their own there anymore.
Even though it’s kind of expensive, it was $20 each for us, a $2 discount because we were over 60, it’s worth going if you’re ever out there.
Not far down the road is the Southern entrance to the Petrified Forest. You would be remiss if you didn’t check it out.
We got in on my husband’s National Parks pass, definitely worth the money spent when you’re out here, we have used it several times already.
The road goes north and south, connecting two large highways, over twenty miles of interesting countryside, unbelievable vistas, and of course trees turned to stone.
Right now, the middle section of the road is under construction so we could only go about 16 miles up the road. But it was fun anyway. If you only have a little time, I advise going on a short loop right behind the visitor center – you’ll see a lot of petrified trees in a small space.
But really, try to go to Crystal Forest, a one mile paved walking loop with incredible petrified trees, and wonderful views. It’s paved and pretty level, and of course, if you get over petrified, you can always do only part of the loop.
But likely that will be impossible because you’re going to want to know what’s around the next curve or over that rise in the path.
If you were to go into the Petrified National Park from the north entrance you’d find an entirely different landscape. You’d soon realize you’re in the Painted Desert.
The colors, especially in early morning when we were lucky enough to be there, are almost indescribable. So I’ll let you just look and judge for yourself.
The red and green and rust and tan hills go on for miles and miles. At each overlook we had to stop and…well…look.
But we kept driving, and the landscape changed.
We found ourselves surrounded by white mountains…
…and following a paved trail we descended into a magical land of white and purple and blue and pink and grey piles of rock.
We gasped in surprise and delight around every curve. The morning light was making the colors glow. It almost looked fake.
I’m telling you, don’t skip the north part of this park! Just because you’ve seen a bunch of petrified wood on the south side already, and you’re tired and thinking maybe you don’t need to go explore the north side, well, you’d be making a big mistake to skip this!
After we walked back up the steep incline and out of the canyon we drove to an overlook. It was fun to trace where we’d walked. It looked sort of like a giant game board, with people moving along the path.
And, once we caught our breath…we headed back down the road.
Next we’re stopping at Valley of the Gods and Monument Valley. I haven’t even downloaded those pictures yet…but I’m pretty sure there’s some good stuff in there.
And if you’ve followed this post all the way down here, thanks for your patience!
Sometimes when you’re off exploring you get so overwhelmed with new sights that you just don’t know where to start. And that’s where I am right now.
We’re in Arizona. Well, technically right this minute we’re in Colorado, but I have to get you caught up, and that means starting in Arizona. The images here are from the end of last week, starting in the Phoenix area where we visited friends.
We took a drive north of Phoenix, up toward Roosevelt Lake, driving through all sorts of terrain. The lake was beautiful, but the most beautiful that trip was this bridge.
I liked that the ducks were swimming and messing up the glassy surface of the lake too.
After we visited for a couple days, we headed north for some exploring. We stopped at Montezuma’s castle, in Camp Verde, Arizona, where down a short walkway you could see the cliff dwelling sitting high up in the white stone. This dwelling was built and lived in by people from about 1100 to 1425.
Then we traveled a few miles to Tuzigoot National Monument, another Indian ruin, this one sitting high on a hill.
We had perfect weather to explore the stone structure…
…and enjoy the views.
And finally, that day, we visited Montezuma’s well, a small lake that is fed fresh water from deep in the earth beneath the pond. Centuries ago it was a special place for gathering of the Indians from all over the region.
We were lucky enough to talk with a young man there whose people used to come there to pray and dance. He says they still do during certain times of the year.
Since then we’ve seen a sunset in the desert, visited the Petrified Forest over the span of two days, wandered in the painted desert and crossed into Colorado.
Oh and we spent one night in Winslow Arizona….had to get the iconic picture of that!
I haven’t even looked at the past two days worth of pictures, much less picked out some for you…but I will. We’ve seen some spectacular scenery and you’re not going to want to miss it!
Well, the week was spent mostly in DC and was very busy and full of stress. But once the work was done on Tuesday I had plenty of things to smile about.
I didn’t take my camera with me, so all the images I post today were taken with my phone. I had fun with the phone, you can take pictures of people easily because no one notices you messing with a phone.
And someday I’d like to do a whole series about people on the Metro. I suppose there’s something less then honest about taking pictures of people without them knowing it.
But I captured the images I did because the people caught my attention, both because of their diversity and because they were interesting. I love people watching on the metro. I’m hardly ever really on my phone there, I’m usually watching and sometimes snapping a shot.
Another thing I love about DC is walking at night. The monuments are, of course, beautiful, but we didn’t visit them this trip. We did, however, see other beautiful things.
A lot of the buildings are lit up and glow against the sky.
And the play at Ford Theatre was so good. It held my attention even though we were sitting so close to the box where Lincoln was shot. That usually distracts me, but not during this play.
It was called “Silent Sky” and was about a woman in 1900 who mapped stars but couldn’t take credit for her work which eventually was used in the Hubble Spacecraft.
And still more I love about DC – the Metro. I know the locals don’t like it.
There are lots of breakdowns and while we were there it was raining and there was more than one leak in the ceiling. Still….it got us where we wanted to go efficiently and quickly. And did I mention the people watching?
In fact, people watching is good all over the city, even in the museums.
No matter where you look there’s something fun to capture.
And the museums themselves are pretty awesome, and free.
It’s a wonderful city, Washington DC, if you can ignore the lack of production happening there.
Everything that is not political made me smile this week. I hope it made you smile too!
What would you do if someone called you on a Thursday and asked you to testify before a Senate subcommittee the next Tuesday? What if it was about something important, something close to your heart? What if the things that needed to be said wouldn’t be heard unless you went?
Then of course you’d gather up your courage and go! So I did,
Yesterday, coincidentally on my dad’s 91st birthday, I testified before the Subcommittee on Transportation and Safety about the State of Trucking. I wasn’t alone, there was also representation from the American Trucking Association, The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers, the Livestock Marketing Association, and the State Police Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance.
If you’ve ever watched a Senate hearing on TV you’ll know what it was like.
The Senators all sit elevated with big chairs. The witnesses sit together at a long table down below in front of microphones that have little clocks in them to time how long you’re speaking. And you have to remember to turn your microphone on before you begin. And especially to turn it off after you’re finished with what you want them to hear.
It was an honor to be asked, but of course I was nervous. Still, the Executive Director of the Truck Safety Coalition wrote the first draft of my comments, and I edited it using words that I could get my mouth around. Then another board member helped me shave the speech down to five minutes and punch it up to gain attention.
I practiced saying it out loud for hours on Monday, in front of my husband, the Executive Director and the board member. That helped a lot. And of course early Tuesday morning, while my husband was in the shower I spoke it aloud a couple times too.
Tuesday we arrived at the Senate Office Building early, to meet with one of my Senators who was going to introduce me at the hearing. Senator Peters is very supportive of safety technology and spoke eloquently about my work. I was the only witness to get an introduction like that and I appreciate him so much.
I got to speak first at the hearing, which was helpful, not to have to wait and listen to the other four speak. Though maybe I would have adjusted my talk to object to some of what they said if I had heard them first. But I doubt it. My oral testimony already countered most items they were asking for.
Turns out teen drivers and allowing cattle haulers exemptions from the hours of service rules were the big topics, and of course I oppose both of those. But the Senators that agree with these ideas didn’t really want to hear opposition, so only one question was directed at me, and I was hard pressed to get any other thoughts in without them throwing me a question.
A hearing is not a debate, you’re not allowed to interrupt other speakers, though one Senator, thankfully, did ask, at the end of her questioning if any of us had anything else to add, and of course I did. And toward the end I did just butt in on the last Senator and make a point disagreeing with the ATA representative about teen drivers, and thankfully was then backed up by the Independent Operators representative because they don’t want teen drivers either.
And that’s how the hearing ended, so I guess we got the last word, at least on one topic.
I’m grateful that I had the opportunity to speak up for safety. I wasn’t heard on as many topics as I was prepared for because many Senators on our side of safety didn’t bother to attend. And that’s a shame. There can’t be a complete discussion unless both sides come to the table. I may not be speaking at the next hearing, but I’ll be on the phone urging the subcommittee members to show up that’s for sure.
And that’s the lesson I leave you with. If you care deeply about a topic, any topic, and you have an opportunity to share that passion, don’t be afraid. Do the thing that scares you, make sure you’re heard.
Change is hard, sometimes it’s scary, but it’s always worth the effort.
As you know, Trent hosts a weekly prompt over on his blog looking for smiles. And, as you know, one of the things that makes me smile is Lake Michigan – especially Lake Michigan and light houses.
So I picked up a friend of mine, the same friend that went with me last year to Pt. Betsie in -13 degrees with an unimaginable windchill, and we headed on over to Michigan’s west coast. Sunday the weather was better, with a temperature hovering around 32 degrees (0C).
We were very appreciative of that alone.
When we got to Grand Haven there was wind, but not nearly as much as we had hoped – the waves were perhaps five feet high. Still it was so pretty. There was a guy in his kayak bobbing among the waves. We thought he was crazy.
I noticed later when I was reviewing pictures, that he was wearing a GoPro. Somewhere on YouTube there is likely a very cool (literally) video. I should go try to find it. He got out of the water shortly after we arrived, and the rest of our time there we took a few pictures, interspersed with longer periods of sitting in the car waiting to see if the wind picked up.
It didn’t, so we went to lunch, then traveled further south to South Haven, where the wind seemed stronger, but the lake floor was deeper and the waves not as big as we’d hoped.
But the sun came out!
It was pretty there too, but not exactly what we had envisioned. We drove up onto the bluff to see if we could capture the turquoise of the lake better from a higher vantage point.
It was getting late, but we decided to stop at one more beach. We drove up the coast to Holland. By then the sun had hidden behind dense clouds again and the wind was howling.
And there we found a wind surfer.
I had trouble keeping him and his sail in the frame. The wind was grabbing me and my lens and focusing was almost impossible.
He let the sail pull him high up into the air, where he began doing acrobats, twisting and turning, sometimes feet above his head.
We both got our feet wet on the beach in Holland as we were focused on the kite and it’s passenger, instead of the waves racing on the sand.
But we were smiling so much we didn’t even care.
What made you smile this week? Write a post and link to Trent’s blog and he’ll send out a recap on Monday. I’m looking forward to seeing what perked you up this early January week.
When mama said she was going to write a tribute to Reilly Cowspot Dog, my fiance, I asked if I could please do it. Because Reilly was, and always will be, my boyfriend, my soulmate.
Mama wasn’t sure it was a good idea to let me write it. She said maybe it would be too hard for me, that I’d get all sad and stuff, and of course she’s right. I am truly heartbroken that I won’t see Mr. Reilly on this earth again.
I love him so.
But it is precisely because I love him that I want to tell you about him. And even though it makes me sad, it also helps me to remember him and all the good times he had when he was here.
Mama is right when she says you can smile and cry at the same time.
Reilly was born an old soul with the deepest, darkest, most beautiful eyes. I’m told he was a good boy right from the start. He never got in trouble even when he was a puppy.
He was a color-headed white sheltie, which means most of him was white, but he had this marking on one side that mama thought looked just like a Micky Mouse head, especially noticeable when he was a little guy.
Mama says one of the first things she remembers about him was a video where he was walking on a treadmill, getting his walk in when the weather was bad outside. He was so adorable.
He grew into a tall guy, so dark and handsome, with a big, booming voice. Sometimes people were startled when he barked, but they shouldn’t have worried because Reilly loved everyone. His mom said he even liked to go to the vet, and would bark upon arrival to let them all know he was there. Can you imagine being happy to visit the vet?
And what an adventurer he was! He loved to explore parks, proclaiming each of them ‘his’ once he had visited. Why he and his brother Denny even earned honorary Park Ranger status! Reilly felt it was very important to visit as many of his parks as frequently as possible just to make sure everything was up to his very high standards.
A couple years ago, when a hurricane was threatening his home, he and his family got to go all the way to Alabama to stay at my lake house! I wasn’t there, which makes me sad now, but I was sure happy to see the pictures of Reilly enjoying the cooler Alabama weather out on my deck.
I hear he especially loved the air conditioning vents that I had put in the floors there. They are perfect to cool off warm sheltie tummies and I’m so glad he got to enjoy them.
He climbed my mountain there in Alabama too! Just one more adventure in a life full of adventures for my Reilly.
For the last few years Reilly was lucky to live near the ocean, and oh my goodness, how my Reilly loved walking on the beach in the early mornings or late evenings. So many lovely smells. So many birds to chase!
He loved the salt air blowing in his fur, and the sand between his toes, even the toes of his bad foot. He had the most adorable little boots that he wore to help him walk easier. I thought he looked so sophisticated in them.
And guess what? A couple years ago I got to actually meet the love of my life! I’m sure you all remember that. He was so welcoming, letting me spend time in his home. He shared his beaches and parks and family with me, and even let me eat out of his bowl without arguing!
My Reilly, he was such a gentleman.
When he wasn’t adventuring or exploring he loved to spend time at home with his folks, lounging on the deck in the winter sunlight, or hanging out in the air conditioned sun-porch during the warmer months. He did that more and more these last few weeks as he became weaker in his illness.
This past Wednesday, the day before Thanksgiving, his poor body just gave out and he crossed the rainbow bridge, only two weeks after his little brother Denny. Mama took me on a walk the next day and told me the sad news. Of course I wasn’t surprised, as she had warned me that he was very ill. But still.
Mama’s eyes are leaking at random times now, and this morning I crawled into bed to wake her up with kisses which I haven’t done in many years. She hugged me tight. She says she is so heartbroken for Reilly’s folks who have lost both their boys this month.
She says there are no words to make this better.
And she says she knows lots of people all over the world were sad to hear the news. Did I tell you my Reilly was famous and had his own blog? He had friends everywhere.
I feel very honored to be his girl and I know when I go across that bridge he’ll be waiting for me. Cause that’s the kind of gentle boy he is and always will be.
So Mr. Reilly. My love. I will miss you forever and ever. Thank you for being my guy and sharing your space with me and putting up with my princess-ness. Thank you for all the gifts you’ve sent me over the years. Thanks for sleeping next to me when I visited, and taking me to your special places. I loved all of it. And I loved you.
No, that last bit shouldn’t be in past tense. I love you Reilly, and always will. Till we meet again sweetie, run on those beaches up there, and sniff through the woods. Chase a bird and a squirrel for me while you’re waiting. And eat the good treats, just save a few for me.
Your feet, all four of them, are good now, and your legs are strong. Your bark is as loud and as deep as ever; I’m sure you announced yourself when you got over the bridge. Run and bark and keep a watch over Denny and I’ll see you again. One way or another.
Your girl Katie.