Daymaker - a person who performs acts of kindness with the intention of making the world a better place.
~ David Wagner
, author of Life as a Daymaker; how to change the world by making someone's day ~

DayMaker - any thought, word, or deed that spreads happiness, compassion, or fruitful ideas.
~ Annis Cassells ~

Friday, November 29, 2013

U is for Up North

When you live in Detroit, as I did for many of my growing up years, going Up North is a dream. Up North the trees and lakes outnumber the people. You can fish in the many lakes and see real, live deer and other wildlife. You can enjoy peace and quiet -- at least until hunting season. Going Up North is getting away.

Michigan’s Lower Peninsula resembles a mitten. A Michigan native turns the back of her left hand toward you and points to a spot on it to show you where she's from. Anywhere above the knuckles is Up North.

Even further up is the U.P., the Upper Peninsula. It is bounded by Lake Superior and Lake Huron on the south and Lake Superior on the north. The Mackinac (MACK in naw) Bridge connects it to the mitten. The U.P. is way Up North.

With its lengthy, harsh winters, the U.P. is the place to practice and enjoy skiing and snowmobiling. My 2008 foray into the land up north occurred while I was en route to the Women on Wheels International Ride-In. Our destination was Boyne Mountain Resort, located right about the first joint of your ring finger.

Leaving from Oregon and California, motorcycle buddies Laurie and Virginia and I rode north to the Canadian Rockies and then headed east on the Trans-Canada Highway. We dropped down into the U.S. into Wisconsin and continued east across Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. I hadn’t been on the U.P. in forty years.

The views of the Great Lakes from astride our motorcycles showed us the beauty and vastness of these famed bodies of water. We swerved with the winding rural roads that took us to the Mackinac Bridge, the longest suspension bridge in the Western Hemisphere at 8,614 feet.  Like all suspension bridges, it is designed to move to accommodate changes in the wind, temperature, and weight. The height of the roadway at mid-span is approximately 200 feet above water level, which is pretty scary when you’re riding along and can look through the grate to see the water unrolling in front of you. 

Photo from Boyne Mountain website
Switching into its summer mode, Boyne Mountain Resort offered an indoor water park and scenic chairlift rides and became a convenient base for our explorations into nearby towns. The people of Boyne City showed us a good time, Up North style. One evening, near the waterfront, they put on an ice cream social for all the motorcyclists. 

When the Ride-In was over, I hung around Up North for a few more days, visiting friends Susan and Lois in tiny Bitely, Michigan. Fresh air, their lake-front cottage, the abundance of trees, living in the midst of nature and the lack of traffic are compelling attributes of their relaxed lifestyle. They love watching the birds, deer, and visiting squirrels that seem to return each season, particularly the red-taled squirrel they’ve named Reba.
Photo by Lois
With like-minded neighbors who live around the lake or in the area, Up North is a perfect place for Lois and Susan. What a great get-away from the hectic, everyday city life.
~ xoA ~

Saturday, November 23, 2013

T is for Texas

I’ve romped, driven, waltzed, and ridden my motorcycle across Texas many times over the years. Living in California and visiting friends and relatives back East since the 1970s, one does not escape the “Lone Star” state. In fact, once you set rubber or your feet in Texas, it’s days before you’re out of there. So this post will consist of Texas moments and memories from several trips. 

On journeys where Texas was not my destination, I remember (and can still feel) how fierce winds caused my motorcycle to lean sideways as I rode through Amarillo in the panhandle. What’s a motorcyclist to do in a situation like that? Hold tight and keep going. 
But, in March of 2001, Judy and I drove to San Antonio so I could attend a conference. We spent a week in this town of The Alamo, taking in the River Walk and other nearby sites and eating our fill of Shiner Bock black bean soup at the Zuni Grill. 

En route from Bakersfield, our drive took us through a landscape shot with color. Lavender runners of bluebonnets lined our pathway as we passed through desert scenes. The foothills crinkled into Sharpei furrows, breaking up the flat lands of the western desert. Yellow rocknettle and desert marigolds spread out over the landscape mingling with the bluebonnets. Many of the yuccas were in bloom, and we also saw red and green prickly pear cactus.

While taking a break at Study (STEW-dee) Butte, I visited with a local man who told me about the Texas road across the highway that was the “2nd best motorcycle road in the country.” Judy and I looked at the sign and at our map and saw that the road would take us right down to the Rio Grande in under twenty miles. So, we detoured onto it. Route 170 led us past Terlingua, which boasted a restaurant called “When Pigs Fly BBQ” and into Lajitas. Yep, there was the famous Rio Grande; in this place, merely a narrow strip separating the U.S. from Mexico. We flagged down another tourist to take a picture of us with the Rio Grande in the background. As we posed, an SUV entered the water from the Mexican side and drove across to the U.S., right behind us.  So much for border control.

A cross-country driving trip in the spring of 2002 found us spending two full days on I-10, getting ourselves across Texas. Mid morning on the second day brought a welcome diversion as we rolled in to the heart of Davy Crockett County and the little town of Ozona.  One cannot leave Ozona without stopping to see the David Crockett Monument, which is on the east edge of the town square.   This town square also boasted an inviting gazebo and a number of pecan trees that had shed ripe nuts all over the ground.  Like kids, we bustled around, gathering up pecans and stuffing them into our jacket pockets then posing for photos in the shadow of Davy’s statue.

Next, we hit the capitol city of Austin, home of the LBJ Presidential Library and host to an amazing Mardi Gras celebration. After touring the Texas Capitol building and LBJ’s impressive library, we made our way to the Driskill Hotel. This historic hotel opened in 1886 and was the site of the first interstate telephone line use, in 1899. LBJ kept a suite there throughout his political life and spent the 1964 presidential election night at the Driskill.

Our last night in Austin, we joined the Mardi Gras revelry.  A six-block-long section of downtown was closed off for the event. Humanity filled the streets, including a very large and comforting presence of Austin’s finest – in cars, on foot, on motorcycles, and on horseback. We also saw EMT’s on bikes.  

Getting into the spirit, we stopped at a “cigar shoppe” to pick up some Mardi Gras beads. Others had multiple strands of varying colors, sizes, and designs – some with lights. We wound our way through the crowd, noticing some folks wearing masks and others sporting jester hats. Teenage girls sat atop guys’ shoulders and vied for strands of beads that the crowd threw at them. These girls would grab the beads and put them around their necks. Then they would lift up their shirts, baring their breasts for the cameras that flashed like crazy. Now, we decided, we had officially seen everything. Texas was living up to its reputation.

The most gorgeous West Texas sight came as we drove toward home. A magnificent sunset with pinks folding into deep fuchsia and vibrant reds presented itself across a dark blue sky. In the foreground, the silhouettes of palm trees stood tall overlooking the lights of El Paso City against the backdrop of the blue-gray Franklin Mountains.This captivating scene was a perfect ending to our time in Texas.

 ~ xoA ~

Saturday, November 16, 2013

S is for Sydney

An extension of our New Zealand motorcycle tour in 2000, Judy and I spent ten days in Sydney, Australia. With too little time to see other long-admired, but distant Australian sites, we concentrated on doing one area well. 

We quickly found a room through the Original Backpackers Hostel at their sister hotel, the Bernly, which was well-located, in the middle of everything at King’s Cross. The train station was up the block along with internet sites, cafes, bus stops, X-Rated establishments, and even a big grocery store in a shopping mall.

Week-long transportation passes gave us unlimited use of the trains, buses, and ferries. Those passes proved to be a great investment as we could get all over the city and outlying areas. Sometimes, we just hopped on a ferry to anywhere so we could explore new areas and catch cool breeze while we were at it.

There was plenty to see in Sydney. The city was to host the 2000 Olympics in the fall, and we visited several venues at the Olympic Village, including the Aquatic Center. Manly Beach, Taronga Zoo, and the Sydney Aquarium at Darling Harbor were also on our list. 

We toured the Sydney Opera House, that spectacular iconic building with many steps, heavy concrete work, and miles of glass and tiles.  Those "winged" roofs are all tiled. While there, we overheard the symphony orchestra rehearsing. The next evening, dressed in our fancied-up motorcycle gear, we saw a musical called “The Sunshine Club.” The play told of the Aboriginal people enduring continued prejudice and segregation after they returned from fighting side-by-side with the white Aussies during WWII, similar to America’s black soldiers. But, it was a treat to experience an outstanding performance in the Drama Theater of the world-renowned Sydney Opera House.

No trip to Sydney would be complete without climbing the Sydney Harbor Bridge. Yes, there’s a tour for that. Even though we stood atop the highest girders at the summit of the bridge, where the New South Wales and Australia flags fluttered in the wind, we were ultra safe. 
The guides prepared us well. Before stepping onto the bridge itself, we saw a video about what to expect and were given a breathalizer test.  The tour company provided a special one-piece jumpsuit, and after removing all jewelry and emptying our pockets -- nothing to flap, fly off the bridge, or catch on a protrusion -- we were almost ready. Then, the safety equipment:  adjustable waist belts with a fail-safe latch that would hook onto and slide along the safety cable during the entire climb. Next we moved the length of a simulated section of the bridge so we could learn about the step climbing and how to travel along the cable with our tethered latch.
The climb would take us 1,439 steps. Our route traversed the approach span and catwalk, then over the north half of the bridge to the summit, across the bridge and back.  We walked and stood above eight traffic lanes, two pedestrian walkways, and two train rails.  Whenever a train crossed beneath us, we could feel the vibrations in the handrails.
The views were absolutely spectacular on this pleasantly-warm, breezy day, and the clear skies afforded us panoramas all the way to the Blue Mountains.  Since no one was allowed to take their personal cameras, our guide would stop us occasionally and take individual and group pictures.

By the time we reached the summit, we were old hands at this climbing thing and were able to release the handrails from our clutches and walk spryly along the catwalk as we returned to our starting point.  The Bridge Climb was great fun and, though the idea of it was stressful, it felt safer than some our street-crossing ventures.

Though our time in Sydney was brief, it was chock-full of history, new knowledge, adventures and sights,  and encounters with unusual characters -- human and four-legged.  

~ xoA ~

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

R is for Red Rock Canyon

The family that hikes together ...

Red Rock Canyon, just 17 miles west of the Las Vegas Strip was the site of our traditional family reunion hike in 2010. None of us knew it existed until a friend mentioned going horseback riding there. It was perfect for us. 

We’d come together from the rolling hills of Virginia, the bustle of Phoenix, Los Angeles, Bakersfield, and Reno to commune with family members who had last been together in 2007. The famed red rock stood out against the azure sky, and we admired the beauty of the place. A group that contained artists and writers as well as lovers of the outdoors, we were enthralled. 


 Zooming in with our photo lenses, we were able to capture climbers that were rappelling off the firey red rock.

Known also for serving as home to different Native American tribes in the early days, Red Rock Canyon proved to be a cultural resource. One outstanding thing was the petroglyphs that stand in the Red Spring area. There are two different types of rock art. One is petroglyphs, which were carved or pecked into the rock's surface. The other is pictographs, which were painted on the rock.

In Red Rock Canyon, the most common type of rock art is petroglyphs. The dark "desert varnish" over light-colored limestone makes a perfect medium for petroglyphs. The Red Spring area is home to a wide variety of styles of petroglyphs.

Other evidence of the presence of Native Americans are the "tools and trash of everyday living.  Broken pots and stone tools are pieces of the puzzle that, when put together, tell the story of ancient ways of life and human adaptation to the desert."

With a full half-dozen of us shooting photos, we got some beautiful shots of the area. The magnificent rock formations and fauna showed us a side of Las Vegas that we had never even considered. 

We spent only a few hours at Red Rock Canyon and only scratched the surface of the myriad activities there. But the grandeur of the views as we hiked along made a lasting impression.

~ xoA ~