Exploring London Part II – via the Thames

Because there was so much we wanted to see in the UK we were only able to spend six days in London.

After riding around in the busses we took a river cruise,  giving a different perspective on the city.

 

 

We sailed beneath the Tower Bridge, saw the scaffolding shrouding Big Ben tower, the Tower of London, the London Eye, the HMS Belfast and a unique view of the city skyline.

We arrived in Greenwich (last photo, above) just as the light entered the golden hour.

 

Greenwich is home to the worlds fastest Tea clipper, the Cutty Sark. You can also find the Royal Observatory at the top of the hill. The 24 hour clock dates back to 1852. The red ball on the top of the Observatory is dropped at 1300 (1:00) every day. This signals all the ships in the area of the correct time – and this is where the phrase ‘on the ball’ comes from.  The most amazing thing to me was the International Date Line. I mean this is literally where time begins! Note the markings in the last photo – western hemisphere and eastern hemisphere.

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My next post will explore historic buildings and places in London – we chose just a few to tour for their stories, and were blown away by one on particular. Stay tuned!

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Exploring London Part I – on a double decker bus

I find myself playing the tourist again – this time we headed to the UK. The first leg of our trip is London, England. When I booked this trip we were looking forward to a vacay in cooler climates than Italy or Central America as in past years. Who knew we would visit in the middle of a record breaking heat wave! It’s been beautiful blue skies for our touring – much better than the expected showery weather.

We basically hit the ground running when we arrived. After a five hour power nap we took a little stroll to figure out the lay of the land.

Of course we found ourselves in front of the most famous address in the city …. Buckingham palace.

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With the city before us, we decided to take a bus tour the next day for a different viewpoint, and an overview of what London is all about. What we saw was a lot of traffic! But I did manage to get some interesting photos.

The Tower Bridge, the London Eye over the skyline, Big Ben shrouded in scaffolding, the Marble Arch relocated from Buckinham palace by Queen Victoria and intersting artwork just about everywhere.

In the next few days we visited many more landmarks – Westminster Abbey, the Tower of London, several gardens and the place where time begins. (Greenwich). Our trip has just begun – stay tuned for more photos and commentary as time and Wi-Fi permit!

*S.

Ladybug, Ladybug

Ladybug!  Ladybug!
Fly away home.
Your house is on fire.
And your children all gone.

All except one,
And that’s little Anne,
For she crept under
The frying pan.

This nursery rhyme always reminds me of my Mom. ♥  And my sister too.

I photographed these ladybug photos at the End of the Oregon Trail Pioneer Garden.  They hang out in the Hop vine this time of year, munching on the aphids.

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Ladybug with eggs

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Ladybug larvae (babies)

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Ladybug

 

The first photo was taken with an LG G5 cell phone camera, and the last two with my new LG G7 cell phone camera.  

 

Panama Canal Crossing

It all began with a report for school. My subject was the Panama Canal.  Somehow that  report stuck with me, and became the first place outside my little Michigan world that I wanted to go.  (I guess my first bucket list item?)  Fast forward 30 plus years, and that dream was finally realized in October, 2017.  Granted, we never actually set foot in Panama, but we did have the unique view of passing through this engineering marvel.

We sailed from Miami for two days, had a port day in Cartagena, Columbia and on that 4th day we experienced The Main Event- a full 8 hour day crossing through the canal.  Of course we had lots of time before the crossing for homework – the ships staff did a wonderful job filling us in with the history of the canal, and what it is today.  The photos that follow represent my experience.

We entered the canal from the Atlantic side.  While in the canal the ship will sail through the Gatun Locks with three chambers, and on to Gatun Lake – once the largest man-made lake in the world.

 

Looking behind us (below) we had a good view of the Atlantic Bridge under construction.  We sailed past quite a few lighthouses during the day, but didn’t really see much in the way of wildlife or birds.  The photo below was an exception. The tugboats you see in some of the photos were our constant companions, and the train in the fourth photo is one of a pair used while in the canal to keep the ship centered in the locks.

 

The trains are all electric, and have been in use since the canal opened in 1914.  They were developed by General Electric in the early 1900’s for the canal.  In the photo below you can see two trains tied to the freighter next to us in the Gatun Locks.  One is next to the lighthouse, the other on the lower right of the photo with just the front in the photo.

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Below is our view of the locks closing from the rear of the ship.  After the gates close the chamber fills with water from the lake, and we sail to the next chamber.

 

The ships are raised to 85 feet above sea level, the same level as the Gatun Lake.  We had a lot of workers admiring the ship, waving and taking photos. I even saw families on the bank watching us sail through.  Most of the traffic in the canals is commercial freighters – a cruise ship is a beautiful sight sailing by.

 

Gatun Lake is below.  It took a few hours for us to make our way across.  We sailed by barges dredging the lake for the silt that constantly forms.  We sailed by numerous lighthouses, and even saw roads and freight trains running along the bank.  The ship sailed beneath the Centennial Bridge (Pan-American Highway, via Panama City) which opened in 2004.

The crossing was one of the most interesting days I can remember. It truly was an engineering marvel.  Below you can see just how close our ship was to the sides of the locks.  It’s amazing how something conceived in the 1800’s still serves us today. We had been carried down 85 feet between the Pedro Miguel and Miraflores Locks to the level of the Pacific Ocean. By the time we completed that last lock the sun was low in the sky, the day almost done.

After leaving the locks, we sailed past the Port of Balboa with a peek at the Panama City skyline, underneath the Bridge of the America’s, past buoy’s numbering from 20 to 2 out to our familiar Pacific Ocean.

As the sun sank into the Ocean that night, we went about our evening enjoying everything that our ship had to offer, and eventually we arrived home with another travel experience behind us.  But this one, this one I will remember because of the history and the purpose and how one small canal changed our world over 100 years ago.

*for a closer look click on a photo to open in a gallery setting.  

 

 

Crusing! 

We left home 14 days ago for a cruise of a lifetime! Today is day 14- and as we sail our way to port in Los Angeles I thought I would give you a sneak peek at some of the places we have seen.

The main event was our passage thru the canal. It took all day, and was amazing!

We stopped in five countries and saw lots of really cool things.

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Once I get home, and all the laundry is done, I will put up a proper post with the whole story for you. But for now, we have to figure out how to pack all the best souveniers we collected on the way!

To the Midwest and back in our Big Rig

We just returned from our three week, 7200 mile road trip –  a drive that took us from here in Oregon down the Columbia River Gorge, across I-80 through mountains, corn & soybean fields, and along miles and miles of desert in Wyoming and Nebraska.

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We saw bighorn sheep in the Gorge, and pronghorn antelope grazing along the expressway in Wyoming. In Nebraska we left the highway and began making our deliveries.  We stopped in Nebraska, Iowa and Illinois.  I walked along side streets & parking lots with the Pup – and of course the truck stops we stayed in for the nights and weekends.  (to view the photos as a slideshow and read the captions click on the first photo in each group)

We left I-80 behind in Illinois to complete the deliveries from our first load, and pick up our next.  The drive took us into Chicago lined with pavement and buildings, and along two lane country roads lined with fields of corn & soybeans –  and acres of Midwest farms.

We left our trailer in Indiana and drove north, towards my reason for being on this trip. I grew up in a small town in Michigan, and have not been back for 10 years now.  It was time to go back, and walk the street where I grew up once again. By now the landscape has transitioned to familiar wildflowers & weeds –  the architecture and layouts of the towns, the way the air smells and the people talk and live all strikes a chord.

From home we once again bob-tailed north, to Mackinaw City.  Each Labor Day the Mackinac Bridge closes for six hours to allow walkers to cross the bridge.  The bridge connects the Upper and Lower Peninsula’s of Michigan on I-75.  It’s a five mile bridge over the Straits of Mackinac or the meeting of Lakes Michigan and Huron. I have written more about my experience in my previous post: 10,000 Steps.  You can also view photos via my Facebook album: Mackinaw Bridge Labor Day walk 9.4.17

Time to head southward, and home.  The beginning of our trip took us back over some of the same roads we arrived on.  In Nebraska we headed south to Denver, and a drive through Colorado on scenic highways that wound us through the mountains.  We drove through the Rio Grande National Forest, the road reaching 10,857 feet.  We saw Elk but no snow yet.

We made deliveries in Colorado.  While Hubby unloads the trailer I am free to wander. Mostly it’s just a industrial park or a lumber yard.  But sometimes I get lucky, and we get to walk along scenic roadsides.  This was our delivery in Durango, Colorado.

As you can see, the landscape has changed once again.  This time to more desert landscapes cut with mountaintops.  As you know, Colorado is pretty high. We were at least 5000 feet high most of the time, and even in Arizona we were still at 2000 feet. As we drove through the passes in Arizona the rocks changed from red to black to pink to white.  We saw rainshowers, sunshine and rainbows while in AZ.  These photos (below) were on the road from Colorado, through New Mexico and into Arizona.

Just over the border in Arizona we left the interstate and found ourselves on a section of  Route 66 in Holbrook.  Hubby stopped the truck long enough for me to take some photos at a historic landmark along old Route 66.  You can view a few more photos on this Facebook album: Historic Wigwam Motel

We stopped in Tucson for the weekend, rented a car and headed out to Tombstone for a look-see.  It didn’t disappoint!  You can read all about our day in this blog post: Tombstone, AZ.  With Sunday to rest and do chores, we found time to take a walk around the truck stop and snapped some photos of the local flora.

We finished our deliveries in Tucson, and Phoenix.  It was so HOT in Phoenix, we were happy to leave it behind.  But … we didn’t clear the heat until the next morning when we arrived in Los Angeles.  The road ahead was a familiar one.

One night in Los Angeles – and a walk to an iconic burger joint.  Picked up the load that would bring us home, and off we went for a two day drive south.  I-5 is the most familiar road, as most of our trips either begin or end, or both, on this route.  But that doesn’t mean the scenery is any less beautiful.

By the time we reach the border of Oregon and California I am pretty beat.  21 days in the passenger seat isn’t easy.  So I  am afraid I just sit back and wait until the wheels take me to my own driveway.  Next trip I will try to snap some photos from the road in Oregon.  I will say it’s great to be home.  The laundry is done and the six new t-shirts we brought home with us are all put away, ready to wear on our next adventure.

 

 

Tombstone, AZ

We all loved the movie, so why not visit the place that inspired the film.  So we did.

We found ourselves with a weekend in Tucson, so we rented a truck and drove out to see what there was to see.  It turns out there was quite a bit …

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We spent the afternoon walking through the shops, and talking to the folks – some tourists like us, and some that worked or lived in the area.  And since we had the pup, I was worried that one of us would be on the outside most of the time. But they were very dog-friendly.

Our favorite was the Birdcage Theater with the distinction of being the only original building left from the 1800’s.  We walked in the front, which was set up as a bar with a lot of the original artwork on the walls.  They let us take the pup in with us as we toured the museum (as it stands now).  In size it was a pretty small area.  If you look up you can see bullet holes still in the ceiling.  There are boxes along the sides on a second story for the elite to view the shows, and the stage was just  a short seven steps above the audience.  Below the stage was a room for gambling, and also Bordello rooms for the actors/prostitutes.  The most famous of these was  of course Sara Josephine Marcus aka “Sadie Jo” , who later became the wife of Wyatt Earp.

There were plenty of familiar landmarks to be seen as we walked down Allen Street.  Much of it brings to mind the movie of course, but it’s also a big part of our western history.  The whole town turns out to put on a show for it’s many visitors.  You can see ladies in 1800’s period dress and men walking around with guns on their hips.  And of course there is the re-enactment of the most famous 30 seconds in the town’s history – the gunfight at the OK Corral.

The pure history of the town is evident in architecture walking down the street.  And the blue Arizona sky contrasted by the white thunderheads rolling by made the scene just beautiful.

Did you know that Tombstone was also home to the worlds largest rose? Yep!  The Tombstone Lady Banksia Rose.  The rose was planted in 1855 by a homesick Irish bride.  She planted cuttings from a rose sent to her from home, intending to cover a shed in the back yard.  It has taken 162 years for the rose to become 9000 square feet, and cover the entire arbor in the back of the home that is now a museum dedicated to the rose.  There is even a festival in April when she blooms each year.  I guess I will have to come back in April to get photos for you!

Any visit to the area has to include a peek at the also famous Boot Hill Cemetery, with it’s famous graves a beautiful view of the valley and mountains in the distance.  Our visit was enhanced so much by the skies and the sun shifting in the clouds.

Kitty Kat didn’t want to miss out on the fun, so she came out with us.

It was a scenic day mixed with some fun elements.  My photos don’t do the area justice at all.  With purple mountains and white clouds back-lit by the bright sunshine, the Tucson area is just beautiful.  Tombstone is the kind of place that can be anything you like it to be.  With the shops for buying t-shirts and other trinkets, antiques and reproduction weapons, even two shooting galleries.  Many of the buildings have been converted to museums, and the locals that serve the public are dedicated to each other and enthusiastic about the history of the area.  And the best part was that many of the shops were pup-friendly, and he was the star of the sidewalks – as usual!  (Hubby is very patient with his adoring fans).

I will leave you with a favorite line from the movie, and a promise for more photos soon – as we complete our road trip.

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