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.

IMG_2926_Panama Canal

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.  





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.


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.


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 …


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.


10,000 Steps

This week I had the opportunity to participate in an event that has long been on my bucket list.

Bucket list…we hear a lot about it these days. Now, I am not one to go for the idea of “once in a lifetime”, since I plan to experience many wow moments before I actually DO kick that bucket. But I digress…we all have that little list in our heads of things we wish to do or see. And I finally took the steps to do this particular event, this year!

You all know I was raised in Michigan. Every year since the Mackinaw Bridge was built they have closed it on Labor Day to allow the public to walk across the five mile span. Its something I always hoped to do. Its a perfect activity for me, what with my borderline obsession on walking.

So this year I did it!

We spent the night in Mackinaw City on the south end of the bridge. At 4am we heard rain on the roof. I was sure we were going to be walking in the rain, but by the time I got up it had passed, leaving just the cloud cover behind. In the end we only had a brief shower right when I started.

Hubby accompanied me to the line for boarding the busses that would take us to the St. Ignace (north side) of Big Mac. What a line! Due to some changes this year nearly everyone walking the bridge would need to board one of the school busses taking us across the bridge spanning Staits of Mackinaw. The line was incredibly long, and if I hadn’t befriended some Michiganders in line I am sure I would not have made the time cutoff to get on the bridge. (we had from 7am to 12 noon for our walk before the highway was reopened to I-75 traffic). We decided to jump the line and join others in their party at a shorter version of the line. All in all it was 2 hours – including the 30 min bus ride – to get my feet to walking. Well worth the wait, as you will see in the photos.

It seemed to me that most of the walkers were from Michigan, and were repeating their experience each year. That was the case with the group I met. There were old folks, children walking and in strollers or wagons, and family groups. Not many singles like me. I did meet one young man that was walking with headphones like I was. We exchanged phones to shoot pics for each other and he said this was only his second time walking the bridge.

When I first stepped on the pavement I was struck by the sea of people and all the talking around me. I slipped on my headphones and started MY walk. Feeling seperate, yet part of something too. The cool air around me, the dim morning light filtering through the clouds. The bridge has a gentle incline that wasn’t difficult, but you could definitely feel it.

The beginning, in St. Ignace Michigan.

Earlier I said I was solo on my walk, but I did bring some company in my backpack.

She seemed to enjoy the ride!

Of course, the walk was my reason be there, but I am never without my camera – to capture a different point of view, the details and the people. I relished the chance to get up close to something not everyone gets to see and share it with you.

Of course the bridge is the star of the show ….

But this day is about the citizens that love and celebrate her. From the Michigan State troopers that insured our safety to the children making memories with their parents. Shared xperiences make strangers friends, after all.

In the left of the photo above a state trooper is bending to speak to a boy.

No Stopping! (above)

When I passed this trooper (above) and thanked him for his service he replied “it was worth it” with a grin!

Below is my favorite people shot from the day.

We were almost done, and pace had slowed quite a bit.

And almost as soon as it began, the walk was over.

Walked 10,000 steps in about an hour and a half. For the experience of a lifetime!

In the path of totality: 8.21.17

It was a much anticipated celestial event.  And it didn’t disappoint…

The Great American Eclipse of 2017.  Here in Oregon, the day dawned clear and warm – just the way that an August morning should.  Amid all the hype, we managed to find a special place to witness natures most beautiful sight.  Hubby and I hopped on the motorcycle at 7:30 am and rode into Woodburn. It was a perfect morning for a ride.  We skirted around the busy highways and stuck to country back roads.  We did run into a bit more traffic on the way home after 11, and gridlock continued into the evening hours on Oregon roads.  We spent the morning in the garden of a friend, among her family and friends.  We had snacks, and afterwards a scrambled egg breakfast.  And there was even a small wedding ceremony, under the waxing eclipse, to the surprise of our host (and mother of the groom) The story continues with the photos below:


There are times that a photo can’t tell the whole story.  This is one of those.  As we watched the glow of the sun being swallowed by the shadow of the moon the very air around us began to change.  The first thing we noticed was a change in air temperature.  It was a fine August morning, and the sun had begun to heat the air toward the eventual 90° temps we enjoyed that day.  But as the moon made it’s way across the sky, the air began to cool, and at totality there was definitely a chill in the air.

Did you know that light has a temperature too?  That also began to change as the shadow grew.  At first it was just a dimming of light.  At about the 50% point we began to hear the crickets calling, and noticed the bees sleeping on the flowers in the garden.  The quality of the light went from the usual warm white to a more golden, dimmer feel.  At almost total the light had an eerie blue-green quality – almost like we were under water, or looking through a screen of some kind. We were all watching the sun, but every once in a while someone would remind the group to look around at the garden.  We were amazed with each moment that passed.

And then the eclipse reached totality.

The sky had been getting darker and dimmer with each moment.  At the moment of the total eclipse the sun went from black to a pure, bright white light around a black hole in the sky.  Everyone exhaled with amazement at what we were witnessing.

Simply the most beautiful thing I have ever seen with my own eyes.

Nothing can prepare you for seeing such a sight, and the emotion that it invokes – we were IN the experience like you can’t be by looking at a photo.  The cool air on our skin, the glow of the sun on our face, the sound of the night insects and birds and shared expressions of awe. It was a complete body experience, and communion with each other and nature.   And one I can’t wait to have again.

Below are the humble photos I was able to take with my little SLR camera and special filter.  I hope you enjoy them, and feel just a bit of the awe that I did as I was pressing the shutter that morning.

(if you click on one photo a slideshow will appear to view the photos with)


Ponderings of a southpaw

August 13 is International Left Handers Day.  Just one day in the year … but in my world EVERY day is Left Handers Day.  Yup, I am one of the 10%.  Who do you know that is a lefty?  Are they creative?  That’s the rumor, you know.  We southpaws are more creative and smarter as a group.  Hmmm, okay.  I wonder if that is because we have had to overcome living in a Right Handed world?  You decide!

In my world, the following things are backwards to me, either because of the way they work, or because of the way they are intended to be used.


This chair is right handed.  In fact, most portable lawn chairs have the cup holder (if there is only one) on the right, or the shelf like this one.  In my life I have had right handed vacuum cleaners, irons, power tools, can openers, measuring cups, ice cream scoops, scissors, garden pruners, even a pair of right handed pants!  The vacuum was a Kirby – the bag was hung on the left of the handle so it hit me in the leg every time I pulled it towards me.


Scissors and pruners are a common complaint among us lefties.  I had to pay $90.00 to get a pair of left handed scissors to groom the pup. Yikes! Can openers are another one, though I confess that over the years I have just taught myself to use ours right handed.

I know you are wondering about the pants. As you know, I garden quite a bit.  I purchased a pair of work jeans with pockets and loops for my pruners and other garden tools.  I put them on, and was loading up my tools when I realized most of the pockets, and the best ones, were all ON THE RIGHT SIDE!! (or wrong side if you are a southpaw).

In the kitchen everyone takes for granted that most spoons and spatula’s are the same … but are they?

Out in the world we have had to adapt to many challenges, beginning with middle school.  Remember those desks with the writing table off to one side.  All righties.  Spiral notebooks?  Binding on the left side making writing awkward.   Going to a party, and want a nice glass of punch? The ladle has the pour spout made for the right hand – what a mess! (same problem with soup ladles too).

I already mentioned my right handed pants, but in reality anything with a zipper is right handed to me.  I have so much trouble with zippers, and I wondered why for so long. It’s because they aren’t made for me to use, duh!


How about your watch?  You wear it on the left side, right?  Well, if I do that it gets in the way of my writing hand.  So I put it on the right side, which makes the controls to the watch on the wrong side.  Grrrr.

And your computer mouse?  Easy, it’s on the right, where it’s supposed to be.  But that doesn’t work for me.

My mouse sits on the left of my keyboard, and the buttons are switched too.  Talk about confusing if we have to share!  Gamers have the same trouble, all the main buttons are set up for righties, too.


So I have gotten used to living in a backwards world, making due when I have to.  When I learned to crochet in grade school I put the hook in my right hand, and made it work.  (but I really don’t crochet like a rightie, even tho the hook is in that hand)

By now you would think that I had figured everything out – until I went shopping one day with Hubby to the local grocery store. I wanted some quinoa from the bulk bins.  And I made a huge mess, spilling it all over the floor. He was quite irritated. I could not figure out why I was having so much trouble.  The next time I went in, this time for some walnuts, I took a good look at the bins. I wish I had a photo to share with you, but the scoop is on the right side of the bin (with a 2 inch tether so I can’t walk off with it).  There is no way to scoop your product and get it into that flimsy bag with the scoop in your left hand reaching across. None. And I am NOT ambidextrous AT.ALL.  Now I put the baggie in the bin instead of holding it outside so anything that spills doesn’t go on the floor.


Being left handed has helped me in a few area’s.  As a driver, and a motorcycle rider, making left turns and maneuvering around in a parking lot seems to be easier for me.  I naturally look left first too, which may be safer when pulling into traffic.

So yes, in my world being in my right mind has made my life just a little bit more interesting than it may otherwise have been. Being the only one in my immediate and extended family to be a southpaw has been fun, really.  It gives me a different way to look at the world – and it’s that what it’s all about anyway – diversity and embracing our differences? Making things fun, and interesting, and easy for each other.


I will leave you with the following list of notable left-handers:  Oprah Winfrey, Tom Cruise, Bill Gates, Einstein, Jennifer Lawrence, Mahatma Gandhi, Marilyn Monroe, Prince Charles and Prince William, Paul Simon (but he plays guitar right handed), Paul McCartney, Ben Franklin, Leonardo da Vinci, Mark Twain, Julia Roberts, Reggie Jackson, Babe Ruth, Henry Ford, Helen Keller.

U.S. Presidents:  Herbert Hoover (1874 – 1964), Harry S. Truman (1884 – 1972), Gerald Ford (1913 – 2006), Ronald Reagan (1911 – 2004),  George H.W. Bush (1924), Bill Clinton (1946) and his wife, Hillary Rodham Clinton was the United States Secretary of State (2009-2013). Barack Obama (1961).