Gypsy's Travels

Thursday, December 31, 2009

New Year's Eve Day 2009

After an extended breakfast, our group, now numbering 12, headed for Nathrop, Colorado. It is only about 10 minutes down the road. I wanted to show the children and grandchilden where their great grandfather went to school. The building is privately owned now. It seems to be in greater disrepair than the last time I saw it and the big climbing tree in front has been split by weather or lightning. A relative's house across the street, still stands in silent testimony of the courage of the pioneers.
After our sightseeing visit, we lost 3 more of our group. DS, Tia, and GS-W, left, planning to take Highway 285 to Denver. They will spend the night there and take in a concert of some sort before they fly back to Houston on NYD. Our group is down to nine, all active and interested in what comes next.
We journeyed a few more miles into Salida and found some neat shops. Most were having sales and we picked up a few bargains.
Heading back to THOJAL, we stopped by City Market to replenish our supplies, did I mention how nice all the people are here? Menus and Great Adventures are now planned for the rest of our time here. I think we girls are going to check out the site for tomorrow's planned sledding.

30 December 2009 - Skiing

DD-Ki, L and Ky left for St. Louis today. That is the simple version. Actually, Ki was not feeling well so she did not eat or drink so she could avoid being sick while she was traveling. Poor kid. We loaded her, her luggage, and 2 small children into my "sleigh" for the trip to the Denver Airport, leaving 5 hours before her flight time. We figured 3 hours travel time (from Buena Vista to Colorado Springs to Denver) and 2 hour hours for check-in. We made it right on time. All the security rules meant I had to leave DD at the curb, with stroller, 2 car seats, 3 large bags, and 2 small children. She is a strong, resourceful woman and, in spite of not feeling well, maintained her composure and shepherded her bunch safely home. I had tucked pastries and fruit into the children's backpacks for "just in case."
I enjoyed the drive home, it was so peaceful and the scenery was beautiful. I took Highway 285 out of Denver, all the way to Buena Vista. It was about 70 milles shorter, but curvy and slower posted speed limits. The roads were very clear, traffic not heavy, and the snow-covered mountains and trees were gorgeous.
Just DS and GS-W were waiting at THOJAL, with DS on tap to grill as soon as everyone was back.
The rest of the crew? The remaining 4 adults and 5 children went skiing. They picked up discount tickets for the lift, in town, and mistook Ski Cooper for Copper Mtn Ski area. No problem, a quick lunch, and they all headed back down the road.
Ski Cooper is billed as being "family friendly" and less trafficked than some of the more well-known areas. Our group gave glowing reviews. The clerks at the ski rental shop, still talking about the onslaught of our group, were patient and had a good sense of humor. DD-Kr waited with those children who dropped out of the ski pool early, plying them with hot chocolate and french fries. The rest spent their time on the slopes, slowly graduating from Bunny Hill to colored diamonds. Now we have definite skiers and non-skiers in the group.
Dinner was waiting for our tired skiers. After taking turns in the hot tub, they were ready to turn in. DDs-Kr, Ko, and I chatted until the wee hours.

29 December 2009 - Day Trip to Leadville, Colorado

Breakfast followed by a trip to the laundromat doesn't seem like a great adventure, but try participating in those events with 14 other people and the dynamics change.
The laundromat was actually a fun outing and it was very warm inside the building. There was a play area for the children and a small TV with several children's videos available. That kept the eight children quiet, but the volume of the TV had to be constantly turned down. Well, I guess that is understandable considering that the seven adults playing "Catch Phrase" and were not very quiet. Fortunately, there was only one other person in the place and she preferred to wait outside in her car for some strange reason.
With our clothes clean and dry, we headed out on our day's Great Adventure. We have given this name to the day's activities so we can be flexible in our plans and not stir up a cauldron of disappointment. This day's plan included Leadville, Colorado. Unfortunately, mobilization of the group sometimes takes a little longer than expected, so we arrived rather late in the day. But the drive was beautiful and the roads clear, so we did not have any problems.
I recalled a Mining Museum DH and I had visited several years ago, so we headed in that general direction. Sure enough, it was still there (well, you never know). I wondered aloud if we could get a group rate as everyone headed for the gift shop to explore while I checked on tickets. The very nice lady at the ticket counter told me the museum would be closing in 15 minutes.There was a collective groan of disappoint from the members of our group. The lady looked at us and then suggested we could visit free for the next 15 minutes, but they would have to close promptly. With a flurry of activity that only our group of 15 can produce, we headed out to see all we could in 15 minutes. I led the group to an attraction that I felt certain they would all enjoy, a real mine environment created to give a realistic look at early mining procedures. This is particurlarly informative since we had family members mining in this part of Colorado in the early 1900's. The children went through that area several times before moving on. There was something of interest to everyone and we fanned out to explore more specific areas. There was particular interest in the neon glowing rocks in one of the rooms. I think they may have allotted us a little more than 15 minutes, but we certainly couldn't see it all.
It was icy cold in Leadville, the highest incorporated city in the continental US, but we decided to walk around town anyway. Well, "walk" might be a misnomer. The children were happy to be out and while we tried to maneuver the icy sidewalks and avoided going into the shops with our crew, the children kept running around. clambering up and down the stairs, and burning off energy. We stopped for a few minutes to eat cookies by the car (we never travel with out a few snacks) then re-boarded for the trip home.
Although there is a lot of snow on the ground, we are still waiting for it to snow while we are here..

Monday, December 28, 2009

A Visit to St. Elmo

The resident odds right now are 7 adults and eight children. Still, it seems to take us forever to get organized and get out in the mornings. We packed a (large) picnic lunch, gathered all the warm clothes we could find, stopped at the City Market for lunch meat, then (finally) headed out for our "Adventure of the Day." We made our first stop about 5 miles down the road, when W barfed in the lead car and our convoy came to a screeching halt. The diagnosis was "too much OJ at breakfast." A quick clean-up and we were off again.

DH and I had visited St Elmo, Colorado, a couple of times, but always in the summer. This is winter and there is snow everywhere. It will be interesting to go back and compare the summer photos with these winter ones. Today, we were assured the road would be clear, and it was. I was very comfortable driving on the hard packed snow, although not as fast as the locals(?) were traveling to and fro.
St Elmo is an old mining town. It looks as if people just walked out one day and left it, intact.
There is still merchandise in the General Store and "stuff" in several other buildings.
The little schoolhouse has been refurbished.
There are several private residences in the town and, although there has been restoration, some of the buildings date from the late 1800's. The fence sets some of the residential area apart.
The undisturbed snow was quite deep and signs requested we remain on the street. Fortunately, there were not too many visitors, so the children took their sleds to the street and had quite a hilarious time.
Junior kept trying to improve on the age-old methods of sledding. Chas tried to perfect the running start.Twelve year-old Em figured she had the biggest snowball ever, even though she was not allowed to use it.
For some reason, Abs liked to be "one" with the snow - packing it around her.....
...and making snow angels.
Lacking picnic facilities, we had a tailgate party. No one wanted to take off all those snow clothes, climb back in the car, drive to some unknown possible picnic spot, get out and re-dress, for lunch, then repeat the whole procedure.
But Ky had the best seat in the house.
Afterward, we wended our way back to THOJAL, hot chocolate, and home made cookies.

Our Christmas Celebration

                                                                                                               Photo by ABW
We settled in to The House of Joy and Love (THOJAL) on our 26 December arrival. Amazing how much joyful noise 8 children can make. The last part of our journey was through a curvy mountain pass. Dark comes early here, which left us in the precarious position I had hoped to avoid. However, the roads were clear and we sailed in with no problem. Getting to the house itself was a challenge (we could see the yellow house, but the entrance was so snowy and icy that we had a hard time finding it). DS had dinner waiting. We visited a while, then all turned in for the night.

Sunday, 27 December
This is our Christmas Day Celebration. DS, W, and I, spent a couple of hours at the local grocery, City Market, in Buena Vista, Colorado. It was hard to manuever when people kept stopping us to exclaim over 1 year old W. Fortunately, there was a designated store employee standing near the front of the store to direct lost people like us to the proper aisle for our necessary purchases. Everyone we met was super nice in this little town. you think they could tell we are from Texas?
Loaded to the gills, we headed back to THOJAL ready to prepare the long awaited feast.
The conversational level finally lagged as we tucked in to a partially traditional meal - turkey, dressing, giblet gravy, steamed brussel sprouts, fresh green beans, and pea-corn salad. I know, it was heavy on the green side, but we had the things we liked!
Dinner was followed by the sharing of presents. This involves the family tradition of handing the presents out and opening them one by one, a process that prolongs the procedure significantly. Our innkeeper kindly provided a small fiber-optic Christmas tree to enhance the celebration. As the children played with new toys, the adults started putting together a very complicated picture puzzle. When we finish it, we will leave it behind with a challenge for the next group to put it together in less than our recorded time. We have never heard whether anyone has taken the challenge.
The evening ended with several family members soaking in the hot tub. All declined the, sometimes traditional, roll in the snow.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Christmas Day 2009

Greetings from Plainview, Texas! DD-Kr, Chas, D.A., and I left , a little later than planned, today. We loaded my "sleigh" with a bundle of toys, food, luggage, and other good things. Just looking at the mound of proposed items to be loaded, was enough to make us falter at first. However, we did manage to get everything in, except one box of craft items meant to keep the children busy in case of truly inclement weather.
We had a glorious start to the day, leaving after the children opened their presents at home. Kr is the navigator and the boys do the backseat driving. The roads were clean and dry, traffic was light, and the boys had new books. A wonderful beginning.
We began seeing snow on the ground as we passed by houses and fields on the way, but the roads were clear and dry. Right around Post, Texas, we noticed snow on the road. It was all downhill from there. We found a roadside park , dripping with melting snow. We made sandwiches and ate them, standing by cold wet benches, while huddling to shelter from a bitingly cold wind. Ham sandwiches for Christmas Day lunch tasted pretty good. We plan to have a more traditional meal and celebration when we are all together in Colorado.
We picked our way carefully along US 84, avoiding the snow berms left by the plows, and maneuvering to avoid cars and drivers who thought they were immortal. Only one really close call as a large pickup truck tried to speed past. I saw him coming and knew there was nowhere to go if he slid, so I slowed and pulled as far to the right as I safely could without hitting the snow berms on my right. As the speeding truck approached on my left, he hit the snowy, icy area, throwing up a large amount of the displaced berm onto our car, The windshield was almost occluded, but the mess triggered the automatic windshield wipers which allowed me to keep both hands on the wheel as I struggled to stay on the road. The truck slid back and forth, until its wheels finally grabbed the road and he moved on.
I managed to stay apart from most other vehicles for the remainder of the time. Almost everyone was driving very conservatively, encouraged, perhaps, by the 25 cars we saw that had slid off the road and were stuck in snow on the sides of the road. We decided to stop for the night. The threat of more black ice on the roads and drivers who refused to acknowledge their vulnerability in the face of Mother Nature's superiority, forced us to choose a safe haven in Plainview. The motel is almost full now and we are looking forward to a leisurely start tomorrow, after the roads are clearer.
Wish us luck.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

The Angels of Christmas

The Angels of Christmas
Have you seen the Angels of Christmas?
No, not the ones with halos and wings,
No beatific faces with eyes raised to heaven,
No ephemeral gowns flowing free.
The Angels of Christmas
May have dirt on their hands,
They might look tired and unkempt.
Their arms may be full of books or clothes
Or holding a pet or a child.
They might just be listening to a troubled soul
Or offering a helping hand.
They are with us and working all of the time,
But we look with blind eyes and don't see.
Look closely at those around you this year
You might see an Angel of Christmas,
And note with surprise
Is someone you recognize.
May the joy of the Nativity remain in your heart all year long!
Jackie Taylor Switzer
12th in a series

Monday, December 7, 2009

Remembering Pearl Harbor

Karen McCann Hett has been my memoir writing mentor. We are avid about people putting their life stories on paper / blog / tape, anything to preserve the stories. See her website for more stories of people who remember Pearl Harbor. Time is growing short as many of those who lived through the attack are coming to the end of their lives. No matter how far away they were, everyone was affected.

On December 7, 1941, Japanese planes attacked the Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii Territory, killing more than 2,300 Americans. The U.S.S. Arizona was completely destroyed and the U.S.S. Oklahoma capsized. The attack sank three other ships and damaged many additional vessels. More than 180 aircraft were destroyed. The surprise attack came at sunrise. The next day, they attacked Guam and Wake Island; and the U.S., Canada, and Great Britain declared war on Japan and Germany.

Valerie Maris Taylor was in her 80's when I interviewed her in June 2004.
This is her memory of the bombing of Pearl Harbor:

At the time of the bombing of Pearl Harbor, my husband, Jack, was in the Army Air Corps stationed somewhere in the Carribean, Jamaica I think. He had been in Cuba. Pearl Harbor was bombed the day before our daughter's first birthday. War was declared on her birthday. The bombing was a great surprise to everyone. I only had a radio, but it wasn't turned off for several days. I was scared for my husband's life.
It never occurred to me that the USA was in any danger. Daughter and I were living in Baytown, Texas, in a garage apartment. We didn't have a car, so we walked to the Post Office every day to get the mail. If there were no mail in the morning, we went back in the evening. When we finally got mail from Jack, we would rest a few days. Then we would start our routine all over again. Daughter did walk the whole way; she LOVED it. She was 17 months old, when her daddy finally got to come home on leave.
Shortly after war was declared, they began rationing shoes, sugar, canned cream, etc. You couldn't buy electrical appliances. I borrowed an old electric iron from my mother-in-law, and bought an icebox. I had a card to put in the window to tell the iceman how much ice to bring.
I was only 19 years old and had been married for 22 months. I wasn't really concerned about what would happen to me. The real concern was for Jack. I was worried they would bomb the island he was on which was the oil and gas depot for the planes.

Valerie's daughter adds: My dad came home from the war safely. He never talked about his time there but he had the confidence and bravado that is won by those who leave as young men and return as seasoned veterans. He also served in the Korean War and retired from the Air Force after twenty years of service.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Holiday Home Tour

Every year the Kiwanis Club hosts a homes tour, the proceeds of which go to charity, Two neighbors and I traipsed in and out of six homes decorated for Christmas and one for Hanukkah. This is always a popular activity so we were fortunate to hit the window of opportunity for fewer people in attendance.

As I understand it, local decorators come in and decorate the homes, then write up the accounts for a booklet that is handed out to advise the public of the decorating schemes. There was quite a variety in decor even though the number of homes was small. One home was done almost completely in red, black, white, and shades of gray - and that was prior to the addition of Christmas decorations. One featured clocks, one had toile fabrics in all the rooms, and another boasted a Tuscan color scheme. There was a different atmosphere apparent in each home, reflecting the tastes of the occupants. Some were quite formal, while others just begged to be enjoyed in a more familial style.

An elderly gentleman in the community does not get out much, but he supported the Kiwanis efforts by buying several tickets then giving them away. Happily, two of my neighbors and I were some of the recipients of his generosity. We thoroughly enjoyed our tour, in spite of the sales pitch at the first home we visited, and left with lots of ideas nad enthusiasm. One thing we all agreed on, was that we love our "stuff," and don't want to give it up for fancy items newly purchased to make a statement. The decorators who incorporated existing "treasures" into their decorating schemes got our votes.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Goji Berries and Tea

I collect cookbooks. My children tell me it is fruitless since everyone can go on-line and find any recipe they want. Maybe so, but there are still a few of us who enjoy the feel of a book in our hands and knowing where we can find the recipe again once we have used it. I have graduated from the redundant group cookbooks which seem to recycle all the popular recipes. Now I go for ethnic and specialty books - "Island Cooking, Recipes from the Hawaiian Islands," a small paperback just on different kinds of beans, anything way off the wall.

One of my favourite things to do when I travel, whether it is another state or another country, is visit the grocery stores. While visiting in Colorado Springs, I discovered a bag of goji berries. Of course, I had to try goji berries since I had never heard of them.

The berries looked rather like a red raisin, but had a different flavor. They were chewy, had several tiny seeds inside, and tasted mildly 'blah.' I have yet to add them to something I bake, like cookies or banana bread, but I think that would be an agreeable addition. One reference suggested that this popular Himalayan fruit is often steeped in tea. I added a few to my afternoon cuppa' and found the flavor much more agreeable. The small berries plumped up and added a little different flavor to the tea. Although I don't know if the many health benefits attributed to the goji berry are substantiated, it doesn't appear to hurt anything . So I might just add a few to my tea for the antioxidants, possible cancer prevention, reduction in blood glucose, and lower cholesterol. So much easier than maintaining a healthy lifestyle, don't you think. I think banana bread might be the next trial.

Friday, December 4, 2009

So Much for the Winter Wonderland

My trip home almost took me through Oklahoma City! Silly me, trusting Nellie the Navigation System to keep me on track. She is almost as directionally challenged as I am. Missed Lubbock, where there was a big snow storm, and arrived in Georgetown at 4:30 am on Tuesday. Needless to say, the rest of the week has been a wash.

The promise of snow has followed me. The whole of Central Texas has been anticipating a "snowstorm" for days. There has been a run on the grocery stores to stock up on food and supplies, and winter coats have been brought out of storage for the big event. In truth, we do have some severe winter storms that might last a week, but they are generally in January. In the case of a real snow, schools let out and businesses shut down. We are nothing if not prepared.

Sure enough, I went out about 11:30 am to run some errands and noticed there were a few, fleeting, delicate flakes falling. I went into the garage and by the time I backed the car out, it was really SNOWING! The flakes were thick and fast, blowing horizontally in the wind. Within 10 minutes it was all over and not a flake was on the ground.

Right now, it is windy, cold, and sunny. Well, the day is not over and we are supposed to have a hard freeze tonight. Fortunately, I have not heard word that we will have "Blue Norther" any time soon.