Wandering & Wondering

Travel, inside my head and real.

TravelPod ending!

TravelPod-world-map-travel-pins
A scorecard of our world travels through 2010, via TravelPod

This past week, I received an email that TravelPod would be closing and that we should download and archive our travel blog. I had been thinking about TravelPod only a few days before, trying to remember when was the last time I’d added an entry. Turns out, I got derailed in Havana, in 2010, but I did begin blogging on this WordPress site sometime in 2012-ish.

So, now…TravelPod ending. Wow. I was first introduced to TravelPod by my friends Amy and Mark. Their honeymoon was a six month trip around the world in 2004. They posted entries from all over the place. And from our hometown–to where we’d returned after 16 years away–we followed along, reading with both awe and envy. Our lives had gone a bit–let’s just say, “off road”. Or maybe it’s more descriptive to say that we drove our life down a very familiar street…hoping to see the old views, but now it was distorted, faded, colors running and surreal. We adjusted, adjusted again, and eventually returned to the highway that is Chicago. Yet, we have had so many knocks and bumps in the past 5 years that today, it feels as if we must be on a bombed out highway…a journey that has all of the rockiness, but none of the joyful thrill and exhilaration of a true off-the-roadmap travel experience. TravelPod reminds me of that.

It remembers me. It reminds me. It calls me. That world “scorecard” is still there. And I need to pull out the wish list roadmap and get to it! And I need to write! There are many journeys we take that aren’t on a map.

In the meantime, I’m happy to say that all of the old TravelPod entries are coming to live here. In fact, they are already here in pretty raw form with bricks of copy. They need editing, and they need their photos, so stay tuned. But a big THANK YOU to TravelPod for setting up an easy downloadable archive for moving to WordPress. Our first live blog was to Antarctica in 2007. I wrote from a ship tossing across the Drake Passage. Reading it reminds me of the night I sat in our little cabin writing and watching our things swing, sway and tumble as the waves rocked and rolled us. I get chill bumps–and a little seasick again–just remembering that sensation and the *THRILL* of being at the end of the world.  There were other “live” blogs too–though none quite like that. Later, I also went backwards into time and added some journal entries from previous trips. Over the next few weeks, I’m going to clean up all the imported entries. And I’ll be daydreaming about the next “TravelPod” entry!

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The forest and the trees

You know the saying, “she can’t see the forest for the trees”?  It is a derogatory phrase…like when someone is said to “miss the big picture” or “bogs down in details”.

I’ve had forests and trees on my mind a lot in the past few months…feeling something like guilt or shame or frustration for the hours wasted on doing the “little” things.  I wonder some times if I’ve lost the trail.

But on this cool, rainy, September early morning, I woke up with some satisfying clarity on the positive side of that saying.

Life is a whole forest.  It is also just one tree.  Each tree.  Each day.  I don’t know how big the forest is, or when I will walk out of it.  So, I’m going to enjoy my walk through the trees, appreciating the sun and the shade, the rain and the wind, the sounds and the silence, and give my attention to one tree at a time.

A funny thing seems to happen when I consider that one tree long enough…I perceive the pattern around it.  And I find comfort in that.

Enjoy your walk.

X marks the spot, a vine crisscrosses a tree at Radnor Lake, Nashville
A vine crisscrosses a tree. April 2015 at Radnor Lake in Nashville, Tennessee.

 

Ridges of Bark on a Tree at Radnor Lake in Nashville
The trees and vines begin to bloom, Spring 2015 at Radnor Lake in Nashville, TN.

 

Vine entwines tree Radnor Lake Nashville
A vine entwines a tree at Radnor Lake, Nashville, TN. Spring 2015.

 

Quiet trees Radnor Lake Nashville
On this rainy Spring day in April 2015, we walked amid the trees. Absorbing. Radnor Lake, Nashville, TN.
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Dormant and Waiting

Have you ever been to an amusement park in winter…when it’s closed, quiet and waiting, and kind of creepy (but in that exhilarating, surreal kind of way)?

Except for missing out on the rides and the neon lights, I think this may have been the best way for me to first see Coney Island back in 2012.  I liked the emptiness of it…like I had it all to myself.  My friend Jill and I took our time walking through the park that day.  Soaked up all the carnival colors.  Studied the signs.  Played with the angles.

I thought of Coney Island as hibernating…dreaming about the coming summer’s smiling crowds, but also regrouping, getting fresh paint, tightening the bolts.  As I stay close to my Chicago radiators this winter, I’m passing through old photos, old memories and looking to the future.  I want to see Coney Island again when it’s awake, when it’s spring.  I want to ride the rides, shoot the neon, bump elbows with the crowds, and to see how the park survived Hurricane Sandy in October 2012.

So, rest up Coney Island.  I’m putting you on the list, again.  Coney Island, and also the Redwoods, and Cuba, and Ireland, and the Badlands, and New Orleans, and Nova Scotia, and Australia, and, and, and…

Arcade, ferris wheel, coney island, new york
The Wonder Wheel waits for summer at the Coney Island arcade
Coney Island, arcade, game, NY
Lauren’s seat at the Kentucky Derby, Coney Island arcade, NY
dime, toss, sign, game, Coney Island, NY
Dime Toss game sign at Coney Island, New York
toss, dime, sign
Toss a Dime, game signage at Coney Island, NY
Coney Island, roller coaster, lights, Cyclone
Detail of the Cyclone Roller coaster sign and lights.
roller coaster, cyclone, Coney Island, Amusement park
The Cyclone roller coaster at Coney Island, New York.
Hamburger boy
Hey Get It Get It! I’m supposed to want it more, once I see the sign…
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Home

Home 

It’s been a hard year.  We’ve lost a number of family members and dear friends.  Had job changes.  Experienced new aches and pains.  Dealt with little annoyances like losing an iPad and a coat (how does that happen??  Are our minds slipping?!)  And we’ve suffered through continuing bouts of ennui and this great restlessness.  A combination of things that leaves our hearts hurting, our thoughts scattered and worried, our confidence tested, and our energy exhausted.

We wonder, how many more Christmases will we have?  How many more summers?  How many more times will I get to hug this person–or hear that story again–or ask those questions?  How many more times can I say “next time, we’ll do that” –before there is no “next time”?  So, this Christmas, when I went home to Nashville to see my Mom and Dad, I also made plans to see some extended family–people I love, and used to spend more time with, but who I don’t have a lot of chances to see on quick visits home from Chicago.  It was good.  We shared laughter, stories, meals.  I need more of this.  And I have made a promise to myself to do more of it in 2015, and make it count.

I also spent a little time driving around Nashville…visiting some places I love…places that are scratched into my memory.  Former homes, old neighborhoods, favorite streets and parks.  Maybe I only spent a little time there–or maybe a lot.  But these places remain in my heart.  And while I can see them –any day– when I close my eyes, I wanted to touch them again.  It was good.  This too, I need more of.

Things change.  Buildings get knocked down.  Trees get cut down.  We change.  People move in and out of our lives.  It hurts sometimes.  And while we can’t always see them anymore, they live on in our memories.  And there is this magical kind of peace and grace in remembering those memories, and visiting those old places.

So, here’s to peace, and to a new year spent making good memories.  Happy New Year!

sledding hill
This is my old street and the neighborhood’s best sledding hill. When Nashville got snow, this hill was covered with kids and sleds. If you had good slick snow and a strong push off at the top of the hill, you could make it all the way to Valleywood.
Home
This place will always keep a few pieces of my heart.  My precious grandmother passed away there.  Three dogs are buried in the backyard, along with two pet turtles, three goldfish, and a few wild birds.  Those two strong maples were plucked from the woods by my father and grandfather–planted in the little front yard of our other house and then moved to this yard as saplings.
Shelby Avenue old tree and old house
Roots and foundations on Shelby Avenue.
Pond by the Parthenon
Gone are the paddle boats and swans:  The Parthenon’s pond in Centennial Park
Centennial Park Swing
Centennial Park Swings:  These are the best swings in the world. It’s all in the footboard…
Elliston Place Restaurant Diner
Neon sign from the old fashioned soda shop on Elliston Place. Milkshakes and grilled cheese…yum.
Exit/In wild posting by Krispy Kreme
Exit/In brought the music to the locals. And in a town like Nashville–“special guests” could mean a Rolling Stone, a Beatle or Johnny Cash.
Train tracks over the Cumberland
My grandparents had tomato plants…lots of tomato plants in their tiny backyard. One summer, they came to this spot in Shelby Park every day to dig dirt–buckets of good dark river dirt.  We’d go home each day with 4-5 big buckets of Shelby Park dirt for those tomato plants in the trunk of their car.
Long Avenue dead ends into Shelby Park
I once flew in a red wagon down Long Avenue’s alley hill into Shelby Park–zooming with more speed than control–with my laughing and elderly Aunt Tiller.  “Don’t you take that baby down that hill Tiller!”, my grandmother yelled from the kitchen window.  “Wave at her,” my Aunt Tiller whispered in my ear as she kicked the wagon into motion.
Spring Hill Cemetery
One of the most peaceful places I know. The tree in Spring Hill beneath which my grandparents rest.
Fletcher's Shoes
Daddy’s shoe shop, closing early on a rainy Christmas Eve’s Eve:  No matter where I am, I think of him whenever I smell shoe leather—or wear my Converse with no arch support.
Sage dressing
“More sage!”:  says my step-dad Marvin every time we test Mama’s homemade dressing.
Christmas Eve
Bill Monroe sings, “Christmastime’s a comin’, and I know I’m going home”:  There is a special comfort in being at Mama’s house on Christmas Eve. The smell of dressing and vegetables cooking, the lights on the tree twinkling on the bows & ribbons below, and you know that after eating, you’ll sit in that room chattering for a few welcome hours.
Awaiting the holiday meal
Anticipation:  Setting the table with the holiday china and Mama’s place cards for the Christmas Eve feast.
kitchen bar with christmas tree and microwave
Later at Daddy’s house:  We sit at the kitchen bar and talk about old family photos, health, and those little Christmas trees Aunt Robbie made all those years ago.

 

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Traveling in Rural Tennessee

Abandoned Motel, Tennessee, rural roads
Pre-interstate, Nolensville Road was the main route from Nashville south to Georgia. Along the route are many empty little hotels.
Chimney, stone, cedar, tree, abandoned, rural road
Framed by cedars, an old chimney still stands on this old farm in Tennessee.
Keep Out sign, Hickory tree, rural Tennessee
The Keep Out tree.
See Rock City, barn, rural Tennessee
Years ago, Rock City figured out a way to advertise all over the rural South…paint “See Rock City” on as many barns as possible.
Estill Springs, Tennessee, rural roads
A lonely road in rural Tennessee.
Trash, bag, rural Tennessee
A black trash bag along the road in Estill Springs, TN…litter?  or a sign of roadside clean up?

Early one morning, two days after Thanksgiving, my best friend and I met to go on a photo jaunt.   When I’m home, it’s a tradition for us to meet early in the morning when the sun is coming and the mist is still fogging over the roads, and head off into the wilds of Tennessee.  We are Nashville-raised girls–so these old roads, falling down barns, abandoned buildings, lonely graveyards and remote train tracks draw us to them like birds to a nest.  We drive for a while, jabbering about our lives, and stopping every few miles for some shots of something that speaks to us.  Later, we stop in some little diner for a late breakfast before hightailing it back to town.  These scenes, these drives, these little traditions remind me of what matters in life….family and friends, and roads to be traveled.

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Cuba’s Charisma : Why I go

Why do you keep returning to Cuba?

During the last 3 years I’ve been asked that question thousands of times and in a hundred different ways:  What is the appeal of Cuba?  What do you see in it?  What do you do there?  Why this absorption, this obsession?  Truth is, I’m not sure I really know why I go.  I just know that I have to return.

Exhaust from an old car for sale in Havana Cuba
In a series of sweeping economic changes, cars can now be bought and sold in Cuba. Many of these relics run on handmade parts, rigged and cajoled and smoking through the streets of Havana.

Before I went the first time, I read Carlos Eire’s “Waiting for Snow in Havana” and was enthralled by his description of Havana’s radiance… the turquoise water, the light, the sunsets.  But one part of his childhood description stuck with me–and came rushing back almost word-for-word the first night I arrived in Cuba–the part where he describes the car nearly tipping over as his dad drives through the crashing waves along the Malecón:   “That was the beauty of it, and the horror.  So much freedom, so little freedom.  Freedom to be reckless, but no genuine freedom from woe.  Plenty of thrills, and an overabundance of risks, large and small.  But so little margin for error, and so few safety nets.”

So, what does that have to do with why do I go?  Why have I been six times in the last 3 years?  Why do I already want to return?

Cuba seems to call to me…beckoning things that I’ve forgotten, lost or restrained.  Adventure.  Audacity.  Creativity.  Purpose.  There, I feel an openness and confidence that seems compounded and exquisite.

I’ve tried to explain why I go to Cuba with photos, and with stories of what I’ve seen and done there.   It’s hard to define, to draw a picture that helps a curious person understand…How can I explain the light of the sun and the shade, or the smell of the humidity, or the raw elegance in the decay.  How do I explain hearing in my Cuban friends’ stories the vast hope and repeated frustrations as Cuba’s many reforms zig, zag and snowball?   How can I explain how my skin tingles from partaking in the random little bits of risk in Cuba, or from seeing the creative resourcefulness of their fixes for things broken or not available?

Maybe I can never really explain my enchantment with Cuba because I don’t yet understand it well enough myself.  Or maybe because I don’t understand myself…what draws me to these raw edges.  The pattern is not yet revealed.  I do know that I will keep on going back…witnessing the changes–both in Cuba and in me.

Obelisk overlooking Havana
An obelisk’s shadow marks time in Havana.

 

Elegance decays
Marble steps fall away, wood decays, keyholes give out…and Havana goes elegantly on.

 

Overgrown Anfiteatro in Parque Lenin
A Cuban friend reminds me often that, without people, Cuba would return to the jungle in only a few years. This amphitheater in Parque Lenin is proof. What was once a clear pond surrounding the stage is now covered with algae, and tall grass grows around the stone seating.

 

Stitches repair this concrete cover
Stitches keep this concrete cover together on a rooftop in Havana.

 

Beams prop up this old building behind el Capitolio in Havana
This 5 story building behind the Capitolio used to be a hotel. Now it’s home to 50-60 families. The door and elevator are boarded up, the bannisters are missing in places, the stairs are becoming detached. We went in and carefully made our way to the top floor, talking our way into an apartment crammed full of trinkets. Another place was burned and empty. These families await relocation to a safer living space. And likely this prime real estate will again become a posh hotel or apartment building once el Capitolio’s renovations are complete and the parliament moves in across the street.

 

Fumigation on Calle 23 Havana
Early one morning, I saw smoke traveling down Calle 23 in Vedado. Fumigation trucks (and airplanes) keep Havana mosquitos in check.  About a minute later, I could smell the pesticide in my room.

 

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Time and time again

Time and time again, I miss Cuba.  Really miss it, with an ache, with a feeling that I should be there right now, among the raw beauty, the surprising quirks, and the magnificent people with such life and humor and hope.   Some people would say “time stands still in Cuba”.  It does not.  It moves at a speed and in directions all it’s own.  There’s no explaining that with logic or words.  Nor even with photos.  I was sleepless there, trying to pin down all the little moments, the tiny things that remind me, “you’re in a special special place in time…remember everything!”

Already…already…I wait to return.

Time...in a peso taxi, Havana, Cuba
In a peso taxi, Havana, Cuba

 

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Three quiet October days in Telluride

Main Street, Telluride, Colorado
Main Street, Telluride, Colorado

Three quiet October days in Telluride.  The place holds a special place in my heart.

I first visited Telluride on a media trip in 1999, just a couple of weeks after my Grandmother passed away.  I was tired.  My heart hurt from crying.  And I ached to see her again, to talk to her some more…just a little more.   While the rest of the group skied, I spent time in solitude…staring at the mountains.  And in those moments, I found a peace that comforts me to this day.

So, when I realized that I’d be within a 6 hour drive of Telluride just a few days before my birthday, I decided to return.

The “6 hour drive” from Santa Fe turned into an 8 hour drive because I stopped so many times to admire the wide open spaces and the long winding roads through the pueblos and reservations of New Mexico .

Driving north from Santa Fe
Driving north from Santa Fe

I arrived in Mountain Village just before dark, threw my stuff in the room, and took the first of about a dozen gondola rides up and over the mountain into beautiful little Telluride.

I would spend only 3 nights there–waiting for the sun to rise and set on the mountain top, soaking up the sun on the streets of Telluride or my sweet little balcony, walking the side streets and trails with my camera, looking for the even numbered magpies, sketching and writing in the coffee shops, and savoring a little time in the spa.  Good days.

The Gondola into Telluride
The Gondola into Telluride
Make a Map:  Things to do in the coffee shop
Make a Map: Things to do in the coffee shop
The gondola goes from Mountain Village up and over the mountain to Telluride in about 15 magic minutes.
The gondola goes from Mountain Village up and over the mountain to Telluride in about 15 magic minutes.
On the Mountain
On the Mountain
Waiting for the sun to set on the mountain top...October 6, 2013.
Waiting for the sun to set on the mountain top…October 6, 2013.
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Pre-dawn ride to the Mountain top…October 7, 2013
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Sunrise…on Telluride’s Mountain…October 7, 2013

On my birthday, I was on the first gondola to the mountain top.  I walked across the ridge waiting for the sunrise, my boots crunching the frosted grass.  Three elk stopped about 50 feet in front of me.  I could see their breath clouds.  After a silent few minutes of mutual acknowledgement, they returned to grazing and I to walking.  I heard their antlers tapping together a few minutes later and turned to see two of them playing like puppies on the mountain side.  Just after sunrise, I called my mother and father from the mountain top.   I talked to several friends that day, had a massage, enjoyed some home-made ice cream and had a perfect little day.  And as I went back over the mountain the final time that evening in the quiet dark of my own gondola, I whispered a few things to my precious grandmother.

Telluride from the gondola in the deep quiet solitude of the mountainside
Telluride from the gondola in the deep quiet solitude of the mountainside.

I drove out of Telluride in the still pitch black morning…at one point a family of deer ran on the windy road alongside my car.  Ah, Telluride…I’ll be back!

 

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Cuba on my mind

I’ve had Cuba on my mind a lot lately.  Such a beautiful, colorful, extraordinary place.   I spent some time today walking through my photos.  Here are a few that spoke to me this afternoon…  I was in a mood to edit them in black and white…what do you think?

Dog passes graffiti and scaffolding
Dog passes a graffitied construction wall and scaffolding – Havana Cuba
Lean on me - Cuba
Lean on me – Building supports to buttress and prevent collapse, Central Havana Cuba
Dancing in Havana
Dancing in a new bar in Habana Vieja
New local bar, Central Havana
Another new bar in Central Havana
Caged bird on the street of tiled row houses - La Habana
Caged bird on the street of tiled row houses – Havana
Nightfall on a backstreet in Havana
Boys play at nightfall on a Havana street
Fishing the blackwater of Havana's river
Fishing in the blackwater of Havana’s river
Backstage at a fashion show - Havana Cuba
Backstage at a fashion show – Havana Cuba
Big black glasses in a red car
Havana
Laundry hung on a roofless building - Havana
Laundry on a roofless building – Havana
Baby sandwich - Havana Cuba
Baby Sandwich – Havana Cuba
Skateboarding on Avenue G - Havana Cuba
Skateboarding on Avenue G – Havana
dog in a sweater - Havana
December…dog in a sweater – Havana
Vedado at Dawn
Vedado at dawn – Havana 
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“Moscow to Havana”: travel reverie

Flight to Havana, Cuba
Boarding a flight to Havana in December 2010.

Moscow to Havana!   The news hummed with “where is Edward Snowden?” this week.  He arrived in Russia from Hong Kong.  He supposedly bought a ticket Moscow to Havana, then never made the flight.  Maybe he is making his way incognito to Ecuador?  Or Venezuela?  Or will he live for awhile in the Moscow airport, perpetually in transit?  Whatever happens, these news nuggets launch me into travel reverie–thoughts of airports, of getting on planes,  of all the great spy movies where they skip seamlessly country-to-country.  I love travel…the tickets, and passport stamps, and visas…I get chill-bumps just imagining holding a plane ticket that reads  SVO – HAV.  I amuse myself with a vague thought of traveling one day from a Russian winter’s deep snow to a sultry Cuban night in the streets of Havana.  I have this dream that one day, I will go.  I will sell everything and go.  For a year, for two, maybe three.  Travel light.  Take my time.  Get to know the cities.  See the countrysides.  Meet the people. Stay long enough to recognize the accents, the light, the patterns of life…like how to order an espresso like a local in a Roman cafe, or where to find the right peso taxi line in Havana.   These thoughts make me tremble with anticipation.  There’s just something about travel.  The essence of life.

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To Travel is to Possess the World

“To Travel is to Possess the World”

It’s a Burton Holmes quote, said about his Travelogues over 100 years ago.  How I ache to go when I look through his book of hand-tinted slides from another time, another place…his many Grand Tours of the world followed by “magic lantern” tours of tales.  It was a different world back then.

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Return to Cabo

Return to Cabo.  April 2010

We had put vacationing on hold for a while…but then decided to do a rest & relax, “fun & sun”, return to Cabo. We first visited in 2003. Only 7 years ago. But what a 7 years. Can you return?

It has been a rough year.  Changes at work.  Belle’s illnesses.  Cluttered mind.  Restless spirit.  We decided to go back to Cabo.  It was a place we’d visited in 2003…before the move to Nashville, before the heartaches of Holling and Riley passing, before the return to Chicago. We packed books, cameras, sunscreen, and swimsuits, and a whole lot of hope for a restful week.

Cabo has 356 days of sun
Cabo has 356 days of sun
Room #310 Pueblo Bonito Blanco
Room #310 Pueblo Bonito Blanco

Some highlights:

Room 310 of Pueblo Bonito Blanco:  complete with a sitting room, coffee maker, and kitchenette.
The time-share sellers still as persistent as ever.

The view from Pueblo Bonito Blanco's pool
The view from Pueblo Bonito Blanco’s pool

Sitting at the pool overlooking the beach on the first day, I counted 12 sailboats, 6 Gilligan boats, 1 cruise ship, and an assortment of jet-skis, para-sailors, helicopters and dozens of smaller, glass-bottom boats and water taxis.

Blanket vendor
Blanket vendor
Surf
Surf

The crashing of the waves!  The water out there is known to have a dangerous undertow.  By the sounds of the waves, and the sucking sound the tide makes when it moves out–I can only imagine.

The sand on this beach is like sandpaper.  Exfoliating.

Sand and Sky
Sand and Sky
Horizon
Horizon

Tiny birds wait like stray, hungry little dogs at breakfast.

Feeding our little friends
Feeding our little friends
Alone
Alone

Days spent in the sun.  Hot sun and cool breeze.  Just lovely.  Reading.  Reminiscing.   Daydreaming and staring out to sea.   What would my 46-year-old self tell my 39-year-old self?

I read the Time Traveler’s Wife.  “To happiness.  To here and now.”  “To world enough and time.”

Night ship
Night ship
Morning fishing
Morning fishing

Also plotted the years until 50…101 things to do before 50?  50 states by 50?

Grotto
Grotto
Cotton Candy
Cotton Candy
The dancers
The dancers + tequila
The dancers
The dancers

Rum drinks and Bloody Marys.  Dinners on the beach.  And making coffee in the room in the still-dark mornings.

Dinner on the Beach
Dinner on the Beach
Poolside
Poolside
Mariachis at La Golondrina Restaurant
Mariachis at La Golondrina Restaurant
Lovely tree
Lovely tree at La Golondrina
Pueblo Bonito Blanco's lovely dishes
Pueblo Bonito Blanco’s lovely dishes
Lime and cilantro
Lime and cilantro
Stretching
Stretching

Flamingos, parakeets, and turtles at the hotel.

7 sunrises in 7 days.  Keeping a weather eye on the horizon…searching for certainty, confidence, and “what’s next?”

We came home on Bryan’s 47th birthday.

Flamingo
Flamingo
Sunrise #1
Sunrise #1
Sunrise #2
Sunrise #2
Sunrise #3
Sunrise #3
Sunrise #4
Sunrise #4
Sunrise #5
Sunrise #5
Sunrise #6
Sunrise #6
Sunrise #7
Sunrise #7
Carol and Bryan in Cabo
Carol and Bryan in Cabo
Pink morning
Pink morning
Cabo map
Cabo map
Mexico Flag
Mexico Flag
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