Monthly Archives: June 2015

From There to Here: Day 15

2015-06-30 11.53.09Today was basically a traveling day.  Lots of Louisiana’s lush crops and a few bayous with gathering clouds and threatening drops of rain throughout.  And we were on I-20 for most of the day, which made things just a little less interesting.  But, when we got to Poverty Point, we had to stop.  This is the site where between 1300-1100 B.C. a thriving, hunting, trading and agricultural culture built earthen mounds to create a village able to house about 1500 inhabitants.

2015-06-30 12.34.40Most interesting to me, as a liturgist, is the mounds were built in the half circle, six rows deep, with a large ritual space (about the size of 2 football fields) where the center of the circle would be.  The inhabitants lived up on the half-circular mounds and held events and rituals in the public space.  It was shockingly similar to the nave and sanctuary of the parish church where I worked for 16 years.  The realization made me think there must be something primal about such an arrangement.  After all, the Mounds Peoples in 1300 BC, as well as the people who re-designed churches in the 1990’s had similar ideas!

2015-06-30 12.37.33Archaeologist have uncovered evidence of the complex culture who lived on these mounds.  These people had tools, agriculture, art and an industrious spirit.  They moved all the dirt in baskets to create the mound’s structure.  Stunning to think about this complex culture thriving here in Louisiana in 1300 BC – about  the same time as the great pyramids were being built in Egypt!

My episodic memory was ignited today as we walked among the mounds.  I was thrown back to a day when I went on an archaeological dig; and also a day (some 25 years later) when I was helping to re-design a more functional worship space.  Never before had I thought the two experiences had anything in common – until today!

2015-06-30 14.19.58A couple of hours later, we crossed the Mighty Mississippi.   And entering Mississippi, where I had never been before, (nor had I ever been in Louisiana before the other day) I now have only one state left to enter, Alabama, before having been in all 50 states.

We grabbed a quick lunch and went over to the Vicksburg Military Park, but only had just less than an hour before they closed.  So, we watched the introductory film and plan to spend the day tomorrow educating ourselves about the Civil War battle that took place in this town in 1863.

The storm that was threatening all day finally appeared about 7:00 pm with crashing thunder and lightening.  To our surprise, the electricity suddenly went out in the hotel!  Just the right time for telling stories in the gathering dark.  (It did come back on about a half hour later or you wouldn’t be reading this post.)

The Plantations and Barksdale: Day 14

2015-06-29 10.03.49The morning began with a lovely walk down the main street of Nachitoches along the Cane River.  The French influence in the area is plainly evident.  There were lots of wrought iron rails and flowering pots as well as huge shade trees and locals quietly fishing along the river banks.  2015-06-29 11.00.11Two very friendly women in the National Historic Site Welcome Center gave us a little overview of the area and told us that Magnolia Plantation was closed today, but if we wanted to see one, Oakley Plantation was closest and it was open.   So, off to Oakley Plantation we went. 2015-06-29 11.58.36   

The Antebellum South is not one of my favorite places or time periods, but it is a sad part of our collective history.   As a time in history it is worthy of study just so we make sure we are never inclined to make the same mistakes again.  We arrived just as a tour of the main house was starting.  At first, I didn’t want to go, and then I changed my mind.  The Oakley Plantation land was owned and farmed by one family for over 200 years and evidence of their lives still exists.  The house was a mixture of French influence in the furnishings and early American in structure.  Most interesting, and saddest for me, was to learn that the slaves that tended to the family, the nanny, the nursemaid and the cooks, lived UNDER the house on the dirt floor and entered the house by a ladder and a trap door that opened in the floor of the main house.  How is it possible that we could have thought such living conditions adequate while we enjoyed the comforts of life in the house?2015-06-29 11.25.04

We were guided through the house by Dayisha, a National Parks intern and history major, who was an excellent guide and teacher.  Here she is explaining about the “Shoo Fly” ceiling fan. While the family was eating, the fan would be lowered and a slave child would pull the rope to keep the fan going – providing a breeze and keeping the flies moving.  She also told us about the “Stranger’s Room” which was a part of every Plantation.  It was a room connected to the house, but with it’s own entrance.  Such a room was necessary as strangers would travel from place to place and stop at the big houses asking for a place to stay.  A place was always offered, because one never knew when a time would come when they might need the hospitality of a stranger’s room while they were traveling.  There were no Quality or Comforts Inn’s, remember!  Sad as it was, I was glad to have stopped and learned a few interesting facts I never knew.  Also, Dayisha informed us, in the movie “Horse Soldiers” with John Wayne, this is the house he comes back to at the end of the war and the movie.  Interesting little factoid.  I’ll watch more closely the next time I see that movie.

2015-06-29 14.11.55Amid gathering clouds and threatening thunder storms, we drove north to Barksdale AFB and their Global Power Museum.  It’s a small museum, but very interesting, and they also have a surviving B-17.  “Miss Liberty” sits outside in their air park and was being lovingly refurbished by Louisiana artist, Don Edwards.  I had a lovely chat with him as he made some adjustments to the nose art.  It was quite an experience to see this 71 year old aircraft being so painstakingly attended to.

We settled for the night on the outskirts north of Shreveport and let the rain and thunder come.  When it’s 95 degrees and almost 100% humidity, the rain just makes things a little wetter – but not much!

Louisiana: Day 13

2015-06-28 09.50.28-1We left the Houston area through gray skies and rain and made our way across Trinity Bay and up into some of the beautiful “lake area” of Texas to the “Big Thicket National Preserve.”  Big Thicket is just that.  A huge area that is densely covered with all manner of species – both plant and animal.  The Ice Age caused the conglomeration of diversity to stop in this place, and now it all resides together in this very unique corner of Texas.  The lesson of the Big Thicket is perhaps a message for all of us today: diversity can live together in harmony. 2015-06-28 12.34.51 Whether that is diversity of species, diversity of thought, or diversity of national, ethnic, or religious belief, the Big Thicket teaches us harmony is possible. And it exists beautifully in this national preserve in Texas.

2015-06-28 11.18.43We drove from Big Thicket on Texas Farm to Market roads across beautiful scenic homesteads until we crossed into Louisiana.   Around the state line we found a Dairy Queen, and thinking there would not be another choice for miles and miles, (we were right!) we stopped for a quick bite and planned to move right along.  The drama in the Dairy Queen is worthy of a chapter in “Traveling these United States.”  It gives a whole new meaning to “fast food.”  We waited and waited and waited and in that time, several patrons came in and then left, and two other patrons returned to the counter to complain that their sandwiches had not been made correctly.  One woman had the hamburger, or the buns, in her hands and opened it in front of the clerk. “There’s no meat here!  I ordered the 3 pattie burger!”  The clerk simply laughed and then said, “Well, I’ll have to charge you for 3 patties.”  I thought to myself, so, did you charge her for just the bun and the condiments when you rung it up the first time?  But, I kept my thoughts to myself.  An hour and twenty minutes after we had stopped, we were back on the road!!!

2015-06-28 13.35.28-1You know you’re in “gator country” when this is how your dentist advertises:

2015-06-28 16.12.13But, the back roads of Louisiana are beautiful and lush with foliage of every kind, green and thriving.  Meadows are deep emerald and the sky a beautiful azure blue.  We had driven out of the rain, and the clouds were puffy and brilliantly white.

We found our hotel in Natchitoches, (which is pronounced Nack- tish) and began to settle in for the evening.  After some research on places for dinner, we learned that most of the establishments are closed on Sunday.  But, MacDonald’s, across the parking lot from the hotel, was open.  So, electing not to get back in the car, we decided that two hamburgers in a day wouldn’t kill us.  At least the place was clean, however, service is not something that seems to be a high priority in the South, er, at least here in Louisiana.

2015-06-28 18.19.19-1Waiting in line at MacDonald’s in Natchitoches.






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And Still waiting in line, but finally making it to the counter.


We drove 300 miles today and finished listening to “The Wright Brothers” read by the author, David McCullough.

All in all, even with two hamburgers today, it was a beautiful day with memories to cherish!  Like this sunset in Natchitoches.2015-06-28 20.13.25

To Houston and Galveston: Day 12

Just a photo album tonight.  Too many experiences for words.  Hope the pictures will speak for themselves.

2015-06-27 09.59.27First stop this morning before leaving San Antonio: The Mission of San Jose, one of the four Missions around San Antonio.


2015-06-27 11.43.59A major attraction along I-10 on the road to Houston: “Buck-ees,” a truck stop style plaza as big as a Costco with all things Beaver. (And gas and food and drink and bathrooms as well.)  For someone who collects beavers, it was Unbeaverable!

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Signs of life as we come into the Houston metropolitan area.  Freeways stacked 5 layers high.  We could never do that in Seattle!



2015-06-27 16.13.37At the Lone Star Air Museum in Galveston, where I saw and photographed “The Thunderbird,” one of the few remaining B-17’s in the world.  This one is in mint condition, as it was one of the last to come off the factory line and never saw service in the war.

2015-06-27 17.04.57A beautiful early evening walk along the sea wall in Galveston.  I loved watching the pelicans swoop and dive for their dinner!  Amazing – and so graceful.

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Met Chris on the pier and he let me photograph him with his prize catch of the evening – a baby hammerhead shark!  He was thrilled to think I was going to put his picture on “What’s that called?  The Internet?”  Here you are Chris.  And thanks for sharing your catch of the day.

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The sky clearing after the first rain of the trip – hard and heavy between Huston and Galveston.  It scared me a bit.  We’ve forgotten what real rain can be like.  But after about 35 minutes, we were on the other side and the sun came out again.

2015-06-27 17.01.24-1Hello from Galveston, everyone!  We’re having a great time.

San Antonio: Day 11

We decided to forgo the alarm this morning, so didn’t get out until about 9:00 a.m.  It was a welcome change.  And, at breakfast, we made another change.  The woman who prepares and sets out the breakfast at the hotel saw us studying maps and asked if she could answer any questions. When we explained we just wanted to see San Antonio, she sat down and began to help us make our plans.  It was such a lovely and welcoming thing to do!  And, we were so grateful for her advice.

2015-06-26 10.41.40Because of her excellent suggestions, we left our little Prius to rest in the parking lot, and we went out to explore San Antonio on foot.  As we walked out the doors of the hotel, it was as if we were walking into an oven.  But, we were well prepared with hats, and sunscreen, as well as water and maps, and we went in the direction of the Alamo.  Along the way we went through the Cathedral of San Fernando.

As we walked, whenever it looked as if we were lost or figuring out where to go, someone would step forward and give us a tip or point us in the right direction.  It felt as if everyone here knew what President Johnson was talking about when he said it takes all of us together to make this nation great.  It certainly took a lot of friendly help for us to find the Alamo.

But, find it we did.  It’s iconic silhouette seemed dwarfed by the growing San Antonio  skyline, but the grounds of the old mission are a lovely oasis in the midst of this thriving 21st century city.2015-06-26 11.22.17 By the time we realized the line to get into the mission was several blocks long, we elected to just walk the grounds and enjoy the beauty without entering the old church. Ironically, the church itself was not even actually completed at the time of the famous battle for Texas independence that took place here.

While the weather was hot, the grounds around the church are planted with all manner of palm, cacti, flowers and shrubs providing shade, beauty and welcome respite among the old stone walls.2015-06-26 11.40.19

The surroundings are a photographer’s dream – only there were walls and walls of people who seemed to be in every possible shot.  While I love the thought of sharing the sights with all these visitors to the Alamo, for some reason, I always want the pristine shot, without the other visitors.2015-06-26 12.01.50

From the Alamo, we went down under the streets of the city and found the lovely river walk that is so picturesque and so unique to San Antonio.  We couldn’t resist a little taste of home along the way, and stopped at Starbucks for some ICED coffee and a little touch of air conditioning.

2015-06-26 12.58.12-1On the advice of our breakfast friend, we took the river ride and managed to time everything perfectly so that we were lucky enough to step on the boat just before it set out for the tour.   In addition, we were lucky enough to get Joseph D. for our river guide, whose funny and informative explanations kept us laughing as we floated among the sights.  Be sure and ask for him if you want an excellent, informative and entertaining guided tour on the river beneath the streets of the city.2015-06-26 14.15.04

By now you must know we were hungry, and we followed Joseph D’s directions to Schilo’s Deli.  We walked along the river until we arrived at the right street to come up to street level and entered the cool haven of an authentic German Deli.  Sausages were on the menu, as well as homemade root beer and we enjoyed them while these fellows watched.2015-06-26 13.16.40

Then, of course, there was the walk back, strolling and taking in the beauty of this amazing day among the sights and the very friendly and congenial people of San Antonio.  And, there were some more photographs, too.  And, just as we were helped along by others earlier in the day, we found ourselves passing on what we had experienced and learned that could help another visitor enjoy this beautiful city.

Once back at the hotel we couldn’t bring ourselves to think of getting in the car now, so we are cooling down, re-hydrating, and catching up on laundry, blogs, and emails.  I’m sure we only scratched the surface of San Antonio but it is a lovely, lovely city with many helpful and friendly inhabitants.  Certainly we will look forward to returning again sometime in the future.


And more of Texas: Day 10

We left Fredericksburg early this morning and headed toward the LBJ National Historic Site, the place of the Johnson Ranch and the Summer White House during the years he was president.wpid-wp-1435274172624.jpeg  Along the way we passed Texas peach orchards and had to stop at a stand so we could experience some of the sweetness of Texas sunshine.

There were also  some vineyards along the way throughout this beautiful hill country of Texas.

We also passed the most beautiful roadside wild flowers. wpid-wp-1435274466697.jpeg When I inquired what kind of flowers they were, a woman kindly told me, “Oh, we call them DYF’s.”  I must have had a quizzical look on my face because she laughed and explained, “Durn yellow flowers.”  So, now I know!  Although, they didn’t seem “durn” to me at all.  I thought they were beautiful.

We walked through the house where LBJ was born, wpid-wp-1435274618804.jpeg passed the one-room schoolhouse where he went to school, wpid-wp-1435274642798.jpegand went on a tour through the Summer White House.


2015-06-25 10.56.09The ranch was a peaceful and inspiring place. I always find it fascinating to be in the environs where some famous  personality grew up.  Was it nature or nurture that affected him most?




His mother clearly thought it was his nature.  Her words under this picture inspired me to see the hidden potential, not just in my own children, but in every person I encounter.  Her words: “Course, it’s a mother talking, but from the first time I looked in his eyes,  none of his accomplishments have surprised me.”  Perhaps it’s wisdom we could apply to ourselves as well.  Nothing we are capable of accomplishing should surprise us!

Even in the little gift shop I was moved by some words of President Johnson.  Apparently, he was a lavish gift giver and always wanted his staff and visiting dignitaries to know how much he valued them. wpid-wp-1435275033449.jpeg I read on a small card where he was quoted as saying that the giving of gifts was a great opportunity “for engraving my spirit on the hearts and minds of people.”  I really had to stop and think about that one for a minute.  How much time do we spend thinking about “engraving our spirit on the hearts and minds of people?”  And how much time should we be spending doing that?  It takes a great awareness and a great spirit to know the value of those words. And, it takes a humble spirit to receive the engraving with gracious acceptance.  Perhaps we need to work at doing both.2015-06-25 12.20.42

And, a final inspirational message from a great man who knew the value of working together.  It is all of us, cooperating and working together that makes this nation great.

From the Johnson Ranch, we stopped at Johnson City, which was the town closest to the ranch, and then we went on another hour down the road and found our way into the beautiful city of San Antonio.

2015-06-25 16.11.35But, one stop before arriving in the city center, we went out to Lachland AFB to see their Airman’s Museum and photograph their WWII ear B-17 bomber.  “Heaven’s Above” is on static display on their parade ground, and it was a beautiful day for a portrait.

2015-06-25 19.51.12After a nerve wracking drive into the center of the city at rush hour, we parked the car at the hotel and had a leisurely walk to the Old Market for an enchilada and some nachos.  It was a lovely evening, if hot and humid, and we were grateful for the walk.

A day chocked full of experiences, memories, beautiful landscapes, ranches, an inspirational figure, profound wisdom and good food.  All I need now is a soft bed.

You Know You’re in Texas: Day 9

. . . when your traveling companions along the highway are  beauties like these three guys.


We had another lovely morning of gentle temps in the 70’s as we set out from Odessa on our way to Fredericksburg TX and our destination of the National Museum of the War in the Pacific.


The flat dry ranch lands gradually gave way to greener rolling hills and what is known as the hill country of Texas.  Color also started appearing at and around rest areas.


Having gotten out on an early start this morning, we arrived at our destination at about 1:30, hungry and thirsty.  As we drove down the lovely main street of Fredericksburg, we simultaneously were caught by the signage for “The Old German Bakery and Restaurant.” We immediately braked and pulled the car into a parking place.


We ordered and could hardly wait for our schnitzels to arrive.  Before that happened, the owner came out and turned the “Open” sign to “Closed.”  We could hardly believe our good fortune.  We had just made it!!


We made short work of our meals – but enjoyed them thoroughly. This is our ethnic food – or ” just food” as we like to say!


This little town is charming, but we had come for the museum, and so we went according to plan. It was very well done and we learned many interesting facts about the War in the Pacific.  This I simply had to capture so I could remember and refer to it!!


After a little rest we went out this evening to see if we could replace the damaged cord that kept us from listening to our audio book about the Wright Brothers.  Mission accomplished and on the way back to the hotel we stopped at a lovely little bistro for some appetizers and cold drinks.

In the evening , as we passed a display of some yard art, I thought I saw a carved beaver. We pulled over, and yes indeed, there was a beaver.   Needless to say, we now have a Texan beaver to join our Georgian and Washington beavers at home!


Five hours of driving and four hours at the museum filled the day. We are suffering just a little “car lag” this evening. But we are so glad to have filled the day with good travel, good food, a great museum, and a purchase of a new little traveling companion to take home with us.  His name will be Frederick, or just Tex for short.

Into Texas: Day 8

With some cooler temps this morning, we left Rosewell, NM – it was all of 72 degrees and it felt positively chilly!  This was our first overcast day.  That made a difference for about four hours and then things started heating up again.

It was a day of changing landscapes – first clouds on the horizon, and then flat, flat, flat ranch lands as we exited New Mexico and made our way into Texas.  The first thing I noticed was the change in crops.  Texas grows oil.  And memories of my childhood in Oklahoma came flooding back to me.imageimageAs we passed miles and miles of lands without a shrub taller than two to three feet – and most lands with nothing even that tall, I started to notice a very curious thing.  The telephone poles along the roadside provided a great place for birds of the air to nest – Texas style.  And this wasn’t a occasional occurrence.  We passed by miles and miles of nests in every pole.  Where would the birds have made a home if we hadn’t needed telephone poles?  Then I began to wonder where they might nest when the wireless phenomenon comes to Texas.

A couple of hours later, we passed the most lovely grove of trees. It was an orchard of some kind.  I think that there is a market for spotter books for “Crops of the U.S.A.”  I am always interested in what THAT crop is beside the road I am traveling.imageOur destination for the day was Midland, TX and when we arrived we found some wonderful nourishment at a lovely Italian restaurant on the edge of town.  Following our early dinner, we drove past the George W. Bush boyhood home here in Midland.  He went to elementary school the years that he lived here.imageAnd from the George W. Bush boyhood home we drove out to the airport and found the Commemorative Air Force Museum.  The museum houses the largest known collection of “Nose Art.”  During WWII, men who flew the planes would often paint the noses of their aircraft with pictures of “pin-up girls” or cartoons or anything that gave the men confidence or was thought to bring them good luck.  The actual pieces of the fuselages of 36 planes and their original nose art is here in this museum.  Pictures remain of many of the planes and their art, but these are actually the very sides of the planes with their art painstakingly restored.  Pretty unusual.  And very neat.  Pictures were only allowed without flash – so I offer you the lovely tile motif in the entryway of the museum hall.imageAnd, the last landscape picture to remind us we are in Texas – bushes of cacti.  Bushes!  That make shade.  Of CACTI.  I guess I shouldn’t be surprised, but I was stunned at this vacant lot next to the hotel filled with huge prickly pear cactus.imageWhat an amazing country we live in!  In the past week we have traveled from the lush Pacific Northwest through the Rockies; amazing rock formations; desert lands of New Mexico; to vacant lots full of cacti.  Isn’t creation wonderful?

Driving: Day 7

Today was a driving day. That is necessary at times when we actually want to get from one place to another.

We had a good time laughing while creating scenarios of what may have happened to us today.  Such as:  “We were in Farmington, NM and then things got a little hazy and the next thing we knew, we were in Roswell.”

It didn’t quite happen like that and we encountered no little green men along the way. But just thinking about the possibilities kept us entertained.

We drove through Navajo ranch lands; more interesting rock formations and crossed the continental divide just south of Cuba, NM. 




And after we stopped laughing about quicker ways to arrive in Roswell, we listened to almost half of the new book “The Wright Brothers” read, unabridged, by the author himself, David McCollough.

There really is no better way to travel.

The Pueblo: Day 6

Happy Solstice Day!  That’s how we were greeted when we walked into the Visitor Center of the Azetc Ruins in Aztec, New Mexico this morning.  Earlier this morning, long before we were out of bed, decedents of the Pueblo People were gathering in this sacred spot to celebrate the Solstice.  Remarkably, their ancestors had built their dwellings with the major north wall expertly aligned with the rising sun on the Summer Solstice, and the setting sun on the Winter Solstice.

So many things about this People and their culture fascinate me.  They had a thriving society in 1100 A.D. when they decided to build very complex dwellings on this spot. 2015-06-21 12.02.50The remains of those dwellings and the kivas, which were sacred gathering spaces, are a National Monument today and a beautiful place to visit.  (The photo to the left is inside the large kiva, which has been restored and is still used as a sacred gathering space today.)

Although it was hot again today, we went out early and walked through the entire ruins. It was easy to feel that we were walking and standing on holy ground.  2015-06-21 12.13.41The place really defies description. You must come and experience it for yourself.  I hope these pictures can speak the thousands of words that fail me this evening.

2015-06-21 12.31.25As we finished our walk through the monument, a couple was working at a table making and painting Acoma pottery. (The Acoma are one of the Pueblo Peoples.)  The pieces were delicate and exquisitely beautiful.  I praised the skill and beauty of their work and we had a wonderful conversation.     The woman told me that it was her grandmother who had taught her to make pottery.  And, she has been doing it ever since.  Her husband explained how he uses only natural plants and substances to create the colors he paints on the pots. And, each design he creates tells a story.  The large bowl he was painting with a brush made of Yucca plant told the story of the movement of the stars in the heavens.  I only wish I was brave enough to think that I could get a large piece of their pottery home in one piece. But, not being brave, I selected a very unusual water jug made in the shape of a snake. It is painted with the corn pattern, telling how the people were nourished by the corn.  I also couldn’t pass up a tiny little bowl that was so cute it simply called to me.

Once my purchases were made, as they packed them in a little box, the woman told me her granddaughter had made the little bowl I bought.

2015-06-21 12.05.29I was so touched to know these people and see the care they put into the work of their hands.  And, I was moved to know the woman learned the art from her grandmother and that the little bowl I purchased was made by her granddaughter.  How many years of pottery making skill and creativity has been passed down to these two women whose work I now have?  My snake vase and tiny bowl will always remind me of this day, these gentle and gifted artists and their ancestors who lived in this place centuries ago.

For more information on the Pueblo People from my traveling companion’s perspective, you can go here and read his blog from today.