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During our vacation in Disneyland I came to believe that it was the persistent attention to detail that made it so wonderful a place to visit. I took photos of things that caught my eye.

Coccoons dangle above pathways. I imagine these are lights, but I didn't come through A Bug's Land at night.

Coccoons dangle above pathways. I imagine these are lights, but I didn’t come through A Bug’s Land at night to see it.

Close up of the coccoons.

Close up of the coccoons.

A boat in Pixie Hollow.

A boat in Pixie Hollow.

 

 

 

 

 

Inside a shop in Condor Flats. Look at the tools hung on the wall behind the cashier.

Inside a shop in Condor Flats. Look at the tools hung on the wall behind the cashier.

More stuff on the walls in the shop above.

More stuff on the walls in the shop above. It really felt like being in a garage.

Inside Mickey Mouse's house in Toon Town.

Inside Mickey Mouse’s house in Toon Town.

These stone towers and wooden door are beautiful, and yet high above the crowds below, so no one can even go up there and see it. We can only admire from afar.

These stone towers and wooden door are beautiful, and yet high above the crowds below, so no one can even go up there and see it. We can only admire from afar.

Shops are built in the design of the area, to keep the atmosphere consistent.

Shops are built in the design of the area, to keep the atmosphere consistent.

A view along Disneyland's Main Street.

A view along Disneyland’s Main Street.

Zoomed in shot of the view above.

Zoomed in shot of the view above.

In A Bug's Land, the landscape had overlarge items to make one feel bug-sized.

In A Bug’s Land, the landscape had overlarge items to make one feel bug-sized.

Teeth over the doorway, eyeballs on the posts, even a tallbike behind the lampost. The boy is looking warily at Randall in the window.

Teeth over the doorway, eyeballs on the posts, even a tallbike behind the lampost. The boy is looking warily at Randall in the window.

Decorations in a shop.

Decorations in a shop.

Mickey's garden shed.

Mickey’s garden shed.

This is where they make the laughs.

This is where they make the laughs.

The fabulous Disneyland castle, mini-sized to be more fun for kids, but still pretty darn immense and impressive.

The fabulous Disneyland castle, mini-sized to be more fun for kids, but still pretty darn immense and impressive.

Look at that castle! I think it’s stunning in the morning sunshine. We were in Anaheim for six days, and the first four of them were cold, grey, cloudy, and even a little wet. But on our last morning to go into the park, there was blue sky everywhere and the sun came out and made everything sparkle. We could see the mountains around the city of L.A. from our hotel room, it was so clear.

Wandering around the two parks (Disneyland and Disney California Adventure), I marveled again and again at how drastically our landscape changed. We were in jungles and cities and deserts and on spaceships and underground.

Where do you think Disneyland is? Looking at the photo of the castle above, a reasonable person might guess it’s in the forest.

And if you guessed forest, you would be right. Disneyland is in the forest, with rivers and geysers.

And if you guessed forest, you would be right. Disneyland is in the forest, with rivers and geysers.

But… a reasonable person is not familiar with the forests of Anaheim.

Disneyland is in a desert! Everyone knows LA is in the desert.

That’s because Disneyland is in a desert! Everyone knows Anaheim is in the desert.

It's a beautiful desert, with live cacti, Route 66, and red cliffs.

It’s a beautiful wide-open, empty desert, with live cacti, Route 66, and red cliffs.

But wait… weren’t we in the middle of a gigantic city in southern California?

Yes, a city packed with buildings and people is where one finds Disneyland.

Yes, a city packed with buildings and people is where one finds Disneyland.

It's a large city, with industry, a town hall, a pagoda, a fire house, and more!

It’s a large city, with industry, a town hall, a pagoda, a fire house, and more!

That’s not a real city.

Are you thinking of a city like this?

Are you thinking of a city like this?

With a grand City Hall instead of a Toon City Hall?

With a grand City Hall instead of a Toon City Hall?

And a stately entrance like this?

And a stately entrance like this?

Yes, yes, that looks like a city to hold Disneyland. So, where did those trees come from?

Disneyland is in the snowy Alps, with crashing waterfalls, birch trees, and granite peaks.

The trees are in the snowy Alps, with crashing waterfalls, birch trees, and granite peaks.

Don't forget the Bavarian ski lodge.

Don’t forget the Bavarian ski lodge.

Let Olaf assure you: Disneyland is in the snow, for certain.

Let Olaf assure you: Disneyland is in the snow and trees, for certain.

I thought California was known more for….

Vineyards? Yes! California is where one finds grapes.

Vineyards? Yes! California is where one finds grapes.

Well I was thinking more along the lines of….

Jungle? With bamboo and cicadas screeching all day while we walked beneath dripping vines.

Jungle? With bamboo and cicadas screeching all day while we walked beneath dripping vines.

Wait a minute, things are not normal in that jungle! Since when do fireflies provide nighttime lighting?

If you see a jungle you want it to look like this.

If you see a jungle you want it to look like this.

With temple ruins and Bengal tigers and fat lazy rivers?

With temple ruins and Bengal tigers and fat lazy rivers?

Yes! Now that’s a real jungle! Now wait, you tricked me. We were trying to figure out where Disneyland is.

It's in a jungle, I'm telling you. And all the people live in treehouses.

It’s in a jungle, I’m telling you. And all the people live in treehouses.

Stop messing with me.

In a manicured garden beside a pond, you will find the park.

In a manicured garden beside a pond, you will find the park.

Or you may find it in a crazy Small World castle.

Or you may find it in a crazy Small World castle.

Again, I must protest. That is no castle.

Ah, but you see, the park is in a castle.

Ah, but you see, the park is in a castle.

The park is contained in high stone walls with turrets and towers and royalty.

The park is contained in high stone walls with turrets and towers and royalty.

It's a truly beautiful place.

It’s a truly beautiful place.

You are not being direct. You haven’t given me a clear sense of what kind of place I’ll find it in.

A Moroccan marketplace

A Moroccan marketplace

It's in an Old West frontier town.

It’s in an Old West frontier town.

Or possibly you'll find it in Hollywood of days past.

Or possibly you’ll find it in Hollywood of days past.

Here's a lovely place. Why don't we put Disneyland in this area of gardens and hills and foliage with mountains in the background. Hm, that peak looks a bit ominous.

Here’s a lovely place. Why don’t we put Disneyland in this area of gardens and hills and foliage with mountains in the background. Hm, that peak looks a bit ominous.

Ok, now that is a threatening mountain. Maybe Disney shouldn't be here after all.

Yikes! That is a threatening mountain. Maybe Disney shouldn’t be here after all.

Alright, stop it. You’re messing with me. Where is the park?

You'll find your park at an enormous carnival at the beach.

You’ll find your park at an enormous carnival at the beach.

See? Mickey Mouse logo and all; the park is here.

See? Mickey Mouse logo and all; the park is here.

Or, maybe it's in this wild world of futuristic science and space travel.

Or, maybe it’s in this wild world of futuristic science and space travel.

Possibly you'll find it in the deep South, with huge plantation houses and dripping Spanish moss.

Possibly you’ll find it in the deep South, with huge plantation houses and dripping Spanish moss.

Or in a regular California town in the warm and sunny coast lands.

Or in a regular California town in the warm and sunny coast lands.

Enough! I’m tired of playing at this. In order for everything you’ve shown me to be true, Disneyland must be in an entirely different kind of place, where the world changes completely around every corner. A place where every new sight is even more surprising than the last. If all of this exists, Disneyland and Disney California Adventure parks must be awfully big.

Indeed. So big that we used this to go from place to place.

Indeed. So immense that we could use this to go from place to place.

Mickey joins a group of paperboys to talk about the headlines and about Walt's dream of going to California to make it big.

Mickey joins a group of paperboys to sing about the headlines and about Walt’s dream of going to California to make it big.

One person was at pains to point out to me that these are not actual celebrities, but people in costume. I am not one easily discouraged out of my delight in magical make-believe. Trust me, I have been asked to act more like a grown-up for a couple of decades, and no one has succeeded yet. Leave your logic at the door! This was a week packed with the who’s who of our favourite characters on the screen, and you can’t tell me otherwise.

Only succuming to the joy of fantasy role-playing allows the kind of happiness seen here.

Only succumbing to the joy of fantasy role-playing allows the kind of happiness seen here. Too adorable.

Storm Troopers in Tomorrowland. Selfie in progress, there in the background.

Storm Troopers in Tomorrowland. Selfie in progress, there in the background.

We caught the Aladdin show, and saw Jasimine, Jafar, and Aladdin himself there on an elephant in the audience.

We caught the Aladdin show, and saw Jasmine, Jafar (seen on stage), and Aladdin himself there on an elephant in the audience. Genie stole the show, however.

Buzz Lightyear to the rescue!

Buzz Lightyear to the rescue!

Pooh gets some love.

Pooh gets some love.

All of these characters were mobbed the instant they were spotted. I mean, all of them. A storm trooper passed me, and I asked if I could take a photo, but he waved and kept going because if he stopped, there would have been an instant crowd. Instead I followed him to a gathering point, where multiple storm troopers were getting ready to put on a show. (ha ha, isn’t that a hilarious thought)

People mobbed them for photos and autographs. Yes, we were so excited to get autographs from Disney (or Disney-bought) characters. We were willing to stand in line for it. But we had our limits. Princesses Anna and Elsa, from Frozen, were there, but the wait was from two to three hours for an autograph and photo. Though Tara wanted to meet them almost more than anyone else, she was not willing to squander precious park time standing in line that long.

Miss T's fave stop was probably Pixie Hollow. She confessed to me later, "I was expecting a person playing Tink, but she was the real Tinkerbell! She was perfect!"

Miss T’s fave stop was probably Pixie Hollow. She confessed to me later, “I was expecting a person playing Tink, but she was the real Tinkerbell! She was perfect!”

C3PO was on duty at Star Tours and kept us entertained while waiting in line.

C3PO was on duty at Star Tours and kept us entertained while waiting in line.

This is one of those trouble-makers that was messing with Mack when he fell asleep driving.

This is one of those trouble-makers that was messing with Mack when he fell asleep driving.

R2D2 was also entertaining us at Star Tours, doing maintenance and beeping.

R2D2 was also entertaining us at Star Tours, doing maintenance and beeping.

And who is to say these celebrities did not win their fame in the exact same way as most of the ones we idolize? What makes a person famous: the fact that we’ve heard of them or seen them so often that they are familiar. How is that any different from Donald Duck or Mater?

We asked for an autograph from our amazing skipper on the Jungle Cruise in Adventureland. Taylor was so much fun she became a celebrity on the spot.

My very favourite character to meet was Mater, but he drove by so fast I couldn't get a sharp image at night.

My very favourite character to meet was Mater, but he drove by so fast I couldn’t get a sharp image at night.

My second favourite was this big blue monster. I was literally squealing "Hi Sully!"

My second favourite was this big blue monster. I was literally squealing “Hi Sully!”

Princess Merida

Princess Merida

Lightning McQueen

Lightning McQueen

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Russell

Russell

Donald Duck

Donald Duck

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tara met Mickey in his studio, after walking through his amazing house

Tara met Mickey in his studio, after walking through his amazing house

Diego walks along the nature path beside the Klickitat River, frequented by Bald Eagles.

Diego walks along the nature path beside the Klickitat River, frequented by Bald Eagles.

It’s always a pleasant surprise to me how easy it is to discover truly interesting and entertaining things in my world, if only I go outside and pay attention.

It also consistently surprises me that I forget my camera so frequently. No, worse, I think to myself Will I need my camera? Naaawwwww.  And then 20 minutes into the journey, I am kicking myself. This is what happened weekend before last when Arno, Diego, and I wandered into Klickitat County in southern Washington.

Our original intent for the entire day was to attempt to spot bald eagles, and practically as soon as we crossed the Columbia River, we began to see them. Where was my fabulous camera with zoom lens? Safe at home, intentionally left behind because I thought I wouldn’t need it. Luckily Arno had his little pocket camera, but the light in the sky was poor and the camera not powerful enough, so I can’t show you photos of eagles. They are huge. Really huge. And beautiful. Every time I see a bald eagle it makes me proud and patriotic. Thank goodness our national bird didn’t end up being a turkey.

We also saw a Golden Eagle and I was excited to spot a Kestrel. I became intimately familiar with a kestrel family when I lived in Nevada, and am glad that their voice is still recognizable to me.

Double bridges span the Klickitat River on the Washington side, but they are clearly visible from the Oregon side.

Double bridges span the Klickitat River on the Washington side, but they are clearly visible from the Oregon side.

We had parked beside a nature trail, so we went for a walk. I was very pleased to see the double bridges I had spotted many times from I-84, the Oregon side. Each time I see them I lament the lack of a place to pull over and take a photo of the remarkable arced bridges. Viola! Here I was at last with an excellent view of them, and not traveling on a freeway at 68 mph.

Not yet ready to head directly home, we followed highway 142 into the canyon. It was a stereotypically beautiful creek canyon for this area, and my hungry eyes gobbled up all I could see till I spotted something I had never seen before in real life. “Oh! They’re fishing platforms!” I said out loud. “Arno, pull over.” And he did, though he had not seen them.

I peered over the steep ledge and was more convinced that they must be fishing platforms built by local Indians. I had seen a photo or two of Indians standing on wooden platforms above rushing river water, waiting to spear fish, but I couldn’t remember when or where. Perhaps that famous photo of Celilo Falls was my resource. Arno and Diego, the climbers, instantly felt that we needed to go over the side and get down to the water.

Unstable but apparently effective fishing platforms

Unstable but apparently effective fishing platforms

You brought the camera!

You brought the camera!

At riverside, I suddenly wanted Arno’s camera, which I had – wait for it – decided to leave in the car thinking I wouldn’t need it. Arno clambered back up the steep cliff to retrieve it for me.

I was satisfied simply by looking at the platforms, but the boys spotted the rickety wooden bridge spanning the river, and needed to cross it. So I indulged them bemusedly and watched with anxiety as Arno bounced across the bridge over raging whitewater.

After returning to the car, we continued farther into the river canyon, which led higher in elevation to the source of  the Klickitat River. We went up, and up, and came out high above the rest of the world, on an incredible plateau so high that the mighty Columbia seemed only a mild trickle in the canyon below us.

Arno bounces across the handmade bridge. Yikes.

Arno bounces across the handmade bridge. Yikes.

We were understandably hungry by this time, and Diego was happy for the chance to play with his dad’s smart phone, even if it was only to use the map feature to find us a place to eat. He steered his dad directly into the parking lot of a Mexican restaurant in Goldendale, WA. Sated, we turned south onto highway 97.

Stonehenge replica made of concrete and perched on a ledge above the Columbia River.

Stonehenge replica made of concrete and perched on a ledge above the Columbia River.

I remarked that I had never seen the Stonehenge replica out there before, except at night, when I was a kid traveling through in the back of a big brown 1975 Ford Elite. There were lights on the structure, and all I remember is the circle of bulbs, and someone telling me it was Stonehenge, which was confusing, because I thought Stonehenge was far away, but I was a kid and often wrong about things at that point in my life.

So Arno turned east on highway 14 and announced that we were going to see Stonehenge. It wasn’t far, and soon we were standing beside it. I learned that it was built by Sam Hill to honor the fallen soldiers from Klickitat County in World War I. It was the first WWI monument built in the entire nation! The site now has other memorials, honoring the Klickitat military sacrifice in other wars, Vietnam, WWII, Afghanistan, and more.

Diego climbing

Diego climbing

View of Columbia

View of Columbia

My climbers couldn’t resist the walls of the life-sized replica, and were soon scaling them. I wandered through the inside, marveling at not only the original monument in England, easy for me to visualize with this replica surrounding me, but also marveling at the ambitious project of the man who built the Klickitat version. It was a cold, windy, horrid day, and we were all ready to leave that exposed point rather quickly. However, I will go back this summer in better weather, better light, and armed with my camera!

Inside the Stonehenge replica

Inside the Stonehenge replica

Snake River from Pa’s house, looking southeast toward Map Rock

I spent the 4th of July weekend with my Pa (yes, I call him Pa) Trulove on the banks of the Snake River, south of Boise.

The last time I visited, I drove Map Rock Road on the far side of the river, so that I could take some photos of the homestead from the river perspective. When I came back he asked me, “Did you stop and take a look at the petroglyphs?” “Petroglyphs?!” was my awed and disappointed answer. I had no idea there were petroglyphs, and certainly had missed the Information Center, or the Parking Lot, or the Protected Heritage Area that should have brought it to my attention. Out of time on that trip, I resolved to go back and look for petroglyphs the next time, or I wasn’t doing justice to my Anthropology degree.

Fulfilling my pact with myself, I announced Monday afternoon that I was going in search of Map Rock. My Bonus-Mom, Michelle, (that’s – in addition to my natural mother) said she would go with me and help me find it. That was my first indication that the expected Information Center might not be available.

It took us nearly half an hour to get just across the river. Funny huh? But it makes sense when you realize that first we had to find a bridge to ford the Snake. We drove along Map Rock Road, looking to the right for boulders with art, and then to the left for Givens Hot Springs and the landing strip on the other side of the river. Our petroglyphs were directly across from the Hot Springs, but easier to spot was the bright orange airport wind sock.

Petroglyphs along Map Rock Road

“They’re scattered along here,” said Michelle. “Just keep looking and you’ll see them. You should slow down.”

And then. I saw one!

Etched into one of the countless basalt boulders spilling from a cliff ledge, I saw chevrons, a series of dots, concentric circles, a stylized hand? Upon closer inspection, it was no more clear, but exciting and fascinating! What do the carved circles mean? What are the rows of dots? Are they counting something?

Map Rock was further along, and easy to spot once I knew what I was looking for. It’s a huge (2.2 X 1.8 X 1.5 meters) boulder with a very compelling design.

“The principal motif seems to be a mapping of the Snake River Valley. The most conspicuous line being the course of the Snake River, and is readily recognizable and quite accurate, compared to the Land Office and other maps…One branch rises from a spring, and the other flow from a large lake, the Henry Lake of our maps… At the third turn of the stream [Snake River] is a branch from the east…which is probably intended for the Black Foot River… The locations of the various groups of circles to the south of the river correspond quite closely to the locations of the ranges of hills which do lie to the south of Snake River.” ~ E.T. Perkins Jr. to J.W. Powell, 14 January 1897

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Map Rock, Idaho

“It is in all probability a map of an entire river basin covering almost 32,000 square miles.” ~  Woodward and Lewis

On a piece angled away from the map, off to the left, look like deer with impressive antlers. They are prancing through waves. Is it meant to be water? Flowing prairie grassland of the Owyhees? On top, in front of an eye-catching hump of stone like a mini-Half Dome, or the bill of a baseball cap, are dozens of parallel contour lines. It’s beautiful, and I stood before it dumbstruck and ignorant (ahem, as is my state most often in front of great art…).

map-rock-and-bike

Courtesy Bureau of Land Management

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Unexpected canvas. We wandered through the basalt, potential art in all directions.

petroglyphs2

Prehistoric art. No, wait, they were cataloging their own history, so I guess it’s historic art.

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Not a very helpful information sign, but the only evidence, aside from the wide spot in the road, that modern humans knew something special was here.

And then, less noticeable than the basalt boulders themselves, Michelle pointed out a carved wooden sign. Weather-beaten to almost perfect uselessness, there was an information sign. Though I couldn’t read more than half of it, the sign said this rock was discovered in 1872 and considered a landmark ever since.

Two things. 1) Obviously it was a major communication crossroads, most likely due to a nearby Snake River crossing, and therefore, couldn’t possibly have been “discovered” as late as 1872, unless our only point of reference is white folk (…she says, tongue-in-cheek).

2) Landmark?! I wish! There is no highway sign, no facilities, barely a place to pull off the narrow two-lane road. The only information sign was apparently installed by a community local-interest group, and has not been maintained. There is no protection for this valuable and fascinating historical artifact of human technology. It PAINED me to see it out there, six feet or so from the road. It’s damaged from dust and erosion, not to mention vandals, and so drastically faded from time, as historical photos attest. Michelle said that the last time she was here, someone had taken colored chalk and filled in all the markings. Thank GOD they didn’t use paint, but what’s to stop the next idiot?

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Very hard to see, but the shaded section is also etched.

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Deer. I think.

click this!

After a little research, I found that it’s identified on the National Register of Historic Places, since 1982. Listed as prehistoric art, there seems to be no solid sense of the age of this artifact. Now there’s a little bug in my bonnet, and I will keep my eyes open for a chance to contribute to the preservation of this fascinating little stretch of Indian artwork in Idaho’s Owyhee desert.

Please see C. Jeanne Heida’s articles on this point of interest. The first is specifically of Map Rock, and the second is of Indian Rock Art.

(Credit to Cartography in the traditional African, American, Arctic, Australian, and Pacific societies, Volume 2, Book 3 by David Woodward and G. Malcolm Lewis for the quotes and diagrams.)

Times Square in all its wonderful excess!

We half slept in and half got up early. Sort of a compromise, designed to get the most out of our day without beginning the trip with too much of a sleep deficit. I made a spur of the moment decision which at first seemed rash, but seems more reasonable the more I think about it (don’tcha just love rationalization?). In any case, I shelled out $140 for a round trip taxi ride for the two of us from the hotel to downtown Manhattan, then the guy came and picked us up again when we were done and took us to the hotel to get our bags, then directly to the Egypt Air check-in. Expensive cab ride, but it was worth it because it bought us another hour at least in the city (probably two hours), without any stress about using the subway, or catching the right hotel shuttle to the airport.

Ferris wheel in Toys R Us

We arrived in Manhattan around 10:15am, and climbed back into the cab at almost 2pm. It was a very short visit. So we were pleased to have been able to do everything we managed to do!!

Tara had it in her mind that she must visit a comic book shop in New York City. Don’t ask me where that came from. Our first stop was at an address I found online, but it turned out to be a location that was no longer selling comics, and is now more like a hotel lobby. Luckily, the man at the desk knew the comic book shop had closed long ago, and we were able to move right on to the next stop.

2010 ball

We began walking in a direction that I recalled would lead us to another comic store, but stumbled onto Times Square. Wow! What an excess of neon advertisement. It’s a tremendous section of the city – with action and colour and the sheer dimension of everything enough to pop our mouths open. We saw the great ball above a tower proclaiming 2010. I didn’t expect to see the ball – assuming it was removed each year on January 2. There was still multicolored confetti from the New Year’s celebration all over the streets and blowing in the wind.

Tara in Candy Land - her version of utopia

First we stepped into a Toys R Us store, just because it looked amazing from the street. After getting our photos taken the moment we stepped in (just like at a theme park!), we saw a Ferris wheel inside the building. That gives you some sense of how large it is; four stories that dropped below street level. It’s divided into themed sections like Disney, Legoland, Barbieland, and Candyland. We rode the escalators and breezed through the store that exploded with lights and bright colours enough to be worthy of its prime location in Times Square.

Next on our list was the library that Gramilda had recommended, though I must admit we looked for it only because she said so, and not because either of us had any inclination whatsoever to visit a library. We went there via Bryant Park, which afforded our first good view of the Empire State Building. Tara fed dried fruit to the birds in the park, and then we watched people skating for a while on the temporary rink set up in front of the library.

Grand entrance of the New York Public Library

Inside the library and facing the front doors

Staircase we climbed from the back entrance

The New York City public library is a stop not to be missed by anyone in the city. I am SO grateful we have a learned, traveled grandmother. We came in by a side door and thus happened accidentally upon the stunning foyer at the front entrance by approaching it from a second floor balcony. Marble floors, marble walls, staircases, arches, ceilings, columns, and even marble benches inside. It all glistened from polishing, and glowed pale caramel and cream. Chandeliers cast fiery sparks onto everything. We walked down the long marble staircase on one side of the room, crossed the foyer and then walked up the long marble staircase on the other side of the room. All the while our heads were tipped dangerously backward and we walked in waving arcs as we tried to see everything from every perspective (and not fall down while we were at it!).

click to enlarge

McGraw Rotunda in the top of the library

The library is huge, with many staircases and corridors, so we drifted and gaped and continued to rise in elevation until we happened upon the crowning sight of them all: the McGraw Rotunda. A midsized room with 25 foot ceilings covered on all sides with handcrafted wood trimming, hand painted decorative borders, and then huge murals depicting the evolution of the printed word – beginning with Moses’ stone tablets. Tara and I were in awe. We were forced to sit and stare in silence for a long time, in order to absorb it. The intricate detail surrounding us is difficult to do justice to with words. Rather, I insist that if you are ever in Manhattan, do not do not do not miss the library.

Grand Central Terminal

Detail over windows in Grand Central Station

Off we skipped back into the street and began looking for Rockefeller Plaza and New York’s 9th tallest building – the GE building. We were distracted by stumbling upon Grand Central Station. Wow. What a city. It’s like Athens, almost, in that a person carelessly walking along busy impersonal streets repeatedly comes face to face with a landmark from history. And like Athens, there was often no one other than me standing there gasping “look at that!” Of course we went inside, to say that we had.

I knew it was another public place that would have no queues and no fee to explore. We were unimpressed, and would have done better to discover the train station prior to the library. To be honest, Union Station in Washington, D.C. is much more of a show-stopper. But this one certainly was worth looking at. I especially liked the blue ceiling with gold zodiac designs painted on the ceiling amongst sprays of gold stars, as well as the traditional United States-themed carvings adorning the arch of every window.

American Radiator Building

We exited at the back of Grand Central Station in hopes of discovering either one of the two comic book shops that were supposedly located nearby, to no avail. We walked several blocks north without comic luck, then doubled back to renew our search for Rockefeller Plaza. Facing the back of Grand Central, we saw the glorious American Radiator Building with its stunning gilded crown. Completely understated was Saks on 5th Avenue. Was it the back door or something? Tame window dressings and two quiet entrances greeted us. I took a photo for my mother, who would have wanted to walk inside. I am the antithesis of an American Shopper, however, and really could care less about the place.

What we found at 630 5th Avenue was not what we were expecting to see: a rather ordinary tall building from sidewalk level. This was perhaps because we approached it only from 5th avenue and never actually saw 30 Rockefeller Plaza. Though I knew there was a plaza with a skating rink that was large enough to accommodate a gigantic Christmas tree…I had no idea where to find that plaza, and we were still scurrying to find a comic book shop and see the other high points on our list.

Atlas at Rockefeller Center and St. Patrick's Cathedral

The Atlas sculpture on 5th Ave was exciting to see, because we recognized it, and though the street front was nothing worth blogging about, the building profile was also exciting to see, for the same reason – that we recognized it from the show “30 Rock” that we like to watch. We were blessed with stellar blue skies so that the sunlight lit the skyscrapers up till they glowed above us.

Happy Girl at Hard Rock Cafe

St. Patrick’s Cathedral across the street was phenomenal. Simply stunning. I love that its timeless beauty has been preserved amidst such glass-and-steel modern buildings that pack the blocks in that part of the city. Its design would fit comfortably among the cathedrals I saw in France. Prior to the trip, I had wanted to enter the cathedral, but by the time we arrived at it, we did not feel we had the time available to go inside. Though it was shadowed by tall buildings, the front of St. Patrick’s is a brilliant sight, which had to be enough for the time being.

We had one final address written down and we sought it out. I was a fool to wear attractive black leather boots that day. I wanted to avoid looking like my redneck roots just for one day in the city. I paid for it with blisters. Ugh – fashion bites. Tara was beside herself to find a comic book shop, and cranky with hunger and fatigue. So I walked on, resting only when I could no longer bear it. We passed Bryant Park again, turned a few corners, referenced our map, walked some more, and finally finally there it was!! Midtown Comics was the store to satisfy our great need. I sat on the floor while Tara perused the Teen Titans section.

Central Park Silhouette

Carriages in the park

Lunch Atop a Skyscraper

Final stop: Hard Rock Café, another must on Tara’s list. We called our taxi driver to come find us and then went back to the center of Times Square to grab a burger and fries. Seated in the Hard Rock Times Square, Tara was glowing with happiness, and I considered the day a success. Four hours later we were settling into our seats on Egypt Air, on our way to the other side of the planet.

Trivia: I learned that this photo is of the GE building under construction. It’s called Lunch Atop a Skyscraper, and was taken in 1932 by Charles C. Ebbets.

Alright! Without further ado, let’s get this party started!

Our view for most of the day - you're jealous

T and I made it to New York without any significant hitches. We also cut 8 hours from our total hours flying… so that’s pretty cool. Our layover here is 23 hours, so we decided to check into a hotel tonight and use our precious morning hours to explore the city tomorrow.

Our plane landed early (7pm E – 4pm Pacific), and we were able to comfortably check into our hotel, rummage through our bags a bit, and then go have a sit-down meal. Neither of us was very hungry after our long day of sitting on planes. Tara consumed about 5 cans of ginger ale today, two large poppy seed muffins, most of a bag of caramel and chocolate-covered popcorn (thanks Heather!), and almond clusters. I drank mostly coffee, but also drank a lot of water, because I have decided I need to get healthy again. Yes!

When waiting for the next plane, DS helps

There is snow on the ground here, and it definitely feels like the 30 degrees NWS says it is. Forecast for tomorrow is 35 degrees with a 20% chance of snow. That will be fun! Mom gave us a great idea. We both brought bulky warm clothes with which to comfortably endure a day of being outside on the streets of NYC. The warm stuff we brought is all clothes we do not want to keep. When we’re done with our day… the clothes will get left behind.

Sun rose and then set again while we were on the plane

Waiting for the Fairfield Inn shuttle

Transportation and point to point exchanges scare me. Once I’m on the train, or the plane, or in the taxi, I am completely relaxed. However, that transition section is so frightening to me. Mostly because I’m from the sticks and really prefer my feet to get me where I need to go. Today though, we went from the JFK airport to baggage claim, to the airport lightrail, to the shuttle pickup spot, to the hotel with ease. I have decided the rest of our trip will be just as easy. I like it this way.

During dinner, I noticed behind the bar, only one single item of decoration, tucked amidst the bottles. A bust of King Tutankhamen. Now, if that isn’t an omen that we are where we should be, then I don’t know what is.

Where I'm sitting at this very moment while I type

The view southwest from my Pa's deck

We spent a leisurely weekend at my dad’s house in southern Idaho over Labor Day weekend.

This corner of the deck is the center of life here

Man, I love that place for its peace. The Owyhee desert is too dry, too brown, for me to really love. So it’s simply the environment that my dad and his wife create for visitors. Not to mention the incredible food.

hummer

While Mark studied for his geologist certification test, Tara and I went to visit Gramilda and Rex on Sunday. They seem to be doing well. Gramilda was active and in good spirits. She’s going blind. She doesn’t say anything about it, but just doesn’t look at stuff. You know how eyes will follow your talk or your hands in a conversation? I found that interesting, since I’ve never been around a blind person. I am really proud of her for being so strong about it and not complaining.

Gramilda, Pulek & me

Tara and I drove on the other side of the Snake River to get a look at her Grandpa and Grandma’s house from that side. When we got back, Pa told me that we had passed rocks with petroglyphs, and didn’t we stop to look at them? Arggh! I would have, if I had known they were there!! It’s a long trip, so we didn’t go back then. But now that I know what to look for, I will go back another day.

We swam in their pool, which was an excellent cool-down in the hot weather. I think if I lived out there, I would have to have a pool too. Tara and I tried swimming in the Snake once. In the summer it’s full of muck and sort of disgusting to swim in. The middle is clear, where the current remains strong, but then… there’s the problem of the current.

The view from inside my head for four days. Nice.

Each morning, everyone tumbles out onto the deck in the dark with their coffee and waits for the sun to come up. It’s my favourite peaceful ritual there. Pa and Michelle have stepped up their coffee quality since my last visit.

trying to hide her pretty face

Finally, they aren’t drinking that pale, flavorless yuk they’ve had for so many years. But in any case, the quiet of listening to the birds in the dark, waiting for the sun to climb over the ridge across the water, is great therapy.

This time, however, Pa and Michelle could not stop talking. I don’t know if it’s because of age, or if they’re lonely out there, or if they were nervous about meeting Mark for the first time (except for Grandma Haley’s funeral, which didn’t really count as a visit). Blah blah blah. Mark and I are not so much talkers. We tend to prefer silence in the mornings.

Grandpa Trulove and Miss T fly fishing

busy feeding

I wondered what they thought of him. I’ve been having reservations about my relationship for the first time, and I’m interested in feedback. I am not so critical of Mark, as I am recognizing that I’m not happy and trying to figure out why. Mark is an awesome person. Truly the most modest and spiritual man I’ve ever been close to. He does things that drive me crazy, but doesn’t everyone’s partner drive them crazy sometimes? He can be a giant, needy, baby…but in my opinion that’s a typical male tendency. I am sure my dissatisfaction is due to my own wonky head, and the reason Mark is on the radar is because I see him every day.

Pa and T bringing in their catch

So all too soon the weekend was over, and we had to make the loooong long drive back home along I-84. It’s a full 8 hours. More if you stop to eat or explore. We decided that, in the future, as long as flight prices stay low, it would be worth it to shell out the money and get two extra days to enjoy, rather than drive.

Oh yeah, one funny: Mark flipped out when I told him I wanted to do a road trip on Labor Day Weekend. “Back in New England, on Labor Day you hunker down and hide because the traffic is so bad. If you can, you don’t leave the house.” “Well, we’re heading through eastern Oregon,” I said. “There probably won’t be much traffic. You know how empty those roads can be. There will be increased traffic, for sure.” Mark laughs, “Oh, so instead of four other vehicles on the road… I’ll see, what, ten?”

empty roads in the Columbia Gorge

miles and miles of nothing but miles and miles

Sure enough; the highways were empty empty empty. Man, I love the West.

The Trulove household from the other side of the Snake River

One of my many guises

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