Saturday, April 14, 2012

4 Months of Exploring

I'll start this entry with a Rumi quote:  "Let yourself be silently drawn by the stronger pull of what you really love".  I really love to travel!

The past four months have been such a pleasure...seeing places I've never seen, enjoying experiences that are all new, and so much EXPLORING for my very curious mobile addict self!

Where do I start...I guess with New Year's Eve!  I flew from my MI cabin to Phoenix, AZ to begin a stay in Gold Canyon...but of course, I didn't actually STAY in Gold Canyon!  Its a sweet place, 35 miles East of Phoenix on Hwy. 60...kind of a new community with a great nearby hiking spot called "Silly Mountain", which is fun for a day hike.  Then there is the drive up to "Lost Dutchman Gold Mine" trail to hike and watch the stars come out, one by one, in the blackest clearest sky I've ever seen!  Got to enjoy a Full Moon night there, and watch the moon rise up from behind the Superstition Mountains and dazzle me beyond my imagination!  Gold Canyon has less congestion of "snow birds" than usually congregate for the winter months.  My friend, George Orr, was willing to put up with me and my extreme need for change, and so we enjoyed getting to know Gold Canyon for 2 weeks before setting out for a birthday party of good friend, Sherri Bellefeuille, in Tucson, which meant the chance to explore Tucson thoroughly.   I loved the outdoor life there, and hikes with Shelly Mottaz and her parents through Madera Canyon, followed by hikes through Sabino Canyon!  I worked up an appetite!  The Huevos Rancheros at Teresa's Mosaic Restaurant were off the charts GREAT.  Did I mention that I love huge varieties of foods as well as places?  Anyway...the Sabino Canyon and 7 Falls hikes were so beautiful that its hard to think of a better place.  I had to go back to Tucson several times because it surprised me with its beauty and variety.  The Desert Museum there really is a Zoo of the most beautiful felt like I was on a hike through the gorgeous local desert and getting to see a huge variety of plants and animals I had never seen before was a delight!  And don't even get me started on the Loewes Ventana Canyon Resort...can I live there forever please?  While there on another trip, I got to see my first rodeo ever.  I think the locals sitting next to me found it amusing that I kept shouting "don't hurt that baby calf" in the calf roping event and I admit I couldn't quit screaming during the bull riding and bucking bronco events!

Some of the other delights in the Phoenix area included seeing "The Rat Pack is Back" in Mesa's Performing Arts Center and having GREAT Thai food at Nunthaporn's Thai a block away!  I even had my picture taken with Frank Sinatra himself (close enough)!  I also loved PLUSH Salon for my hair streaks and spa days and my daily trips to the RV Resort swimming pool to bask in the sun and relax and read.  I've been taking my time with the "Steve Jobs" book by Walter Isaacson, all 630 pages of it.  I remember that I used to think Jobs was an elitist with an attitude problem...that is until I began using his beautiful creations...the iPhone, the iPad, the Mini Mac, and now this stunning MacBook Pro that I'm typing on this very minute.  Steve, I miss your genius and YOU, honey pie.  Peaceful journeys to you.  And I thank you.

Back to my travels:  I zipped over to Seattle at the end of January to work with my most valued clients from Microsoft and from West Seattle, wedging in nightly visits to catch up with friends and walk Alki Beach, shop at my friends, The Montano's, brand new "Jakes-Life Is Good Store" in Kirkland, WA.  After all, my one and only precious new granddaughter, Lisette, was about to celebrate her 1st birthday, and what is better than to remind her and everyone around her that "Life Is Good"!   So after finishing with my clients (I'm a Life Coach and Personal Organizer) I zipped up to spend a week with my precious kids in Bellingham.  Zachary is now 20, a full-time college student with a full time job at Bellingham Fitness and his own apartment.  He's very, very grownup and so precious.   I tell him often he's the love of my life.  He has such great spirit and future vision and so many big plans that will expand his world.  I wish I was around more to watch, but he doesn't need my help all that much anymore... he does love free airline passes to Tucson to see friend, though, and I can help him with that!  And then there is my daughter, Lizzie, who is 37, her hubby Jason, and their precious daughter, Lisette, who just turned 1 year old at the beginning of February.  That baby girl has me wrapped around her tiny little finger.  She is the absolute smartest child I've ever met, and I've met MANY.  Lizzie is teaching her sign language as well as English and she speaks and understands everything so well at the age of 1!  Wow.  What a great visit!  Thank you, sweet child of mine.

Next, I returned to Gold Canyon for a brief few days of relaxation before zipping off with George for 2 weeks in New Orleans to be part of Mardi Gras as well as the music scene on Frenchman Street.  Staying a Le Richilieu (where Paul McCartney just stayed for 2 months to produce his latest CD which released a couple months ago) was such a great hotel experience and it is located smack dab in The French Quarter within walking distance to the world famous Frenchman Street a couple blocks away...stumbling distance from the front door.  May I say how happy I was about that???  :)

OK...I admit it...during the parade down Bourbon Street on Fat Tuesday, I couldn't help but admit that the transvestite walking past me (caught on my iPhone video) had me fooled.  I thought she was the most stunning woman I've seen in a long time.  The picture I sent of her/him to my son had him commenting the same!  :)

New Orleans is a kick!  Such great food (I admit that I've been eating my way across America during the last 4 months and it shows).  My deceased father--in-law used to say "chicken today, feathers tomorrow"...and I agree.  When I get back to my MI cabin in a couple weeks, I'm putting myself on an all you can eat veggies diet!  Anyway...back to New Orleans!  The FOOD!  Oh My!  Thank you people of New Orleans for entertaining everyone in such an exquisite way.  Who couldn't love Big Al at "Funky Pirate"?  Or all the little old clubs on Frenchman Street, such as "The 3 Muses and The Spotted Cat, all with such a great variety musicians playing music until 4 a.m.  And the sights!  What fun!  Taking the old Paddle Boat Natchez down The Mississippi River was amazing, as was the Aquarium and the trolleys (which we rode daily end to end) looking for Streetcar Named Desire #922.  Never did see it!  My absolute favorite was the Movie Tour, which had us seated in an air conditioned van, stopping in at least 25 different locations throughout New Orleans, with film clips showing on our personal DVD players in front of our seats, highlighting the many famous movies filmed in New Orleans!  Afterwards, we revisited many of the places (such as the cafe where scenes from the film "JFK" was filmed.  We got to see several film crews while we were there, and even saw Tim Robbins during a walk about with his crew, getting ready for filming his next film.

I earned beads and also left beads for the long departed black magic voodoo gypsies in the above ground graveyards we visited and also chatted up locals about why they rebuilt after Hurricane Katrine and stayed in a location clearly BELOW sea-level.  What a city!

We got to extend our NOLA visit by staying in The Garden District of New Orleans in order to meet up with Donna and John Swanson and 22 of their dearest friends to celebrate Donna's 60th birthday!  While there, we all saw Sandra Bulloch's house, as well as John Goodman's nearby and the house owned previously by Anne Rice.   From the sidelines with doughnuts in my hand, I watched her and all her friends run the New Orleans Marathon (she has a goal to complete a marathon in every state, with only 13 left to go) and this marathon was her 77th!  What a non-stop party we had...every night!  Such a great add-on to an already great trip!!!

From New Orleans came a quick flight down to Ft. Myers and visits with family and friends in Florida.  I've lived in FL previously and owned a home in Osprey near Sarasota and I loved it there so much.  I always drive past my old house each year during my FL visits, and look at it wistfully as it sits on a canal with a boat dock and the swimming pool I designed, and I admit I have regrets that I stood at that crossroads in the year 2000 and let it slip away because someone else' dreams were more important than mine at that time.  Yet I also realize that I wouldn't be who I am without having moved on from that sweet house (I've moved 38 times so far) and into the life I presently live.  I've discovered you can't make a mistake in can only take paths and choose roads and hope for the best outcomes.  Anyway...back to FL.  I always have to stop in to Pop's Sunset Grill in Nokomis on Casey Key and look for my personal pet dolphin that I named Pretty Boy back in 1999...he was sadly missing from my sunset that evening, but I know he's still hanging around, hoping for a handout, flirting with the boaters cruising through the intracoastal waterway.  From there, we headed to my absolute favorite FL location...Anna Maria Island, off Bradenton.  Sitting on that beautiful white sand beach and looking at that aqua water had me wondering why I don't live there!  Oh yes, I remember...its as Hot as Hades there in the summer time!!!  How easily I forget!  Anyway,  5 heavenly days in Anna Maria Island, with sunsets every evening from the tiki bar at my all time favorite restaurant ON THE SAND called The Gulf Drive Cafe (the Gyros are out of this world) made me wish I could live there forever and watch amazing sunsets every single night, with an ice cold glass of something in my hand!

From there, I visited my friend, Roberta, in Naples and we had a couple of fun days together to catch up and play.  Then on from there to Venice to spend a week with my parents and sister, Mischelle, who had flown down from MI (broken arm and all) to join me!  We had so much fun...I love my dear family so much and am so glad I moved back to MI (after being gone for 40 years and 38 moves!) and that I am lucky enough to get to enjoy time now with all of my brothers and sisters and my parents!

After FL, I zipped back to Gold Canyon and we ventured out to the interior roads of AZ we hadn't explored yet which happened because we were sitting in a hot tub with a bunch of Harley bikers who told us we were insane if we didn't go see the "little Grand Canyon" before we left Gold Canyon to begin our travels to the REAL Grand Canyon and beyond.  So this took us on a nice long drive down Hwy. 60 with a stop in Winkleman first, and then the amazing drive up through the Salt Canyon (quite like the real Grand Canyon) to Show Low, Holbrook, and Winslow AZ ("Standing on the Corner of Winslow AZ.   Such a fine sight to see").  LOVED that town...had breakfast at the affordable luxury La Posada Hotel, which is a MUST!  Best food ever (green chilies omelet to die for).  Not only is the hotel a beautiful place to stay, but the artist who saved it (Tina Mion) has all of her paintings and artwork displayed there, and now owns it with her husband, Allan Affeldt.  What a striking and unforgettable place!  From there, we went onward to Payson and "Tortillia Flats", and then back to Gold Canyon.  Wow.  Loved this little trip to acquaint me with just how afraid of heights one person can be...especially if one is hugging the road on a Harley Davidson Trike!  Note to self:  think twice before taking this ride!

Quick goodbye cocktail parties followed as we departed from Gold Canyon after 4 months at Canyons RV Resort for an extensive trip to see The Grand Canyon (OK...WOW) to enjoy some hikes there as well as  the scenery, great weather, photography and wildlife.  Then onward to Jackson Hole and the magnificent Tetons...which is where I sit right now, wondering "how does it get better than this".  (I've learned NOT to answer that, as it leaves room for it to be answered FOR me).  Yet ahead, there's still Yellowstone, and my absolute favorite Ennis, MT, and Missoula and then another visit to Glacier National Park.  Oh My...The Places I'll Go.