St. Petersburg, Florida where the locals boast of 361 days of sunshine a year:
Breaking the weather rules, it is teeming rain, so a good day to update "Musings", beginning by
backtracking to New Orleans.
NOLA - how to characterize this complex city given that we barely skimmed the surface? Leading
up to Mardi Gras there is electricity in the air and colour everywhere. The French Quarter is
simultaneously stately and elegant, boisterous and boozy.
In the elegant residential areas we explored outside the French Quarter, graceful old oak trees overlook
sprawling mansions. The homes may appear small but often stretch backwards and upwards
to reach 2 or 3 or - some many more - thousand square feet.
Pastel colours reign adding a festive atmosphere not limited to Mardi Gras.
"Old" is cherished here and new homes are constructed to conform to the late 1800s look.
Many homes feature elaborate wrought iron clad "galleries" (balconies).
Winter storms unleashed on the mid-to-upper US dampened the Gulf Coast with dense fog
and rain as we drove through Alabama and Mississippi. Arriving at Mexico Beach on the
Florida Panhandle left us in no doubt about the destruction "real" storms can wreak in this
part of the world. Hurricane Michael devastated this pristine white-sugar sand beach
community on October 10th last year.
White sugar beach...
From Texas to Florida the beach colours in favour are pastel - and there is no doubt they
epitomize the vacation vibe.
One of the reasons people flock to Florida (home to 30 million in the winter) is the birdlife.
Pelicans are abundant (collectively they congregate as 'pods') and captivating.
Until next time I'll sign off with a flock of ibis marching past our campsite this morning ...
In case this is getting to be too much of a travelogue lacking enough art, I include this picture taken in Alpine, Texas. I love that ART comes first!
And here is historic Murphy Mercado itself!
South of Alpine there is a languid bend in the Rio Grande River defining the border between the US
and Mexico. Big Bend National Park is a treasure.
Looking west (above) Mexico is on the left, the US on the right. Looking east (below) the US is on the
left of the Rio Grande, Mexico on the right.
San Antonio - the Alamo, Davey Crockett. The location of the photo on the left below is the
back of the Alamo - taken to represent the magnificent trees of Texas. At the latitude of San
Antonio and Houston the land in Texas is flat and generally monotonous - but the urban trees
are striking in their size and beauty. Subsequent shots show the lovely river walk that characterizes
downtown San Antonio.
The hill country towns in Texas are numerous, each boasting distinctive historic flavour -
but cowboy attire is ubiquitous, as is the US Post Office, this one dated 1850.
And wow, the ART in San Antonio and Houston. Wonderful collections in expansive galleries
and museums where space is generously allotted. The staircase below is in the exquisite modern
art McNay Museum, once the home of philanthropist Marion Koogler McNay.
Turning to Houston - the illuminated corridor below connects the two buildings housing the Museum of Fine Arts.
Space seems unlimited and one European master after another is given space to breathe.
Another female philanthropist, Ima Hogg, donated her home to the Museum of Fine Arts - featuring
American furnishings and paintings, and wonderful manicured gardens.
Filled to the brim with beautiful artwork, we left Houston for Galveston Island. The contrast
of art with the monstrous and seemingly endless oil and gas installations is stark - the reality
is that oil and gas revenues funded (and probably continue to fund) the purchase and display
We breathed relief as we arrived at the shore. The pastel beach houses rise on stilts
and it's easy to see why - the elevation of Galveston on the Gulf of Mexico is 17 feet, and this
is hurricane country. Here signs indicating hurricane evacuation routes are as plentiful as tsunami
evacuation route signs are on the west coast.
The historic Victorian homes of once-extremely wealthy Galveston are colourful and often
unpretentious (by today's standards). Cruise ships and oil rigs share the harbour.
We left the island by free! ferry and I attach the image below because we were amazed
to see that the ferry was being loaded and unloaded simultaneously.
Arrived in Morgan City. Louisiana is for the birds!
Oh yes, and then there's other wildlife, but not in the RV park!
New Orleans next!
First have to backtrack - I forgot to mention that we passed a signpost for a town whose name continues to entertain us with our attempts at pronunciation. The town of Soda Springs, east of San Bernardino CA, became Zzyzx in 1944.
On to Arizona and THE Canyon - as Grand as ever, and lovely with a skiff of snow.
From there to Jerome, an old 'hippy' mining town featuring wonderful galleries and historic buildings. Below -
an elaborate entry to what used to be a hotel in Jerome, followed by two pictures of The Chapel of the Holy Cross in Sedona.
From Arizona on east and southwards. Two random photos, so New Mexico, taken in Las Cruces.
Four more, taken in the oldest part of Las Cruces where a tremendous amount of reconstruction
is in progress. Guard dogs abound. As the third image indicates, there's a long
way to go to get the homes looking like the well-cared for adobe house in the fourth photo.
Then - dining at its finest! Not brave enough to try the green chile sundae, I regretted it afterwards
- though compensation was hot fudge with the crunchiest, most delicious toasted pecans
ever. Along with chiles, pecans are a gourmet local treat.
From Las Cruces we drove to Carlsbad for the Caverns - awesome in their enormity; mysterious,
mystic, magical in their scale and formation. The photo below shows the "natural" entry to the caverns;
we descended switch-back style down 80 stories to end up 750 feet below the surface. The alternative
was an elevator which we wisely used to ascend! We were fortunate to be almost the only visitors
for the hour it took to descend. We had been warned to whisper (voices echo loudly in the cavern
chambers) and the quiet, soft lighting, and beauty were other-worldly. Very tough to translate to "film"
in the dark - no tripods allowed.
A 1.2 mile circular walkway leads around the perimeter of the "Big Room" taking an hour to traverse.
The Big Room cavern measures 40 acres and the 'ceiling' is 250 feet high in places. More 'rooms'
are continually being discovered; at the moment the caverns stretch for 40 miles.
Up to that point, our tours had been self-guided. In addition we booked a ranger-led tour to the “King's
Palace”, the deepest part of the cave at 850 subterranean feet.
(For the record - we elected not to do the “Hall of the White Giant Tour” - a “strenuous 4 hour guided
tour that leads to a remote chamber. Participants must crawl long distances, squeeze through crevices
such as the tight Matlock’s Pinch and climb a slippery passage”. In addition to hiking boots, kneepads,
gloves and 3 new AA batteries are required for the headlamps provided).
The King's Palace lived up to its royal reputation, and we left feeling enormously fortunate to
have visited the caverns at Carlsbad.
Continuing east, we're in Texas tonight. Stay tuned.
Pender Island to Prescott Arizona - a journey of thrills, some good, some not-so-good. The weather in southern Oregon and northern California presented a harrowing challenge. Driving rain erased the view and
pooled along the roads. Illuminated highway signs ominously read, "Severe storm. Expect flooding" and the
result was a torrential rain, high-wind-warning drive.
No vacancy at the RV park - not normally a January problem, but space is currently
reserved for California refugees from the Paradise and Camp Fires. Fortunately a truck
stop adjacent to the RV park was able to accommodate the overflow. The motorhome
was ‘rockin and rollin’ in the wind all night long. We joined the big leagues - flanked by
a cadre of tractor-trailer rigs that arrived after we went to bed.
The adventures became lighter and sunnier as we drove south, and we relaxed when we were
able to camp and ride our bikes under the orange trees near Bakersfield CA.
Gentle rolling hills east of Bakersfield lead upwards toward an engineering feat - the Tehachapi
Loop, where elevation change necessitated construction of a circular rail track built in 1876.
If the train is long enough, it is possible to simultaneously view engine and caboose, one above
the other as the train gradually descends before entering a tunnel to continue westbound.
Then - Las Vegas! Celine Dion - the theatre, capacity 4300, was full. The audience was young,
loud and REALLY into Celine - and what a show it was - an amazing performance with a
phenomenal cast of back-up musicians and extraordinary stage effects and lighting; a true
Vegas entertainment extravaganza.
Las Vegas glitz: Chihuly glass ceiling at the Bellagio Hotel
and life-size white and dark figures fashioned entirely of chocolate and poised on sugar 'glass'
advertising Cirque de Soleil's "O".
Today a trip to the snow-dusted Grand Canyon in sunshine - just downloading pictures now.
Will post again in a couple of weeks from somewhere east of Arizona - but in no rush to leave
good friends and the beauty of this state.
And, for us, it begins with adventure - just as the old year ended (and I'm not talking about THE storm of December 18th). We are once again venturing out in our motorhome and heading for warmth. Most of you have been on my Musings mailing list for some time. I have taken the liberty of adding a few names - names of people I think might enjoy "coming along for the ride", but please feel free to ask to have your name removed if you are flooded with emails and need no more. I get it. On the other hand, if you are interested and would like to read earlier iterations of Musings, including some of our previous travel adventures, go to my website, click on the Musings tab and scroll down - http://www.dianemacdonaldphotography.com
To get into the habit of posting (I've been remiss for awhile), and to whet the thirst for travel, I will begin with our December adventure at Port Renfrew on Vancouver Island. We walked to Botanical Beach at sunset:
We were surprised:
We drove the pot-holed logging road to find Big Lonely Doug, a regal Douglas Fir saved by a
caring logger in 2011:
We are lucky - we don't have to travel anywhere to see the glorious sunrise!
More from the road! Wishing you a happy, hopeful new year.
Excited that, for the eighth consecutive year, my work has been juried into the Sidney Fine Art Show.
The show opens in less than two weeks on Friday, October 12th and runs for only three days through
Sunday, October 14th. For further information about show times and venue (the Mary Winspear
Centre in Sidney), go to http://www.SidneyFineArtShow.ca
As the SFAS website notes, "this is THE show to see." The show "has become one of the largest and most prestigious juried art shows in British Columbia". This 3-day event has grown, now attracting over 3,000 visitors. A diverse selection of painting, sculpture, fibre arts, photography and more is selected from approximately 1,000 entries.
A break from "the road" for a news update. The Red Tree Artists'
Collective is excited to be branching out to show at Goward House in Victoria.
The show opens next Sunday, one week from today, with an afternoon reception
from 1:30 to 3:30. Artists will be in attendance and we would love to welcome
our friends and yours to our first-ever show outside the marine confines of Pender Island.
Refreshments will be served.
I apologize to those who have received this message more than once and hope you
will forgive the overlap in messaging.
After venturing into Wells Gray Provincial Park, we headed from Clearwater to Mt. Robson,
the highest peak in Canada - only about a third of its stately beauty was visible. The changing
colours emphasized its angular grandeur and cloud formations made the changing views
The aim of this trip was to meet Mel's sister and her husband at Mt. Robson and from there
travel to Jasper, Banff, and Fairmont. The photo above was taken at the Mt. Robson Visitor's
Centre where we picked up directions and maps. We eagerly returned to the "rig" to begin
exploring only to find that it stubbornly refused to start. We have BCAA to thank for the
45 minute tow back to Valemount.
Followed the tow truck to the boonies outside Valemount - can't say we were reassured when
we arrived at Monashee Motors.
But our reticence was groundless and after an overnight stay in the garage the rig was up
and running again. Unfortunately the weather then threw havoc into our plans and, with
snow in the forecast and dire Environment Canada warnings about conditions on the Columbia
River Parkway, we diverted to Edmonton. We passed some sheep just bumming around as we
drove through Jasper. A blast of winter and the promised snow materialized when we arrived at
Mel's sister's home.
The four of us decided to head further east trying to outrun the snow. Our revised route took
us to Drumheller, home of the internationally renowned Tyrell Museum. The dinosaur displays
are remarkable (an understatement), and the stop educational, fun and worthwhile.
Finally we dared to turn west toward the Rocky Mountains and, once there, were rewarded
with multiple glimpses of their wonder as we drove from Banff to Lake Louise.
Mighty, majestic, magnificent - abundant, beautiful views around each bend. Exhilarating
and humbling. I'm running out of superlatives! We're in Fairmont now, already eager to
return to Banff and Jasper.
Several weeks ago a friend alerted me to a call for images for "Splash", a juried photography exhibition at Gallery 1650 in Los Angeles. The theme: water. Four of my images (shown below) were among the sixty selected for the month-long show. If you happen to be in LA, the opening night reception will take place on Saturday, September 15th.
Umbrella Spokes Reflected in Raindrops
It's me again - hope you're happy to accompany us on our Fall 2018 RV trip in BC and (soon) Alberta.
We headed off early last Friday on a BC ferry, the Salish Eagle, heading from Pender to Tsawwassen
with Mt. Baker looking almost Fuji-like in the clouds.
First a ride on the tram over the drama of the Fraser Canyon at Hell's Gate.
Then through Cache Creek to Hat Creek Ranch, situated on a section of the original Cariboo Wagon Road;
a regular stop for early gold rush miners in BC. Meticulous restoration of original wallpaper, flooring
and furnishings make a stop at Hat Creek House especially interesting.
A view through lace curtains; this of the horse stables across the lane:
On to Clearwater, gateway to Wells Gray Provincial Park - pristine, untrammelled, peaceful, beautiful.
Finally after a summer of heat and fire, the weather has turned and it looks as though we're in for rain -
stay tuned! Update - whoops I mean snow. Just heard there's snow forecast for Jasper. Not sure
where we'll head now, but not Jasper. A course correction is required.