Archives for July 2008

Seeing Phoenix — the whole enchilada

This morning we woke up and went out to see some of the sights of Phoenix. We went to see an exhibit on the Salt River Project, a most amazing project that provides water to what was formerly a desert and enables Phoenix to be the country’s 5th largest city!

We then went to see the state capitol building where we saw some amazing exhibits like these including the silver objects that had been on the USS Arizona at the time of the attack on Pearl Harbor. Among them was a fabulous copper and silver punchbowl and cups.

The building itself was beautiful and the grounds around it impressive. The dome on top was a bright and shiny copper.

On the way home we stopped at a restaurant where I ate my very first enchilada!!! Although it was a bit spicy, it was very very good.

Tonight we spoke once again about China and we met some very nice people. Miriam and Len have been great hosts and we look forward to seeing them again in Modi’in. Tomorrow– we head west in the direction of Los Angeles.

Rising like a Phoenix

This morning we left Holbrook, Arizona, and headed toward Phoenix. The road was very interesting and beautiful. We saw a lot of big driving motor homes towing cars (we’ve seen then consistently since we started our trip) and lots of trucks. We also saw long long freight trains transporting dozens of containers in both directions, east and west.

The terrain was desert-like for a good deal of time when suddenly we saw in front of us what looked like a mirage. Far far in the distance was a very tall mountain. We drove toward it for what was surely over a half hour, maybe 40 minutes, and it didn’t seem to be getting any closer. Finally finally, we got close to the mountain just as we were driving on a serious upgrade and suddenly we were in a pine woods, lush with greenery and trees everywhere! We were in Flagstaff! And it was beautiful, particularly after several days of desert landscape.

On the other side of Flagstaff, we descended and as we did, the terrain began looking more and more desert-like when suddenly we saw those very tall cacti that I thought only existed in comic books!! They were amazing to see.

And shortly afterward, we came into Phoenix where we are staying with dear friends from Modi’in who have another home in Phoenix. Since we had only seen them in Modi’in, pulling up to their lovely home here was a treat. It was fun to reminisce and to spend time together and to see their other life. Although we have known them a relatively short time, we have shared some important experiences together and they have helped us out when we really needed people to count on. We get to spend two nights in Phoenix with Miriam and Len and so we hope to do some sightseeing tomorrow. With some luck, I’ll post more pictures tomorrow night.

From Albuquerque to Arizona

Note: I have posted pictures from this trip at this URL here.

We left Albuquerque and headed west once again. It was hot when we started out and it didn’t get any cooler… The driving wasn’t difficult and the landscape was gorgeous. We stopped a few times to see native American crafts, some of which we were tempted to buy. However, we found that better than 90% of the souvenirs and jewelry were made in (guess where, everyone) China!

We passed by a family that was standing in the heat of the day by the side of the road with a cardboard sign that said, “out of gas.” My husband gave them some money just as we entered a souvenir shop. When we came out, they were gone. I guess they got enough gas to get back on the road.

We saw a punk rocker (I guess) whose picture I took. Although he looked like every mother’s nightmare, he seemed to be a sweet kid who was just trying to be special. He was happy to allow me to take his picture and exchanged a few words with us.

Some of the landscape coming into Arizona was too beautiful to be believed, but we were moving at 75 miles an hour and so pictures were pretty impossible.

We stopped at a motel in Holbrook Arizona at about 4. This one had an outdoor swimming pool. We were the only two people in the pool (at the time, we may have been the only two people in the motel!) and although the water was cold, we had a nice time swimming.

Tomorrow– on to Phoenix!

Getting my fix on Route 66

This morning we once again gathered up all of our belongings and hit the road.

After a couple of hours, I remembered that I hadn’t carried our portfolio envelope with all of our important papers (airline tickets, boarding passes for the cruise, car rental contract) out to the car. I warm flush came over me and this time it wasn’t a hot flash. We were driving at about 70 mph, and stopping wouldn’t have helped because we had last had cell phone reception in Omaha! A few minutes later, I remembered that I had put the portfolio into the little suitcase that carries all of the electronics equipment and so when we finally stopped at a rest area, I was more than pleased to see it still with us. The truth is that everything was replaceable. All of it was produced from emails we’d received and both of us have gmail accounts that are accessible everywhere. But I did panic.

It turns out that route 54 cuts on the diagonal from Liberal Kansas into New Mexico, and once in New Mexico, we were running parallel to old Route 66 which we corssed a couple of times. Those of you who are as old as I am remember that Route 66 was the haunt of those two hunky men, George Maharis and Martin Milner. A lot of us swooned over them, and I half expected to see them tooling along the highway this morning, but alas, both of them are (as my husband likes to say) super-annuated (= old). It’s a good thing *I* haven’t changed…

We drove through beautiful country, at one point seeing ahead of us what looked like acres and acres of brown and black bundles. As we passed, we saw that those bundles were cattle. Thousands, maybe even hundreds of thousands of them. I said to my husband, “Now I am impressed!”

We also loved the beautiful topography of the countryside and the desert plants.

About 25 miles outside of Albuquerque, our cell phone came to life, just in time for us to call Kirtland Air Force Base to see if they had a room for us for the night. We are staying in a lovely little suite with a fridge and microwave and TVs in the living room and bedrooms. Unfortunately the wifi is in the basement laundry room and I am not alone down here. There is at least one six legged black creature crawling around on the floor and likely others who I haven’t seen.

We did make a foray to the commissary and picked up some very nice food including some packaged kosher corned beef, our first meat in a little over a week. We then went downtown (if such a concept exists here) and walked into the Indian Museum just close enough to closing time so that all we really saw was the gift shop. It was pretty, but the prices…

And now we settle down for a good night’s sleep before we set out tomorrow for our next adventure.

Overheard at the Dalhart Super 8 Motel

Cora: I jest don’t know. Seems pretty darned suspicious.
Ella: Why, Cora, you always are suspicious of somethin’
Cora: You are right. But this time I know I am right. Somethin’ funny’s goin’ on and I mean to find out what it is.
Ella: OK, what is it?
Cora: Well, yesterday this car stopped outside. Out of it came the two of ’em. They was wearin’ them baseball hats that said “Beijing 2008” with the Olympic symbol on them. The man had a long white beard. They both were wearin’ safari vests that were bulgin’ in the pockets. They asked for a room for two nights. They said they were from someplace out of the United States- Iran, maybe, maybe Iraq…one of them countries that starts with “I”… don’t remember, but they sure sounded like Americans.
Ella: OK, they sound a bit odd, but I don’t see why you’re so upset.
Cora: Well, here’s the thing… They brought into the motel suitcase after suitcase and bag after bag- I don’t know how all that stuff even fit into that room and now here’s the weirdest part… As soon as they got into that room, they put a “Do Not Disturb” sign on the door and I haven’t seen hide nor hair of the two of them ever since.
Ella: You mean they went out all day and haven’t come back yet?
Cora: No. I mean they haven’t opened that door even once in the last 24 hours. They’s in there. I don’t know what’s goin’ on in there, but the few times I walked by in the hall, I didn’t hear anything. No signs of life at all.
Ella: Well, maybe they just like watchin’ TV a lot.
Cora: Well, they might, but it turns out that after they checked in, I discovered that the TV in that room doesn’t work and I figured I would wait til they complained before I changed it. They never said a word.
Ella: Well what do you think they’re doin’ in there?
Cora: Darned if I know. They’re old folks, so there ain’t many possibilities. I just hope they’re not makin’ a bomb or waitin’ for instructions to hold people hostage or somethin’.
Ella: Well, did you check out their license plate?
Cora: Yeah, like they said, it’s a rental. The police ran the number and they were spotted in Dodge City yesterday. He was drivin’ funny, ducking down sometimes, takin’ his hat off once, and she was takin’ pictures from the car as they moved through. They never stopped.
Ella: So why don’t you knock on their door and see if you can find out anything from them?
Cora: I’m scared. You want to?
Ella: No thanks. I gotta go home now and wash my hair.
Cora: Well, thanks a lot. No doubt you’ll be sorry when you see them on America’s Most Wanted.

We’re not in Kansas anymore

We started off this morning where??? Great Bend, Kansas. We drove along miles and miles and miles and miles of flat fields, filled with corn. We saw huge grain silos. We saw an windfarm in Spearville, Kansas, about 17 miles north of Dodge City. And yes, it is *that* Dodge City. The good and bad news about driving today was that because it is the 4th of July, there was very little traffic however, pretty much everything was closed. So as we breezed our way through Dodge City, there was really nowhere to stop. I did get a couple of pictures that will eventually make their way to my facebook picture album (but not today)…

However, one thing that was open was the Wizard of Oz site at Liberal Kansas. It was very very cute. Real Americana.

As we drove farther, we watched the landscape change as there were more and more livestock- mainly horses and cattle- and less and less farming. We saw the beginning of a desert landscape.

After driving for hours in the hot weather (outside temp went up to 95 Fahrenheit), we were tired and stopped here in Dalhart, Texas. It is going to be a long shabbat… nowhere to go, nothing to do… can’t even leave the room. Gives togetherness new meaning.

I’ll let you know how we make it through…

That’s right, Poofy, we *are* in Kansas

In the morning, we were treated to a tour of our friends’ garden which is filled with all sorts of plants as well as fruit trees and an extensive vegetable patch. It was all so green and fresh and the sun was shining and we were so very happy for these wonderful people and the beautiful life they have created for themselves.

We reluctantly left and headed southward from Omaha toward Kansas.

It is at a time like this that one gets in touch with the important things in life. The rest stops on Interstate 80 in Nebraska are clean and light and airy. I was impressed. So impressed, I took pictures of the ladies room. Now you may think I am odd (OK, if you know me, you KNOW that I am odd), but when I got into the car, we drove on for a while and I said to my husband, “weren’t they nice bathrooms!” and he said, “Yes, I was actually going to ask you to take a picture of them.” “Well,” I said, “you are aren’t going to believe this but…” I guess we must be the odd couple.

Today was our 42nd anniversary. Hard to believe. I can still feel the excitement I felt that day, the fears, the uncertainty, the butterflies in my stomach…. or maybe it’s just the kind of food we’ve been eating on the road…

We stopped at a Walmart on the way to pick up some food for dinner. As usual, we bought fresh vegetables and fruits and bagels and pretzels. This time we found some kosher imitation bologna (we haven’t eaten it yet, so I don’t know if it’s awful or truly disgusting). I think it’s tomorrow’s lunch.

While there, I saw this beautiful fresh orange juice for sale in the refrigeration department in two really lovely containers. I said to my husband, “Don’t worry; this will be coming to Israel soon.” Which is true. These days it only takes a year or two or three before the terrific things make it over to our stores. And then I realized: the US is “coming attractions” for Israel.

We are taking the direct route that mapquest had laid out for us which took us off the interstates in Nebraska and we will be on regular state roads now cutting diagonally across Kansas, the Oklahoma panhandle, and Texas into New Mexico. The side roads are very interesting, but they don’t offer certain amenities like rest areas and cell phone reception. So today, when our children had planned a really sweet conference call for us in honor of our birthday, they were not able to reach us, nor was I able to reach them at the appointed time from my cell phone or from a dial phone that using two different dialing methods, swallowed a dollar each time. (On one call, I could hear my son and he couldn’t hear me. I was in the middle of a parking lot and so I screamed words one at a time at the top of my lungs — he should have been able to hear me without a telephone. He said that he could hear screaming, but no words. I gave up.)

But I digress…

We are in a town called “Great Bend, Kansas.” How many of you have been here?

Tomorrow… southwestward

A bowl of cherries

Once again unable to sleep, I finally got up at about 4:30 and started reading and writing emails yesterday. We finally left Camp Dodge at about 9:30 and wound our way back to the interstate. At least we tried to. Coming out of Dodge, we got to a traffic light and like most people, waited for it to change. For a minute or two or three or four or five — all the while anticipating that it might change sometime in this millenium since the millenium is still fairly new… But finally, after what seemed like at least ten minutes, I jumped out of the car, pushed the cross button on the pole, and jumped back into the car just as presto! the light changed.

The drive to Omaha was uneventful and we found our friends’ house with no problems. Oh my! These are wonderful friends- people we’ve known since their children and ours were little. And it was a pleasure to see their lovely home- actually a rather remarkable one and to spend time with them.

If you’ve been keeping up with us, you know that we are going to be taking a cruise to Alaska. They just returned from Alaska with magnificent pictures and lots of tell us about the trip. Now we are even more excited and we know who to ask for pictures if we miss taking something that we like.

In addition, we found out that their granddaughter is attending Camp Sabra. Now that may not have significance for most people, but when we think of Camp Sabra, we think of our son Sam, who worked there a couple of years as the mashgiach (“Sam, the kosher man”.)

We saw a bit of Omaha (it’s a big city!!) and after our presentation, the sky was a magnificent orange/purple as we made our way back to their home.

Our friends have a cherry tree and after we got home, we had creamy vanilla ice cream topped by cherries she prepared. Ohmigosh! Heaven should be so good!

Goodbye Illinois, hello Iowa

Iowa has very nice rest stops that have free wireless internet. Very impressive. From there, sitting outside in the shade by the side of the road, I was able to chat with one daughter via gmail and to see the pictures of another’s children. What a world!

Iowa (at least from Interstate 80) is very flat and is adorned by cornfields in every direction. We saw magnificent stretches of land, all verdant green, with silos and barns and big farmhouses for miles and miles and miles.

When we finally got to Des Moines, we got off the highway and headed in the direction of Camp Dodge (yes, I am ready for all of the Dodge jokes including the fact that tomorrow morning by 10 o’clock, we need to get out of Dodge!). This is a military installation of some sort (I think National Guard training, but I’m not sure) and we have been billeted (sounds like something that could be fatal) in a brick building in a small apartment. It has a fridge and microwave and sofa and recliner and best of all, a computer. Although I couldn’t get into the wireless network, the computer that is in place here has had no trouble.

We even are able to do our laundry here! Our suitcases seem to be sighing with relief. They are so dramatic. It hasn’t been that long…

We have no immediate plans although Iowa is full of historical sights and all sorts of arts. There are barns that have been painted with quilts on them and beautiful folk art objects. We passed by (in Illinois) the birthplace of Ronald Reagan and in Iowa, of Herbert Hoover. If we had the time, we could probably spend a week just seeing the sights around Des Moines. This is a big country with lots to see!

So tomorrow, it’s on to Omaha where we try once again to entice people to travel with us to China and to Vietnam/Cambodia!

From the road

We began the day in Ohio and progressed through Indiana and now are staying at a motel in Illinois.

A few observations:
1. The US is a big country.
2. The rest stops in Ohio are the nicest so far.
3. You can find cut up salad vegetables in most of the supermarkets.
4. If you put tuna and dressing on top, it almost tastes like a meal.
5. The price of coke on the road is outrageous.
6. Americans are very patient people–

This afternoon, traffic came to a standstill for close to a half hour on the interstate. When we finally started moving, we crawled along at about 5 miles an hour. Nobody honked their horns. Nobody tried driving around on the shoulders. Nobody got angry. People looked across at the people in the cars next to them and compared notes. No one knew what the hold up was. We all waited. We all finally started moving.

Every motel we’ve stayed at has “breakfast” in the morning. Most have fresh natural orange juice and coffee (some have cakes/donuts we can’t eat.) The one we stayed at this morning had hard boiled eggs and corn flakes. This is a welcome innovation since we last were in the States.

So tomorrow, we move on through Illinois, heading for Iowa.