Tag: United States

Meeting Our First Grandchild

Meeting Our First Grandchild

Fruita, Colorado – November 21, 2018

Our first grandchild, Michael, was born at virtually the same time as when I landed in La Paz, Bolivia for the first time.  He was born while his father was at sea.  On Veterans Day; father, mother, and baby were finally reunited.

Shortly before Tyler returned from deployment, he said he and his family planned a trip to Colorado around the Thanksgiving holiday.  With that knowledge, I was able to make arrangements to leave work for a little over a week and head to Colorado.

The anticipation was enormous! I had not seen my wife for nearly four months because she had been in Colorado. I had not seen Tyler, Hillary, or the rest of my family for close to 15 months. I had never met Tyler’s wife, Victoria, and, of course, I had only seen Michael in photographs.

A very comfortable, sleeping baby.

My countdown for my Colorado homecoming finally made it to mere hours as I sat at home on the evening of November 19.  My taxi was due to pick me up at about 00:15 on the morning of the 20th.

Right on time, my taxi arrived. I was tired because I had only dozed while waiting. Regardless, I wheeled my luggage, laden with Bolivian gifts, to the curbside, and placed it in the rear of the car. The woman who was my driver spoke virtually no English. But even with me being 90 percent illiterate in Spanish, we were able to communicate. One of her first questions to me, in Spanish, was whether I wanted her to go via the Llojetta route or take the Autopista. I said I did not care, and it was up to her as the driver. She selected the Llojetta route.

When we turned off of Avenida Costanera onto Avenida Mario Mercado, we began our climb to El Alto. We went up and up. In fact, there seemed to be no end to up. The only difference in our climb was when we encountered a speed bump or a sharp hairpin turn. Other than that, it was all up! Because of the steep road, much of that part of the journey was in second gear.

Our house in La Paz is at 11,180 feet (3,408 meters).  The El Alto International Airport is at 13,300 feet (4,054 meters); quite an altitude gain.

We finally crested onto the top of the El Alto mesa.  There were still several more kilometers to go to get to the El Alto International Airport, but at least it was all reasonably level.

It was around 01:00 when we arrived at the airport.  I paid my 200 Bolivianos (US$29), took my baggage, and went inside the terminal.  By 01:40, my check-in was complete.  Ten minutes later, I was at my gate, waiting patiently for my 04:30 flight to Lima, Peru.  That flight was right on time.

About an hour and one-half later, the plane landed at the Jorge Chavez International Airport in Lima, Peru.  Since I was merely transiting Lima, I did not have to go through passport control.  However, I did have to go back through security screening.  I left the screening area after a very brief wait and made my way to Friday’s for breakfast.  I must have been hungry because it tasted so delicious.

Departing the restaurant, I made my way to the gate for my flight to Orlando, Florida. I arrived early. I watched as the security and airline personnel set up another security screening area at the gate. This is standard practice for a flight departing an international location, heading to a United States airport. Once again, I had no issues and a very short wait for the screening.

Soon after the screening, the airline employees began to scan the passengers’ boarding passes and allow us onto the waiting bus. When the bus was full, we rode to the waiting Latam aircraft. Onboard the plane, I settled into my seat and waited for the five and one-half hour flight to begin. It ended up being a comfortable and uneventful flight.

Passing the Florida coastline on the way to Orlando.

Once I was off the plane in Orlando, Florida, I went to passport control. As usual, that was a breeze. I waited in the Customs area for my one bag to come off the plane. My customs form dutifully filled out in detail, rested in my pocket. I lifted my bag from the carousel and went to the exit. I did not see anyone collecting the Customs forms. I asked a passing Customs officer to whom I should give my paper. She said they no longer use those forms…

To get to my next gate, I had to exit the terminal. That meant I had to go back through a security screening. I usually have TSA Pre-Check status on my boarding pass. The boarding pass issued by Latam in Bolivia did not have that notation as the lady at the TSA Pre-Check line pointed out to me. She said I could go to a nearby kiosk and try printing another boarding pass. I declined. That ended up to be an error in judgment.

I entered the line for security screening. Today was the Tuesday before Thanksgiving in Orlando, Florida. By the way, Orlando is home to Disney World. The screening area was absolutely packed with holiday travelers and many, many families sporting Disney World attire. The line snaked back and forth for a distance at least equal to the steep road to El Alto.

I found myself sandwiched in the line between two of the Disney World families. The family behind me had a child in a stroller. I lost count of the number of times the stroller bumped into the back of my legs. The family in front of me was a husband, wife, and two children in the eight-year-old range. I am not sure just how much of their home they brought with them or how much of Florida they were trying to take back to their home, but I did not know TSA had that many plastic x-ray bins. I pictured myself finally approaching the x-ray conveyor, looking wistfully at an automaton TSA employee, and merely shrugging my shoulders because there were no more bins in the entire zip code. Somehow, additional containers did show up. When I could finally approach the conveyor, I placed my items in the bin (note that word is not plural) and stepped through security. At this point, I request the reader to stop, take a deep breath, sigh, and revel in my successful trip through the Orlando security checkpoint. I celebrated the fact that there was no bruising on the back of my legs from the stroller.

Quite blissful, I made my way to Ruby Tuesday for a well-deserved glass of sauvignon blanc and chicken sandwich.

My last flight of the day was to Dallas, Texas. I quickly boarded the plane and had a relatively quick trip to DFW. The flight arrived in Dallas at about 23:05 Bolivian time. I could not make it to my final destination because there were no more flights to Grand Junction that day.

I waited at the baggage carousel to collect my bag. With my suitcase in tow, I walked to the lower level, called the Marriott for a shuttle, and waited. I made it to the hotel at about 00:00 Bolivian time. That meant I had been traveling for about 24-hours. I was delighted to lie down and sleep.

Early the next morning I got back on a shuttle and went back to the airport. I checked my bag, grabbed some breakfast, and found my gate, D14. While I was sitting at the gate, I saw a plane arrive. The plane stopped short of the jet bridge because the ground crew was not there to guide the aircraft. After 10 or 12 minutes, the ground crew arrived and guided the plane to a proper stop. Just as that happened, I received a text on my phone. With about 45 minutes left before my flight was to begin boarding, the departure gate changed to Terminal C. That was disheartening. However, it turned out to be ok because I did not have to go back through security.

A wishbone sculpture in one of the DFW terminals. It seemed appropriate for Thanksgiving!
The D14 jet-bridge at DFW airport.
An American Eagle plane arriving at D14. I mistakenly thought this would be my plane to Grand Junction, Colorado.
The pilots waiting patiently for a ground crew to guide them to D14.
Stopping on the mark at D14.

At the new gate, I boarded the plane, sat back for a smooth ride, and was in Grand Junction by 10:30 local time, Wednesday, the day before Thanksgiving.

Leslie and Hillary met me at the airport.  Soon we were in Fruita, Colorado, Lorraine’s home, the base of operations for this high-level visit.  I began eating my way across Colorado with some Gardetto’s Snack Mix, one of my favorite things on this planet.  We busied ourselves with last-minute preparations for Tyler, Victoria, and, of course, Michael.

Enjoying time on the patio with Bella.
Mother and daughter.

On the morning of Thanksgiving Day, we drove to the airport to pick up the newest members of our family, Victoria and Michael. We quickly caught a glimpse of the proud papa, Tyler, carrying our very first grandchild, Michael. We very happily saw, met, and hugged our new daughter-in-law Victoria too. It was so lovely to have them at the same place on Earth as Leslie and me.

Once we were back in Fruita, poor Michael was passed around like a rugby ball…well, we did not toss him around; but he indeed found his way to many people at the house! Hillary and Shane stopped by so, now the only couple missing was great-grandma and great-grandpa Juvera. That was remedied the next morning when they arrived at the airport. Suddenly Michael had two more fans to whom he could be passed.

Grandma and Michael.
Great-grandma and Michael…oh, and Bella.
And this grandpa loves this boy!!
Great-grandma J.
Great-grandpa J.
Asleep after a feeding.
Auntie and Michael playing like a boss!
Just a little tired.
Grandma holding her dear, sweet grandson.
Time for his close-up.
If one wants a good selfie, don’t let the grandpa take it!!
Father and son.
Auntie Hillary with her newest nephew, Michael.

Since everyone was finally together, Friday was Bolivian Santa day.  I had brought gifts from Bolivia for everyone.  There was Bolivian chocolate for each family.  The guys received wallets, alpaca socks, t-shirts, key chains, a refrigerator magnet, and a Marine Security Guard Detachment coin.  Everything was from Bolivia.  The women received hand-woven, baby alpaca shawls.  The remainder of Friday was spent visiting with all of our family.

It was also an Ugly Christmas Sweater day. Hillary had purchased ugly Christmas sweaters for all of us. I set up the tripod, and we captured the moments.

Gifts from Bolivia and happy recipients.  These are mantillas or shawls.
The family reunion photo with ugly Christmas sweaters provided by Hillary. From left to right is Lorraine, Victoria, Tyler with Michael, Terry (your humble writer), Leslie, Hillary, Shane, Joleen, and Claude.
Great-grandma Joleen and great-grandpa Claude joined in the photo.
Great-grandma Lorraine joined in the photo.
Grandpa and grandma with number one grandson, Michael.
Modeling our ugly Christmas sweaters…

Saturday was a day for more visiting with relatives.  Early that morning, Tyler, Victoria, and I stopped at the Aspen Street Coffee Company to get some go-juice.  Later in the day, Tyler and I went to the barn to sort through some of his stuff.  In one of the boxes, he found his baby blanket!  That is now 25 years old!  It seemed strangely appropriate now that Michael is on the scene.

Inside the Aspen Street Coffee Company in Fruita, Colorado.
The proud papa displaying his newly discovered baby blanket from a quarter-century ago!

Just as important was the preparation of our Thanksgiving meal. That evening, I took the opportunity to take a selfie of the group. It may not be the best photograph, but it will forever mean a lot to me. Michael is just off-camera in his bouncy chair.

The Thanksgiving feast!

On an evening trip through the town center of Fruita, I was struck by the beautiful Christmas lights on display.  I had never seen that before.

The Christmas lights in downtown Fruita, Colorado looking west.
The Christmas lights in downtown Fruita, Colorado looking east.
A Christmas bicycle in Fruita, Colorado.

Sunday morning, Leslie and I took great-grandma and great-grandpa Juvera back to the airport for their return to Colorado Springs.

One morning in Fruita, it was cold and foggy. I looked outside and saw there was a beautiful frost on nearly everything. That meant it was a great time to go out with my camera.

View of a fence post with frost in Fruita, Colorado.
Fog, fence, trees, and a paddock in Fruita, Colorado.
Fog, fence, and trees in Fruita, Colorado.
Detail of frost on a top-rail of a fence in Fruita, Colorado.
Frost on the top rail of a fence in Fruita, Colorado.
Fog as seen through a very frosty and somewhat symmetrical gate in Fruita, Colorado.
Detail of a very frosty and somewhat symmetrical gate in Fruita, Colorado.
Looking toward a barn gate in Fruita, Colorado.
Another frosty plastic hay bale tie in Fruita, Colorado.
A frosty fence at a horse paddock in Fruita, Colorado.
Detail of frost on a plastic hay bale tie in Fruita, Colorado.
Frost on a plastic hay bale tie in Fruita, Colorado.
Frost on a fence and weed in Fruita, Colorado.
Frost on the bare branches of a globe willow in Fruita, Colorado.
Detail of frost on the bare branches of a globe willow in Fruita, Colorado.
A frosty water spigot in Fruita, Colorado.
Frost, fog, and trees in Fruita, Colorado.
Frost on an evergreen tree in Fruita, Colorado.
Detail of frost on an evergreen tree in Fruita, Colorado.

Once the fog lifted, one could see that the Colorado National Monument had received some snow.  I was very picturesque as seen from Fruita.

A view of snow on the Colorado National Monument.
Looking toward the Colorado National Monument, one can see the Independence Monument.
A closer view of the Independence Monument.

Since Victoria had never been to Colorado, we had to take her to the Colorado National Monument.  At the entry station, the ranger told us no Desert Bighorn Sheep had been spotted that day; however, we should stay alert.  There was a chance we might see some.

We drove up to the visitor center, stopping periodically to view sights from the various overlooks.  At the visitor center, we stopped to go inside and explore.  We also stepped out to the Canyon Rim Trail to look down into the adjoining canyon.

Looking across the Colorado River Valley from the Colorado National Monument.
Tyler and Victoria at the Colorado National Monument.
A jet passing by the Balanced Rock formation in the Colorado National Monument.
A closer view of the Balanced Rock in the Colorado National Monument.
Pointing the way to the Canyon Rim Trail near the visitor center in Colorado National Monument.
A view of a cliff from the Canyon Rim Trail overlook.
A twisted cedar tree in Colorado National Monument.
Detail of the sandstone bricks used in the construction of the visitor center in the Colorado National Monument.
A red sandstone cliff near the visitor center of the Colorado National Monument.

Back in the vehicle, we continued toward the East Entrance to the Colorado National Monument. I was driving and focused on the road. Suddenly Leslie shouted there was a sheep alongside the road! Sure enough, a Desert Bighorn Sheep ewe was lying beside the road, casually chewing her cud. I stopped immediately. Tyler, Victoria, and I piled out to take photographs. Just as we finished, I saw another vehicle approaching. They were slowing to take photos as we had done.

A Desert Bighorn Sheep along the road in the Colorado National Monument.
A closer view of the Desert Bighorn Sheep in the Colorado National Monument.
There was an inch or two of snow in places at the Colorado National Monument.
Looking across the canyon to the Canyon Rim Trail.
View of the Independence Monument from Otto’s trailhead in the Colorado National Monument.
A closer view of the Independence Monument from Otto’s trailhead in the Colorado National Monument. The Grand Mesa is in the distance.
Snow, cedar, and pines in the Colorado National Monument.
Mountains in the distance as seen from the Colorado National Monument.
Detail of a cedar tree in the Colorado National Monument.
A dead cedar tree in front of a Mormon Tea plant in the Colorado National Monument.
Independence Monument and the view looking north and west from the Colorado National Monument.
A closer view of the Independence Monument in the Colorado National Monument. The town in the background is Fruita, Colorado.

Continuing our eastward journey, I was surprised at how much snow there was on the road.  By the time we got to the East Entrance, the road was completely dry.

When we left the Colorado National Monument, we called Hillary and Shane to tell them we were on the way to the Dinosaur Journey Museum in Fruita.  They met us there.  For the meager entry fee, a visit to the museum is a must if one is in the area.  The interpretive and interactive displays help put the prehistoric history of the area into perspective.

The truck outside the Dinosaur Journey Museum in Fruita, Colorado.
One of the displays in the Dinosaur Journey Museum in Fruita, Colorado.
In the Dinosaur Journey Museum in Fruita, Colorado. This is where the work of exposing fossils takes place.
A rather gruesome depiction of mealtime in the Dinosaur Journey Museum in Fruita, Colorado.
A depiction of a stegosaurus in the Dinosaur Journey Museum in Fruita, Colorado.

Our time in Fruita coincided with a full moon.  I was able to get a reasonably good photograph of the moon one night.  It reminded me of the pictures I took of the moon while we were stationed in Islamabad, Pakistan.

A full moon visible in Fruita, Colorado.

No trip to Fruita is complete without a visit to the Main Street Café in Grand Junction, Colorado.  When we go there, we always try to get the table that is in the display window.  The day we went, that table was open, so grabbed it quickly.  It had been eons since I had a milkshake.  I corrected that oversight with a strawberry milkshake.  It was absolutely everything I thought it would be!

Yep! That is a strawberry shake! You too can get one at the Main Street Cafe in Grand Junction, Colorado.
Ready for lunch at the Main Street Cafe in Grand Junction, Colorado.
He just finished his lunch at the Main Street Cafe in Grand Junction, Colorado.
A Marilyn Monroe advertisement in the Main Street Cafe in Grand Junction, Colorado.
One of the “window display” seating areas in the Main Street Cafe in Grand Junction, Colorado.
An art installation just outside of the Main Street Cafe in Grand Junction, Colorado. The cafe is visible in the background with the checkerboard sign.

After lunch, we walked along Main Street; stopping at the Main Street Minerals and Beads shop and then the Robin’s Nest Antiques and Treasures store.  That antique store is one of our favorite stops in downtown Grand Junction.

The Main Street Minerals & Beads shop in Grand Junction, Colorado.
The building housing the Main Street Minerals & Beads store in Grand Junction, Colorado dates from 1890.
Our favorite antique store in Grand Junction, Colorado. A Robin’s Nest of Antiques & Treasures.
A partial view of the Reed Building in Grand Junction, Colorado. It dates from 1908.
An artfully disguised utility box along Main Street in Grand Junction, Colorado.

Wednesday morning after Thanksgiving, I was up early as usual.  I could tell the sunrise was going to be good.  So once again, even though it was cold, I grabbed my camera and headed outside.  I think the results speak for themselves.

Looking across a paddock in Fruita, Colorado watching the sunrise.
A closer view of a lone tree in Fruita, Colorado during a sunrise. The Grand Mesa is visible in the distance.
A wider view across the paddock in Fruita, Colorado.
A lone tree in Fruita, Colorado silhouetted by the sunrise.
The sunrise was very pretty on this cold fall morning in Fruita, Colorado.
The home in Fruita, Colorado.
A globe willow tree in front of a barn in Fruita, Colorado.
Looking across a paddock in Fruita, Colorado toward the Colorado National Monument.

Later that morning, we took Tyler, Victoria, and Michael to the airport so they could begin their 11-hour journey home.  They made it home about an hour late, but safe and sound.

When we returned from the airport, Leslie and I finished packing our baggage.  We were due to the leave Grand Junction the next morning.  We had so much stuff we had to ship some items to Bolivia to keep from having overweight baggage.

That next morning, we drove to the airport.  We left the vehicle in the parking lot for Lorraine and Hillary to retrieve later that morning.  We went inside the airport, checked-in, and went to our gate to await boarding.

We boarded and left on time.  It was a very smooth and uneventful flight to Dallas, Texas.

On the final approach to the DFW airport in Dallas, Texas.

Once we were in Dallas, we had enough time to get breakfast at Chili’s.  It was particularly marginal, but it was food.

When we got to our gate, we only had a short wait before we boarded the American Airlines plane bound for Orlando, Florida.  Once again, that flight was comfortable and uneventful.  We had a row of three seats to ourselves, so we were able to spread out.

A happy passenger waiting to depart from DFW in Dallas, Texas.
While our plane was taxiing at DFW airport in Dallas, Texas, another plane was landing.
A runway marker at the DFW airport in Dallas, Texas. Our plane ultimately took off on runway 35L.
A Delta jet at the DFW airport beginning the takeoff roll.
The passengers on our plane at the DFW airport in Dallas, Texas waiting for the takeoff.
An American Airlines jet at the DFW airport in Dallas, Texas beginning its takeoff roll.
Another American Airlines jet at the DFW airport in Dallas, Texas beginning its takeoff roll.

The comfort ended at Orlando.  A wheelchair attendant was at the door of the plane to collect Leslie.  He pushed her to the desk at the gate, said he had to go clear the plane and left us there.  We did not quite understand that.  In all of our travels, once the wheelchair arrives, we are off to our next destination with no stops.

The young man finally returned and began walking with us down the concourse.  I asked to confirm that he knew where we were going.  He replied yes, to baggage claim such and such.  I said no, we had a connecting flight to Lima, Peru.  He stopped, checked his iPad, and said we had to leave the secure area to check in with our carrier, Latam Airlines.  That was disheartening since I already knew how challenging the security screening was at Orlando.

Regardless, he got us to the Latam desk. I showed our tickets to the woman at the counter. She said we were all set and we could go to our gate. Since Leslie and I had not originally planned to travel together, we had different itineraries. That meant our seat assignments were not together. I asked the woman if she could seat us together. She flatly said no. That surprised me. She said we might be able to change seats at the gate. I pointed out that Leslie needed assistance. She told us to wait at a designated point, and someone would take us to the gate shortly.

We waited at the designated spot for nearly ten minutes.  Finally, I asked another Latam employee how we were supposed to get to the gate.  Ultimately, they called someone, and we began our journey to gate 82.

As we got to the security screening area, we entered the wheelchair assistance line. I thought that meant we would be expedited through the queue. Boy was that an incorrect thought. I could have sworn that some of the families in line wearing Disney World attire were the same families I had seen a week earlier. Even though we were in a short and “fast” lane, it took an excessive amount of time to get through security.

Departing security, our attendant got us to the gate reasonably quickly.  Just as we arrived, they started boarding.  By our way of reckoning, we just barely made it to our plane.

We boarded the plane, and Leslie took her seat at 18J, an aisle seat. I continued to 26C, another aisle seat. The boarding was somewhat chaotic. I kept an eye on Leslie. I saw the middle seat next to her remained open. As it so happened, the middle seat next to me also remained open. When it appeared boarding was complete, I asked one of the flight attendants if I could sit next to my wife. She agreed, so we were able to sit together.

The flight from Orlando to Lima, Peru was uneventful but lengthy. At only about five and one-half hours, it was certainly not the longest flight we have taken, but it is still a long time to be cooped up in an aluminum cigar. We eagerly awaited the in-flight service and a glass of wine…wait a minute…Latam airlines do not serve alcohol…what?!?! We may never fly them again…

I was ever hopeful that when we arrived in Lima, we would have enough time to go to Fridays and get something to eat and drink…wrong.  The airport was bustling.  We made it to our next gate with about 20-minutes to spare.  The only good thing is I asked the gate attendant if Leslie and I could sit together.  She moved us to the front of the plan, row 2, and seated us side by side.

The pilot making preparations to depart Lima, Peru on the way to La Paz, Bolivia.

The flight from Lima to La Paz, Bolivia was one of our shorter trips.  We arrived in La Paz at about 03:15 Bolivian time.  One of the Embassy employees was there to meet us and help us through customs.  When we had retrieved our luggage and got in the vehicle, it was nearing 04:00.

Our driver selected the Autopista, a not-quite-finished highway. WOW! After taking that, if another driver ever asks if I want to take the Autopista or the Llojetta route, it will definitely be the Autopista! It was much quicker, and fewer hairpin turns, no speed bumps, and travel was at a reasonable speed.

We made it home at about 04:30, after nearly 24-hours of travel. We had that long-awaited glass of wine and crashed into bed. We were together and at home!!

Rest Stop

Rest Stop

Los Angeles, CA – April 22, 2017

Los Angeles is the location we chose for a rest stop. It is a long way from Grand Junction, Colorado to Wellington, New Zealand.
At the Marriott Residence Inn on Century Boulevard, we lounged around in the room until it was time for dinner. About 20 steps from the hotel is a great restaurant, Zpizza Tap Room. They sell pizza either whole or by the slice. Their hand-tossed pizza is delicious. The crust is thin; not paper-thin, but certainly not thick and doughy. Also offered are craft beers. We opted for wine instead of beer. After dinner, it was back upstairs for some television and sleep.
The following morning, it was downstairs for the buffet breakfast. While eating, breakfast, we discussed things to do that day. We had plenty of time to kill since our flight to Auckland did not depart until 22:30 that night. Our decision was the Santa Monica Pier. Neither one of us had been there before.

People pose for photographs in front of the iconic Santa Monica Pier sign.

Google Maps efficiently guided us to the pier. When we arrived, we stopped at the red light directly across from the entrance to the Santa Monica Pier. I knew I had to get a photograph of the iconic sign. That would have to wait until we parked.

The traffic light turned green, and we proceeded across the intersection and began our descent to the pier.  At the bottom of the drive, one had to turn left to the parking lot on the boardwalk.

The sign guides people to the entry to the Santa Monica Pier. The massive crosswalks are almost too much for the eyes.

Once we parked, I walked back up to the entry sign while Leslie waited on the boardwalk.  I was certainly not the only one who decided to take a photograph of the sign.  Group after group of people stopped to take a “souvenir” photo beneath the iconic Santa Monica Pier sign.  All the while, the locals went by, hardly noticing the tourists.  In the first photograph I posted, a blurred runner attests to that fact.

I was surprised at the crosswalk at the intersection. Virtually the entire intersection was a crosswalk. I had never seen one painted quite like that. With all of the converging lines, it was almost too hard to look at and stay oriented.

The sidewalk leading down to the Santa Monica Pier.

The pier itself is not as large as I had imagined. Much to my amazement, there was parking right on the dock. There was additional parking in a paved lot at the beach level. As we began to stroll along the pier, it was evident that the pier was not quite in full swing. Since we are usually early when we go anywhere, we frequently miss the largest crowds, which is just fine with us.

One of the things we noticed on the beach was a field of crosses on display. It seemed to be drawing attention to the many soldiers the United States has lost in the war on terror. We could not discern why some crosses were white while others were red. If one looks closely at the photograph, one can make out at least one Star of David and one Muslim crescent moon. Those that installed the display did an exact job. No matter which way one looked, the crosses lined up perfectly.

A field of cross at the Santa Monica Beach. The intent was to highlight the number of American soldiers killed in the war on terror.

In addition to the more significant buildings and restaurants on the pier, there were numerous kiosks. The kiosks had all manner of tourist kitsch. Of course, we had purchased some kitsch; specifically, our prerequisite refrigerator magnet.

The boardwalk at the Santa Monica Pier.

At the end of the pier, we sat near the Mariasol restaurant and watched all the sights. There were a lot of people fishing from the dock. While we were there, we did not see anyone catch anything. Maybe on other days at other times, those fishing have much better luck.

We ended up sitting on the patio of Mariasol to have a coffee. There were a few others there for lunch. The Mexican food looked amazing. Unfortunately, we were between a rock and a hard place. We had eaten breakfast, not all that long ago. Also, we planned to drive to the In-N-Out Burger for lunch. If we ever get back to that point on the planet, we will prepare better so we can try some of the Mexican food.

Looking over the edge of the Santa Monica Pier.

I did not realize the Santa Monica Pier was the end of Route 66 until I saw the Route 66 Last Stop Shop at the end of the pier. When we walked back along the dock, we saw the “End of the Trail” sign.

A family posing for their photo at the end of Route 66 on the Santa Monica Pier.
The Santa Monica Pier is the end of Route 66 from Chicago, Illinois.

A little beyond the Route 66 sign is the old Hippodrome building. I understand it is the oldest building on the pier, dating from the mid-1940s. Housed in the Hippodrome is a beautiful antique carousel. The carousel dates from the 1920s. We did not ride it (apparently there is a weight limit), but we did sit and watch it for a long time.

The antique carousel on the boardwalk at the Santa Monica Pier.

We got back in our rental car and drove off the pier. Sitting under the Santa Monica Pier sign, waiting for the traffic light, we noticed the drive down to the dock was no longer open. We could only imagine the drive reopened periodically as people depart as we did.

Just like the last time I was there, the In-N-Out Burger by LAX was packed. Somehow we were lucky enough to find a parking space. Inside the restaurant, all the employees moved at a frenetic pace. It is a fantastic sight to see all the employees working assembly-line-fashion to fulfill the dozens and dozens of hamburger orders.

While I waited for our order, Leslie went outside to find a table. In my opinion, half the reason to eat at this particular In-N-Out Burger is to watch the endless stream of planes landing at the airport. We got our fill of burgers, fries, and aircraft.

After lunch, we walked across the street to watch the planes approach the airport, flying directly overhead.  I filmed a Southwest Airlines jet and posted it on Facebook.  By clicking on “watch on Facebook,” one can see the video.

The Santa Monica beach.
A dolphin sculpture on the Santa Monica Pier boardwalk.
A man coaxing and teaching a boy to fish off the Santa Monica Pier.
The Pacific Park amusement park on the Santa Monica Pier.

 

A panoramic view of Santa Monica from the pier.
The beach as seen from the Santa Monica Pier.
People on the Santa Monica Pier boardwalk heading toward Pacific Park.
Two men fishing from the Santa Monica Pier.

 

 

 

 

GJT to LAX

GJT to LAX

Grand Junction, CO – April 22, 2017

We began our journey back to Wellington, New Zealand, on the morning of April 22. To relieve the transportation burden from our family, we opted to take a taxi to the Grand Junction, Colorado. I arranged the cab the day before, requesting a van and a 07:00 arrival.

When we travel, we do not like drama. To help avoid drama, we like to arrive early. Our 07:00 departure meant arriving at the airport almost exactly two hours before our departure time. The taxi company did not understand our desire. We began watching for the taxi about ten minutes before the requested time. At 07:00, with no cab in sight, I called the company. They assured me the taxi was on its way. Another ten minutes went by, still no cab so I called again and received the same message. Finally, at 07:20, the taxi arrived.

Our first disappointment was the taxi’s late arrival. The next disappointment was the vehicle, a Toyota Prius, not the requested van. I specifically asked for because of the amount of our luggage. After much trial and error, our larger luggage pieces fit in the rear hatch of the taxi. Our carry-on luggage ended up in the front passenger seat.

Departing the house nearly 30-minutes late made us both nervous. The good news is that the drive to the airport does not take very long. Secondly, the Grand Junction airport is quite small. That means one does not need to strictly adhere to the airline’s advice of arriving at least two hours before departure.

The United Airlines employee that checked us in for our flight was extremely nice.  That was refreshing since United had just been in the news for dragging a passenger off one of their planes.

On the other side of the security checkpoint, we ate breakfast. Well, breakfast is a bit of a strong word, especially when referring to a ham and cheese croissant and a cup of coffee. Regardless, it was good, and it filled our void.

The large sign near the Los Angeles International Airport.

Unlike the taxi, our plane pushed away from the gate eight minutes early. An hour later, we arrived in Denver. After a bit of a layover, our flight from Denver to LAX pushed back early too. It was like we had hit the jackpot! In about two hours, we arrived at LAX. We retrieved our luggage, got our rental car, and headed to our rest stop hotel; the Marriott Residence Inn on Century Boulevard.

Back over the Mountain

Back over the Mountain

Fruita, CO – April 3, 2017

Leslie and I left Colorado Springs on April 3, a day earlier than we had planned. Our trip back to Fruita, Colorado included four mountain passes; Ute Pass, Wilkerson Pass, Hoosier Pass, and Vail Pass. The weather forecast called for heavy snowfall beginning the afternoon of April 3. We did not wish to end up stranded in a snow storm.

We were on the road by about 06:00. It was a cloudy, dreary day. Alma, Colorado is at the foot of the eastern side of Hoosier Pass. That is where we first encountered snow. It was not heavy, but it was snowing. The storm continued until we reached Breckenridge, Colorado. That town is at the foot of the western side of Hoosier Pass. The snow was never bad enough to impact the road conditions.

At Frisco, Colorado we merged onto Interstate 70 west, beginning our ascent of Vail Pass.  We encountered a little bit of snow near the summit of Vail Pass; but, just as before, it was not bad enough to impact the road conditions.

We made it to Fruita with no problems. Later that evening, we discovered that the State closed many of the roads through the Rocky Mountains because of the heavy snow. We were glad to have made it through unscathed.

From many places in Fruita, one can see the Colorado National Monument. It is one of my favorite places to visit and photograph. I discovered there are some petroglyphs within the boundaries of the Monument. I tracked down the location, drove to the trailhead, and walked the very short distance to the petroglyphs. My disappointment was immense. I did find the rock and petroglyphs; unfortunately, vandals have chiseled names, initials, and drawings onto the rock surface. It was quite challenging to determine which were authentic petroglyphs. I did take some photographs; however, I have not included any here because I did not like them. On a side note, I did take some other pictures, such as a unique hole in the sandstone.

A unique hole in the rock in the Colorado National Monument.

One morning I decided I wanted to find a road that leads up into the Book Cliffs. I remembered the way from a previous trip, but I did not remember how to get there. I took a stab at finding the road. Leslie and I ended up at the North Fruita Desert. Even though there were a lot of people camping in the area, it still had an empty feeling.

Looking toward the Book Cliffs near Fruita, Colorado.

Since I could not find the road for which I was looking, we decided to go to the Colorado River.  I selected the Kokopelli Trails area near Loma, Colorado.

Leslie and I walked a portion of the Kokopelli Trails. The sandstone formations there are stunning. While we were there, we saw dozens of people on mountain bikes. On the lower trail, I stood beside the path, waiting for a mountain biker to pass by. With so many cyclists around, we did not have to wait long.

A mountain biker descending on the lower trail in Kokopelli Trails.

One of the unique things we saw was a house carved into a sandstone cliff. It was unique; however, we both agreed there was no way we could live in such a home. We were sure the rooms at the back of the house would be quite claustrophobic.

A cliff house near the Kokopelli Trails area.

One of the last things Leslie and I did before we returned to New Zealand, was a hike along the Canyon Rim Trail in the Colorado National Monument. The views were stunning. One of my most favorite views, although it was not on the trail, was that of the Balanced Rock. The Colorado National Monument is a must-see for anyone traveling to the Fruita/Grand Junction, Colorado area.

The Balanced Rock in the Colorado National Monument.
Layered sandstone in a dry creek bed in the Colorado National Monument near Fruita, Colorado.
An ancient tree and some prickly pear cactus in the Colorado National Monument.
Looking west in one of the canyons in the Colorado National Monument.
Layered cliff in the Colorado National Monument.
Some of the wilderness in the Colorado National Monument.
View of the upper and lower trails at the Kokopelli Trails area near Loma, Colorado.
Looking east from Kokopelli Trails toward Grand Junction, Colorado.
The upper trail at Kokopelli Trails hugs the top of the cliff in the distance.
Looking across the plateau in the Kokopelli Trails area.
A sandstone cliff in the Kokopelli Trails area.
A panoramic view of an area in Kokopelli Trails.
A sandstone tower in the Kokopelli Trails area.
The cliff edge along the Canyon Rim Trail in the Colorado National Monument.
An old cedar tree in front of the Pipe Organ formation in the Colorado National Monument.
A sandstone overhang in the Colorado National Monument.
The Pipe Organ formation in the Colorado National Monument.
We stopped for photo along the Canyon Rim Trail in the Colorado National Monument.
An ancient cedar tree in the Colorado National Monument.
In the very center of the photograph, one can see Independence Monument in the Colorado National Monument.
Some of the sandstone textures on a cliff face in the Colorado National Monument.
Looking along the edge of a canyon at the Canyon Rim Trail in the Colorado National Monument.