All posts by Sunny Bridge

I love travel, seeing and photographing new places, meeting new people, learning languages (focusing on French for the past few years).

Tropical Iowa and Other Highlights of Mid-America

After Omaha, we were off to the Ramada Tropics Resort in . . .wait for it . . . Des Moines, Iowa. Isn’t the word “tropics” the first word that springs to mind when you hear “Des Moines”?

Ramada Tropics Resort, Des Moines, Iowa
Ramada Tropics Resort, Des Moines, Iowa

Not really our kind of place, had we been on our own, but we were meeting Courtney and our granddaughters (who are 7 and almost 6), and, although a mob scene most of the time, it was perfect for them. Look at these smiles!

Felicity (5) and Bailey (7)
Felicity (5) and Bailey (7)

We only stayed one night there, since we had to keep heading east, but today, just past Gary, Indiana, we got in the wrong lane at a toll stop and found ourselves heading back west on I-90 for a while. Ghaa-a-a-a-a! David managed to keep his cool and got us turned back in the right direction at a crazy, complicated cluster of exits, loops, and ramps–none adequately marked–nowhere near any major metropolitan area that seemed to warrant such creative engineering. Yeesh.

Once we were finally heading east again we passed a new-ish looking roadside attraction: the RV/MH Hall of Fame. I’m not making this up. (We did not stop.) What exactly does a motor home do to earn a spot in a Hall of Fame?

Tonight we’re in Erie, PA, and I’m gradually getting healthier with each day. Can’t believe we’ll be on a flight to Paris on Wednesday. I hope Spring has sprung there more convincingly than it has here on I-90. We heard a radio announcer today saying, “Here in Cleveland, we know it’s Spring when feeling returns to our hands and feet.” I don’t know about you, but I’m hoping for a bit more than that!

Mini-Break in Omaha, Nebraska

Today we’re enjoying a short break (two nights in the same hotel!) in the Old Market area of downtown Omaha, Nebraska:

Omaha, Nebraska
Omaha, Nebraska

The Old Market area is reputedly the most picturesque part of downtown Omaha,  and this is the cutest part of Old Market:

Old Market, Omaha
Old Market, Omaha

I’m afraid the shot is a bit cockeyed, because I was terrified someone was going to pop out and yell at me. This little nook is so popular with photographers, there’s an involved, semi-hostile sign limiting photography to one hour a day even for “amateurs, grandmothers, moms, dads, etc.” and I was half an hour beyond the photo window. I think it means for wedding and graduation photos and the like, since it also lists various forbidden activities like moving the plants and reminds the reader that this is not a studio, but it had me shaking in my shoes.

The angular geometry of the urban landscape catches my attention most before the trees leaf out. Although it’s the first day of Spring, the only sign of that here is the blue sky:

Omaha, Nebraska
Omaha, Nebraska

Definitely grateful for the blue sky, though, and the warmth, and my slightly improved health that allowed me to stroll a few blocks in public without people crossing to the other side of the street–at least until they heard me cough!

On The Road

According to Vivian Swift (see my Quotes page*), every road trip has a low point, and our first day was a serious contender. I sincerely hope it doesn’t get much lower than yesterday. I’ve got a raging cold/flu/bronchitis thing that made the day super miserable for me and not much better for David, since he had to look at me. Between the sneezing, sniffles, coughing, etc., I look like I’ve been on a four-day crying jag, and freckled blonds such as myself never cry prettily. Mind you, I haven’t done any actual crying, I just look enough like it that random strangers encountered at gas stations and hotels tend to look extremely uncomfortable.  But now, after a visit to the doc and the pharmacy, I have a giant sack of meds, so hopefully I’ll be on the mend soon.

I’ve been way too unwell to snap photos, but I can’t leave you with no photos, so here are a few more of the Alexandria trip of a few days ago.

Alexandria, Virginia
Old Town Alexandria, Virginia
Alexandria, Virginia
Alexandria, Virginia

Cheering on Chelsea and the other runners was actually great. Chelsea’s boyfriend Will would yell things like, “Way to go 34126!” or “Looking good 29372!” to random runners none of us knew, and you’d see people glance down at their number and smile and perk up, and his mom was Cheerleader Extraordinaire. Here is the glaring evidence that I am not a professional sports photographer:

David giving Chelsea a high-five at mile 8.
David giving Chelsea a high-five at mile 8.

Chelsea’s friend Rachel is on the left in green. Great to see both of them running strong at the top of a hill at mile 8. Here are Chelsea and her friends at brunch after the race:

Rachel, Chelsea, Kristin after the half-marathon
Rachel, Chelsea, Kristin after the half-marathon

So after the quick weekend trip, Monday was spent finalizing things at the house (and seeing the doctor, as mentioned above), packing up the car, then driving to just east of Cheyenne, where my miserable self got straight in bed. We woke to blowing snow and road closures west and south of us, so were glad we were heading east where the snow was intermittent and didn’t hamper us much.

Today we made it to Kearney, Nebraska, which may be fabulously photogenic on other days, but not today, and honestly I haven’t ever managed any great shots while speeding along I-80, so I’ll leave you instead with something very photogenic from a bit further north, near I-90, taken on a previous road trip:

Badlands, South Dakota
Badlands, South Dakota

*Be sure to check out my Quotes page periodically, as new quotes are added from time to time.

Alexandria, Virginia 2014

On Wednesday, we moved out of our house in Colorado, and flew the next day to Alexandria, Virginia, to cheer on our youngest daughter as she runs a half-marathon on Saturday.  David managed to score a great deal on first class tickets for barely more than the coach ticket plus bag fees and lunch with drinks in both directions. He didn’t mention it to me, preferring it to be a surprise, so of course, there I am at the airport, trailing behind, feebly calling to him as he charges on past the coach kiosks: “Um, David, where are you going? We’re supposed to go over here. . . . David?” I thought he was just oblivious.  But what a welcome surprise after days of the chaos of moving. I’m battling some cold/flu thing, so thought I’d better choose orange juice as my complimentary beverage. Doesn’t it look healthy?

OJ, the way they do it in First Class
OJ, the way they do it in First Class

Love our super-cute hotel just off King Street (the main drag of Alexandria):

Our hotel: Morrison House, Alexandria
Our hotel: Morrison House, Alexandria

We needed to tend to business while our room was being cleaned, so set up with our laptops in the library of the hotel:

Library of Morrison House, Alexandria, VA
Library of Morrison House, Alexandria, VA

Very pleasant, nice and warm, with smooth jazz playing in the background. After catching up with emails, we had a nice little wander down King Street.

King Street, Downtown Alexandria
King Street, Downtown Alexandria

I love all the old brick and shiny black trim. Bit chilly yet to do much exploring, especially while feeling not so great, but at least the sun was out. It seems Spring may actually arrive this year after all. Bon courage!

Santa Fe and Albuquerque 2014

The time really is getting short now. I can almost hear NASA counting down to blastoff. We’re not quite all packed, but close, so we decided to take another quick trip down south to Santa Fe and Albuquerque for a taste of spring and a temporary goodbye to some family. Our room at the Inn at Vanessie was super-Southwesty-cute:

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The piano bar was enticing as ever, with the beautiful artwork that characterizes Santa Fe:

Painting in the Piano Bar at the Inn at Vanessie, Santa Fe
Painting in the Piano Bar at the Inn at Vanessie, Santa Fe

I’m afraid a still photo does not begin to capture how mesmerizing the wind sculptures outside were in the breeze:

Santa Fe
Santa Fe

The taste of spring was a little elusive. We woke up to snow Saturday morning. Really? Will this winter never end? But within a couple of hours the snow had melted away and we were encouraged to see the trees in Albuquerque are in bloom:

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And, double bonus, the High Noon Saloon did not disappoint:

High Noon Saloon, Albuquerque

The moving van arrives on Wednesday to load up everything that hasn’t been pitched, donated, or temporarily farmed out to foster families (piano, etc.), so we have two days of intense final packing ahead of us. In a way, it’s good, because we don’t have time to think about all the dear friends we’re leaving behind. One of the Bon Voyage cards we received said something like, “I’m terrible at goodbyes, so I’m just going to pretend we’re playing Hide and Go Seek, and you’re just really hard to find.” So here we go, cover your eyes . . . 100, 99, 98, 97 . . . .

Albuquerque and Santa Fe 2013

Paris: An Inspiring Tour of the City's Creative Heart by Janelle McCulloch
Paris: An Inspiring Tour of the City’s Creative Heart by Janelle McCulloch

Woohoo! Long-stay visas were granted, and we leave in less than a month, but we’re STILL packing, including the beautiful book you see above, so I decided it was time for a little more reminiscing of past adventures.

Shortly before heading off to France last spring, I decided to replace my point and shoot with a decent camera. I had been addicted to photography in my pre-mom days, but when our girls were growing up, I discovered it was impossible to simultaneously host the birthday party, carry the cake out to the waiting hordes, and artistically document it all with a completely manual SLR camera, with everything that involved: light meter, f-stop, depth-of-field, focus, separate flash attachment, interchangeable lenses, etc. Yikes. Not enough arms or time.

But now that they’re grown, it’s time. So I found a great deal on an entry-level DSLR, and after playing with it (and fire) a bit at home,

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I decided to try it out on a weekend road trip down to visit family in Albuquerque in March of 2013.

Albuquerque, New Mexico
Albuquerque, New Mexico

Lots of super photogenic sights, like the beautiful chiles above, but after David’s patience had been pushed to the limit, we decided to look for a place for some guacamole and maybe a couple of margaritas. Not sure how we got the nerve to go into this place — It’s called the High Noon Saloon and it’s pretty sketchy looking on the outside, but look what we found inside:

High Noon Saloon, Albuquerque
High Noon Saloon, Albuquerque

And — bonus — the food was great. Now it’s our favorite Albuquerque spot.

Turns out you can also go wine-tasting in Albuquerque, as there are quite a number of vineyards, but we only went to the Casa Rondeña Winery. It was so beautiful, we just sort of hung around the grounds (and took a few photos, of course).

Casa Rondeña Winery, Albuquerque
Casa Rondeña Winery, Albuquerque

The next day, on the way back to Colorado, we stopped in Santa Fe for a look around, and happened into this place.

Miraculous Staircase of Loretto Chapel, Santa Fe, New Mexico
Miraculous Staircase of Loretto Chapel, Santa Fe, New Mexico

This is the Loretto Chapel, and the story goes that there was no way up to the choir loft and all the carpenters consulted concluded that there was only room for a ladder.  The Sisters of the Chapel made a Novena to St. Joseph, patron saint of carpenters, and on the ninth and final day of prayer, a man showed up with a donkey and tools, looking for work. Months later, the beautiful staircase complete, the man disappeared without pay and without a trace. Aside from the mystery of the carpenter,  some of the design considerations perplex experts to this day, enough that it was featured on an episode of Unsolved Mysteries.*

May your journey lead you also to beauty, story, mystery, and of course, fabulous food and wine.

*Adapted from the Loretto Chapel website.

Bishop Castle 2012

Packing Update: I’ve now packed all the fiction — 40 boxes total. Woohoo! Next up Memoir / Biography.

I promised more about Bishop Castle a couple of posts ago, so here you go. Our neighborhood Harley group did a weekend ride to southern Colorado back in June of 2012, and one of the stops was a place unlike any other I’d ever seen, all built by one man during the very short summers that an altitude of 9000 feet offers.  Be sure to note the iron sphere, the highest accessible point, at least at the time we were there.

Bishop Castle, Colorado
Bishop Castle, Colorado

You really have to climb it to fully experience this place, but I was able to get a few quick snaps whenever I could convince my fingers to loosen their grip on whatever handhold I could find. Terry, one of the riders in our group, had no such qualms:

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Yeesh. I hyperventilate just looking at the photo. Plus — added bonus — the whole thing shimmies with every footstep ANYONE takes ANYWHERE on the iron part of the structure.

Safety precautions at Bishop Castle
Safety precautions at Bishop Castle

I think you should consider this a dead end and choose another route.

In case you can’t really tell how high this is, check out our Harleys in this photo shot from inside the sphere. Go ahead and get your magnifying glass. I’ll wait.

From inside the sphere atop Bishop Castle
From inside the sphere atop Bishop Castle

That’s the dragon to the right, unfortunately (fortunately?) not spewing flames when we were there. Rumor has it there’s a plan for a new burner that would be able to shoot flames 30 feet. Not sure how you get a permit for that in a state with annual raging wildfires. Hm.

Here’s another shot of the dragon:

DSCN3724

The drive alone was spectacular, along the Frontier Pathways Scenic and Historic Byway, and this place must be seen to be believed. There seem to be several Bishop Castle websites, so just Google it and take your pick, but whatever you do, find a map or directions so you can start planning your very own scary climbing adventure!

Bon courage!