Sep 17

Yellowstone, Badlands and Irma

I’m warning you now…this is a LONG post!  How can I describe two life-changing events with just a few words and pictures?  I may look carefree in the picture below but inside I was worried!

Where do I start relating the events of the past 10 days?  I suppose I should start back about 5 months ago when I was thinking about the places I wanted to visit on my bucket list.  Yellowstone National Park was at the top of the list since I had wanted to see Old Faithful since 4th grade when I saw pictures of it in a textbook.  For years it was never a priority but retirement and mature aging made me rethink how to spend my time.

I didn’t want to go alone and single supplemental costs were prohibitive so I started searching for safe ways for singles to travel.  I came upon Women Traveling Together (WTT), a 20 year old company with excellent reviews.  It caters to women who want to travel solo but not alone and not as a “fifth wheel” with other tour groups.  WTT limits most groups to 14 travelers and gives people the option of a roommate assigned by WTT.  I called the home office and talked to a representative there.  I did more research on the group, looked at the itinerary for the Yellowstone tour and sent in my deposit.  All was well in March when I did that.  Hurricane Irma wasn’t even something that entered my mind as a possibility!  All I can say is I’m glad I purchased trip insurance because Irma certainly delayed my trip home!  One of my friends told me I win the prize for the best evacuation plan! Little did I know when I left on September 3 that one week later my home was in danger and I was worried about my family and friends.  More about the Hurricane later but first let’s talk about the beauty of Montana, Wyoming and South Dakota!  Happy thoughts first.

Sunday. I eagerly boarded the plane to Bozeman, Montana on September 3.  Irma was churning out in the Atlantic thousands of miles away from Florida and no one was in a panic about her arrival.  Hurricanes are notorious for meandering around and changing course several times before deciding on a destination.  My bags were packed and I was off on my adventure.

Pictures can never do that part of the country justice!  The experience of looking out over a valley or mountain range or desert or the wonders of what Mother Nature can do rivals any visual.  God certainly gave us a beautiful world to see and nurture.  Thank goodness people had the foresight to establish national parks before their pristine beauty could be altered.  One of my favorite quotes was posted in the Yellowstone Visitor’s Center about the purpose of the park:

…which purpose is to conserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects and the wild life therein and to provide for the enjoyment of the same in such manner and by such means as will leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations.”  Organic Act, 1916

I traveled with a wonderful group of 14 travelers and one tour leader.  We came to Bozeman from all over the country.  We were different ages.  We had different life stories.  We all loved to travel. We bonded as only girlfriends could over meals, searches for happy hours, stories, excitement, awe, compassion and yes, my friends, shopping!  We traveled in a van and answered questions from curious travelers along the way.  Ladies I will always cherish our time together….Jan, Kit, Jean, Barbara, Sandy, Toni, Julie, Kate, Cathy, Sandie, Tricia, Sue, Lori and Chris,  you are the best travel buddies.

Aside from intriguing destinations, there were other surprises in store!  Take huckleberries for instance; they were found everywhere and used for interesting products including vodka!  I plan to order a bottle from the Jackson Hole Liquor Store.  It’s yummy!  I had it served with lime squeeze, soda water and splash of sprite.   I may try it with lemonade too.  That concoction comes highly recommended too!

                                         

Other huckleberry treats included Twizzlers and lip balm!  I indulged in those also.

Monday. After Bozeman and meeting everyone over dinner, we traveled to Yellowstone on Monday morning, Sept 4, Labor Day.  One of the highlights of the travel that day included the scenery and the Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Center.

         

We were up close and personal with these animals.

Tuesday. We traveled the lower loop of Yellowstone.  We hopped on and off the van multiple times to see the wildlife that abound.  I got to see Old Faithful that day and it did not disappoint!

   

We had lunch in the magnificent Old Faithful Inn with its towering stone and wood structures completed in 1904.

We rode and hiked and repeated those actions all day long.  We were a bunch of tired puppies at the end of the day. We saw geysers gushing water into cool streams.

   

We viewed blue hot spring pools and bubbling “paint pots” along wooden walkways with a warning to stay on the paths since folk legend has it that a misstep can wind up making you into a crispy fried human!

We stopped to view waterfalls gushing over rocks into canyons and beautiful green mountains.

  

We never saw any bears in the wild since they have all moved up into the mountains

but these pictures from the late 1950’s or early 1960’s show how it used to be!

 

Wednesday. We traveled the upper loop of Yellowstone.  We were very excited to see buffalo or bison along the way.  Pictures below include Upper/Lower Falls, Artist Point, Grand Canyon of Yellowstone, Mammoth Springs, and the travertine rocks.

                        

 

 

Artist Point with our Tour Leader, Jan        First group to hike down Mommouth:  Julie, Jean & Me

Dinner was at a very interesting ranch that evening, Bar N Ranch, near Cody.

Thursday. We left early for Cody, WY.  The scenery changed again as we traveled past more rugged views.  As we made the turn, there in front of us was a large herd of buffalo!  We scrambled from the van to watch, snap pictures and keep our distance!  These animals are big and you don’t want to meet one nose to nose!

Lunch was at Irma’s, named after Buffalo Bill’s daughter.

 

We visited the Buffalo Bill Historical Museum in the afternoon.

Friday. This was a very long day of driving across Wyoming on our way to Rapid City, SD via the Bighorn Scenic Highway.  I loved the scenery that became more awesome with every hairpin turn!  Thank goodness Jan was a good driver.

 

We stopped at the Sheridan Inn for lunch.  The inn was made famous because Wild Bill would hold auditions for his Wild West Show on the porch and front lawn.

Saturday. We drove about 3 hours to the Badlands National Park.  The terrain changed again and was beautiful in its starkness.  From a distance, we finally saw a big horn sheep on this day.

 

We paid a visit to the Wall Drugstore in Wall, SD made famous for advertising free ice water to travelers in the 1920’s.

After dinner we went to Mount Rushmore to see the evening lighting of the monument and it was truly a moving experience.

It was time to say good-bye to my fellow travelers since the tour officially ended that evening and most folks were traveling home Sunday EXCEPT for me, unexpectedly I  might add, and a few others who had planned to stay on and see a few more sights.

Hurricane Irma.  This is where my adventure and Hurricane Irma merge.  I had been following the weather channel broadcasts all week as the storm grew and was heading for Florida.  First it moved east and then it kept moving west as it made its northerly turn.  From all reports, folks were panicking back home…getting hurricane supplies and boarding up houses.  Friends were being evacuated.  I was tearing through data on my phone watching live updates between taking pictures and enjoying my tour.  Jan, my WTT tour leader, was wonderful.  She asked every day what I had heard and if anything could be done to help me.  Travel partners did the same.  The Colonel boarded up my house and rode out the storm there since his neighborhood was evacuated.  Lots of noise, the storm passing just west of my home even though the Colonel says we were in the center of the eye.  Power gone.

The red line is the path of Hurricane Irma and the dark circle is where I live.  The eye was very close.

I was delayed leaving Rapid City, SD until Wednesday.  Luckily Sandie and Tricia had planned to stay on and tour so they took me along.  We visited  Mount Rushmore during the day followed by Crazy Horse and the sights in Deadwood.

 

While traveling with these ladies we lunched on 2 scoops of ice-cream for lunch each day!  What a treat.  I rationalized that the 10,000+ steps per day offset the calories.

We spent a day in Rapid City shopping and finding the presidential statues on street corners.

 

 

If you don’t live in Florida you have no idea what it’s like to be without power.  I felt a tiny bit guilty on tour because I had low humidity, cool mornings and air conditioning during the day.  It was quite different for my friends and family back in Florida.  High humidity, temps in the 90’s during the day and high 70’s at night.  No relief and frayed nerves.  My neighbor and good friend, Mary, commented on  relationships during the storm by saying  “only the strong survive…we were borderline.”  Moms were posting on Facebook that there wasn’t enough wine to get them through hot sweaty days with whiny children continually asking when the power would come back on!

My house survived very well.  Pool cage damage. Vegetation in my neighborhood destroyed.  A lot of debris to clean up.  People are pulling together to help each other out.  The human spirit prevails!  We are living through flooded neighborhoods, spotty power, gas shortages, curfews, very little produce and fresh items in grocery stores.  Young families are facing an additional week with no school!

When I landed in Sarasota on Wednesday, I received a text that the power was back on in my house!  What luck!  God answered my prayers…my family was safe, our homes survived, my adventure seemed to be timed well, I made 14 new friends, and I arrived home safely!  I will always remember Irma with a mixture of happiness and anxiousness.  Life is certainly an adventure.

As I look back on this trip I am still moved by the beauty we find in nature.  I am also moved by the respect travelers showed for the natural resources we saw.  No littering.  No nastiness.  Just respect.  I like that.  I think all citizens should see our beautiful country to appreciate all that we have in this beautiful country.  It makes one find inner peace, hope and for me, a belief in our future.  Not all is doom and gloom.I leave this post with a salute to the linemen who came from all over the country to help Floridians get power back!  You guys are remarkable!

Thanks Women Traveling Together.  I look forward to other trips with you, seeing sights with like-minded travelers.  However, next time I could do without a hurricane!

Aug 31

Custom Phone Case

Happy almost Labor Day weekend!  Several of you have commented on my phone case.  That’s a picture of my “babies”  taken during a family vacation this summer.  Purchased from a great company with quick service and nice quality case.  I smile every time that I use my phone and see those cuties!  Click the link below for ordering information.  25% off through September 4.

www.mycustomcase.com

Aug 29

Sunshine, Roof Rat and Dressing Room Diaries

The sun is finally shining and the world in SW Florida is drying out.  The flooding we have seen is nothing compared to the devastation in Houston and their surrounding areas.  During times like this, the good people of our land come out to help.  It confirms my belief that caring people abound and enormously outweigh those who choose take advantage of folks at this time.  God bless the American spirit and our willingness to care of those in need. There are many organizations out there helping the flood victims.  One to consider contacting is the American Red Cross.

My spirits were lifted this morning with the sun streaming in through the windows while reading articles in the paper about the humanitarian efforts locally and nationally.  Then my eyes wandered over to the view out my sliding doors and I saw something floating in my pool.  My greatest fear is snakes and I have chased a few away and managed to dip a few little black snakes from my pool but this was not a snake and without my glasses on it looked like a dark gray blob.  On closer inspection, I realized it was a dead mouse, or so I thought.  After posting a picture of the little critter on Facebook, a friend wrote that it was actually a roof RAT!  Now, rats sound much more ominous than mice.  These rats live on roofs and can produce 20 babies at a pop!  Lordy!  The pool guy is due to clean my pool today so I left the dead little rat to float to the skimmer for my pool knight in shining armor to remove.  It may be days before I get in the pool once he adjusts the chemicals!

To keep my mind off the rat situation, I decided it was a good time to run a few errands and pay a visit to the Loft store.  I had seen several other bloggers post this cute little dress and I was hesitant to order it online since it is a final sale, no returns.  I decided to see if my local store had it in stock.  They did, but unfortunately, a lady snapped up my size while I was there but she graciously let me try “her” dress on for size and it was love at first sight!  She had put the dress on hold while she left to get a manicure and returned while I was there.  If I hadn’t known that she was recovering from surgery and looked a bit pale and tired, I would have snatched it out of her hands once I tried it on.  Civility prevailed and my dress is on its way via USPS.  I think it’s perfect for my upcoming trip to Key West.  I ordered it in a small.  Here’s the link.  It’s 50% off the sale price right now.

Link to Floral Dress

 

I am going to Yellowstone, Cody and Rapid City next week.  Yellowstone has been a bucket list destination for me since I saw a picture of Old Faithful in my 4th grade textbook!  I had been following the weather and thought some long sleeve tops would be perfect.  They will be perfect for Yellowstone but it will be much warmer in Cody and Rapid City so I must rethink this whole packing thing!  I’m on a tour and we are encouraged to pack light and packing light is not my strength.  So while in the dressing room trying on the dress I was coveting that the other lady was purchasing, I decided to try on some new tops that will work for the trip and for Florida weather.  My dressing room philosophy is if you are getting undressed make it worth your while and try on many things that catch your eye.  Here’s everything I tried on but not everything made the cut!

Link to Plaid Cascade Sleeve Top

Link to Striped Square Neck Blouse

 

Link to Chambray Cold Shoulder Blouse

          

Link to Blue Print Blouse

So as not to give you indigestion and nausea, I’m posting the dead rat last!  Poor thing.

Wishing you sunshine, good thoughts for our fellow man and

dressing room diaries of your own.

 

 

 

 

Aug 27

Cabin Fever Comfort

 

I am so sick of this constant rain!  Cabin fever!  Fooling around with the Boomerang app so you know I am bored!  How did Noah’s wife survive all of those days on the ark?   Comfy stay inside clothes from Nordstrom’s Anniversary Sale but probably full price now.

        Links:                                          Nordstrom Top                                        Nordstrom Pants

Aug 26

Rain, Life and Fashion

Hurricane Harvey slammed into the Texas coast last night and I feel for those residents!  It’s been many years since southwest Florida has taken a direct hit but I remember the experience well.  Boarding up the house, deciding to leave or stay, listening to the howling wind, days without electricity and living with hot humid weather!  It was a joy to go to work just to cool off!

We have had days and days of non-stop rain around here.  A nasty system has been hanging over our area dumping rain and sogginess around.  It’s not a chilling rain in Florida but it makes one want to stay inside and read and cook!

We were to leave for Key West on Thursday and all reservations and adventures were booked!  Then on Wednesday the Colonel got a call that meant we had to cancel our plans!  I was bummed since it was all planned about 2 months ago but flexibility prevailed and all reservations were moved to the end of September.  I’ve got something to look forward to as the days go by.

It seemed so odd to have nothing planned and a blank calendar for 4 days.  Add the rain into the mix and you would think I would have accomplished much on the home front.  Not so but a few other things filled the past two days including sharing some cute outfits with you below.

Some dear friends invited the Colonel and me to their club for happy hour followed by dinner to celebrate the Colonel’s birthday last night.  The man shies away from all celebrations but he went and had a fine time.  I had gotten the blue dress below for Key West so I was glad to have an excuse to wear it last night.  The dress was a steal at White House Black Market during their summer sale.  The navy lace jacket came from my favorite local boutique, Jennifer’s.  The store has been in Fort Myers for over 30 years and caters to women ages 35+.  The staff is wonderful and the pieces in the store are unique and practical.

White House Dress

The girls in the store suggested that I also wear the navy lace with dark jeans and a black tee.  It worked!  I’m also wearing Vaneli kitten heels I had purchased at Jennifer’s last spring.  They dress up many outfits.

Jennifer’s

This casual “athleisure” outfit is from Jennifer’s too.  It’s light weight for our Florida weather and perfect for this rainy day.  She has similar outfits in the store now too.

Maybe the sun will shine tomorrow.  Hopefully there’s a good Hallmark movie on tonight!  Wishing all of you sunshine…and happy shopping!

Aug 26

A Retired Professor Has A New Theme

Hello, dear friends!  What do you think of the new blog look?  I thought that the site need a brighter look and I like the happy feel I get when I see the blue and green colors!  I posted a new welcome picture taken this summer when I visited Boca Grande.  I think the new look will motivate me to share some stories about travel, my addiction to fashion and some good reads.  I’ll be back soon with more news.

Apr 25

Run to Talbot’s for Summer Fun

RUN, don’t walk to Talbots this week before all of their new cute summer line is gone!  It has a tropical feel that will be just right for my upcoming trip to my happy place for my birthday, South Seas Island Resort on Captiva Island.  I am also going on a family cruise later this summer on Harmony of the Seas.  So, I couldn’t resist these tropical cuties.  No time to take selfies of the outfits but trust me on this one.  Nice discount now too.  Happy shopping my friends!

Outfit #1.  Loved this white embroidered top.  It can also be worn off the shoulders but I will probably pass on that option because it would involve a strapless bra and continual tugging and checking to make sure the top stays in place.  The orange slacks are ankle length.

        

Embroidered top:  https://www.talbots.com/online/browse/new-arrivals/_/N-3321363485?intcmp=20170424_home_row1_newarrivals

Orange pants:  https://www.talbots.com/online/browse/new-arrivals/_/N-3321363485?intcmp=20170424_home_row1_newarrivals

Outfits # 2 & #3.  This darling tropical skirt can be dressed up or down.  The yellow top is a dressier version for a nice dinner out and the tee makes it casual with flip flops.  At first I thought the embroidery on the tee was a bit busy for the skirt but it looks great and brings out the colors in the skirt.  Love this!

           

Tropical skirt:  https://www.talbots.com/online/browse/skirts/_/N-10434

Yellow top:  https://www.talbots.com/online/browse/new-arrivals/_/N-3321363485?intcmp=20170424_home_row1_newarrivals

Indigo top:  https://www.talbots.com/online/browse/tees-and-knits/_/N-10537

Outfit #4.  I love white and navy together.  This is a trendy top but not so full that it is reminiscent of my maternity tops from way back when!  I will pair this with white shorts, white capris and white jeans.

Navy top:  https://www.talbots.com/online/browse/blouses-and-shirts/_/N-10157

What do you think of my choices?  Have you purchased any of the new line?  Leave me a comment.  Sign up on the right to get e-mail updates.  Promise there aren’t many.

 

Feb 07

New Reads in 2017

I belong to two different book clubs and this New Year my reading has been limited to the books chosen by those two groups.

The first book I read was The Nix by Nathan Hill.  This seems to be a book you either love or hate.  I have spoken to no one who is in the middle.  I took it on my Caribbean cruise and several passengers asked me what I thought of it.  Well, I’m in the group who would probably not read it again and really had to plow through it!  I found it hard to relate to the gaming sections of the book but that would appeal to a younger reader.  I found all of the information about the 1968 riots in Chicago upsetting and I had very little memory of them because I was busy finishing college and attended a very conservative campus!  With that said, the author is a master of mixing current day events and those of years ago to tell the story of Samuel and his mother and the events that shaped them.  The line that sticks with me is “That which you love the most will hurt you the most” or something like that.  The author does bring the events to conclusion and in a most interesting way but I do think he could have done it in fewer pages.

I recently finished The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy by Rachel Joyce.  Queenie is living in a hospice facility run by nuns.  Her neighbors in the facility are a bunch of interesting characters and they are all waiting for Queenie’s friend from her youth to walk across England to visit her.  The expectation of that visit keeps Queenie alive as she waits for his arrival and causes her to reflect on her life.  I must admit I really didn’t understand the letter writing thread in the book until the end!  Honestly, it was so obvious and the author had sprinkled the story with so many hints but I missed it.  Actually I’m glad I did because that added to the wonderful realization at the end of the book.  Nice light reading.  Touching story.  Loved this book.

Have you read either one?  Curious to know what you thought about The Nix.  Include a comment below.

Did you know you can subscribe to my blog and get an e-mail when there is a new post?  I promise it’s not that often!  Fill out the form on the side bar on the right side.

Feb 02

Spring Shopping at the Loft and Talbot’s

Our few days of winter Florida weather are finally over.  I got to wear sweaters two days in a row and put on sweats and socks in the evening to watch TV.  As a Floridian, I can say good riddance!  The sun is shining and it’s 80 degrees outside.  The sunshine and a sale announcement from Talbot’s lured me out of the house today and I must say I fell off the no shopping wagon and found a few things that will lead right into spring.

The Loft is hit or miss for me.  I walked past the Loft on my way to Talbot’s and the signage drew me inside.  The sale rack in the back of the store had this cute top calling my name.

Red floral henley blouse

I was able to get 25% off the marked down price.

http://www.loft.com/floral-border-henley-blouse/415913?skuId=22173522&defaultColor=3991&colorExplode=false&catid=catl000011

Talbot’s was offering 25% off all full-priced items through February 8.  So, not much time to get there, ladies.  The two items I found at Talbot’s speak spring to me and I can wear them right now.  Here they are with links to their online catalog.

Navy and white peplum top which also comes in red and white

https://www.talbots.com/online/browse/product_details.jsp?id=prdi41523&defaultColor=1976&N=10537&selectedConcept=

Striped shift dress in green

The link only shows it in navy but my store had it in this lovely spring green.

https://www.talbots.com/online/browse/product_details.jsp?id=prdi41338&defaultColor=5960&N=2069989720&selectedConcept=

 

Happy springtime shopping!  What have you bought lately?  Leave me a comment.

Jan 17

Windstar Cruises: Retirement Trip

As most of you know, I retired the end of April, 2016 and had wanted to take a retirement vacation.  After searching, comparing and convincing the Colonel that a small, boutique cruise ship would be perfect, we were off on January 5, 2017.  I love cruises and have been on several big ships but the Colonel didn’t want to be on a huge floating hotel with lots of people.  Some very good friends spoke highly of the Windstar fleet of smaller yachts and sailing ships so we decided to give them a go.  We were booked on the Windstar that sailed the Windward Islands from Barbados.  It was nothing short of wonderful.

We flew to Barbados from Fort Lauderdale, the day before the shooting there.  I swear, this was divine intervention.  We spent 2 days at the Accra resort before boarding the ship on Saturday.  Embarkation was easy and the ship was very easy to navigate.  The staff was excellent and we met so many interesting people.

Windstar Cruises are for those who just want luxury, 5 star food, time to relax and read and yes, take advantage of the daily drink specials with only 148 other passengers and 95 crew members.  No evening shows, tiny casino, one lounge, one dining room….all quietly elegant.  Best of all, when the wind was just right, the captain put up the sails and we glided through the water with little engine noise.

       

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ports of call included smaller islands that the big cruise ships could not visit.  Few shops in port but the scenery was breath-taking and the water was crystal clear turquoise.  We were each issued snorkeling gear to keep for the entire cruise.  Paddle boards, kayaks and other water toys were there for our use too.  While anchored in port, the back of the ship would be open and huge floats were in the water, tied to the ship, to sun upon.

      

The Piton Mountains near St. Lucia                                 Sunset at Sea

The pool deck was turned into the Candles Restaurant most evenings.  You could dine there once during the voyage under the stars.  The food was grilled on deck and the smell mingled with the salt air.  No upcharge for this experience.  We took advantage of this during our day at sea and found the steaks to be as good as or better than Chops or Ruth Chris.

We went zip lining in St. Lucia and after the first few runs, my heart slowed down and I enjoyed the ride rather than trying to slow myself down.  So glad we did that excursion!  I would try that sport again.

I came home relaxed, refreshed, happy and ready to face 2017.  I would go again on one of their ships because of the unstructured time, beautiful destinations and time to relax.  However, be forewarned that you will overly indulge and pay the price when you return.  I’m back at Orange Theory Fitness 3 mornings per week, walking at least 3 other mornings, wearing my Fitbit and paying attention to my steps, abstaining from adult beverages for a while and eating less!  My body is not happy!  Oh, but the payback is so worth it.

Here is the Windstar website.  Click on the word Windstar. Visit, dream and book a cruise with them!

 

Older posts «