If you are still with us you may have noticed a definite lapse in postings in the past month or so. That's because we've been traveling across America. We returned to Arizona to visit, stopping to see friends and family along the way, most of whom we hadn't seen since February 2005 when we sold our house and moved to Italy.
Our first stop (14 hours in one go, without stopping for the night) was Milwaukee, Wisconsin to spend a few days with our daughter and her husband. Jessica is stage-managing the entire season at Next Act Theatre www.nextact.org/index.html and was working on "An Interview with Paul Robeson." It was fun to see her in action and meet some of her friends and co-workers and it was evident that they all love what they do and put their hearts into it.
We planned to continue on after a few days, stopping in Denver but our original plan was diverted when we received word of a death in the family and returned to the east coast to attend the funeral of Bob's nephew who died accidentally. We wanted to be with Bob's sisters and their families at this difficult time.
We modified our plans, cutting short some visits and eliminating others. Even though we have no time restraints as far as jobs (we don't have any!) we had promised to be in Richmond, Virginia to go trick-or-treating on Halloween with our granddaughter. So back on the road we went, making it to Denver in about two days, stopping for the night in western Pennsylvania and again in Independence, Missouri, driving through Kansas - with a stop at the state capital in Topeka.
The best part of driving across the country is the ever-changing scenery. The highways along the east coast are lined with tall trees and the colors had started to change as we headed west. The mountains of Pennsylvania were sprinkled with reds, yellows and the brilliant orange colors of fall we missed all those years living in Phoenix. We got a very early start out of Washington, Pennsylvania, through West Virginia, Ohio, Indiana and Illinois. We spent the night in Independence, Missouri crossing over the Mississippi and the Missouri Rivers and watched the sun come up in gorgeous pink streaks over the green rolling hills of Kansas. We drove through the Flint Hills and saw a bit of the vast tallgrass prairie that still exists, unspoiled by modern civilization, were tempted to take the scenic road, but opted for the quicker highway route this time, with a promise to return when the wildflowers are blooming and we can take our time.
(We were informed by a blog reader that the Kansas Flint Hills was recently featured in a 22-page color photo spread in National Geographic's April Issue as a distinctive landscape.
Here's their Tourism Coalition's website: http://www.kansasflinthills.travel/ and a blog dedicated to promoting the area: http://flinthillsofkansas.blogspot.com/)
Eastern Colorado is flatter than the Rocky Mountain west side but as we approached Denver the bulk of that range appeared on the horizon, growing larger as we headed west. We arrived in Arvada, Colorado just west of downtown Denver, in the foothills, by Friday afternoon to spend the weekend with my sister and her girls. We got to see my niece Samantha all dressed up for her school's Homecoming Dance on Saturday and to just hang out with Maddie and Suzanne and walk around the very charming Old Town Arvada. It was hard to say goodbye, knowing it will be months before we see each other again but early Monday morning we were on the road again.
South of Denver taller mountain peaks glowed with the pink morning light, with silhouetted, purple mountains below. Rusty red mountains, fringed in green trees and shrubs, golden rolling hills contrasted against Black Angus cows and ranch houses filled our views. Driving through New Mexico the landscape was more rugged, painted deserts, terra cotta, with long, low mesas and sharp, craggy mountains. Outside Santa Fe a small town with a white adobe church perched above the highway, reminded me of the hill towns in Italy, small houses and buildings in browns, pinks, tans, spilling down the hillside.
Driving through northeastern Arizona, we stopped in Flagstaff for lunch and a little walk through this lovely town, home to Northern Arizona University at the base of the San Francisco Peaks and surrounded by pine forests. We have always enjoyed the laid-back, earthy ambiance of this college town.
Heading south into Phoenix, with population density growing the closer we came, the big sprawling metropolitan area that is the Valley of the Sun enveloped us. The next few weeks were filled with non-stop visiting and partying, lunches, dinners and afternoon chats with all our favorite people there.
One of the reasons we went to Arizona, besides going to see our friends was to visit our doctors and have all the well-checks and tests we hadn't had since we left for Italy so our days were also filled with this type of activity. We have pretty good health insurance but it's better (that is, it pays better) if we do these types of things in Arizona. It's a good excuse for us to visit friends and we were able to schedule everything in advance so it worked out fine. We spread ourselves around, two days here, three days there, so no one would get sick of us and we hope we were good guests and didn't get on anyone's nerves!
Thanks to our friend Janet who opened her home for a gathering of mostly former Willo friends and neighbors with a few special others included and it was great to catch up on everyone's lives. Sally and John, who had moved to Fresno, even drove down to attend. It was a little painful to see our old house but we were forewarned that the new owners had removed our meandering brick path along with the mature jacaranda tree in the front yard and the olive tree in the back. The house looks the same but the landscaping is so dramatically different (my wildflower garden is now just a grass lawn, sadly) it didn't look like my little house anymore. Life goes on.
Thanks also to Jeff and Janet who threw a party for our firefighter friends on another night. Both of these parties made it possible for us to see more people than we would otherwise have had time for and we appreciate everyone who came and all those who helped with the planning.
(FYI: the photos from the parties didn't turn out very good unfortunately, taken in the backyard, nighttime and all that so we decided to be kind to our friends and not post them!)
(to be continued: Traveling across the U.S. continued)