Famous Last Words…Lets try a new Route

An added bonus to being married to a law enforcement officer who is familiar with every street in town is you never have to question what roads you are taking or why. He can visualize every intersection, street name, local business or landmark and map out in his mind exactly where the location under discussion is with pinpoint accuracy (sometimes with stories of having been to said locations to respond to calls there).

A few days ago he announced that he had a county road in mind he wanted to explore on our way to a neighboring town to have lunch at our favorite deli. Pondering this with some curiosity as to the “exploring” part and what that entailed, but still hungry and ready to get out of the house, I said let’s do it. We live on a county road but I do take pause sometimes as some are more traveled than others.

We piled into my Highlander and began our scenic drive. We ventured onto dirt roads surrounded by endless winter prairie views, rolling hills and the occasional hilltop rock formations. Occasionally I would be surprised with small clusters of homes further out from where I thought residential areas would have stopped. But everyone likes their privacy to varying degrees and the further out you go, the more savvy folks are at not needing to get to town every weekend and being without convenient services.

The county road thought to be the scenic route to lunch in the next town.

Then we lost all cell service. Not the end of the world for this part of the country, but I was paying more attention to where we were now.

After a few moments we passed a random set of train tracks seemingly in the middle of nowhere with a lonely train car covered in graffiti. He mentioned he had been called to recently to manage the “artists”. It’s moments like this I look around the miles and miles of isolation and imagine my spouse out there with no connectivity with dispatch and only his wits and training to keep him safe dealing with sometimes unruly individuals. I have these thoughts a lot.

As we kept motoring on wondering if we were indeed on the right path, I began to check our gas levels out of the corner of my eye. He caught me and confirmed “we are fine”.

The road took us to a dead end after another fifteen minutes of travel.

Because my father trained his daughters in the value of always having a road map despite whatever technology is out there, out came the ancient Rand McNally spiral book of all highways in the United States from under my seat. We checked ourselves and of course, this county road map appeared in the faintest of gray lines on the well-worn map near to where we were. Back we turned to see where we missed it. Of course nothing had a clear sign posted anywhere.

Signage would just be too practical.

Another fifteen minutes and we found ourselves on the correct country road next, despite the no trespassing signs posted on both sides of the road. My husband assessed carefully and determined this was indeed the right road but the owner of the surrounding land has posted signs to keep people off the land, rather, while the road was free to travel on.

Honey, are we sure we are on the right road?

We passed beautiful ranching properties and then we began to climb into muddy and higher ridges. This is where the warning signals and instinct began to kick in as while a Toyota Highlander is a fantastic SUV for meandering about, it does have its limits when dirt becomes muddy and a larger and heavier truck would be better suited.

Thus the marital questions began: “Are you sure this is the right road?” and “On a scale of 1-10, what is your confidence level that we’re on the right path?” and so forth. We finally pulled up over the highest point on the hill we were driving and were faced with a small overflow of water covering the way and snow as far as the eye could see thereafter. Clearly no one had been that far in ages.

And in true husbandly fashion, as that the situation now pointed with certainty to a no-go of the situation, he announced we were not going to make it and turned us around to re-start the trip back again to return to the traditional highways. Thus another forty-five minutes back to the paved world and the roads we knew. Having lost all interest in the deli now at least an hour away west, reverted to a closer restaurant thirty minutes away east. I think we made it to lunch around 2 or 3 o’clock at that point.

I gave him a hard time about this one, but true to his word, we did get to tour some beautiful land and we did find out where it led to. (And in fairness to the hubs who is knowledgeable in all things outdoors and safety-related, he would never take us anywhere unsafe – this was a fun drive now that I’ve seen where it leads to and what land it covers). Hopefully in spring we’ll try again and see the rest of this mystery road when it’s fully passable. I will absolutely be posting those pictures because it looked gorgeous!

And we will be taking the truck.

The Book and Bee – Hendersonville, NC

Tea and literary lovers unite, there is a food temple for our people in Hendersonville, North Carolina! On my last trip to the Tarheel state, my mother had been telling me about this little gathering place that served the most delicious meals and was buzzing with interest from the locals: It’s called The Book and Bee.

We arrived with the first snowflakes for brunch.

My mother, my sister, my niece and I decided to venture out in the cold to have a ladies’ brunch before the forecasted snow arrived that day. The fellas? They went to a hot dog restaurant, naturally. The flakes were starting to fall as we drove the short distance to the restaurant. Having seen the parking lot packed the day before, we got there early.

The stairs catch your eye right away like a beacon to bookworms everywhere: Come in, take a load off and be with your own kind. Being a warm-blooded creature though, I didn’t beat around the bush: I took the picture of the stairs and quickly navigated indoors.

The food smells were heavenly and the entire place is decorated with, and serving beverages from, teapots and tea cups galore.

The grilled cheese served with fruit and peach tea.

You may or may not be the biggest fan of tea served from actual china tea cups, but there is something cozy, maybe even a little magical, about sitting down with your gal pals (or buds) and being served your own personal pot of tea, complete with warmer, and little bee hive honey containers. All that was missing was my own personal recliner with a lamp and a pile of books by the fireplace in their main dining room. And yes, there is a big fireplace.

The Book and Bee is definitely not a gimmick eatery garnering interest on the décor and marketing alone. I ordered a grilled cheese and it was divine. I mean! I was admittedly and hopelessly lost in my own world of peachy warm tea, yummy mixed cheeses grilled perfectly on fresh bread along with fresh fruit.

Bookmark this one for me, I’m coming back on my next return trip.

And I’m ordering the grilled cheese.

Missing Home

Like most who have been using smart phones and high speed shutter cameras for several years, I have the equivalent of the junk drawer of photos on my computer. Laptop after laptop, year after year, the “to sort” folder of digital photos has grown regularly. Now and then when I need something mindless to do, I’ll roll up my sleeves and begin sorting the important ones into dated folders and deleting others. There are still thousands to go, undoubtedly.

Occasionally, in doing so, a gem will be seen again that brings me a smile. This one has been on my screen most of today just because of the beautiful day when it was taken and how much I miss the people in it: My parents.

This was a day where my husband and I had flown home to visit my family and see some of the best fall photo spots around town. We had been enjoying a location known for waterfalls and were strolling down the path heading to the next viewing spot. Seeing my mom and dad walking so casually with not a care in the world is something that makes me very happy.

Like most people who live far away from home and have been separated due to travel and health concerns, we’re nearing the point soon where 2nd dose vaccinations mean confidence that coming home through multiple airports will not be quite the risk it once was.

Light is at the end of the tunnel – and it looks very much like this photo.

A Little Piece of Heaven on Earth


For our second anniversary we re-visited a favorite location in the Vedauwoo Recreation Area near where we live in Wyoming. My husband found this beautiful “crow’s nest” on top of a rocky hill and knew of it before he took me up there to camp one night. It is truly one of the most beautiful places I’ve been yet in my life and it’s our favorite spot to be.


The camp site is like a bowl, surrounded by boulders and rock formations on all sides. At night, the wind can absolutely howl at this height. But we were there to watch the sun set and it was perfect, with just a slight movement of air (not even a wind) now and then. Sunset and sunrise here are magical hours.


Everywhere you look, it’s a scene to be photographed. It’s important though, to put the camera down now and then and just take it in as God intended. On hiking up to the top this day, I took all the photos I wanted and then did just that. Put my camera away and sat with my husband taking in the views and roasting marshmallows.


I find the trees and dead wood make their own composition just as strikingly as the far away views of mountains and plains. There is something interesting to see at every turn.


My husband is a tireless worker and is always busy. His happy place is being outdoors and I love to see him relax when we venture here. It’s different when you’re somewhere that has quiet like this place. Even I feel it when I arrive. You are compelled to not talk so much, to sense everything around you differently and you just are different. It’s the re-set that happens when you’re in nature. It’s how we should be, but how we forget to be.


On the way up the trail to get to the crow’s nest, we stumbled right into this pair of bull moose. They were happy to be left alone and continue to munch around the underbrush. (They seemed to realize we didn’t pose any threat but they kept a wary eye on us and never got too close).


Once we had made it up to the crow’s nest, we caught sight of them again; this time much farther away but still on the move on a neighboring hilltop.


There is abundant birding up here as well. We just had to sit still and watch around us and birds were everywhere, flitting this way and that, making final runs for food and what not before the sun set.


This one seemed to set a reverie of evening light and stillness as it perched calmly in this tree. It was as if it knew the day was ending and it wanted to take it all in before retiring.


It’s our little piece of heaven on earth. No better way to spend a special day 🙂

A Palmetto State Vacation (Day 3)

Magnolia Plantation & Gardens: On our last day of vacation after the previous day, we started off at what was my top pick of places I wanted to see (based on the brochures).

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As someone who is happiest slowly exploring all that nature’s flora and fauna have to offer, Magnolia Gardens was at the top of my list. We elected not to tour the actual house as we were trying to fit in both the gardens here as well as another plantation later in the day.

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The gardens were expansive, including swamps, waterways, gravel pathways lined by specimen trees and flower beds and a variety of other unique elements. I could have likely posted a gallery of 30-40 floral shots; there were flower beds and gardens galore.

When walking the many trails through the gardens, the trees were the epitome of Southern beauty. You can’t help but just look up and enjoy the visual feast.

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A memory that brings a chuckle is the several alligators we encountered while walking. There are swamps here: Where there are swamps, there are gators.

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They kept to themselves mainly, only venturing near if an edible target was close by in the way of frogs, turtles or such tasty morsels. Most of them were small.

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I can just imagine if I lived here I’d be seated on the banks of the small lakes and water features every day just taking it all in (being mindful of the alligators of course).

Being the epic Southern plantation gardens it is, beauty and flowers abounded (magnolias included).

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Everywhere we walked, there was a small scene happening in every corner or outcropping.


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The sense of tranquility here translated to the tourists. Despite having a large number of visitors strolling about, it was still very quiet.

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Who doesn’t want a red bridge flanked on both sides by planers of overflowing flowers in their own back yard?

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Walking pathways went on and on in a chain of discovered serendipities!

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Ok, really, I could just build a little cottage for us right here on the water.

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It also just so happens that Magnolia Gardens has a petting zoo of a myriad of local animals, including several peacocks!


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The stillness was a welcome respite.

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My favorite part of the entire day at Magnolia Gardens was the Audubon Swamp Garden (of all things, a swamp!?).

We tackled this last and I had small hopes. It was the high point in the afternoon. It was hot. I was tired. I had sweat through my shirt and hat. And we still had another place to go after Magnolia this day. And it said “Swamp” on the sign.

But truthfully, though, this was the best part.


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The turtles were equally entertaining as they were brave, given that they sunned themselves with the constant threat of nearby alligators.

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This one kept floating lazily in circles around the bases of trees in the water, waiting for any fledgling birds to topple out (none did while we were there, thank goodness).

The birds though! One section of the swamp was just teeming with rooks, herons and a myriad of other local birds. The constant calls of mates to one another and chatter of juveniles hungry for the next arriving parent to the nest were a continual musical of swamp banter. Trees jutting out of the water contained no less than 5-6 large nests each. It was a wonder to watch.

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Most of the trails through the swamp were heavily shaded and simple to follow. We found a perfectly-placed bench right by the water and settled in to watch and listen.

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The swamp garden was a bird watcher’s delight!

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And speaking of all things related to birds, who knew Audubon himself frequented the plantation so often?

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As we exited the property to the parking lot, we passed by this petite little house surrounded by a small but thriving garden center. On pausing to read the sign by the path, reading this endearing story was our last piece of the plantation. Somehow the story of Grandma Tena was just right, even to a stranger.

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It’s nice to think that everyone who passes by sees her picture and can read this story.

Boone Plantation: We ended up our day, and our vacation, at Boone Plantation on the last of our tour days before we flew out the next morning. On arriving onto the property, imagine having this for your driveway! It took over 200 yrs for the oak trees to manage to arch over to one another.

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We had just finished a full day at Magnolia Plantation and were pretty worn out and had reached our maximum sun exposure for the most part. We elected to tour what I was mostly interested in: The gardens of course!

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When the husband asked what I wanted to see here, I asked just to see the gardens and grounds. We had been running full tilt at this point for three days and were also nearing the max point of comfort for how much we had been in the sun this day.

Our first point of exploration was a butterfly garden held within a small, netted structure. It contained a plethora of tropical plants and local flowers complete with fountains (but the fountains were unfortunately being maintained and had been drained while we were there).

The gardens, while much smaller vs. Magnolia Plantation, were worth the drive over.

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My lens might have been overused a bit, snapping pictures of nearly everything in bloom. It’s a bad habit I have when around growing things. But how beautiful the colors are!

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We rounded up the day by taking a tractor-pulled wagon narrated by tour guides of the entire plantation. The wagon was covered by a tarp, and was very much the shade we needed at this point. Unfortunately, the ride was a bit bumpy so I elected to simply sit back and listen to the history. But I did walk over and snap a picture of these older tractors on display near the area where we waited for our tour.

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The plantation still serves as an events center and houses polo horses.

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It was a FULL three days with a day before to fly in and a day after to fly out. But it just goes to show how much you can fit in when on vacation. And even better, I got to see all these places with my favorite guy. ‘Til next time, South Carolina!


A Palmetto State Vacation (Day 2)

2019-05-18 Moultrie 1 Fort Moultrie: Carrying on after our first day of vacationing in the Charleston, South Carolina area took us to start day two at Fort Moultrie. I was really impressed at the museum that is situated across the street from the fort itself.

Firstly, it was a cool, dark oasis from the toasty trek that awaited us across the street at Moultrie. The staff were wonderful and welcoming to all who ducked into the building. The displays and information available strolling through the museum were really well done and engaging to all.

2019-05-18 Moultrie 12Most of what I saw while touring the museum gave a sense of wonder at how anyone stationed here back in the day functioned in the heat. You get an impression that it was sandy, hot and spartan. When you begin to contemplate having to manage huge cannon and ammunition in those conditions, it boggles the mind.

While in this place of imagination, I came upon this poster encouraging women to enlist in the Women’s Army Corps. While it seemed out of place being one of the few colorful pieces in contrast to everything else, it gave a nod to women playing a role in the non-combat roles available then.

Venturing outside to the actual fort, armed to the hilt with my wide-brimmed straw hat and 70 (yes, 70) SPF sunscreen, our first surprise awaited us. Evidently, Native Americans taken prisoner in the area then were relocated and imprisoned at Fort Moultrie. This included Osceola and on his passing, he was buried here.

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We likely could have spent much more time here, but as it was respectably hot and the sun was beating down, we made tracks from one site to another. This made investigating the many hallways and ammunition storage rooms a respite.

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Walking around the perimeter of the Fort is actually a nice stroll. It’s a comfortable distance and there is access to the shore you can head over to and the breezes coming in off the water were definitely appreciated.

There are interior structures and I was quite surprised with how cool the lowest level hallways and storage rooms were.

I found a small flower growing alone out of the exterior brick wall – an interesting little find among the cannon lined up and pointing out to sea.

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Can you even imagine having to put hands on and manipulate cannon as huge as these in the heat of the day here? No doubt they had a heck of a kick when fired.

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The views looking out into Charleston Harbor were really beautiful. I could almost imagine how many young soldiers stood in this very spot admiring the sea over the years as well. (Fort Sumter isn’t in the shot, but is just to the right of this view).

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Following my other half through the hallways and doorways.

2019-05-18 Hunley 1 The Hunley Project – A perfect indoor activity for the hot weekend was a tour to see the restoration of the Hunley submarine.

On entering the large facility that houses the restoration work and guided tours, we found a plethora of intriguing stories of the Hunley itself and the crews assigned to it. The staff who work and volunteer there were obviously passionate about this history and made our experience all the more engaging.

We could have easily spent hours here; its money well spent to visit and help support the ongoing work.

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Our tour guide mentioned that when it was first located, the Hunley carried over 10+ tons of extra weight due to concretion that had occurred to its frame over time while it laid on the ocean floor. It was relocated to a special tank that was filled with a special solution for years (and is still happening) to pull the salt out of it little bit by bit.

It’s amazing to consider that this huge tank (over 70,000 gallons) is filled and drained regularly to help release the salt out of the hull…for years. When the tank is empty, works are able to continue restoration.



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Some of the models were really impressive, showing what the Hunley would have looked like fully whole. Since everything on the submarine was hand-powered or manually operated, the explosive weapon was mounted on a lance on the front of hull that the crew could aim roughly and ram into a target.

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Seeing a visual representation of just how tight the quarters were for the crew to work in was fascinating. Seven men crammed themselves into a hull so small that even sitting upright was impossible. They sat in a row as shown in the model above and operated a hand crank that powered the submarine.

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A collage of photos depicting some of the restoration work before and afters.

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This map showed the mystery of the Hunley in as far as it’s intended mission to attack the USS Housatonic. It sank the Housatonic and then no one knows what happened to it. There are several hypothetical scenarios, but no clear evidence why it sank and why it ended up much farther out towards sea than where it was thought to have gone down.

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One of the final stories we learned on exiting the tour was Lt. George Dixon’s gold coin. The odds of a story like this one are amazing.

The Hunley project facility was one of the best things we did. The mystery of what really happened to this ill-fated submarine will likely never be solved.

Patriot’s Point

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What would be a visit to Charleston, without stopping by the USS Yorktown? We elected to come back here after taking off from the same point to ferry over to Ft. Sumter the day before. Having put in a solid day of touring around already, our visit here was admittedly short in comparison, but we already had an idea of what we wanted to see and where it was.

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This was my husband’s field of expertise. Being a bit tuckered at this point in the day and the heat, I might have unabashedly found an oasis in the shade standing under the wing of one of the aircraft.

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The story of Scrappy the dog was the most endearing short story to happen upon while walking among the aircraft, displays and photographs. It’s possible this may have been yours truly’s favorite part of the visit here 😉

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Next up, our final day 3 of our trip…

A Palmetto State Vacation (Day 1)

It has been far, far too long since we went on a vacation. Thus, a few weeks ago, we decided to simply book tickets and head to a mutually-agreed upon locale that would offer military history interest for the Mr. and flowers and nature for the Mrs.  Charleston, South Carolina it was!

We stayed in nearby Mount Pleasant which was only a short drive from historic downtown (and frankly, much easier to navigate when driving).

Fort Sumter

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Ft. Sumter from our incoming Ferry

Our visit to Fort Sumter was surprisingly interesting. I say surprisingly as I went along with my husband thinking I had the general knowledge of what occurred here and it’s place in history. As is the case with many historical sites one visits, there was much more to be learned.

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The first impression I had was how bare the fort was. After so many years of destruction and reconstruction, there are only brick walls and a small number of cannon. On one level it’s very much what you expect.

This Rodman cannon is massive. You could easily place a basketball into the firing end. The size of the entire body is mind boggling that it could even be manipulated, turned or maneuvered. I can’t fathom what it was like to fire.

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These brick passages offer some of the only shade against the relentless sun and heat.

The views of the expansive Charleston Harbor and open ocean contrast with just how dug in the soldiers must have felt, making their final stand in such a small piece of land.

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This illustration caught my eye depicting what the harbor might have looked like on the outside as well as the interesting viewpoint of how the siege may have been watched from Charleston.

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Historic Downtown & Rainbow Row

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We decided to try to fit in some walking around historic downtown Charleston in an afternoon. This was a weather-based and traffic-based decision as it was evident this day was the coolest day of our vacation and competition for parking would only get worse into the weekend.

For me, the real beauty of the historic homes were the doors, gates, gardens and details. The homes were gorgeous and obviously well-cared for, given their age.  But the details made the house. Diligent attention had been paid to each shrub, gate, light and entry way. Just beautiful.

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Naturally one can’t go to downtown Charleston and not see Rainbow Row. The trees, being Spring and all, hid parts of these lovely ladies. But their colors were true to every photo I’ve ever seen of them.

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The streets were quite narrow, and there was no room to stand back further to get a wider view. (Note to self: Buy a wider lens!). But it was really a pleasant scene with carriages coming and going, the sound of an ice cream truck tinkering along and these serene rainbow homes.

White Point Garden

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It was at this point in the day that this fair blogger had been in the full-on sun of Ft. Sumter half off the day, and had been walking in the hot rays in downtown after parking in a public deck. Shade was required. White Point Garden was the last on the day’s list as it was just a few blocks south of Rainbow Row. And the park was just perfect with the strong sea breeze coming off the harbor.

While we strolled around, we found historic statues and old cannon positioned outward toward the water. It was really such a perfect spot to end the day. Birds roosted overhead and chattered happily and it gave us the welcome shady respite needed to make the return trek back to the car.

Up next: Day 2…

A Fast Week Down Under

This week has me in Australia of all places, for work-related meetings. My typical work travel generally takes me to cities in the continental US, when needed. But this is a rarity to go to such a distance for my job.

A week may not sound like a quick trip at all, but it really is when it’s this far away. Coming out here I drove south into Colorado, and departed from Denver International which brought me to Los Angeles, California (LAX). Then it was on for the long leg of the trip overnight to Sydney, Australia. The week definitely felt like it was shortened from the start when I departed on a Sunday evening and arrived, nearly 20 hours later, on a Tuesday morning (time zone shift).

Nearly every moment of the week would be taken with either meetings, dinners with colleagues or jet lag, so it definitely would not be the most conducive trip to outings. This made me want to use the opportunities I did have to see what I could.

2019-02-19 Sydney 01On landing, I had expected to be so tired and out of sorts I’d want nothing else to do other than sleep. However on arriving in Sydney, after working my way through customs, I felt nothing of the sort. Energized, I taxied to the hotel I was staying at and showered for my first excursion. On walking out into the street with iPhone walking map in hand, I began to find my way towards my only “must see” of the trip: The Royal Botanic Gardens. Interestingly, these oddly billed birds were everywhere. Much like you’d see pigeons in US cities, I later found these to be the Ibis. Local teammates later filled me in that the ibis is a wading bird, but much like most wildlife, was lured to the bigger cities due to trash and the result of humans enticing it inland.

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Hyde Park is really a beautiful green space where I was staying with my team. It is filled with buildings, monuments, fountains and the most gorgeous and impressive trees I’ve seen yet in my travels.

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Being at the lunch hour, the park was filled with those taking in the day as well as those taking lunch from work. This was a pretty intense game of chess in the park that had a small gathering intensely following each move.

2019-02-19 Royal Botanic Gardens 01Now keep in mind, I’ve just left Wyoming where it was snowing and cold and dry. At this point in my first day in Australia, I’m walking in the heat of summer in a more humid region. It quickly came to my attention I was struggling. And it wasn’t any one particular thing, but a combination of registering the fatigue from an entire 24 hour period of driving/air travel, feeling like the air was dripping off of me and noticing everyone else in the park was huddled under any shade available. Thus, my tour of the gardens became more direct and guided by shade trees.2019-02-19 Royal Botanic Gardens 02

I do not know the history of this monument to the Australian Desert Corps, but I’m interested now to find out.

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The fountain looked and sounded so refreshing on this hot day, I could have easily been tempted to walk right in (though I’m pretty sure I would have been asked to leave).

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I took this photo of this monument not for the monument, but as an example of the many park-goers who took refuge under any shade they could find.

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The park gates were noticeably ornate and very stately. The full gates were actually wider than I’ve captured here in the photo, but there were large advertisements for garden activities on either side so I elected to snap only the middle section.

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As I mentioned earlier, the trees were just amazing. Larger, very healthy, and sprawling. Each variety was distinct and offered welcome respite on the many winding pathways throughout the gardens.

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Due to the heat, this was one of the few bunches of blooming flowers I could find. The park was still massively expansive and full of lush greenery, but it seemed to be a bit past the blooming season we might expect in the US spring time.

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The ornate rose garden reminded me of the type of presentation a historic English manor garden might have (which of course I’m sure is reflective of the English/Australian historical relationship).

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The rose garden design was really quite lovely, even if it was in the heat of the summer-to-fall transition.

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Trees like this one have surely made for fantastic hiding places for birds and small children over the years. What stories these trees must know.

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I did find an interesting treat in the conservatory building where a carnivorous plants show was available indoors. Granted indoors was still in a tropic green house, temperatures and all, but it was a bit more comfortable.

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Hanging bromiliad arrangements were something I was surprised to see among the jack in the pulpits and venus fly traps. (But they do indeed belong).

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The “creepy” fog effects were a fun touch with added plant glass sculptures.

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With so much greenery and standout arrangements, it’s easy to not look down and admire the tiniest of the botanic carnivores, yet there they were.

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Someone obviously spent significant time planning, growing and building the living wall as the backdrop for it all.

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More jack in the pulpits.

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And this hanging display I have no idea what it was – you can see some growths that resemble pitcher plants but I’d need to do some research to figure out what they are.

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You simply can’t have a creepy botanic carnivore display without fright night movie posters setting the theme in the hallways, naturally.

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Just on the outside of the building here, was a giant-sized display of cloth and metal structures of pitcher plants and fly traps that definitely did the job in attracting attention of passing tourists.

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After I made the return walk back to the hotel of roughly a mile, jet lag began to set in. Honestly I thought I’d arrived unscathed and had evaded the price we pay for jumping time zones, but I was not to win that battle.

I elected to take a “short nap” before meeting colleagues for dinner that night. The short nap became a 6 hour rest that I realized included 2 hours of sleeping with my alarm going off. This was NOT a pleasant wake-up either. This was a near head-ache, foggy-brained, what-happened-to-me-sleep. Needless to say, after earnest regrets, I declined the informal dinner and after ordering a quick meal via room service, fell into another long sleep.

Sleeping in was not to be had, though. This began my habit this week of waking at unholy early hours (the following morning, my day started at 2 a.m.) as my body worked to adjust to having lost an entire day in time zones.

With business meetings, come business dinners. Our team enjoyed a delicious meal of superb seafood at Nick’s Seafood in Sydney off Darling Harbour. It was open air seating and eating and afforded us a beautiful view to enjoy while we ate.

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After this lovely night on the harbor, work resumed and the next two days were non-stop. I kept waking up at 2-4 a.m. every day and there was nothing for it other than to do some work online until breakfast and then start the day. Evenings usually extended through 9-10 p.m. until I returned to my room to take a quick shower and fall into bed.

However on the last day (Friday), after the last of the meetings concluded, those of us who remained one more night due to Saturday flight departures elected to make a last-minute run to Manly Beach via one of the area ferry boats.

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We passed the famous Sydney Opera House which was still striking despite the foul weather that evening. It sprinkled on us off and on nearly all evening but nothing so much that we couldn’t keep on with our little self-guided food tour.

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The views from the Ferry were just beautiful. It almost reminded me of a modern, Mediterranean town somewhere remote. What isn’t captured in these photos is the impromptu storm we rode out on the ferry. Swells rose to such a height the captain brought everyone inside the boat to ride it out as best we could. A few faces did look a little green.

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Once the storm clouds began to clear the sail boats came out to race and enjoy the evening light.

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Evening seemed to last quite a while and it seemed everyone who had a boat was out in it. It made for quite the show for the ferries.

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The sun started to go down though, as it always will, and we made it to Manly Wharf and then the beach walk just in time for a few final pictures before the night fell.

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The evening was really quite comfortable and the air surprisingly didn’t seem to smell that salty. However it was a harbor after all so I’m guessing the actual ocean-facing beach probably had a bit more salt in the air.

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We noticed this restaurant on the main walking street that strongly resembled Burger King from the US, quite a bit. We even walked up to it and took a peek into the restaurant and even the menu and interior was nearly identical. Possibly the Australian branch of Burger King?

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On our way back from an amazing restaurant we ate at, the Manly Grill, the shops and eateries were lit up for late night business and kept our path illuminated.

Our group just barely made it back to the ferry wharf where the boat was waiting and we enjoyed a peaceful and swift trip back to Sydney where we all collapsed back in our rooms, packed our bags, and took off the next morning for the long flight back to the US.

A Warm Oasis in Winter Wyoming

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Cheyenne Botanic Gardens

I am a North Carolina gal now calling Wyoming home sweet home. I have embraced all things snowy, cold and windy without too much complaint. Of all the things I miss the most about the East Coast, #1 has to be the year-round greenery of grass and trees and the variety of common garden flowers found in most yards and commercial properties.

Today being a wonderfully quiet and free day, I decided to take myself to the Cheyenne Botanic Gardens here in Cheyenne, Wyoming. In the last several cities I’ve called home, I’ve always gravitated towards the local gardens available to the public. It was just what the doctor ordered for a typical day of freezing temperatures and whipping winds – a long morning walk in the sunny mist of a tropical oasis. One can’t enter the conservatory on the grounds of the gardens without seeing this beautiful, very big boot on display as you walk in.

It’s very much all that is Wyoming to see boots sitting outside public properties crafted by artists. In brighter light and contrast, the coloration appears like a large sculpture of stained glass.

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Artwork by Vickie McSchooler on display at the Botanic Gardens, Cheyenne WY

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Fairy Garden, First Floor

The first thing you see in entering the inner conservatory structure inside is a lovely fairy garden display. Simple, yet whimsically detailed, it’s easy to find yourself slowing down to look into every corner and over each pebble and leaf at the many intentional little corners and crevices where any fairies might venture from.

As you stroll further, the sound of trickling water soothes the soul and you are met with the most popular spot on the main floor: A larger corner of waterfall fountains that feed a small koi pond and stream. The whole area feels secluded being surrounded by thick and lush green plants and small trees. Most visitors saunter slowly throughout the three floors of the entire conservatory, but all (including yours truly) stop at this relaxing space to take in the visual feast for the senses.

Next, your feet and the pathway will take you to an open door that leads into a side room called a Theme Garden. Among other plants and growth, this tree trunk caught my eye. On further examination, it has been carefully planted with lightly affixed succulents. It’s so natural looking you almost have to do a double-take to realize the greenery is not moss or lichens. Someone spent considerable time on this, undoubtedly. Would love to try this in our yard someday.

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Second Floor Misters and Balcony

On taking the stairs (there is also an elevator) to the second floor, it was a pleasant sensation to walk into the misters being turned on briefly. Actually, these aren’t even “misters” per se. The spray and moisture are much finer than it looks. I stood directly under the falling moisture and I could hardly feel it. In a region that is as dry as Wyoming, it was a welcome experience. These misters are positioned all around the conservatory and high above across the angles of the ceiling. In fact, they help keep the place cool as well as moist. It’s not hot at all here. I toured the entire facility with a t-shirt, a fleece long-sleeved work shirt and an outdoor light jacket complete with a large SLR camera cross-body bag and I never felt hot.

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Second Floor Overlook

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Second Floor Quiet Space

A really great (and surprising) feature of the conservatory is that on the second and third levels, visitors find small cafe tables and chairs positioned quietly around the balconies. I imagine this would be a great place to come to with a book or your laptop to sit in the sun and light and breathe in the clean air and list to the water feature below on a lunch hour or a weekend day. It also allows you to sit and simply look and take in the entire space; a nice change of pace from continual walking. When was the last time you were able to stop and sit in quiet in a place you enjoyed?

Also on the second floor is an aviary gifted by philanthropists housing a variety of very tiny birds. It’s a popular pause-place (especially for little ones, thus the signage) and enables you to faintly hear these sweet birds singing and chirping as you travel the upper floors. The care that was taken to construct this habitat is obvious and even the branches dip and sway like real tree branches.

Despite it being late January, and everything outdoors being asleep and dried out for the winter, indoors new growth continues and can be seen everywhere. Nearly every plant or tree has some budding or new shoots of various types happening year round here.

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Flowering Maple, Second Floor

On reaching the third stairway entry (elevators reach this floor as well), the entryway before you re-enter the conservatory is lined with succulents and cacti. It’s fascinating to see more common household varieties as well as several I’ve never seen before. Likely these are better suited to the more dry, outer hallway, but sunshine and warm is abundant here as well.

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Entryway corner with general cacti and succulents

This area was also a calm and welcoming spot to sit and rest while taking in the third floor of the conservatory. The flooring of the balconies is grate-patterned (so heels are not advisable). The sunshine and comfortable quiet enticed me to sit for a while, enjoying the respite it provided both from the cold outdoors and from the noise (both literal and analogous to daily distraction). It certainly could be appreciated that this small space was surrounded by shelves of orchids and hibiscus which added an exotic aesthetic.

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Third Floor Quiet Space

Last stop on the third floor was a look at the bonsai on display. I noticed on the outside observation deck just outside this level, there is a seasonal “bonsai hut” but this seems to be the winter location for bonsai specimens being cultivated at any given time.

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Bonsai Display

As the walking adventure of the indoor conservatory ended, I elected to step outside briefly into the wind and cold to see what the outside observation deck offered.

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Variety unknown but beautiful!

I can imagine in the warmer months, this is a very popular place to gather with friends and enjoy the sunny Wyoming spring, summer and fall months. What a great spot to bring a lunch and grab some Vitamin D! (See the bonsai hut in the background).

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Outdoor Observation Deck, Third Floor

If you stand at the rail of the observation deck, you can overlook Sloans Lake which at present is frozen over quite well. We commonly see ice-fishing huts and set-ups on the lake when we pass by in the winter. In the far distance, you can just make out the local National Guard Airport.

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Sloans Lake, Cheyenne WY

This wonderful public garden and conservatory is a true oasis in the cold winter months. I’m so glad I took the time to visit. It’s free to visitors but there is a donation box at the entrance that should receive a few dollars on your visit, as it obviously takes a lot of effort and passionate volunteerism to keep a high-quality organization like this running. And that friends, is money well spent.