Sunday, March 29, 2020

Celebrating Future Travel Plans

It’s official: Anne and I have stopped traveling…for a while. We did cancel our April/May trip to Scotland because of the current health crisis. We are doing as good a job as we can of sheltering in place and keeping our social distance when we have to go out. We have gotten out a couple of times for golf (allowed)—good exercise and easy to stay away from others. But travel plans aren’t in our near future. Then again, when we cancelled our spring Scotland trip we did rebook for late August and early September in Scotland. Delta Airlines was very good about accommodating the change, including not making us pay a second time for upgraded economy seats on the new itinerary—something they didn’t have to do. We’ve also kept our plans for a trip to the Southwest in late September and early October.
That brings me to this post. In order to celebrate the future travel plans I’ve pulled up a couple of features from one of my travel stories books, The Rambling Adventures of a Traveler and Golfer (now out of print), with appropriate photos. I also include some of my favorite photos from previous Southwest trips. I hope you enjoy.

Scottish Robin

Larks Ascending

St Andrews from the Castle Course

Particularly in Ireland, but also in Scotland and Wales, we often see larks flutter and call high above the golf courses.  A small to medium-sized bird, larks sing in display flight to establish territory and attract a mate. Both Chaucer in “The Knight’s Tale” and Shakespeare in “Sonnet 29” mythologize the lark as standing for daybreak. In reality, the lark was often used as a fillings in meat pies.  Yum!  As golfers Anne and I love to see the larks flutter and sing, usually above the rough on links courses.  It’s not just that the lark has a lovely song or that they flutter beautifully above the course, a far stronger reason for our love is found in an Irish saying: larks only fly and sing when the weather is dry.  Poets love the lark, and...

Anne at Royal Aberdeen GC

"Ode to a Skylark" by Percy Bysshe Shelley

Hail to thee, blithe Spirit!
Bird thou never wert -
That from Heaven or near it
Pourest thy full heart
In profuse strains of unpremeditated art.

Higher still and higher
From the earth thou springest,
Like a cloud of fire;
The blue deep thou wingest,
And singing still dost soar, and soaring ever singest.

In the golden lightning
Of the sunken sun,
O’er which clouds are bright’ning,
thou dost float and run,
Like an unbodied joy whose race is just begun.

     ...golfers rejoice when the lark sings. 

Macrihanish Dunes GC

Bad Kimberley!

Kimberley Inn in Findhorn, Scotland

All day while playing golf at the wonderful Moray Old GC in Lossiemouth we’d been looking forward to our dinner at Kimberley Inn on the bay in Findhorn.  When we got there we were met by an infestation of flies--really bothersome flies!  The owner came into the pub area with a rolled newspaper and started swatting flies on every table.  Swat...Squish...Swipe...Swat...Squish...Swipe!  After killing the buggers he did make a feeble attempt at cleaning up the carnage.  While this is going on our food arrived.  We had ordered our usual seafood chowder and garlic cheese bread.  The chowder, the specialty of the house, is usually outrageously delicious, overflowing with a variety of local seafood (including langoustines, scallops, haddock, and more).  Today it was watery and lacked both seafood and flavor. It was one of the worst chowders or soups we’ve had anyplace.  The garlic cheese bread was good, but the screaming of wounded flies was quite off-putting.  Was it a new owner, a new cook, or just trying to get by on the cheap?

Findhorn Bay with the tide out.

Boat Hulls in Findhorn Bay

Note: We have since heard that Kimberley's has been improving, so there's hope in any bad situation.

Photos from the Southwest

     I feel a real affinity for America's Southwest for a couple of primary reasons: my Native American roots come from the area as my grandmother was Native American and Mexican from the area near Durango, CO, and the entire area is a photographer's dream. When we travel back to the Four Corners region there are several things we look for, but in no particular order:

     The doors and windows in the adobe architecture found around Santa Fe and Taos, NM, 

     The elegance and simplicity of churches sometimes hundreds of years old.

St Fransisco de Asia Church, Ranchos de Taos, NM

Church in Arroyo Seco, NM

          Ancient Puebloan or Anasazi ((old Native American) sites. 

Cliff Palace at Mesa Verde National Park

Bandelier National Monument, NM

Hungo Pavi Pueblo in Chaco Canyon National Park, NM

Great Kiva of Chetro Ketl, Chaco Canyon Nat'l Park

     We like hunting up the rock art (petroglyphs and pictograms) left by the Anasazi and other native peoples.

Canyon wall outside of Moab, UT. Filled with rock art.


     We enjoy chances to see the local flora and fauna.

Coyote and Mountain Goat in Rio Grande Gorge

Wildhood Farm near Truchas, NM.

     And everywhere you look is engaging scenery just waiting to be photographed.

Fajada Butte, NM

Box canyon off Nine Mile Canyon, CO.

Assignment: While we're all hunkered down fighting the good fight and probably finding we have time on our hands (as well as soap and water or sanitizer), take a moment to send me an email telling me what you think of the stories or photos in this or my other posts. It will give you something else to do and it will help me. ThanX

Next: Who knows, but what Anne and I want you to know is that we hope you stay safe and come through our current health and economic crisis as strong or stronger than before. And if we can help you in any way, please let us know. Slainte! (Scottish/Irish for "to your good health")

Tuesday, March 10, 2020

A Travel Blog about No Travel

Anne and I had a trip planned to the Grand Canyon and Las Vegas for the middle of March—it was one of the trips we postponed because Anne couldn’t fly for a while after her ear surgery (which went fine). The Canyon would be cold, but we’d get some golf in Vegas. Then, along comes the coronavirus COVID-19. And if what’s happening worldwide isn’t enough for concern, the cases in Kirkland, WA, and in Lake Oswego, OR, brought the disease much closer to home. At first we weren’t panicked, and we still aren’t, but being in the group that gets hit the hardest by this virus—over 70 with underlying health conditions—made us take a longer look at our two planned spring trips: Grand Canyon/Vegas in March and Scotland in late April and May. There’s nothing saying we have to cancel or change either trip, but we are firm in our resolve not to jeopardize the Scotland trip. Our final decision came down to how safe is was or wasn’t to be in Vegas with millions of other tourists from all over the world carrying who knows what bugs with them. 
We got all reservations for the Las Vegas trip cancelled without losing anything except what we paid for upgrade economy on Southwest Airlines. We know others who are wrestling with the same kinds of dilemmas. Deciding to cut our last fall southwest trip short because I was so sick was a no brainer. This current decision, though, was much more difficult. Were we giving in to media hysterics or would the planned trip be overly risking. From my position on the sled behind my sled dog team, I had great hindsight, but I doubt I’ll ever really know if we are making the correct choice of travel plans to not travel to Vegas.

With no trip to Grand Canyon, Red Rocks, Valley of Fire, and Vegas, that leaves me searching for a new post for the blog. I think I found one that has several benefits for me and will I hope be interesting to you. As a part of my photography workflow I store what I consider to be my best or most useful photos in categorized albums (castles, churches, landscapes, seascapes, street photos, etc.). This post will include two photos with comments not previously used for the blog from twelve different categories. For me this exercise first, gets me back in touch with some neglected photo gems. Second, it shows me how much improvement I’ve made from earlier photos. Third, it tells me how much improvement (a lot) I still need to be making in my images. And lastly, it is great fun looking back at photos from trips ten or more years ago. I hope you get some fun out of seeing these previously unseen images. Nothing here will be very significant, but I had fun putting it together—and after cancelling travel plans and worrying about health issues, fun is what I needed.

 Castles - lived in or ruins
Aughuanure Castle in Oughterard, Co. Galway, Ireland. The castle was owned by the  Chieftan of the O'Flahertys, but the guide, an O'Toole, kept referring to the castle as his castle.

Balmoral Castle in the Scottish Highlands is the summer residence of the royal family. The castle  was a very special place for Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. It can be toured in the spring, when the Queen isn't in residence.

Domestic Animals
I have no idea why this Scottish sheep is this color, but there was a whole flock of them. I wouldn't mind a sweater of that color though.

This ewe and lamb look lost, but then we saw them when we were lost in the fog in Dartmoor National Park.

Poor advertising in the Scottish highlands. The next year this sign was replaced with one which read,  "Dull, Twinned with Boring, Oregon."

We're trying to live by this.
The Bothy on our club, St Fillans Golf Course, voted the Best 9-Hole Course in Scotland 2019. A bothy is a basic shelter usually used by farmers and shepherds. In Scotland many bothies also served for making illicit whisky.

The village of Culross in central Scotland is a National Trust of Scotland village maintained as it was in the 1700s.
Bugs, Insects, Small Critters
I saw this vicious looking thing on my fence one day. I have no idea what it is, but I'm glad I had long range macro lens.

This mantis crawled or hopped up on my golf club bag one day at our course. He stayed with me for about two holes and then tired of my poor swing.
Arches National Park
At Arches National Park in Moab, Utah, are many interesting rock formations. I don't know if this one has a name, but "Balance Rock" sounds good.

This formation is called Courthouse Rock and it's particularly nice at sunset.
Trwyn Du lighthouse or Penmon lighthouse is on black Point peninsula on Anglesey, Wales. At low tide you can often walk out to the lighthouse, but it's a tough walk over or through tidepools.

Anne got a picture of me putting on a hole at New Moray GC and Moray Firth in Scotland. It's one of our favorite places to play golf. I probably missed the putt.
Dogs, Cats
We had sled dogs (Siberian Huskies) for 15 years and raced them for about twelve. Gromyko of Kolema Creek (Myko) was our second dog and my favorite--always a hard worker, a lover, and a great backpacking companion.

Queenie was queen of the B&B we lived in Scotland until it was sold. She was known for wrapping up in our blankets, crawling into our suitcases, and her lady-like manners.
Churches, Cathedrals, Religious Sites
Clonmacnoise (Cluain Mhic Nois in Irish) is an ancient religious complex in Co. Offaly, Ireland on the Shannon River. The complex's stone structures are as old as the 9th century. Clonmacnoise is known for it Irish High Crosses and round towers.

I love this view of the cloisters at Fountains Abbey three miles from Ripon in North Yorkshire. Founded in 1132 this Cistercian abbey was used until dissolution by Henry VIII in 1539.
Meals, Food
On Sept. 12, 2001, the day after the 9/11 attacks, we visited the Myrtle Inn in Callander, Scotland, for a bite of lunch. There we met this nice lady having her one meal a day out. She was extremely concerned for us and kept asking if there was anything she could do for us. Little did she realize that her concern was one of the best things anyone could have done.

On the way to golf in Blairgowrie, Scotland, we stopped at a Scottish version of a drive-thru for a cup of coffee. We'd seen it at this farm before, but the next time we came by it was gone.
Shops, Shopping
This fishmonger set up at Nairn Harbour had some interesting items for sale. The real hit for dinner was brown crap claws with pasta. I guess the closest we have now to this kind of shopping is Swan's home delivery.

Here I am wishing and dreaming outside a watch shop in the Shambles area of York. Just think about having to change all those watches on Daylight Savings Day.
Street Photos
Street photos are grab shots which daily life in towns or villages. Here I had Anne pretend to focus on me, when I really wanted a shot of this interesting couple outside a tearoom in St Ives, southern England.

I thought I'd stick with the coffee shop/tearoom theme and show another grab of a couple in an English coffee shop. It seemed like an interesting first date where I got the feeling there wouldn't be a second.

CRASS COMMERCIAL ANNOUNCEMENT: My third update of Golf in Scotland: The Hidden Gems has just been finished and is on sale on Amazon. I would show you a picture of the cover, but I haven't even received my copies yet. 

NEXT: We are taking a short hop to the coast for a couple of days and flowers should be nice soon, so maybe I'll have someone interesting for next time.

Saturday, February 1, 2020

The First of 2020

Sea Lions on the Salishan Spit

It’s difficult to write a travel/photography blog when I’m not traveling and/or not taking pictures. This winter is one of those where things seem to get in the way of travel and photography—weather, family matters, health, etc. It’s been so long since the last post that I actually had somebody ask if there was going to be a next blog [Thanks Abbie.] This post will actually include some details (mostly about places to eat) of a recent three day trip to the Oregon coast and a selection of some of my favorite images that I haven’t shown before.
Newport and Florence. We found a four day/three night window for a trip down the coast starting with two nights in Newport followed by one night in Florence. It rained hard most of the first day 

and we hunted up some inside things to do. We did have a nice visit to Robert’s Books in the old Nelscott section of Lincoln City. 

This is one of our favorite bookstores and almost every coastal trip includes selling and buying of books at Robert’s. We did have lunch at the the Newport Cafe on the main drag through town (Hwy 101). It was the first time we had been there and it was so good (absolutely delicious fried oysters) that we went back for breakfast on our last day. 

After lunch we managed to get enough dry time to go out to the lighthouse on Yaquina head for a few pictures, 

but it was so windy and misty that only a few pictures were worth keeping. Dinner was at a local pub near the lighthouse, 

Szabo’s Seafood and Steak House. Szabo’s has had a good reputation for quite a while and lived up to it’s reputation this night. The special was a great dish of spaghetti and meatballs for $10.99.

The next morning we met our nephew Jon who lives in Newport for breakfast at the Coffee House on Bay Street (the harbour). Good breakfast and coffee, but better visiting time with Jon.  It was again stormy without being photogenic and we ending up spending a good deal of time in the local casino without going broke. Dinner was a light meal in our Worldmark condo unit at Scooner’s Landing. Our last morning in Newport was our second visit to Newport Cafe and a leisurely drive to Florence looking for possible photo stops without much success  We had better success with a coffee stop in Florence, 
Bridge in Florence over the Siuslaw River

The River Roasters, where we visited with a fellow writer for an hour. The shopping in Old Town was so good we had to make a stop at our parked car to drop off several jars of stuffed olives to take home. The best, though, was lunch at Lovejoy’s Tearoom near the Florence harbour. The tearoom had been recommended by friends Judy and John and was the find of the trip. 

Lovejoy’s is a quaint British-style tearoom with excellent lunches (I had sausage rolls and salad) and great service. After such a pleasant lunch, a later dinner at one of the local restaurants was just okay. 
Florence harbor at night

Since we were staying at the Three Rivers Hotel and Casino (good room, great price) and since we didn’t lose in the casino, we didn’t let the weak dinner bring us down.
The last day of the trip started at The Brown Hen in Florence, always a great place for breakfast, and ended with a long non-stop drive back to Canby. It was only three days and there weren’t many good photo ops, but we at least got in our first trip of 2020.

Some Favorite Photos.

1. Anne at the Tay River, Dunkeld, Scotland. The Tay is an outstanding fishing river and the bench is on the grounds of Dunkeld Cathedral.

2. Branklin Gardens in Perth, Scotland, in the fall. Branklin is a two acre garden inside the city and it always has something in bloom. We visit every trip.

3. Buchan Ness Lighthouse on Scotland’s east coast. Built by Robert Louise Stevenson’s father, the lighthouse is automated and the keeper’s cottages are now rented out as self-catering. We’ve stayed twice.

4. Buzz, our jeep-tour guide in Canyonlands National Park. He didn’t jump, but the cliff is where Thelma and Louise went over the edge.

5. Trees and the Kootenay River in Canada. Two years later and the entire copse was gone.

6. Anazasi (Ancient Ones) dwelling, Pueblo Bonita in the Chaco Canyon settlement. At one time this pueblo consisted of more than 600 rooms.

7. This scene was one of my favorite images from a three day stay in Rottenburg, Germany.The lady smiled at me and went about her gardening.

8. In the village of Glencoe in the Scottish highlands I saw this door and couldn’t resist taking several photos.

9. The Glenfiddich Distillery (Scotch whisky) is one of the largest in the world. This series of pot stills produce 10 million liters of single malt whisky a year.

10. This is an abstract image from an arch in the Saint Francis Cathedral in Santa Fe, NM. All the church is lovely, but I was most attracted to some of the details.

Bonus Photo: Kilchurn Castle at the edge of the Highlands in Scotland. The castle is surrounded on three sides by Loch Awe and there's a quarter mile path to the castle on the fourth side.

In Memory of my sister-in-law Beverly Jean (Holweger) Stryker, who loved seagull photos:

NEXT: Hopefully we’ll be traveling soon.