Favorite Travel Quotes

"Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts."
-- Mark Twain
Innocents Abroad

"Stop worrying about the potholes in the road and celebrate the journey." -- Fitzhugh Mullan

"A good traveler has no fixed plans and is not intent on arriving." -- Lao Tzu

Archive for the 'Janie's Journal' Category

MANY STORIED SANDS

posted: March 11th, 2008 | by:Bert

Kangaroo rat tracks

Kangaroo rat tracks

©Jane Gildart: Camping at Kelso Dunes in Mojave National Preserve is a delight. Three miles off the beaten road, there are no amenities, not even water. Just sand–an endless expanse of it. In other words, those who intend to stay need to plan!

But, the rewards are silence; desert flowers popping up everywhere; stars creating a heavenly smorgasbord of patterns; and the ever-changing light playing on the dunes. And, of course, there are the stories created by all the creatures that live in these 45-square miles of sand.

THE MORNING HERALD

Yesterday and last night a strong wind blew constantly. I woke early this morning, knowing that the lower sand dunes would be fresh, obliterating all old tracks of humans and mammals. It is kind of like looking at fresh snow before anyone else gets to see what’s there.

I knew that kangaroo rats (they hop) live here, as do coyotes and kit fox (the tiny fox with the large ears). Before long I spotted the trails of two kit foxes (maybe this is their idea of a date), going after a kangaroo rat. At one point I could see where the fox might have come to an abrupt stop, maybe playing with the rat.

The rat’s tail left a foot-long line in the sand near its hole, but it was hard to determine if the rat had escaped or had been grabbed by the pursuing kit fox.

Whatever, the fox had trotted off into the cactus area. Because kangaroo rats are so interesting, I wasn’t rooting for either. Simply said, it is all part of nature.

FLOWERS NOW EMERGING

If coyotes had been there in the night, we’d have heard their “singing dog” sounds, and maybe seen their tracks too. Kit fox tracks are smaller than those made by coyotes and all was silent in the desert except for the songs created by the wind.

Wild rhubarb

Wild rhubarb

It was fun to see what each mound of sand had to offer not only in the way of new tracks, but also in the way of all the now-emerging spring flowers.

But for awhile, it was all the tales the mammals had left during the night that so thoroughly held my attention-in these many-storied sands.

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Sunshine Skyway Bridge—Converting Tragedy Into Pleasure

posted: December 4th, 2006 | by:Bert

Janie Gildart: Several days ago, the Luhrs (our Airstream friends) packed up from Bay Bayou RV Resort to continue their travel odyssey. But before leaving the Tampa area, they invited us to spend one last nostalgic evening with them as they camped at the Skyway Fishing Pier State Park, which parallels the Sunshine Skyway Bridge.

Born from tragedy, the bridge is an engineering feat as well as a structural beauty. The original two-lane bridge was built in 1954 and became a four-lane bridge in 1969.

Disaster struck in 1980 when the bridge was rammed by a freighter (the “Summit Venture”) during a violent storm. 1,200 feet of the south span of the bridge dropped into Tampa Bay, along with a bus and several cars. Thirty-five people died.

Re-building was obviously a priority, as a solid bridge was necessary to span Tampa Bay, connecting St. Petersburg and Palmetto. The new bridge was completed in 1987, relieving the northbound portion of the old bridge from carrying all the traffic, as it had done following the accident.

Now you can behold the world’s longest cable-stayed concrete bridge at over 29,000 feet (5.5 miles in length), with the longest span of 1,200 feet rising to 193 feet above the water. The 21 steel cables supporting the roadway are painted yellow-gold (thus “Sunshine Skyway”) and are lit at night to continue the golden theme.

Unfortunately, the new bridge also has a tragic attraction. As with many other bridges and high places, the top of this bridge draws those attempting suicide and the sad statistics continue to rise. So much so that authorities are trying to implement the use of suicide-prevention techniques. Enough sad news…

One of the better outcomes of the new construction is that the engineers left the approaches of the old bridge at either end to be used as two, several-mile-long fishing piers; these are under the auspices of the Florida State Parks and are known as the North and South Piers, running nearly parallel to the new bridge.

You can pay $3.00 for an hour’s worth of sightseeing, or stay 24 hours for a bit more money. Those with campers are welcome to camp on the piers and this is what the Luhrs’ plan was; this is “the happening place to be.”

Here, on the south pier, fishing is apparently good (no license needed) and the bird life is plentiful. While we didn’t see any huge fish reeled in, we did see brown pelicans, egrets, terns and blue herons all seemed to be catching more than the humans with poles. A bait shop sits in the middle of the several mile-long pier and Nancy, the attendant, showed us various live baits and weights that usually work.

Many families were settled in for the weekend with all members throwing at least one line into the bay and everyone having a great time. Some children showed us the silver flashes of bait fish jumping in the dark waters.

As evening closed in and the pink sky grew black, we saw a manta ray swim by, followed by what appeared to be a huge crab migration. Where they were going and what kind of crabs they were remains a mystery.

After a fun, delicious supper we left the Luhrs and the south pier and now it was very dark. The tiny silver fish were still jumping, the crabs were still moving on, and the graceful bridge was lit brightly, pointing to the risen full moon.

It was a beautiful evening in a central Florida “happening place.”

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Tarpon Spring—Home of Sponges and Greek Food

posted: November 30th, 2006 | by:Bert

Janie Gildart: Welcome to Tarpon Springs, FL

Last night we joined seven friends for an outing in Tarpon Springs, located about 30 miles north of Tampa-St. Petersburg. There lies the bedrock of the world’s largest sponge industry. Adding to this intriguing come-on is a small street lined with incredible Greek restaurants. The town belongs to a group of Greek people who immigrated here in the early 1900’s to ply their trade of sponge diving and marketing.

One narrow, charming street off the strip-mall highway is where it all happens. The calm harbor on the Gulf of Mexico is a safe haven for a line of beautifully maintained Greek sponge-diving boats.

The street paralleling the harbor and docks is crowded with sponge stores (selling also shells and such items as olive oil soap), a sponge museum—and Greek eateries. Greek music spills into the street and groups of men and women gather to discuss life in their native tongue.

It’s Old World ambience at its best.Shop owners can’t wait to show you the various natural sponges. We found finger sponges, yellow sponges, flower pot sponges, a huge assortment for both decorative and practical uses.

Harvesting this primitive marine animal is quite a job. The sponge boats travel about eight miles out into the Gulf of Mexico where divers then spend hours selecting the proper sponges to be cut. No sponge smaller than five inches in diameter or height can be taken.

The sponge is pulled from its host, but a small portion is left in the sea, as the sponge will regenerate at the rate of two to three inches per year. Once a bag of sponges is on board the boat, processing begins by first taking off the skeleton, a porous membrane. Next the sponges are thoroughly washed and squeezed dry, then finally strung in bunches for buyers to choose the best for the markets.

“Sponges contain no bacteria,” one store owner said proudly. We couldn’t believe how soft the dry sponges were, especially compared to the commercial, plastic-wrapped ones we all usually buy. Oh yes, you can color the real sponges with food dye. The uses for these creatures of the sea are infinite.

After sponge browsing (and buying) it was off to the restaurant. We all chose something different—it was share time. Our selections included Saganaki, a flaming cheese appetizer (everyone must shout “Opa” as the waiter lights the cheese); calamari, gyros, dolmades, and on and on. Then…to the dessert! You know, the thing you gotta’ have lots of, then wonder why you did it.

We didn’t know so many varieties of baklava existed. Everything was truly delicious and probably horribly bad for the waist and cholesterol levels. But, when in Greece…

It was a fun-filled night and we think a return trip is in order, perhaps to take the short, daily boat tour for a sponge diving demonstration. I wonder how sponges will go over as holiday gifts this year?

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Twelve Trail Miles in Glacier National Park With Emma, A Six-Year Old

posted: July 10th, 2006 | by:Bert

With Kayaks, Mountain bikes, Backpacks, Daypacks, Walking Sticks, Fishing Poles—and an Airstream Travel Trailer

PURSUING PHOTOS AND PROSE

Bert Gildart: In part this is a story about a six year-old girl named Emma who may be one of the toughest little girls I’ve ever met. Emma is the daughter of Rich and Eleanor Luhr, and Rich is the publisher of Airstream Life Magazine. Currently, the Luhrs are parked in our driveway along with several other Airstream adventurers. They’re all friends that we’ve met in the course of our RV adventures and Janie and I had offered to show them the Flathead Valley.

Emma Running

Emma Running

Obviously one of the areas in the Flathead that everyone wanted to see was Glacier National Park, and because I once worked as a ranger in the park and have also written extensively about the park, they left it up to me to pick a trail that would be workable for everyone. My choice was the Highline Trail, a trail that leaves from Logan Pass, proceeds along a gorgeous segment of an area so lofty biologists describe it as the park’s Arctic Alpine region.

Billy Goat

Mountain Goat

For the first 3 miles the trail is fairly level, and Emma was adventure charged, stopping at small water falls to wet her face, at snow banks to laugh at goats lazing in the sun; and at all the rock outcroppings where marmots and ground squirrels scampered yesterday during our hike. We also looked for pika, a tiny member of the rabbit family that has become an indicator of global warming. We found one near the base of haystack butte, just before we began our ascent.

Ascending haystack was a challenge for us grown people, and here is one place Emma asked how far we’d come—and how far we had to go. And here is where I began to worry that the 8-mile figure I’d quoted earlier might not be correct. In fact, it was here my memory kicked back in, and I now remembered exactly how far we had to go. Rather then 8 miles, the distance to the West Side Loop was 12.1 miles, four miles farther then what I’d originally quoted.

And Emma was but six!

Quietly I mentioned my mistake to Rich, and he said, well, that’s twice the distance she’s ever covered, but maybe all the new things we’re seeing will help her forget.

marmots boxing

Marmots Boxing

Emma chugged up Haystack Butte without further comment, and at the saddle we took a lunch break and a breather. Then we proceed on, stopping for another look at two male marmots engaged in what can only be described as “boxing matches.” In this high arctic environment, marmots hibernate longer than any other mammal, and they must use summer to accomplish all that marmots need to accomplish to perpetuate their kind. “Boxing” is one way of selecting the most genetically fit specimen to mate with the females. But that was one lesson I didn’t provide Emma, leaving sex education to Rich and Eleanor.

Eight miles from Logan Pass we arrived at Granite Park Chalet, which provided a welcome stop on the Highline. The Chalet was built shortly after Glacier was established as a park in 1910. In those days, visitors to Glacier would disembark from the train at East Glacier, mount horses and tour the park, stopping overnight at the many chalets that then existed. Granite Park is one of the two that still remain. Here, we bought bottled water, and rested up for the final four mile leg of our hike.

Sue & Adam

Sue and Adam

By this time, Emma was beginning to tire, but she seemed to forget her tiredness when Adam diverted her attention to stories that seem to come to him so naturally. The tactic worked and that was all this six-year old seemed to need. The trip was all downhill and passed through the massive burn that occurred several years ago. Undergrowth is abundant and we all talked about how the green growth against the blackened trees really was not aesthetically displeasing at all. I stopped to take a number of photographs of Heaven’s peak (a mountain I climbed years ago), now back dropping the blackened forest. Shortly thereafter, we returned to our shuttle car, completing the 12.1-mile hike.

Surprisingly Emma still seemed full of energy, whereas I have to admit, that I for one was beginning to wear down.


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Reflections

posted: June 17th, 2006 | by:Bert

SEARCHING FOR PHOTOS AND PROSE
With Kayaks, Mountain bikes, Backpacks, Daypacks, Walking Sticks, Fishing Poles—and an Airstream Travel Trailer

Hogan Sheep

Hogan and Sheep

Janie’s Journal: Six months ago, I didn’t know what a blog was, leaving its description and use to the high “techies”. Now I know and find it exciting to be part of this new way of creating a diary.

At the moment we are about to depart on yet another series of travel adventures, this time in our Airstream. As we wonder about the types of people we will soon be meeting, it seems only normal to reflect on some of the wonderful people we’ve met—and hopefully will be meeting again.

Virtually all personify our great country, and it is, after all, the people who make this land what it is.Take the one-legged Vietnam vet who travels in his RV; his passion in life is canoeing (lots of white-water). Kirk’s optimistic outlook and wonderful sense of humor makes him very special. Recalling the loss of his leg, he simply said , “Guess I zigged when I should have zagged.”

We met Steve, (Not real young, maybe 50ish) who was following the Lewis and Clark Expedition trail. Steve traveled in a double kayak, paddling solo from sea to sea against the current. He wrote in his journal each night, often about his loneliness and some scary times, always persevering toward his goal.

Then there’s the couple from CA we met just as we were entering the Natchez trace from the north in Tennessee who insisted that we stay an extra day to have Thanksgiving dinner with them (which they would prepare).

And we’ll never forget a lovely, aged Navaho lady who still keeps her sheep at the bottom of a deep canyon; she makes the round trip of four miles straight down the trail to her Hogan and sheep, then back up to the canyon rim each day.

Dulcimer Players

Dulcimer Players

Other people come to mind, and include two couples who full-time in their RV and play Appalachian dulcimers, and were only too happy to give us a concert and share their experiences…

Carole (who looks a lot like Emmy Lou Harris) spent three months on the Yukon and Porcupine Rivers in Alaska on a solo trip in her canoe. She admitted to being scared to death at the start of her trip, but to me, she came across as totally strong and self-sufficient. (She carried a shotgun, but never had to use it). I’m still jealous of her courage in making such a trip.We met a bush pilot in Alaska while on a seriously long hike; he offered to call our families to let them know we were OK.

A Gwich’in Indian elder prepared a first-aid kit and made rabbit snares for us as we set off on a month-long hike in the Alaska wilderness; she was worried about us being “out there” alone. Often when folks discover that we are free-lance writers and photographers, they’ll say, “Have you seen such and such” or “Have you been to…?”

“Never judge a book by it’s cover” certainly applies to meeting folks along the RV road. And thus are launched new friendships along with the gathering of information.

This sampling of memories stays with us and is one reason we can’t wait to get “on the road again”. Yes, as we depart, ole Willy Nelson sings it just for us. Already we are anticipating the new friends we’ll soon be making.

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