Sun Pony Ranch

Diary of novice (clueless) ranch owners

Monday, June 18, 2018

Meeting up, and Happy Anniversary!

This morning Phyllis and my parents came and picked me up from my AirBNB. Without many plans in place, I said I was interested in going downtown to check out a couple of yarn stores. Cause -- I'm learning how to knit!! Not only that, but I'm about to finish the scarf I'm working on, and with several days on the ferry ahead I'm thinking a new project would be very welcome.

There were several yarn stores, but two that are very close together were irresistible: Quivut and the Wooley Mammoth.

 Quivut, turns out, is the inner wool of the muskox. Very soft, and apparently extremely warm -- it is spun and knitted by native tribes up here. The store in Anchorage is a Co-Op outlet. Beautiful knitwear does it make. But also very very expensive, so all we did was admire. We moved onto the next store where I purchased some yarn. Still hoping to figure out what to use it on!

In the afternoon we retired to the RV, which I've never seen before. Quite spacious! And it seemed to be suiting the 4 of them well for the past 3 weeks.

 Dinner was in celebration of Mom and Dad's 63rd wedding anniversary: The Glacier Brewhouse. Food was terrific - but at 4:00 (early dinner because Phyllis had a plane to catch to go work in Brazil for a few weeks) - they already had people waiting for tables! Crazy busy. Then we saw on the front of the newly printed menu - a welcome message for over a dozen tour events bringing people to the restaurant in the next week or so. Yeah, there are a lot of people in Anchorage in the summer!

 After dropping Phyllis at the airport, we returned to the RV for a couple hands of "Hand and Foot". We were marveling at sitting outside at 8:30 in Anchorage, comfortably in light jackets and playing cards.

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Leaving the world behind

Have you ever heard that saying "step off the sidewalk and find yourself suddenly in another world"? I found another world today - completely unexpectedly.

I had it my head to go for a long walk today in Anchorage.  I haven't been keeping up on my walking at home for the past month or so, and what with getting on the ferry soon I knew we wouldn't be walking much then.  I left my Airbnb and walked a few blocks to breakfast and then, at my host's suggestion, headed towards Earthquake park. The walk was nice - I skirted past the Lake Hood Seaplane Base and watch a few planes take off and land.

And then through some lovely little neighborhoods.  I am struck at how much Anchorage feels like the Pacific North West!  It's warmer than I had anticipated - low 60's.  It's been mostly cloudy, but I've missed the actual rain.

But by the time I got to the Earthquake Park sign, I was more than ready to get off the concrete.

I quickly saw a little social trail taking off into the forest, and thought that would make a lovely change of pace. I could cut across the park to get to the coast trail on the north edge. Not 3 feet from the sidewalk -- I saw these charming little white blooms and snapped a picture.

And then I just couldn’t believe the trail! Rain forest, ferns, moss, and a black-black-black loamy saturated soil that I have never had the pleasure of walking on before.

The trail quickly started going up and down over these very dramatic ridges (according to the sign, which I couldn't pause to read at the time, but of which I took a picture -- 'horsts' and ' grabens') 3, 5, sometimes 8 feet high. I became quite concerned that I would end up on my hands and knees at some point.  The sides were very steep and the ground very wet.  I picked up a stick to help, and more than a few times had to put away my phone AND camera in order to hang onto trees.  Oh, and the mosquitoes! I seriously could hardly even pause to take a picture before they were swarming. It was so bizarre -- because they’re silent, and huge. I could not hear them and at first I wondered what are these little fairy things hovering around me.  Yikes.  (a day later, I'm not finding any bites, really.  So either I don't react to them like I do in Colorado, or they were so slow as to not get a bite in??)  I had to keep moving - pausing to get a photo and I was mobbed!

But the black ponds made by the rifts in the earthquake landscape were just too captivating to resist.  I jokingly thought of the Blair Witch tale, you know -- walking aimlessly through a forest.  I chuckled at the thought that one could get so utterly lost after 15 minutes within the wilderness in a city park.

I did come across some wildlife droppings.  You know those chocolates jokingly called 'moose droppings'? Well, is that literally what they look like??  Because what I saw look just like that.  How a moose could maneuver in this landscape was beyond me.  Anyways, that reminded me of the website that advertised/warned people that wildlife are within the parks in Anchorage and one needs to take care. I started singing and knocking my stick on the trees - a few times giving myself a small shower from the water collected on the leaves above.

After I finally found some more substantial trails that had information sign posts, I felt more secure that I was in an OK place.
However there were no direction markers. I just kept trying to go north and /or east to the best of my ability.  Eventually I was coming along and saw house up ahead and figured I must be getting close to the coast trail.  But the trail puttered out in their back yard.  I pulled out my phone so I could orient -- and oh my god if I were not coming out the southern boundary of the park again! I don’t think I’ve ever been so turned around before. Suddenly the Blair Witch came back all that much more poignantly.

From then on I kept a much closer eye on my phone map to make sure I was making progress towards the coast, and pretty soon emerged here.  Again - the transition was so abrupt.  I only saw the pavement a few dozen steps before I was standing on it.

I was pretty tired by now - the adrenaline had been coursing, from both the surprise and excitement, and it wasn't all that easy of walking.  Down the tail a bit I found a bench, and had JUST sat down and took off my purse and backpack -- about to take my first breath of relief... when a woman biked up to me and said "Hello". I thought - how friendly!  "Hello." But then she continues, in a shaky voice, "There is a bear up ahead on the path, and I’m not from Alaska and I don’t know what we’re supposed to do!  I was hoping that you were going to come past me and we could go up the path together."  HA

I said I’m not from Alaska either but there was a pretty constant traffic of cyclists on the path, and I thought it unlikely a bear would be interested in tangling with any of them.  "I’m sure if we make noise he’s going to want to try to avoid us."    She didn't look all that convinced, and then she goes "Oh my god there he is!"  About 50 feet behind me in the forest.  He paused and looked at us and I couldn’t tell if he was going to come out the path right next to the bench, so I grabbed my bags and said let’s head up the path now..., but he trundled on into the forest instead.    Thankfully ...  because I really was looking forward to having a bit of a rest!!  :-D

And so I sat there on my bench trying to figure out where to next.  I had hoped to walk to downtown -- I heard it was about 3 miles away. Except I realized my app said I’d already walked 4 miles!  And I still had to make it back home.  I decided downtown would have to happen tomorrow.

Taking a rather long path home, I walked up the Chester Creek trail - which starts at a lovely meandering fish ladder up from the coast into a large lagoon utterly packed with sea birds.

Then headed for dinner and lucked out to discover what turned out to be one of  my host's favorite places:  the Spenard Roadhouse.  The burger was amazing.

Over 9 miles today.  Certainly longer than my intent, but as a way to clear my head and leave the considerable baggage of all that is going on at home behind?  It worked like a charm!!  (and the next morning as I type this up?  I am NOT crippled as I had feared I might be!  Yippee!  :-)  )

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The Land of the Midnight Sun

Well... Almost.   As my hosts clarified - it's only of the 11:45 pm sun here in Anchorage.  That's close enough for me: I'm counting it.

My sister has long wanted to drive to Alaska.  Since they moved into an RV full time last year, it was finally the perfect time to do it, and she invited our parents to join them.  To get home, Mom and Dad booked their passage back to the states via a ferry down the inside passage, and then a sight-seeing train from Vancouver back to Calgary, where they will fly home to Albuquerque.   Wow, wow, wow -- what a trip!

So... I asked them if they would mind a tag-along with them on the ferry.  The best part about that change of plans is that the three of us could book a 4-bunk room with private bath, for the same per-person rate they had previously for the 2 bunk room and no bath.  So much better all around!

And that's how I came to be doing Alaska for the first time.  First time for all of us, actually.  Life has been really very stressful the first part of this year, so I felt very much in need of an escape.  Can't get much further away, without having to have a passport, than this!     (Ok, I admit -- I did take my passport with me - because I didn't realize that our ferry only puts in at US ports in its 4 day voyage...  Did I mention stress at home and I sort of just bought plane tickets and flew up here?)

Alaska Trip - Next Post

Friday, December 29, 2017

Perhaps just a bit more adventure than we signed up for?

The day started to turn sour when we saw the sign saying that all the tickets to tour Neuschwanstein Castle were sold out for the day.  :-(  If you aren't familiar, Neuschwanstein is one of the most famous castles in Europe as it was built to be the prototypical romantic castle. The story of that visit will be in another post, for this story is about the 27 hours surrounding it.

We were up and out of the AirBNB in Salzburg by 5:45 that morning, and 6 hours later in line for castle tickets, when word came down that tickets were sold out.  But we'd invested too much time so far to just turn around, so we hiked up to the castle to at least say we'd been there.  We debated whether to tour Hohenschwangau - the castle just across the way, or to just get back to the train and possibly get on our way to Switzerland a bit earlier.  We knew there was a train departing at 3:06, and 4:06.  It was only 1:30 so we decided to head back the 2 miles to the trainstation and see if we could get out even earlier.

Only... the line for the bus back to the train station, and the TRAFFIC JAM all the way back to town were horrendous, and we didn't even get there until 3:00.  Our only option to get out of town was the 4:06.  Ours, and about 500 other tourists'.  Getting on that train was one truly frightening experience.  The crowd sweeping us along - shoving and jostling... Kelly and I had our luggage where as most others did not.  I felt very badly for the 4 people who had to try and get OFF that train with that hoard pressing them back in. We didn't event attempt to get seats.  We had been warned when we got our tickets that we had a short connection after leaving Fussen -- 3 minutes, actually.  The train didn't even arrive until 6 minutes late and left 12 minutes late - so we knew we wouldn't make that connection.  We hoped the conductor would be by soon, but we became concerned we would never see him, so I went in search.  I slipped, tripped and stepped on toes through probably 5 cars before I found him.  He introduced me to another gentleman also going to Switzerland - who spoke English -- so he asked us to sort it out.   Using the train app on his phone, he quickly developed a plan that involved getting off at our original station.  But Kelly was far behind me and I didn't know how close that station was.  So I pushed my way back.... only to find Kelly talking to the conductor - and getting exactly the same route from him directly!  He must have gotten off of the train and walked back by way of the platform, because I have no idea how else he could have beat me back there with the train now 20 minutes late and restless passengers everywhere.

Anyways, we get off and chatted with our new guide a bit.  He went in to consult with the agents, and came back to tell us an even better route - because our first route still involved a fairly short connection, and at the end of the day, he said, he just had little confidence that any trains were on time.  (The Swiss have a fairly pessimistic view of the German train system, and I'm starting to sympathize)  Anyways, he told us that we wanted to catch a short 10 minute train, and then wait an hour, to catch a direct train all the way to St. Gallen - our destination.  OK.  Before leaving Fussen, we had bought some individual bottles of wine and were planning to enjoy them on the train - if we could ever get settled long enough to do so!

We caught the 10 minute train - and again there were no seats to be had.  So there we were, gathered at the end of a car.  Kelly was shifting some things around with her bags, and the bag with our snacks and wine shifted the floor fairly hard.  And then started leaking red wine...  :-0  UG!  Nothing to to about it, but left it in place, and tried to hurry it out the door as soon as we arrived.  Fortunately only one bottle broke - but it pretty much shattered.  We mopped it up and salvaged what we could.

This was the stop with over an hour break, so our new friend said he was going to leave to find dinner.  We said we'd see him on the platform for our next train.  There were only 3 benches in this train station that were all taken, and it was now raining outside so we weren't going to sit out there.  And, we'd been standing for both of the last two train rides - after that hike up to the castle I was definitely looking for a seat!  So we decided to buy a burger in the station, since we were now scheduled to arrive in St. Gallen too late for the meal Antonella had planned for us.

Only, the diner didn't take credit cards, and we were out of Euros as we were headed for Switzerland! (who uses Swiss Franks for their currency).  Kelly asked if there was an ATM - there was - out in the rain, and apparently several blocks away...  Our dinners were made and I was partially done eating... before she came back saying that the ATM refused to give her any money.  BUGGER.  Thankfully they agreed to take US Dollars - otherwise we thought we might be washing dishes!

So we'd now used up our hour layover, and needed to get to our train, which appeared to be at the platform.  Panic, and a long day already caused us to run to the platform, change our minds and run to another, only to ask the conductor who confirmed that was NOT our train, and we ran back to the first platform.  I then managed to see Zurich on the sign for that train, so we tried to get on, but the doors wouldn't open.  Had to run up to the next car and managed to get on.  WHEW.

So we settled down for a 2 hour ride.  Kelly was tracking the train one her phone.  (by the way, she just got a new Pixel 2, and it's been a life saver!  My AT&T service has not picked up anywhere so far, and she's had service almost the whole time.  And yes, her data roaming is disabled.  HOWEVER, the train app we were using in Germany didn't seem to run well at all on her Android phone, so we were consistently stymied with trying to make our own train plans.)  Anyways, an hour in.... the train comes to a stop, and she looks worried, and tells me it looks like everyone else is getting off the train.  I said that's not a problem, the train will continue regardless of whether there are passengers.  But then the lights were turned out.

Crapola.  Kelly also said she'd been tracking the train - but wondering when it would be turning east to head towards St. Gallen.  LOL.

Ug, we were stuck at an end of the line little German station, Obertsdorf.  It was 9:00, and very few people were around.  We called Antonella again, who frankly had never heard of this town and didn't know how to help us.  Another group of travellers came in, who indeed spoke English... and who looked alarmed to hear that we were trying to get to St. Gallen -- "It is very hard to get there from here!".  They were suggesting we should make our way back to Munich and try again (SEROUSLY?!).  We resolved to return to the next largest station and inquire there.  But one of them came and found us on the train with a new route that only required 90 minutes of train travel.  Sadly, that was 30 minutes of travel that night..... and an hour starting at 6:30 in the morning.   GAH

There was nothing to be done - we set off and arrived at Lindau about 11 pm, and were pleased to see there was an actual rail station with benches and everything there.  We hunkered down, planning to spend the night.  Unfortunately the bathrooms were already locked.  Kelly did find a bottled water vending machine though.  There was quite a bit of foot traffic through the station for the next hour.  Then it got deadly quiet, and we were the only two there, until the drunk man kicked in the door.

Around midnight, the main station door flew open so hard that half the glass panes broke.  He came in, swearing loudly, and continuously.  He walked thought the station and out towards the platforms.  We were trying to just stay inconspicuous so as to not try to attract his attention.  In a few minutes, he came back in, still cursing a blue streak, slamming various doors, though none of the others lost their glass.  He exited through another door in the front.

About 10 minutes later, a small group of people came in, leading some police officers.  They came and asked if we had witnessed the guy come in, we said we had and gave a brief description.  They, however, thought he had left the station out the back, and we were able to tell them he came back in and out the front.  They all turned and went that way.

15 minutes later, the police officers came back in to talk with us further.  They had apprehended the guy, and we described him, and then confirmed the photo they showed us.  They took an official statement from Kelly.  They were both really nice, and fluent English speakers, and were joking with us.  They apologized, saying their town was usually a sleepy one where nothing exciting ever happens.

Then... they asked when our train was.  We said sadly it was at 6:30 in the morning.  Oh!  They said that we wouldn't be allowed to stay in the station overnight, that at 1:00 we would be kicked out.  It was getting close to 1:00.  

Well, darn it - we said we didn't know where to go.  We didn't really want to rent a hotel room for a few hours, and they commiserated.  I asked if there was an all-night cafe near by?  Well - there was a 24 hour Mc Donalds...  We said that would be fine - was it within walking distance?  They cringed and said it was 5k away.  With her most pouting face ever, Kelly asked them -- well who could give us a ride there?  She's a cheeky monkey.  There was quite a bit of back and forth between the officers in German...  and finally they said if we would put our luggage in a locker, they could give us a lift.  Deal! 

Chatting on our way over, they were remarking that actually they had one of the larger police cars that night - that they had more room in the back than usual.  It wasn't what I'd call roomy.  We asked if they had visited the states before - one had.  He is a fan of Dodge Chargers and had come over last summer and rented one.   But our speed limits were pathetically too slow.   He couldn't imagine why anyone should have to be limited to less than 130 KPH anywhere on a big road.   (I just looked this up -- that's 80 MPH.  LOL)

And then the Golden Arches appeared and our ride was at an end.  I had a chuckle when they both got out to open our doors for us .... and then realized the courtesy was because you can't open the back doors of a police car from the inside!

But here we were, 1:30 am at Mc Donalds.  At least the bathrooms weren't locked!  We setup shop at a table in the corner - and proceeded to watch kids and adults come in constantly all night.  Paranoid about battery life on our phones - we limited phone time.  BECAUSE WE CAN'T FIND POWER OUTLETS ANYWHERE!  Not the train station, not coffee shops, and not at Mc Donalds.  Both of us had external batteries, but those were both already drained, as well as my laptop - all trying to keep the phones juiced up during this day of  too many changes of plans.

4:30 we decided to head on back to the train station.  But it was now raining quite heavily.  We might have asked an employee to call a cab for us, but we were still out of Euros.  Hemming and hawing about what to do, we saw the rain had abated, so we just set out on foot.  Brisk early morning 5k jaunt, that was.  When we got close to the train station - which in Lindau is inexplicably located on an island like peninsula in Lake Constance, we decided to cut through the residential /shopping blocks instead of going around.  What a cute cobble stoned old town development - and quite large judging from the more than a dozen blocks we had to wind through to get to the station.   Our whole trip took about 45 minutes, but was well lit the whole way so felt secure, and the rain was never more than a mist.

Got our luggage, and onto our 3 trains to get to St Gallen at 7:30 am with 0 incidents.  It was the beginning of a new day!  Albeit a day that started with us going directly to bed when we got to Antonella's.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Day 3 Keukenhof!!!!

To say we were eagerly anticipating our visit to the famous Keukenhoff Gardens of Holland is an understatement.  The gardens are are 70 acres of tulips and other bulb-flowered spectacular-ness.  They say 7 million bulbs were planted last year, each of which will be dug up and replaced for next year's bloom.  Amazingly, all this work goes into an open season which is only 8 weeks a year, from approximately mid March to mid May. So, we had originally planned to travel later in May, but adjusted our schedule to accommodate this particular excursion. 

I don't have a lot to say on this post... the pictures totally don't do it justice, either... but it's the best I've got!

(Here's a link to my blog's home page so that you can navigate to other posts about our trip)

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