Hippie Dippy

Another cool yogaFLIGHT experience in the middle of our day, driving through Indiana en route to Jackson Center Ohio for Alumapalooza 4. After an amazing unexpected skydiving pitstop in Fort Wayne Indiana, slaDE and I decided to stop for a quick toilet break and food stop. In western Ohio on Route 20 (Woodville), we stumbled upon the coolest diner I’ve ever had the pleasure of discovering and eating at. The Speed Trap Diner had the neatest hippiest dippiest signage and decorations EVER! The ladies bathroom was über cool as well, with a Marilyn Monroe iconic theme. The pictures will speak for themselves!

I also love the fact that slaDE dared the local waitress to experience a yogaFLIGHT, even though she had never heard of acro yoga and was completely reluctant and skeptical. I can’t blame her really, after seeing and photographing us geeking the camera yogaFLIGHT style.

Everything is AWESOME about this pitstop. Oh how I love being a photographer / journalist / yogi nomad (a yomadic hippie ?? :))!

New Orleans Adventures

Arising early in the morning to catch photographic trails of the rising sun is, in my books, well worth the efforts. With last nights sunset, I couldn’t help but think that today’s sunrise would be just as magical on digital ‘film’. Disappointed, I was not! Beyond the manicured short stretch of beach near the casino lay a fenced off area that hid the remnants of previous storms and strewn out garbage. Shells of all shapes and sizes littered the sand as did residual garbage washed or cast ashore … plastic and glass bottles, old tires, plastic bags, PVC piping encrusted with barnacles, weathered rope, a tattered blanket, an old fan blade and metal shards of pipe et al.

With 45 minutes to explore the area around the casino, we chose to tour the St. Michael Parish Catholic Church, otherwise known as the Fisherman’s Church. In my opinion, this Church is the most beautiful and inspiring architectural masterpiece in a cathedral with such incredible stained glass. Reflections of grandeur indeed. “St. Michael’s has served the people of Biloxi’s Point since it was established as a mission in 1907. Ravaged by the two most powerful hurricanes to ever hit the Gulf of Mexico, Camille in August of 1969, and Katrina in August of 2005, St. Michael Church has stood 200 mile per hour winds and a 28 foot tidal surge.” Today this unique cylindrical church with it’s clam-like shell roof still stands, celebrating Biloxi’s once thriving fishing industry (which post-Katrina is now pretty much non-existent) whilst also symbolizing the strength, resiliency, dedication, faithfulness and struggle of this parish’s devout Catholic families. With the storms came devastation to the Church’s structure. The bottom two panels of stained glass were wiped out with Katrina’s 30-foot storm surge that washed through the bottom third of the round church, and only in the last year have they been replaced, on a pulley system, which allows for the windows to be raised if another storm surge were to come through and knock out the windows. A volunteer worker from Ohio was telling me that the force of the tsunami busted up the pews and sucked them out. The pews disappeared … there was no sign of them whatsoever. The restoration of St. Michael Catholic Church in East Biloxi is nearly complete, from the repair of its 36 columns of distinctive scalloped roof to the replacement of the bottom portion of the Church’s stained glass windows. The stained glass panels carry a recurring theme: that of the sea, depicting both men and women gathering their catch in nets.

With New Orleans being only an 85 mile drive away from Biloxi, we packed up quick and made route for our next destination. New Orleans |ˈôrlinz; ôrˈlēnz|:a city and port in southeastern Louisiana, on the Mississippi River; pop. 484,674. Founded by the French in 1718, it was named after the Duc d’Orléans, regent of France. It is known for its annual Mardi Gras celebrations and for its association with the development of blues and jazz.

Check-in time for the French Quarter RV Resort was 12 noon, and we wanted to make the most of our available time touring the city. With the success we had in cycling around Savannah Georgia and discovering the heart of the city with limited daylight hours, we wanted to experience New Orleans in the same way. So after setting up shop in our beautifully groomed RV slot in the French Quarter, we hopped on our bicycles and headed for the action and music. Within 6 blocks, we discovered a plethora of unique and colourful street performers …. musicians, statuesque live mannequins (literally, human statues standing perfectly still, mid-motion beside a bucket for tips of any sort), singers and dancers, magicians, psychics, palm and tarot card readers. Horse drawn carriages, souvenir shops, ‘gentlemen’ bars, genre-wide music clubs and ‘3 for 1’ discos lined the streets of downtown New Orleans, vying for the tourist dollars which seemingly help to keep this city afloat after Hurricane Katrina. A sense of quiet despondency seemingly filled the musical air at times, while at other moments, a sense of hope and strength flourished with the colour and vibrancy of this legendary city. Alcohol and music is the main theme of this 24-7 party town: 3 for 1 drink specials abound alongside frozen daiquiris dispensary bars — think 7-11 alcoholic slushy dispensers of a gazillion different flavours. About 15 years ago, I was lucky enough to experience the New Orleans Jazz Festival with a crew of skydiving friends. It was an amazing cultural experience, but very different from what I imagine Mardi Gras to be — if it’s anything like the experience of Bourbon Street :). I can’t imagine the craziness of Mardi Gras after experiencing how important alcohol is in creating the dynamism of the ‘Big Easy’.

Trying to absorb as much as possible, we weaved and surged through the streets (so many one way roadways), stopping to listen, watch and photograph. I was in heaven with the canvas before me. Impossible to recreate such beauty and dynamic energy, so I snapped away as if this were the last moment to live on earth. Fire stoked my peddle strokes as we skirted the Garden District, circling through Audubon Park and wobbling back through the narrow busy pot-holed streets of  Magazine Street. Darkness had fallen quickly, and without our headlights or reflective vests, we opted to head back to the RV Resort before exploring the nightly music scene. It was on Charles Street that we literally bumped in to a marching band (numbering maybe 50 musicians?) in full regalia. What was most surprising was the sound and their sole sudden appearance, seemingly with no apparent reason. They were their own parade, with numerous followers gathering suit to line the streets of the ‘Vieux Carré’. The hip hop / big band music magnified off the narrow streets of the French Quarter like a ping-pong ball on steroids, and my earbuds felt alive with the giant reverberation of their colourful performance. A different sensation of aliveness fell true and centre. The experience was earth-shaking in its intensity and happiness.

After relieving ourselves of some belongings, trading for the requisite safety garb, we headed towards Frenchmen Street — this is the ‘it’ scene for locals and music supreme. We wandered from club to club, catching the luxury of guaranteed quality music of a varietal assortment of genres. We stayed for a while at the ‘Spotted Cat Music Club’ savouring the earthy and light jazzy blues tones of Miss Sophie Lee. It so happens that a large Canadian contingency packed the bar as we enjoyed a few drinks while absorbing the scene and musical greatness. Truly lovely.

Before heading home, we made one last loop down the length of Bourbon Street, captivated by the alcohol frenzied happiness which bounced off the vibrating fluorescent lights. New Orleans is one happy cat city on the surface when the tourists are out in full force.

P.S. For those curious about staying at the French Quarter RV Resort during Mardi Gras, these are the prices for 2011 (and they are usually booked almost up to a year in advance for this time period):

  • 2 night minimum stay: 2 days = $199 per day; 3 days = $179 per day; 4 days = $159 per day; 5 days = $139 per day

Old Reliable

The morning waters reflected like mirrors in the stillness of the warm Florida sunshine. Birds of every colour and calling grazed for jumping fish and insects, whilst my husband attempted to photograph the essence of stillness. It made for an incredible canvas, and at times like these I wish we had 2 SLRs. But with 1 SLR and another point and shoot, I was satisfied to capture what I could from a different angle and in my own style. After a lovely breakfast, we started the days journey slowly meandering around the Island. At this point, Patrick noticed a sudden increase in the engine temperature. When he went to check it out, the radiator neck snapped off the engine cowling. Uh oh. That can’t be good, were my thoughts. After tossing around ideas about what we could do, Patrick called his friend Roger for some suggestions. No concrete suggestions came his way (apart from JB Weld, which he didn’t have onboard), so with a still strong cellphone signal and battery charge, he ended up calling Towboat US (similar to AAA, but for boats) and asking for their tow assistance. Within 45 minutes, a little tugboat had reached us and we were hooked up to Captain Orley’s ride, ready to make the 6-9 hour adventure north.

The day had us passing through 9 suspension bridges, admiring the scenery along the whole waterway. If the spans were to be navigated on one’s own accord, it would mean passing through either at designated times or with an advance call to the bridge & tower master. With having a towboat Captain at the helm, we were ushered through each ‘checkpoint’ readily, quick like stealth bunnies. Giant houses / properties, expensive boats and marina toys lined the shoals, whilst a vast variety of exotic birds spent their time sunning their outstretched wings wherever they could find a perch, today being another mild and sunny blue skied day.  Because we were pretty much on auto-pilot for the duration, the boys were able to enjoy morning, afternoon and evening beverages, entertaining themselves throughout the trip. I pretty much spent my whole day either writing postcards or photographing the journey. I had such fuN!.

Our arrival that night wasn’t until well past dark, and the marina that we docked at was locked up, meaning we could drop off the boat. But this also meant that we would need external transport to get us back to the Sarasota Marina. Lucky for us, Captain Orley didn’t mind being of service in taxiing us to our port of call. What a long wonderful day (not so great for Patrick’s pocketbook – – engine repairs could be in the $1000’s). Luckily Patrick’s entire tow journey was covered with his premium insurance. Phew!

Jockey’s Ridge, North Carolina

Clambering the dunes of Jockey’s Ridge was a thrill and a half, as we both looked to capture an essence of the joys of flight experienced by the Wright Brothers from these east coast sand dunes (which are considered the tallest natural dunes on the East coast, fluctuating between 80 and 100 feet above sea-level). Jockey’s Ridge is a favourite amongst hang gliders, hikers and is renowned for flying kites, with its steady constant and somewhat predictable winds. Today the winds steadily whirled from the north-east, creating a cross wind that challenged slaDE~s skills of flight and control as he kited his canopy off the highest ridge, hoping to ground launch with success and airtime. However, many steps clambering across and down the hill made for spectacular photos, brilliant laughs and dreams of another flight / launch anticipating more success. A second pitch off the eastern-facing dune offered a split second of flight, with slaDE continually battling the cross wind, bringing him to a stop once again after scampering down the large shifting knoll. Filled with brilliant smiles, breathless gratitude, and a sand-filled gear bag, we packed up slaDE~s canopy and harness, and sought to explore the expanse of sand and hills. Casting shadows in the brilliant sand pits, we wove wispy paths up and down the pitch of dunes, momentarily carving our initials into the drifts on which we traipsed, trails covered soon thereafter by the wind which kissed the planet.

It was a fun-filled afternoon that we someday hope to recreate with more success and east-blowing winds (fingers crossed that my knee will be strong enough next time for me to have a go at sand launching).

Zorbing in Tennessee

ZorbingWhy should hamsters have all the fun? Zorbing, first developed in New Zealand, involves hanging out in a giant plastic ball and rolling down a hill. It’s not as painful as it sounds, though: there’s a smaller ball within the large one, something that makes it a shock absorber. You have two options here: strap yourself in, or go free and let yourself “walk” around, encased in water. Which one will you choose?!

Memories of Rafting Adventures

One of my most precious memories this summer has been rafting down the Bow River with my beloved Bill, as his first mate. A remarkable nimble Captain he was, keeping us dry, entertained and safe from crashing into the many piers along our 3 hour tour.

I wanted to share just one of the captured moments with you … such a classic Bill moment!
Enjoy ….
A smaller 8mb video:

This video is larger in size (67mb), for the full impact:

Meanderings

Waking up to the sound of silence was blissful and welcome. I felt like a child at Christmas, sneaking out of bed, poking my head out the door to see what presents had been left … But the gift I was searching for was what lay beyond the windows of this lovely cabin (built by Robin and her ex). Disappointed I was not … outside lay the vision of fog-soaked mountains with slivers of rock pinnacles, glimpses of green patches brushing through. Tall sovereign coniferous trees reigned over the snow-covered earth surrounding our everything else. The sight was breathtaking, bursting with resplendent beauty, uncompromising in its stoic solitude. But the silence was broken with the creaking of the bed and then the soft pitter patter of feet making their way across the wooden floor, making a beeline for the outhouse. Ah, nothing more enlivening than stepping outside into the caverns of a mild winter morning, sinking into the snow path while navigating ones way to the outdoor toilet! I was grateful for the presence of Robin’s indoor composting toilet, in the middle of the night. I had my share of night escapades to the toilet in the freezing cold when I spent several summers camping in Iceland (summer = cold you say? Well, pitching tent on a glacier icecap and digging a toilet for our expedition is an interesting story in itself!).

By 10am, everyone had roused themselves, and slaDE made Robin, Rob and myself the fluffiest of vegetable cheese scrambled eggs for breakfast. Something about the freshness of mountain air peaks the senses — olfactory and gustative especially! The morning was spent hanging out beside the wood burning stove, reading and sharing stories. Before we knew it, half the day had scampered away and we made our way outside, wanting to explore the territory around us. We found ourselves hovering towards the snow-filled riverbed and exploring the vast array of rocks that lined the crust everywhere! They were so beautiful, rich in variety and minerals. I don’t think I’ve ever seen so much quartz outside of a quarry or mine. I felt like a child doing research for a science project, so fascinated was I, inspecting and wanting to take home each and every new colouration I stumbled upon. The boys were as happy to skip the rocks in the fast-flowing water as I was gleeful in taking interesting and inspiring photographs. The day was getting milder by the hour, and staying on top of the snow crust was becoming quite difficult and humorous at the same time. SlaDE was giving us tips on how to not fall through … the trick he stated was to keep moving and taking light-footed steps upon the banks. On the whims of saying this, he would fall in almost up to his thigh in white stuff :). I’m thinking that I want to wear gators next time we go for a jaunt.

We had developed a hunger on our mini-expedition, and so to follow, we savoured a nice afternoon ‘snack’ of my crockpot lasagna. In my opinion, there’s no better way to follow a hearty meal and fresh mountain air than with a peaceful nap. Upon rousing ourselves, newly energized, we headed out for another hike, this time along the road. With very little traffic, the sights and sounds of the mountains were peacefully renewing. Nothing like coming home to nature. (I must admit though, it was somewhat disturbing to have such fresh air be rudely interrupted by the diesel smell of the occasional passing truck. Yucky.)

A Thai chicken curry and red wine topped of our evening of conversation perfectly. What a lovely day!

Nature beckons Us

The day couldn’t go fast enough for us to get away. The 3 hour drive through the mountains would be a bit of a crap shoot as to which route we would have to take. The TransCanada passage through to Golden from Banff is notorious for road closures (mudslides / avalanches / landslides / heavy snow conditions, etc) and we were crossing our fingers that we wouldn’t be stuck in the middle of it all. An alternate route would be to go south when reaching the intersection of the ‘Golden Triangle’; this merging of roadways gives the driver the opportunity to either head west as intended, or drive south through to Radium and then north to Golden (of course, that means a longer trip, by about 1.5 hrs, give or take, dependent upon the weather).

I excitedly split my day at work in half with a trip to the close-by Interfaith store. With winter coming to an end (YAY!), this charitable volunteer-run agency is having their end-of-season $5 bag sale: they sell you a garbage bag for the said amount and you fill it with anything available on the racks / shelves. Basically and literally, a free-for-all!. I ran to this 2nd hand haven, taking an early lunch hour, in anticipation of filling a bag or two. A pack-rat’s dream, to be honest (sorry honey). And, ka-ching, did I ever make out like a bandit! Not to worry. Come leaving Calgary, I’m freecycling anything that can’t fit in the car (good thing my beloved knows how to pack really well!).

Come 4:30pm, I was walking out the door and ready to become a traveling nomad, ready for the adventure which lay before us. The night before we had packed everything and set aside the food that we wanted to contribute (I made a kickin crockpot of lasagna), giving us a head start on getting out the door with plenty of daylight for the first few hours of our drive.

Apart from the meandering stomach car-sickness which befell me, it was a spectacular drive with plenty of groovy tunes, fairly clear non-icy roads, cloud-topping skies icing the mountains with an ethereal glow and a car-filled with laughter and smiles. We truly savour our road-trips and getaways … one of the reasons why we’re so well-matched … we can spend weeks at a time 24/7 in each others presence without getting bored or bitchy. Now THAT’s compatibility!

The sun was just beyond setting when we crawled up the steep icy-slope to Robin’s driveway in the woods. It was difficult to see and appreciate the view around us {which we knew would be spectacular}, so we waited in breathless anticipation for the morning to come. In the interim, we enjoyed several hours of camaraderie around the etched glass, wood-burning stove (brrr, it was cold! thank goodness for the heating pads on our mattress).