Saturday through Wednesday, October 9-13, 2021 —Is It Fall Yet?

Saturday was “Soccer Saturday” with both Aker and Ridge scheduled to play. Beautiful partly cloudy skies greeted us as we entered Lakewood’s soccer fields. Aker’s team won their game, though it looked like someone trying to herd ducks!

Regretfully, Ridge’s game was cancelled by the opposing team’s coach (northwest Arkansas) just two hours before the game; a lot of folks were unhappy. On the return trip home, we stopped by a Costco for a few things and cheap gasoline ($2.599/gal). Kay and I played the front nine at Magellan, though we both faltered a bit.

Golf at Magellan Golf Course

Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday were relatively quiet, at least by our standards, though I did play golf on Monday (and I use the term “play” very loosely) and pickleball on Tuesday. The mallet finger on my right hand (ring finger) hurts like crazy when I grip a golf club or pickleball paddle; at least that’s my excuse and I’m sticking with it. Kay continues her committee assignments with the Duffers (golf) and PEO (philanthropy). It still remains warm most days, but leaves have begun gently falling.

Kay’s social calendar remains full, what with Duffers golf (deck starter, meaning early morning, and then playing with the last group) and a late lunch with friends on Wednesday. I remained home for most of the day, protecting the sore finger, though a few butterflies coerced me into taking their pictures. The American Lady butterfly was quite aggressive, chasing away a hummingbird, a Monarch, and two skippers, all nectaring on Lantana. And, by the way, two hummingbirds were still nectaring at our place, though neither would settle down for a photograph.

Happy birthday to my baby, Jenny. I remember the day you were born like it was yesterday. Glad you can’t see the tears!

Friday, October 8, 2021—Last of the Season

Dan picked me up early and we traveled to William Kirsch Preserve, in west Little Rock, hoping to find some “last of season” butterflies and wildflowers. We were not disappointed. Showy Goldenrod graced the freshly mown paths, and seemingly covered the entire open spaces. The bright yellow blooms of both the Partridge Pea and Tickseed Sunflower lit the early morning shady areas like tiny floodlights.

The blooms of the soft and delicately colored Asters reminded one of pastel color palettes in an artist’s studio, and held morning dew droplets like magnets holding metal shavings.

And the Gerardia held reign over its dominion with the purple color of royals.

Gerardia

As it began warming, Eastern Pondhawk dragonflies lazily drifted from one plant to another patiently waiting for their prey to become active.

And then, the butterflies could be seen lifting upward from the now dewless flowers in which they overnighted. Pearl Crescents were the first to appear followed by the Dainty Sulfurs. Common Checkered-Skippers would land and then immediately flit to another nearby spot. Monarchs could be seen flying just over the vegetation, but never presented a photo opportunity.

Not to be outdone by the dragonflies, damselflies were out and about, spotted by Dan’s keen eyes.

As we neared the end of our two-mile photo walk, a beautiful red dragonfly appeared on a nearby plant. The Blue-faced Meadowhawk was a “lifer” for me, and we saw several glowing in the now bright sun.

Blue-faced Meadowhawk

It was an awesome morning, yielding several hundred shots of wildflowers, dragonflies and damselflies, butterflies, and a few random flowers and bugs.

Sunday through Thursday, September 26 – October 7—Life As We Know It

The red-eye flights from SeaTac to DFW to Little Rock were uneventful, each arriving on time. Pam (thank you) picked us up at the airport, and with luggage in hand we made the 45-minute drive home. There, everything was in order thanks to Sue who house sits for us; we are ever so grateful. After semi unpacking, we both took naps in hopes of overcoming jet lag, though it only partially worked.

Our days that last week of September and first week of October were filled with catching up: flu shots, medical appointments, haircuts, golf, etc., and we were fortunate to spend time with two of the kids and two of the grandkids via dinner with Ron and Cheryl (for Kay’s birthday) and Ridge’s soccer game on Saturday (Karyn, Ridge, and Aker). It rained so hard at the soccer game that the kids were playing soccer in pools of water and mud. In fact, Sunday’s game was called off after central Arkansas received over 6 inches of rain on that Saturday and early Sunday morning!

I spent several days catching up on preparing journal/blog entries, and sorting and backing up several hundred photographs from the last few weeks. It was so nice to have fast internet! Pickleball in Hot Springs Village restarted after an absence of several weeks for resurfacing the courts; it will take some time to regain our timing and finesse. The motorhome received its annual maintenance and chassis check; it’s ready for another season, its eleventh. Oh, and by the way, it’s still hot and humid in Arkansas with temps in the low 90s.

A bright spot was the few butterflies, despite being a bit bedraggled, that could be seen nectaring on the still blooming Lantana, offering up a photograph here and there.

And, even a couple of dragonflies made an appearance. Here are a male and female Eastern Pondhawk.

Saturday, September 25, 2021—Best of Seattle

The ship sailed into the Seattle harbor early in the morning.

Sailing into Seattle

Up early as well, we ate breakfast, before final checking of the stateroom, and then disembarked about 9 AM.

Our stateroom

Kay had scheduled us for a “Best of Seattle” bus tour, and so it was from the ship and onto the bus. Despite a poor guide, we saw the key city places, including the baseball and football stadiums, the huge Boeing campus, one of the first Costco stores, and of course, the “Space Needle” and the famous “Farmers Market.”

Evidence of homelessness were concentrated in a few areas

The Space Needle is one of the most recognizable landmarks in the world and is a treasured Seattle icon. Built for the 1962 World’s Fair—the Century 21 Exposition whose theme was “The Age of Space”—the tower’s futuristic design was inspired by the idea that the fair needed a structure to symbolize humanity’s Space Age aspirations. Since its grand opening on April 21, 1962, the landmark continues to symbolize the innovative and forward-thinking spirit of Seattle. Located at Seattle Center, the Space Needle stands at 605’ tall and is one of the most photographed structures in the world. The tower’s 520’ saucer-shaped “top house” offers visitors Seattle’s only 360-degree indoor and outdoor panoramic views of downtown, Mount Rainier, Puget Sound, and the Cascades and Olympic mountain ranges.

The Pike Place Market is Seattle’s original Farmers Market. At the turn of the century, Seattle was a rough and tumble place and a rapidly growing city. As the population of gold rushers, loggers, fishermen, shipbuilders and merchants grew, so did the demand for produce and goods from the city’s neighboring farms. In the decade of 1890-1900, Seattle’s population nearly doubled, growing from 42,000 to 80,000 citizens. Farmers brought their vegetables, fruit, milk, dairy, eggs and meat to the city by horse drawn wagons and by ferry from the nearby islands. The goods were purchases by wholesalers, who sold the goods at a commission at warehouses on Western Ave. In this system, farmers occasionally made a profit but increasingly only broke even or lost money. In 1906-1907, the price of produce—onions namely—soared, leaving the farmers none the richer and the citizens angry over the price gouging. The uproar led one local official to try to find a solution. In the summer of 1907, Seattle City Councilman Thomas Revelle proposed the city create a public market place where farmers and consumers could meet directly to sell and buy goods and thereby sidelining the wholesalers. On the public market’s first day, August 17, 1907, crowds of shoppers seeking fresh produce and bargains descended upon the new marketplace. The first farmer sold out of produce within minutes. Within a week, 70 wagons were gathering daily to sell along the newly named Pike Place, a wooden roadway that connected First St. to Western Ave.

Famous tossing of the fish at the Pike Place Fish Market

From Pike Place Market, we were delivered to the airport for a 10-h0ur wait to catch the “red eye” flight to DFW, and the to Little Rock. As luck would have it, the wing of the airport housing our gate was without internet, so we played hopscotch looking for internet the rest of the evening until our near midnight flight.

Wednesday through Friday, September 22-24, 2021—Juneau and Ketchikan

The Norwegian Encore continued sailing the Inward Passage south, arriving in Juneau Wednesday morning about 8 AM. Kay had an early morning excursion to view the Mendenhall Glacier, now part of the Tongass National Park.

She was particularly anxious to see how much it had receded since we last saw it in September 2004. She photographed the terminus on the far side of Mendenhall Lake, and watched blue icebergs floating in the water amidst reflections of southeast Alaska’s coast mountains. (Note: The Mendenhall Glacier has retreated approximately 2.5 miles since its most recent maxima during the Little Ice Age in the mid-1700s.)

Rain continued through the afternoon and evening, and we again listened to the various musical groups appearing throughout the ship.

On Thursday morning we arrived at the last port of call, Ketchikan. Ketchikan is known as Alaska’s “first city” due to its location at the southern tip of the Inside Passage—it is the first city you reach as you cruise north, and only about 90 miles north of Prince Rupert in Canada’s British Columbia. Ketchikan has the world’s largest collection of standing totem poles found throughout the city. With a population of almost 14,000, it is Alaska’s fifth largest city. We both stayed aboard the ship because of rain and heavy fog, spending the day reading, writing, and editing photos. It was low tide when we arrived about 8 AM, and we were able to observe Bald Eagles feeding on carrion on a exposed shoreline.

Throughout the day, we saw Bald Eagles and other birds soaring just below the clouds. In the evening, we saw an outstanding production of Choir of Man. Performed in front of a capacity crowd, this show is 80 minutes of unadulterated entertainment that combines high energy dance, live music, and foot stomping choreography with the incredible talent of nine ordinary guys, backed by a band of four, who perform everything from sing-along classics to classic rock. Not only is the concert set in a pub, but it has a real working bar from which the cast pulled quite a few pints for members of the audience. Though not a broadway show, it was one of the best performances we’ve ever seen. 

All of Friday was spent “at sea.” We lounged about, and used the afternoon to organize and pack for the flight home. We watched some of the ship’s variety game shows and listened to music the rest of the evening. 

Tuesday, September 20, 2021—Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve

Today’s highlight was cruising in Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve. Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve is west of Juneau, Alaska and can only be reached by plane or boat. The only road merely connects the small town of Gustavus and its airfield to park headquarters at Bartlett Cove (10 miles). We found the history of Glacier Bay to be quite interesting in that it has been forming for just over 200 years! Glacier Bay was first surveyed in 1794 by a team from the H.M.S. Discovery, captained by George Vancouver. At that time, the survey showed a mere indentation in the shoreline. The massive glacier was more than 4,000 feet thick in places, up to 20 miles wide, and extended more than 100 miles to the St. Elias mountain range. By 1879, however, naturalist John Muir discovered that the ice had retreated more than 30 miles forming an actual bay. By 1916, the Grand Pacific Glacier—the main glacier credited with carving the bay—had melted back 60 miles to the head of what is now Tarr Inlet.

National Park Service park rangers boarded the ship early to provide a narrative about important aspects of our visit, and gave special presentations about the park and preserve.

NP rangers

We spent the entire day cruising in Glacier Bay among icebergs and calving glaciers, though the ship did not dock anywhere in Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve. Though we constantly scanned the shorelines for wildlife, we only saw a few seals, a couple of whales, a couple rainbows, several glaciers, and lots of small icebergs. Obviously, the rain and heavy fog did not enhance our visit.

The entertainment highlight of the evening was a production of the Tony-winning musical Kinky Boots. According to Broadway World, “KINKY BOOTS on the Norwegian Encore is a Broadway Caliber Show…I saw Kinky Boots on Broadway, and I was not expecting the version on the Encore to have the same quality for the sets as the original production, but I was truly blown away by how well they delivered onboard…Not only was I impressed by the technical and physical aspects of the production, I was also incredibly impressed by the cast. Every member of the production brought the level of talent, comedic timing, and emotion that makes Kinky Boots such a special show.”

After this fantastic Broadway show, we listened to several musical groups performing in various venues on the ship.

Sunday, September 19, 2021—Rough Seas

Good sleep escaped us last night; our stateroom is forward, very near the ship’s bow (front of the ship), and we bounced up and down all night because of heavy seas. However, a walk to the upper aft deck revealed the same bouncing. Water was splashing out of the pool, covering the pool deck. And, we did not yet have sea legs! 

No ports of call were on today’s itinerary; we sailed the entire day. Much of our day was spent getting familiar with the ship, and editing photos and writing for the blog.

After dinner, we enjoyed one of several shows being performed this week. Tonight’s was “The Beatles Invasion,” and the four Brit performers were great, bringing back a lot of memories from the ‘60s, ‘70s, and ‘80s, and the interesting and tumultuous times in which we became adults (Viet Nam, Woodstock). There were three costume changes, and a bunch of Number One songs.

After “The Beatles Invasion”, we enjoyed three more groups of musicians performing in the various lounges—one good, the other two above average. Kay even got into action by participating in one of the line dancing groups.

Saturday, September 18, 2021—NW USA, Part 2

We had a blast visiting and touring with Debra and Ralph.

Our Washington and Oregon road trip with Debra and Ralph

While one never knows how compatible new friends will be, but we really hit it off with Debra and Ralph. We like many of the same things, including travel, hiking, gardening, and bridge, in which they both are Life Masters (and no, we’re not competitive, particularly at that level). We had such a great time at their place; in fact their back yard/garden is incredible, and among the best we’ve ever seen. We look forward to many more visits, including reciprocating when they visit Arkansas. Of course, it will be tough to beat this past week!

Today, we began the second part of our 2021 Northwest USA trip, an inland passage cruise to Alaska. (We last did a similar cruise in September 2004 to celebrate my retirement, both our birthdays, and our anniversary.)

September 2021 Inward Passage cruise

Warmed sourdough cinnamon roles and hot coffee got us up and going, and we left relatively early for the airport (SEATAC) to meet our shuttle to the ship. However, instead of going to the ship, were were taken to the Marriott Hotel near the ship for validation of our COVID vaccinations, and for COVID testing.

Norwegian was very efficient, and though we stood in several lines, the waiting time was never excessively long.

After being “bonafide” as COVID free, we checked-in, boarded the Norwegian Encore, ate lunch and unpacked. Many thanks to our travel agency, Dana, and Norwegian Cruise Lines for the wine, champaign, and chocolate covered strawberries.

Kay knows how to enjoy life aboard a cruise ship

After unpacking we settled in for a quiet evening familiarizing ourselves with the Encore, eating again, photo editing, and journal writing.

Friday, September 17, 2021—Collapsing, Catching Our Breath and Reorganizing

With one day left of the Washington and Oregon discovery part of this early fall trip, we spent the morning resting and reorganizing clothes, travel accessories, and “toys” for the Alaska Inward Passage cruise. Kay washed clothes, and we both repacked. Ralph and Debra took us on an auto tour of the Washington state capitol campus in Olympia; it is a large complex of many buildings, and kept very neat and clean. We then visited the Olympia Farmers Market where lots of vegetables, fruits, and assorted handmade items. 

From the Farmers Market it was off to the seafood market for dinner ingredients: oysters for eating raw and for frying, Dungeness crabs, mussels. 

And then it was off to one last hike, Mima Mounds Natural Area Preserve in Thurston County, Washington, near Olympia. Mima mounds are low, flattened, circular to oval, domelike, natural mounds that are composed of loose, unstratified, often gravelly sediment that looks like a ski slope with lots of moguls. These mounds range in diameter from about 10 feet to more than 150 feet; in height about 1 foot to greater than 6 feet; and in density from several to greater than 16 mounds per acre. Theories for the origin of these mounds vary, but there is no consensus among scientists. Have any of you heard of Mima mounds?

Debra, with assistance from Kay and Ralph, prepared a fantastic seafood dinner and Ralph paired the perfect wines to accompany this feast. She also made incredibly good sourdough cinnamon rolls/sticky buns. Did I say they were tasty! Now, we know how kings ate. 

Thursday, September 16, 2021—Wrapping Up the Road Trip

Hood River, Oregon, essentially marks the upstream terminus of the Columbia River Gorge.

After breakfast, we crossed the Columbia River back into Washington, and traveled west before stopping at Washington’s Stonehenge. It was erected under the auspices of Sam Hill as the nation’s first WWI memorial and dedicated in 1918 to the servicemen of Klickitat County, Washington, who died in the service of their country during the Great War.

Nearby was the Maryhill Museum of Art is a small museum with an eclectic collection. The museum is situated on a bluff overlooking the eastern end of the Columbia River Gorge. The structure was originally intended as a mansion for entrepreneur Samuel Hill. It was named Maryhill for Hill’s wife, daughter of James J. Hill, a Great Northern Railroad baron, and was intended to be used as a home at which they could entertain Samuel Hill’s school friend King Albert I of Belgium. During a 1917 visit by his friend Loie Fuller, he decided to turn his unfinished home into “a museum for the public good, and for the betterment of French art in the far Northwest of America.” Hill’s contribution to the new museum included almost 90 American Indian baskets, more than 70 Rodin sculptures and watercolors, and many personal items.

Also, a few butterflies remained still enough to photograph despite the wind. These both may be “lifers’ for me.

Next was nearby Maryhill Winery. Family-owned and operated since 1999, Maryhill Winery is one of the largest and most visited wineries in Washington, offering spectacular views and a tasting. We sampled a number if wines, while Kay sampled the vanilla bean ice cream.

Ralph and Debra ready for sampling

Our last stop of the day, and of the road trip, was Beacon Rock. Beacon Rock is an 848-foot-tall basalt monolith on the north bank of the Columbia River. It was named by Lewis and Clark in 1805; they noted that the rock marked the eastern extent of the tidal influence in the Columbia.

We returned to the Wilhelmi’s to spend the next couple of nights. Debra prepared razor clams and sides for our dinner, and Ralph paired the perfect wine from Maryhill Winery with the great dinner.