Category Archives: Beyond Our Borders

Saguaro National Park

Arizona Highways (and byways) – November 2019

I have to admit to feeling some trepidation as we embarked on our journey to Arizona. There are so many reports of Canadians being stopped at the US border; we can’t totally avoid a news-stream dominated by reports of US mass shootings, of political and racial tensions.

One of the best things about travel is that it forces us to move outside our accustomed ‘box’. It was challenging to realize that I am affected by that distorted media stream, to some extent buying into what is just another shading of demonization and prejudice. It was a delight to be reminded how charming and friendly I find all but a tiny minority of Americans and to remember what a beautiful, varied and interesting country the USA is. I still get a warm feeling thinking about the joyful singing of and interaction with the African American who was responsible for our breakfast in Watertown, having got up at 4:30 am to prepare and serve a much better than average hotel buffet.

Our travels were rich in new experiences, from desert landscapes to pit BBQ. What follows is largely drawn from my Facebook entries, effectively journaling our 2019 Arizona trip.

Note: Click into the images to scroll through at full size

November 5 – Travelling

A short drive across the border to Watertown, 45 minute flight to Philadelphia, then on to Phoenix, Arizona, arriving in time to have supper with Paul’s business partner, Jeremy, having quickly dropped off our luggage at our delightful Airbnb studio. We are staying in what was the garage of a house previously owned by Arizona’s first female governor, Rose Mofford.

November 6 – Phoenix

Business in the morning!

Then an awesome afternoon at the Heard Museum (don’t miss this, if you are in Phoenix!), with a leisurely walk ‘home’ through the lovely Encanto-Palmcroft historic district.

November 7 – Phoenix

Desert beauty and pit BBQ (Little Miss, considered among the best in the USA) – both somewhat alien to us northerners. Too much food in the last 48 hours as Jeremy has tried to expose us to some of the delicious quirks of the Phoenix food scene we’d have been unlikely to find on our own.

The Desert Botanical Gardens were a great introduction before we head out into Arizona’s desert lands tomorrow.

In Phoenix we have been fed to within an inch of our lives, culminating last night in what is known as THE Mexican restaurant to take out-of-towners to, Barrio Cafe. The food was amazing and the street art outside really cool, not to mention great company with our ‘business family’.

November 8 – Phoenix to Bisbee

Saguaros and petroglyphs (Saguaro National Park); magical glass, the historic Hotel Congress in Tucson where John Dillinger was captured, desert skies, ending the day in one of America’s quirkiest and best small historic towns, Bisbee.

As a bonus, there is a music festival, so we arrived to live music and cocktails in the back yard of our vintage motel!

November 9 – Bisbee to Globe

Bisbee
Bisbee

From Bisbee to the wild west of the brothers Earp, Doc Holliday, Big Nose Kate and Sadie Marcus (Tombstone) – The Birdcage Theatre offered one of the more authentic glimpses or Tombstone’s heyday.

Then on to the Salado Pueblo at Besh-Ba-Gowah, the treasure trove of the Pickle Barrel Trading Post and a wonderfully quirky classroom bedroom at the Noftsger Hill Inn in mining town, Globe.

It had to be the biggest B&B bedroom ever at the old school house in Globe, now the Noftsger Hill Inn! There was also a neat link to where we stayed in Phoenix, a home that had been owned by Rose Mofford, first female governor of Arizona. Rose was born in Globe, went to school here, and gave many materials from her time in office to the owners.

Noftsger Hill Inn
Noftsger Hill Inn
Noftsger Hill Inn

We thoroughly enjoyed exploring the Pickle Barrel Trading Post, though it was somewhat overwhelming.

Somewhat unexpectedly in this old mining town, we rounded off the day with a delicious Asian fusion meal at Bloom.

November 10 – Globe to Sedona

Montezuma Castle’s Sinagua cliff dwellings gave us a sense of a different type of Pueblo – the area had a lovely feel to me.

Montezuma Castle - Information Board

Not too long after, we got our first glimpse of Sedona‘s awe inspiring red rocks.

Approaching Sedona

Our home for the next few nights, the Red Rock Hiking Studio, is in an older part of town that was settled by the Haight-Ashbury generation, away from the tourist bustle and with a fabulous view from the end of the driveway. The evening’s bonus was the sighting of a Javelina (wild pig) as we drove in after supper.

November 11 – Sedona

Awe, wonder, beauty both natural and artistic; the Chapel of the Holy Cross, a chapel that rises out of the rock (in which Frank Lloyd Wright had a hand) and Mother Earth’s ‘Cathedral Rock’ (from so many different directions, including the gorgeous tranquility of Crescent Moon Ranch and coloured by the day’s changing light). Although the core of Sedona is shot through with bustle and commodification (the galleries were interesting in a way, but overwhelming), the red rocks have a genuinely peaceful quality, even looking out over a glorious Vista over lunch from the Creekside Bistro at the heart of downtown, though even more so sitting surrounded by the glory and soaking it up!

November 12 – Sedona

Gina on the Chimney Rock Trail, Sedona
Gina on the Chimney Rock Trail, Sedona

Feeling reasonably proud of myself; we’ve covered 8.5 km today in two separate hikes – and for probably the first time since back issues cut in in my early thirties, I walked with a backpack! We set out round Chimney Rock from our door at 7:20 am, getting to the Amitabha Stupa and Peace Park at the other end of the trail a little after 9 am – almost a sense of arriving as a pilgrim from the hills, rather lovely.

The Chimney Rock Trail loop is a lovely and relatively easy 3.5km hike, with fabulous views.

After a short break, we set out again a little further round the same range of rock up Soldiers’ Pass via the Devil’s Kitchen Sinkhole to the Seven Sacred Pools (as the monsoon was somewhat lacking this year, we only counted 6 with water!).

Elote Cafe, Chef Jeff Smedstad’s much acclaimed gourmet Mexican restaurant, is something of a foodie ‘must do’ in Sedona and was our choice to cap off our stay. I couldn’t resist buying a copy of the Elote Cookbook, duly signed at our table by the chef, along with a properly bound menu from the night of our visit (included with the book).

November 13 – Sedona to Phoenix via Jerome

I’ll be honest, road tripping had rather caught up with me by this point. As a result, I probably didn’t really appreciate our last stop, the historic copper mining town of Jerome, as much as I might have!

And the journey back to Phoenix was something of a trial – a residual effect of concussion, too long on the road still messes with my head.

November 14/15 – the return to ice and snow

What a difference a day makes… More than 30C between Phoenix and Seeley’s Bay. This is the first time we’ve missed first snowfall and the icing of our bay – even the first snow-clearance of our driveway! Our wetland looks promising for skating this year if we don’t get too much snow.

Arriving home to snow!
Arriving home to snow!

You can view our full Arizona album on Google Photos and follow our journey on Google Maps.

(Due to the intervention of Christmas 2019, family issues and then Covid, my half finished post was put on the back burner and forgotten about! But this was a great adventure and worth recording. So, finally, the post is finished. June 2021)

Philadelphia's Magic Gardens (Isaiah Zagar)

Rewind – Travel in 2016 (2); Philadelphia Freedom

It was almost with trepidation that we took off for US WordCamp in Philadelphia at the end of November. In the wake of the Trump election victory, even before his inauguration and what has followed, US travel already seemed somehow less appealing.

Justice, equality and freedom of the press

The Liberty BellIn the event, I am really glad that we were there in that moment. It was a reminder of so much that is good in America. To stand beside the Liberty Bell was particularly poignant. To read of past success in the struggle against injustice and inequality was a heartening reminder that there always have been and still are many who will fight for the best of what it is to be human.

We had a day together in which to explore. The Liberty Bell was a ‘must see’. Benjamin Franklin’s printing press resonated well with our attendance at WCUS. After all, WordPress specifically seeks to democratize publishing. Franklin’s grandson’s statement on the freedom of the press is as relevant now as it as ever been.

Old Philadelphia

We mooched around the historic area, delighting in Elfreth’s Alley, one of the oldest streets in North America, where some houses date back to the 1720s. Later,  we ambled through the very elegant Society Hill.

The weird, the wonderful and the truly magical

As we wandered, we chanced on the fabulous Center for Art in Wood, as well as a weird and wonderful exhibition of pipes. This latter was somewhat outside our normal sphere of interest, but absolutely amazing glass work!

All the while, we were heading towards Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens.  These are indeed magical, both for the immersive visual experience and the sense of art as driver for community regeneration. Isaiah Zagar is a mosaic artist on a huge scale, reminiscent of Gaudi but drawing on many other influences, in particular Folk Art. Started in 1994, the Magic Gardens form a hub for the regeneration of the South Street area of Philadelphia; Zagar’s first mosaics in the area go back to the 1960s.

Full Moon, Isaiah Zagar
We even brought our own small piece of Zagar’s work home with us. He titled it ‘Full Moon’, but we also make an association to the Blue Moon. Those of you who know our history will remember that this has a very personal significance for us!

 

The perfect end to a perfect day, Little Fish was one of the best fish restaurants we’ve ever discovered!

The next few days were conference days. In the evenings, though, we made the most of the seasonal spirit with a trip to the Christmas market and to Macy’s Christmas light show.

Passion, democratization, accessibility and community

WCUS itself was a fascinating experience for someone who functions at the edge of the WordPress community. What stays with me is the depth of commitment to making WordPress accessible to all. In 2016 there were 115 WordCamps in 41 countries, with close to 90% of the costs (though not the travel) covered by sponsors.

WordPress is available in 50 languages and there is a strong push for internationalization and accessibility. All this exists in the context of a code-base  written by volunteers (Paul has ‘core commits’ in a number of WordPress releases).

The third day of the conference was ‘Contributor Day’.Hundreds of people gave a full day of their time to coding, bug fix, testing, review, documentation, translation and more. In five years, the WordPress market share has grown from 13% to 27% of the web and this effort is what underpins it. What a fantastic model for social co-operation! 

While Paul focused on the more technical sessions and networking, I tapped into the wider content. Topics included ‘Version Control Your Life’, ‘Five Newsroom Tips for Better Website Content’, ‘Care and Feeding of Your Passion’, as well as a really helpful session on releasing a WordPress product.

‘Darth Vader wins over Yoda every time!’

Perhaps most pertinent to world events was a great talk on ‘The Dark Side of Democratization’. It seems that content that elicits emotional response is what goes viral, particularly if it arouses anger (hence the headline quote!). Therefore we all need to cultivate an ability to evaluate both our emotional response to content and the ‘facts’ in a post-truth world. An interesting suggestion was the importance of monitoring ‘news’ from sources that reflect the people who don’t think like you, engaging with understanding and tolerance, not judgement.

You can find’ the full 40 min session at https://dennis.blog/democratization/,  together with a great set of resource links including fact checkers.

Partying with dinosaurs

Partying with dinosaurs at the Academy of Natural Sciences

The ‘corridor stream’ is always a key element of any WordCamp and the after-party is a fun extension of this. In this case, we partied with dinosaurs at the Academy of Natural Sciences, making some useful contacts while were were about it!

A Sunday stroll

While Paul was delving into core code, I made a solo Philly foray. The Barnes Foundation, established by Albert C. Barnes in 1922 to “promote the advancement of education and the appreciation of the fine arts and horticulture”, houses a wonderful collection displayed in a quite unique style. The Museum of Art would definitely have been overload, though I did stand on the famous steps. Instead, I wandered on up the Benjamin Franklin Parkway behind the museum to the elegant Lemon Hill Mansion, all decked out for Christmas and picturesque Boathouse Row, enjoying the mild December sunshine.

Google Album – Philadelphia 2016 (more photos!)

Sunset over Cayo Coco

Rewind – Travel in 2016 (1); Cuba in Springtime

Travel wasn’t top of our list in 2016. With the move to rural life there was both too much to do and too much uncertainty about timing really to plan a proper ‘vacation’. Indeed, our summer holiday was, very intentionally, ‘cottage time’ in our new home.

Back at the start of the year, though, I saw a certain tiredness in Paul and, recognizing the long-haul ahead, took the unusual step for us of planning a week away with a focus on doing very little.

Escape into a Cuban Spring

Sugar cane and rum (fresh Pina Colada is a whole different experience!); scuba-diving blessed by the appearance of dolphins  for Paul while I snorkeled the reef; lots of much needed doing nothing round the pool, interspersed with dance classes, tai-chi and water volleyball; a little exploring with glimpses of plantations, mangroves, a crocodile farm and the decaying colonial grandeur of Ciego De Avila and Moron; and, always, the rhythms – rumba, salsa, cha-cha . . .

Honestly, I’m not sure whether or not we will go back to Cuba. There is genuinely a great sense of welcome, even in a somewhat anodyne resort area. But there is also a feeling of smoke and mirrors; things are not entirely what they seem, a lot of the time you see what you are supposed to see, and there are aspects of the Cuban regime and culture that I find difficult and unsettling. We are not very good at ‘resorts’, and, though ours was very good of its kind, that may have influenced my perceptions. Maybe if we go back to ‘travel’, really to see the country rather than laze . . . but I feel there may be other places that call to me more strongly.

Google Photo Album – Cuba

Maine Roadtrip 2014: 6 – Wild Gardens of Acadia

The Wild Gardens of Acadia provided a contemplative interlude, wandering the paths to the soundtrack of birdsong and a babbling brook.

Wild Gardens of Acadia Wild Gardens of Acadia Wild Gardens of Acadia Wild Gardens of Acadia Wild Gardens of Acadia Wild Gardens of Acadia Wild Gardens of Acadia Wild Gardens of Acadia Wild Gardens of Acadia Wild Gardens of Acadia Wild Gardens of Acadia Wild Gardens of Acadia Wild Gardens of Acadia Wild Gardens of Acadia

This is a delightful idea, a well-labelled garden of species native to this area of Maine.  I was happy to realize how many native plants I can now recognize (many of these plants are familiar in Ontario) and how many I managed to include when planting our own back yard!

Maine Roadtrip 2014: 5 – Dive in

Dive In Theatre with Diver Ed proved hugely entertaining as well as informative – boat trip, mixed with live-dive video and expert commentary crossed with improv comedy, and up-close contact with marine species!

Diver Ed's specimins Diver Ed's specimins Diver Ed's specimins Diver Ed's specimins Diver Ed's specimins Diver Ed's specimins Diver Ed's specimins Diver Ed's specimins

It was also joyous to see more than the bobbing heads of harbour seals – we had had a number of glimpses both when sailing and kayaking coastal Maine, but no more than that until now.

Seals! Seals!

Definitely an Acadia highlight!