Back to it again

After 3 weeks at home without an assignment, I am finally back at it again, slinging luggage around, hassling  over rental cars, flights and hotels as well as the general airport check in confusion.

At New Orleans airport I arrived to see over a hundred flyers being serviced by 3 or 4 gate agents rendering a lot of people angry over the fear they would miss a flight.

Most were tourists who rarely flew and a couple still drunk and probably had not slept.  Many were confused over the check in process and became somewhat vocal about it. A couple of the gate agents took the bait and got caught up in the exchange.

Once through the bag check, I sauntered through the pre-check lane garnering a couple of curious glances from those who perhaps wondering how I managed to get through the lines so quickly. 

Anyway, I enjoyed my time at home but it's time to get back to work.

Hello Enumclaw  (Seattle ).


Concealed carry?......pftt....wimp

I had just gassed up at a Racetrac near the airport and went in to enjoy the facilities when I noticed a late 20s / early 30s female wearing a pair of painted on Miss Me jeans and...a Glock.  Nothing concealed here.

Moving around the coffee bar to get another glimpse, I couldn't see a badge on the belt as I normally do when I see cops wearing pistols exposed.  Since I was in an "Open Carry" state I wasn't really alarmed but have to admit it was an unusual occurrence, especially on a young(ish) female.

As I went back to my car, two separate police cars drove up.  This gets my attention.  There was also a red bearded homeless guy sitting on the sidewalk next to the door being extremely cheerful to everyone that passed by and even threw up his hands  at the first cop who completely ignored him.

So now, armed with all kinds of information (homeless guy, girl with Glock, two policemen) that I need to process, I crank up the car, pull out my phone and get the camera ready.

Possibilities include the homeless guy getting arrested but more the idea that somehow the folks at the gas station had called in a complaint. and I would be ready for the excitement that might ensue.

After waiting for 4 or 5 minutes, I could see the armed woman paying for her items through the window.  Another minute or so, out comes one of the cops with a donut and coffee.  The redheaded homeless guy says something to the cop again and still, no reaction other than getting in his cruiser and driving off.

In another minute, the girl walks out, ignores the bum and gets into her Dodge Challenger.

So much for excitement at the Racetrac in Baton Rouge.


Memorial Day 2015

Early this morning, I shoved a very full garbage can out to the street and wondered if there would be a trash pickup today, since it was Memorial Day.

Reflecting on that, I made my mind up that I would observe it in the manner in which it was intended.  Looking up various locations for the observance on the internet, I chose Baton Rouge for partly selfish reasons.  Selfish reasons were mostly the chance to ride Boudreaux II up old River Road, a nice peaceful drive.

It was a sunny day yet cool in my short sleeves.  As I rode north up by the levee, disturbing the occasional egret and crane in the water filled ditches, I passed strings of bicyclists who motioned for me to pass. With hardly any motorized traffic and the cool wind in my face, I felt as if the world was mine alone.

With that in mind, I began to think of the blessing I had received over the years and how nothing is truly free.  I thanked Almighty God for what seemed to be the obvious things but also thought about how even though His Son had died for my salvation, there were others who had sacrificed their own lives so that I could ride down a road and enjoy life without recourse.

Other than one distant cousin that I barely knew, I had not known anyone who had given the ultimate sacrifice for his country.

The Bible tells us there will be wars and rumors of wars and the past couple of decades have proved this to be true.  Some wars seem justified and some don't but at the time, I suspect even those wars seemed to be justified.  Politics have a way of changing the relevancy of events to suit current passions.

Anyway, I arrived at the USS Kidd near the I-10 bridge in Baton Rouge where a small group of people were gathered to pay homage to those who had fallen.  A half dozen speakers including Gold Star family members and politicians gave short speeches amounting to 45 minutes of ceremony.

There was even a guy playing bagpipes ( I still don't understand the kilt thing) and what was a probably a Korean War veteran who played taps.  Thinking the taps rendition was the end of it, I began walking down the levee back toward my bike only to hear another speaker tap the microphone.

At least I did stop and bow my head when I heard someone offering a benediction.

Really, I thought taps always signaled the end to it all.

Of course, it's a big deal !

This past Saturday my brother, Ricky Albritton was graduated from La Tech University in Ruston, LA.  Some may shrug and say, "What's the big deal?...lots of people graduate every year."

In this day and time (I sound kinda ancient with that phrase) it's taken for granted that we'll be off to some university right out of high school where we gather up scholastic credentials and embark on our path to success in a chosen career.

I do not wish to diminish the achievements of those who graduated from college in a timely fashion; kudos to them, but sometimes the idyllic direction finds itself sidetracked by life's events and it just doesn't work out that way.

Even though Rick did not graduate in the traditional time frame, he had already proved his success time after time, being an Eagle Scout, a leader in his community, raised a family, established himself as businessman in his home town, a Master SCUBA Diver and a successful partner with Edward Jones Investments.  I think that his graduation after the fact simply emphasizes his determination and resolve.

It goes without saying that his wife Debbie has been instrumental in the many successes in his life and his whole family is successful.

The May23, 2015 graduation is simply a validation of all his accomplishments for the world to see and perhaps a moment for his friends and family to say, "Well done."

Congratulations Rick, I love you.


Leaving Arizona

After six weeks, I am out of here.  Well, maybe not so fast.

As we walked out on the tarmac to board the plane, there was a pretty stiff wind blowing, pelting us with a mix of sleet, snow, graupel and a splattering of rain. That with a temperature of 36 global warming degrees made me question if this really was the month of May.  I believe it is supposed to be in the mid 80s at home.

Just as we were taxiing out, the pilot announced we would be going back to the terminal to be de-iced.  

I am not complaining.


Along Route 66

As my tenure in northern Arizona is about to come to an end, I thought I'd mention a few other sites I've managed to see while here.  The place is scattered with National Parks and National Monuments.

What's the difference between a park and monument you may ask. Well, without getting into getting into a bureaucratic discussion, it's a distinction between a congressional vote and a presidential designation. National monuments are designated by a presidential order and protects things like historical places such as Muir Woods, Ford's Theater, Mount Rushmore and ancient ruins.  Congress designates things like Yosemite, Yellowstone, the Grand Canyon and so forth.

All across northern Arizona, the place is dotted with things worth protecting. For example, when the Petrified Forest was publicized, train loads of people flocked to the area, hauling off petrified wood by the tons and destroyed much of it before it became protected.

Today, you can drive into the "forest" and take all the photos you like but don't even think about picking up a chunk of it.

All this is within the Painted Desert, a wide area that spans across Navajo country.  As part of the auto tour, you can enter into the park either from the southern side by exiting off I-40/Route 66 at Holbrook or from the northern end on I-40 at exit 311.  there's also a trip through the Navajo and Hopi reservations if you're into a self guided trip up highway 77.

Either way, you're in for some unusual colors.

Further east, (no national parks or anything) lies Winslow, Arizona.  Remember the Eagles hit, Take It Easy that mentions "Standin' on a corner in Winslow, Arizona.....it's a girl, my Lord, in a flat bed Ford, slowin' down to take a look at me...." I loved the Eagles.

Yep, they have a corner there complete with a statue and the flatbed Ford with a bar across the street  blaring Eagles music, all right there on the old Route 66.

Back nearer to Flagstaff, there's Walnut Canyon National Monument.  It is the former home of cliff dwellers who lived in the layers of the canyon walls for quite a while.

If I have my facts correct, the layers above a limestone base is around 180 feet form the canyon rim  to the base and pueblo dwellings can be seen all along both sides of the canyon in 6 or so layers.

Unfortunately, the mini ice age appeared in the 12th century changing weather patterns for a few decades causing droughts, sending the Indians off for better water resources.

This too, was one of the places that 19th century tourism openly promoted the pillage of artifacts.  so with that, it became a national monument as well as the Sunset Crater volcano crater and the Wupatki Navajo pueblos.

I must mention Meteor Crater also on Route 66.  Unfortunately, I went to visit there and they were closing within a few minutes and their guided tour had already stopped.  It is a commercial venture but if I get a chance to get out there before I leave, I believe it's worth a couple of hours.

According to their information, an asteroid hit the earth 50,000 years ago, estimated at 26,000 mph, leaving a crater over 500 feet deep and a mile across.  I bet that kicked up a pile of dust for a few days.

Anyway, if you think all this place is nothing but snakes and lizards, you are sadly mistaken.

It is rife with artifacts and history beyond your imagination.


Grand Canyon

After skipping a couple of weekend homes, it was great having Darlene come out to visit me (thanks, Mr. Jones) in Flagstaff.

Late Friday afternoon, she and I took a little run down US 89a toward Sedona.  As you descend down alongside Oak Creek, you are treated with vermillion cliffs that make you stop every chance you can, just to marvel at the beauty.

In Sedona, we weighed our options on eating and finally settling on The Cowboy Club where we both chowed down on a brisket sandwich.  I must mention that it had started raining that afternoon and found ourselves fighting for space under a hastily purchased undersized and over priced umbrella.  So that may have played a part in the decision for the Cowboy Club since it was in walking distance from the parking garage.

Making our way back up the beautiful Hwy 89a, we sat by the fire at the hotel and chatted with a couple of Canadians who knew more about the area than I did after 4 weeks here.

Saturday, we headed up to the Grand Canyon.  Arriving there, it was cold, wet and the visibility was less than opportune.  We were confronted with sudden storms of something called "graupel", a substance somewhere between hail, sleet and snow.  With that and the wet splattering snow, we rode east back to the eastern entrance and checked out the trading post in Cameron before giving up and coming back into Flagstaff.

Needless to say, Darlene was more than just a little disappointed in the canyon experience so for her last day here, we decided to try it again.  As we drove west on I-40, we began to see more snow and by the time we were to turn north at Williams, there was enough of it that we began seeing snow trucks dropping sand.  Within 20 miles north of the interstate, the heavens opened, the snow ceased and the sun came out and began to warm.  What  a difference a day makes.

We had not intended to walk as much as we did but found ourselves walking from the visitor's center all the way to El Tovar Lodge.  Along the way we were swarmed with Asian tour crowds and watched as they took selfies of themselves with hand held extensions for their iPhones.

Getting away from the bus stops, we still watched people taking extraordinary photo opportunities near the edges.  We heard stories of the more bullet proof visitors doing hand stand near the edge and we witnessed several near edge experiences.  Of course the older ones kept a safe distance.  Time being short, you just don't want to lose those extra days.

At one point we saw a very large bird taking advantages of the updrafts.  Having heard about the California Condors being released into the area I wanted to believe I saw one. Zooming in, I could see what appeared to be white numbers under the wings.  One man's Condor is another's buzzard.

I might have been wrong but still, this squirrel was keeping an eye out for it.

  As we walked, we couldn't help stopping, taking pictures and marveling at every turn along the trail.

Each and every view seemed to be more spectacular than the last.  As we walked, we speculated on how difficult the trail down the canyon would be and if we were able to not get down...but if we could get back up.  That place is deep. 

After walking better than 3 miles along the paved walkway, we came to a cliff that overlooked Bright Angel Trail, the more widely used trail

It's also the one that the mules take riders down.  I wouldn't ride one simply because I'd feel sorry for the mules.  It reminded me of the poor horse I rode up a trail on Maui last year.  In this picture, you can see a glimpse of the Colorado River.  The dark line in the top right is the bridge that hikers as well as the mules use to cross the river.

Anyway, we arrived at El Tovar, near the park shuttle connection, and had lunch there.  The prices were reasonable and the food was great.  I had the Reuben sandwich.

After taking the shuttle back, we got back into our car and rode around the camp grounds admiring some of the travel trailers and motor homes.  There were elk all over the place but looked pretty scruffy as they began losing their winter coats.

Along the way headed east, I was a sucker for every pull out along the canyon rim.

As we ended the trip, the sun was getting low which warmed up the canyon walls.

At Desert View, we could see the Colorado River quite well near the beginning of the larger canyon.

   It was a great trip and Ms Darlene hopes to return soon.

Noted visitors