Beth’s Favorites – Let’s start with culture

In this post I want to start writing about some favorite places I have seen on my travels.  I want to separate them though into different categories and start at first with culture.  When I think of a place that gave me one of the best cultural experiences, I think of New Orleans.  New Orleans brims with culture and my favorite thing about New Orleans?  The music.  Music seems to be everywhere you go, from small, impromptu groups of musicians playing at a neighborhood park or square to the many wonderful jazz clubs throughout the city.  Even the National Park employees have their own jazz band at the local jazz museum.  Probably the most famous venue is Preservation Hall, founded in 1961 in the French Quarter to preserve and promote New Orleans jazz.  Concerts are held every night in a tiny venue where most people will not be lucky to snag one of the few available seats and will have to stand for the performance.  But the performers are legendary and so talented that it makes standing worthwhile.

One of the most fun evenings I have experienced is when one of my new friends from the tour group I was traveling with and I went “club hopping,” attending several jazz clubs.  It really hit home that New Orleans had a special affinity for music when I used the bathroom in one of the clubs and in the bathroom was a piano!  This gave me quite a chuckle!

New Orleans is known for not only music but great food which I was able to experience as well.  There were a number of favorite foods on my trip including Dooky Chase’s legendary Creole Restaurant, a bowl of gumbo soup at “Gumbo Shop,” the amazing pork sandwich at the New Orleans Jazz Festival, our delicious meal at the New Orleans School of Cooking, the Bananas Foster French Toast (see below) and the many praline candy stores around the city.  I have a real sweet tooth and couldn’t get enough of this delicious candy.  See the picture below of the pralines we got to see made and then taste at at the cooking school.

While at New Orleans I learned about the culture of the Mardi Gras Indians, a fascinating history here in the city.  We ate at a restaurant owned by a Mardi Gras Indian who created and made his own costume each year for the Mardi Gras parade and festival.  The costumes or suits are influenced by Native American ceremonial apparel and very elaborate in design.  Our host displayed all of his suits at the restaurant and tried on a few for us to see during his presentation.  In the picture below I am standing next to one of the suits.

The culture of New Orleans is about enjoying life and expressing this with fun, frivolity, dance and outrageous attire.  This woman was a joy to watch on Bourbon Street.  She knew how to kick up her heels!

As we plan our routes of exploration across the country in this new nomadic life, New Orleans is one place I definitely want to return to for a visit.  In fact, I want to see as much of Louisiana as possible.  The jazz music of New Orleans and Cajun songs of Louisiana are calling to me!


The Book of Joy

This book jacket caught my eye while browsing with Beth at the local BN.  I of course bought the Kindle book and read it on my iPad.  I had never read anything by the Dalai Lama or Tutu before and didn’t really know much about them, but who doesn’t like the topic of joy?  The book was ok, but what was fantastic was it opened me up to the world of these two great men.  I have since watched lots of uTubes by and about them (Exploring!!).  They are so neat to watch!  The relationship they have is really interesting.  While their theology is quite different, the practical ideas of living seem to be very much in sync and they truly seem to like each other.  I have watched and read so much other stuff I can’t remember what came from where, but the message I got and like is that real happiness and joy in life comes from having compassion and living to help others.  As Jesus said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.”  I would say jump on uTube and watch some of their talks before reading the book.  There are lots.  I like the fact that they don’t get into religious belief so much as they do the practical aspects of love, trust, compassion, friendship, joy, etc.

So, there is my first book review.  Beth is really the pro at these and is much more insightful.  Anxious to see what she gets in to.  Stay tuned!

Why a blog? #3 – For others

In thinking about this topic over the last few days it is larger than I originally conceived.  It also brought home this is much harder than I thought it would be.  I hope I can make some sense of the topic for anyone who might read.  Three things I will say (I love 3.  3 things always seems best to me.)

First, while thinking about and planning our new life of exploration blogs, forums, vlogs, etc. have been really helpful to us.  There are lots and lots of all these out there and we have read/watched many.  In almost all there have been little bits of information that have helped us in our journey to this point and so as kind of a way to “give back.” I hope someone somewhere might be helped by this blog.  A number of people mentioned this in their blogs/vlogs and so I hope we can keep the chain going.

Second, there is hope!  As we move to retirement people often ask about out plans.  Many times people get kind of excited at the idea of taking off to explore.  I can recall a number of times in my working I would see someone retire and walk away and be encouraged that it does happen and that someday it might be my turn.  I hope in sharing our journey with others they might take hope they also will have a chance.  A time will come when they can more fully pursue their dream, whatever it might be.

Lastly, helping others is what Beth is about.  Beth works at a very difficult job in a very difficult place.  She works hard and has done so for 27 years.  Her attitude as she is facing the reality of leaving is amazing to me.  She has come home after very difficult days lately and her concern is that soon she will not be able to go in and help those around her do their jobs.  She is sad that soon she won’t be there to help.  She is not relieved she is getting out, she is sad she won’t be there to help.  How cool is that?  But that is Beth.  Whatever may come of this, if there is a way to help others we will try it.

So, I think that touches on a few things we hope may come from the blog that may help others.  I think it sort of ties in with #4 Kindness so I can go on a little more next time.  Hope this has made a little sense.  Thanks for looking.

The pictures.  I think every post is better with pictures.  The top picture is some Sandhill Cranes in flight from our last trip.  Below is another of my “Beth taking a Picture”.  This is one of her taking a picture of me taking a picture of her taking a picture of me taking a picture of…well, you get it.

We found owls!

At the Merced National Wildlife Refuge yesterday we got to see two different owls.  This owl kept flying from branch to branch.  We watched this beauty and took some pictures.  After we drove off I was delighted to spy a nest with another owl in it!  I was surprised that I caught sight of the owl because with the late afternoon light, the owl looked the same color as the nest and branches.

Here is a close-up of the owl resting in the nest.  Hope you enjoy!

Our first category! – Birding

One of the things Beth really loves to do is birding.  She/we have been at it now for several years and have gotten to enjoy it quite a bit.  It is one of the things I had planned to highlight on the blog as often as we can.  So far all the posts have just been uncategorized stuff getting started but with this one I want to try out our first category – Birding.  I am sure she/we will be adding to it often.  The picture above was taken right outside Merced birding area a few weeks ago.  Lots of birds!  I’ll let Beth be the expert and talk more about them, but even with my scant knowledge I feel pretty safe in labeling this one “Lots of birds.”

This one was taken yesterday inside the Merced preserve with our new long telephoto lens.  We got a Nikon 200-500 zoom and took this trip to try it out.  We are both pretty happy.  It is a big lens so I will probably be packing it around much of the time, but we got some pretty good pictures.  I like this one because it was a challenge to get the camera to focus in on this little guy amid all the reeds.

This one was also taken yesterday and I like it for the color in the bird.  We got a number of other pretty good ones including a couple of owls.  I’ll let Beth put more on as she wants to.

So, I’ll put this one up with a category and hopefully make the blog just a little friendlier!  Thanks for looking.

Harder than it looks!

I tried to do a fair amount of reading and research into blogging before I started this.  There were numerous suggestions that it was not as easy as it might look.  I am finding this true.  The mechanics are not that bad.  Actually physically setting up the blog was not that hard after some decisions as to what software and where and doing simple things like posting text and working (in the most simple way) with photos are not too bad.  What is hard is actually sitting down and getting something written that you want to post.  I worked several hours on the “Family” post yesterday.  I wrote, rewrote, edited, posted, edited and still came up with what seems to me not too good a post.  But it is there.  I hope it will get better with practice.  I am happy though that blog is up and ready for Beth to start writing as she has time.  Her work is pretty demanding right now and seems to dominate her time and energy.  Only 5 weeks to go!

Above is another picture of Beth taking a picture.  I have lots of these.  It was taken back in 2010 on the Corrizo Plain in California at wildflower time.  I read recently that with the rain they are expecting a great year for flowers coming up.  Below is a picture of Beth kayaking in Monterey Bay, California.  Beth loves kayaking there.  She got me to go once and I was really happy  the waves were so loud she couldn’t hear the things I was yelling at her as we started paddling out.  I think the waves were so bad that day they wouldn’t even allow the Coast Guard Cutter out.

So if you are looking at these, thanks and hang in there while we develop.

Why a blog? #2 – For the family

Beth is big on family, and the family is big on Beth.  Whether it is acting as Mema, Mom, Beth or Aunt Beth her place is huge!  With that in mind, one thing we both agree is a downside to our planned explorations is they will take us physically farther away from the family for a time.  We don’t look forward to that at all, so a second motivation I have in starting the blog is to create a place where everyone to stay just a little closer together.

For me, this picture is a great look at the heart of our family tree.  These ladies create a strong central support for everyone involved and it is great when they all get together!

I hope the blog might be a way for people to keep up with where Beth and I are at in our exploration and that they might enjoy some of our escapades.  With Beth there will always be escapades.  I also hope the family might use it as a way to share what they are up to and it can develop into a many sided conversation and communication when we can’t all be together.

As part of our downsizing and getting ready to go we are going through old pictures.  I spent several hours the other day picking out some I want to keep separate just before Beth spent several hours organizing them back into the piles?  Here’s one I hunted up again and scanned to use.

On the back is written “Me and my cousin when I was two.  I am the one with blonde hair.”



Why a blog? #1-For Beth

Right behind loving to travel and explore, Beth loves to take pictures and write about her explorations.  The picture above is Beth sitting at the only Woolworth’s Diner still open in Bakersfield, CA.  She had to go see it and she had to document it with a picture.  Below is a picture of a dinner I ordered at what is I believe the only Harvey House and Restaurant still in operation in the US in New Mexico. Don’t know what a Harvey House is?  I’m sure Beth will get around to it.

Traveling and exploring is a way of life with Beth.  She spends weeks planning trips, goes on trips, then spends weeks reviewing and writing about them.  Beth is a huge reviewer on the travel site Trip Advisor.  According to the last email stats I could find Beth has written 575 articles and has had 326,138 readers!  She has been reviewing with TripAdvisor since 2005.  Her most read review is for Mac’s Diner in Rochester, MN with 4,330 views.  She has also posted 1,572 pictures. That’s a lot of exploring and writing! We have tons of pictures of places and meals she has taken for her reviews, and the pile keeps growing and growing.  She talks now about how far behind she is in reviewing.

So…when I think about making the transition in life to retirement I cannot think of anything better for Beth than to continue to pursue her love of travel and then writing about it to share with others.  I think blogging and Beth are a perfect match!

I was very happy this morning when Beth told me she had woken up in the night and ideas were coming to her about things she would Blog about!  We’ll see how it goes.

But back to our topic, Why a blog?  I am making this (#1)   so Beth will have a place to practice her art.  Come along with us, it should be fun.  I often say I don’t really like to travel, but I love going places with Beth. She always makes it worth the trip.

Why a blog?

Why a blog?  Not something you might expect from me.  As the starter and, at least for the moment, still administrator of the blog I thought I would talk a little about why I decided to try this.  It might be interesting for others who happen to find their way here, and more importantly will be a reminder for me as time goes on.  All to often lately I find myself in the moment where I have gotten up and gone on the move only to realize I have forgotten what for? As time goes on and our lives change I can come back here and see where this started. Right now there are about five areas or reasons in my mind for starting and trying to build a blog about EXPloring WITH Beth.  I’ll list them here, then  talk more about each in a further post.  I hope to develop the blog 1) for Beth 2) for the family 3) for others 4) for kindness and 5) for me.  Also, as I am really new at this and have so very much to learn and get used to I will use these as exercises to develop what skill I may find.  I will probably at some point soon talk about why it is me and not Beth doing this.

The picture (or two).  A blog is really so much better with pictures.  I went in to Beth’s Photoshop catalog to look for a good one to add.  I went back and started with the oldest by dates and this one soon came up.  It is photo 121 of 72,089 items in her catalog.  The date was April 24, 2004.  What I love about the picture is that it kind of captures what makes travel ok for me.  It is not travel, but travel with Beth that is fun!  Traveling with her and seeing her enjoy it to the fullest is worth the trip.

I’ll leave with another picture I took very recently on a trip to Moss Landing.  I have this one printed out and next to my computer.

Some things never change.  Thankfully.