Spring Cruise on Holland America

3/25-4/01 Sunday – Cruise Medical Center and Visiting Key West (again) , Roatan in Honduras, Santo Tomas de Castilla in Guatemala, and Costa Maya in Mexico (again)

TAMPA

Our Royal Caribbean cruise ended in Tampa Sunday morning. Unfortunately early on I saw that I had blood in my urine. I was fairly certain it was a UTI, so I started drinking a lot of water to keep the bacteria at bay until I could see a doctor on our next cruise ship, Holland America.

Other than that concern our transfer of selves and luggage from Royal Caribbean (off the ship by 9:30am, among the last), to Holland America was fairly smooth. We were directed to the main road that ran parallel to the pier, where we could walk on the sidewalk to the pier where our next cruise ship was docked. As soon as we arrived at that terminal they welcomed us inside where we were checked in and given our sea pass cards. Then we got to wait until 12:30 before our group was called to get on the ship. Thankfully, there were bathrooms and a drinking fountain right there.

Once on our ship we learned that our cabin was ready for us. Wow. So we settled in somewhat then went on to the Lido (buffet) on the 8th deck for lunch. Back in our room, I told John I wasn’t feeling well and wanted to lie down. He went ahead to attend a “New to Holland America” class. I was feeling light headed so I called the medical center. They said there would be on Emergency charges until they opened at 5 pm. Great. Then I called a consulting nurse for our HMO health insurance. After explaining my symptoms, the water I’d drunk, and noting that my potassium and chloride had been edging to low in the last couple years she said I should see the doctor immediately.

I called the medical center, they brought a wheel chair and delivered me to their small bathroom where I was instructed to provide a urine sample. Then I was guided to their one bed. Without really understanding the impact of my deep breathing at this point, I was apparently hyperventilating. I just knew I was really light headed and needed air, so I was breathing heavily. I didn’t realize I was creating a big problem with all that excess oxygen, even when I noted that I was jerking my extremities. I could even see my fingers curling up. That scared me more which led to more heavy breathing.

The doctor and his assistant struggled to put an IV in one arm and draw blood from another, with my small veins and jerking. I managed to throw up in the midst of all this. They were giving me electrolytes, anti nausea medicine as well as Valium. As the Valium began taking effect I remember seeing John when I opened my eyes, then not seeing him the next time I opened them. I remember the doctor asking me to breathe slowly which I did but according to John, not for very long. Guess the Valium took control of my conscious breathing.

Note: before John had arrived at the medical center he’d looked for me at our cabin, then went to the life station muster (required of all passengers). When the crew member asked about my absence John (not knowing for sure) told him I was in the medical center. He called down and was told that I was there. Whew! Not kicked off the ship for insubordination. Unfortunately, the doctor was concerned that I may be having a stroke and would need to have me taken off the ship for help. Apparently they are not equipped for serious situations. Since the ship was soon to leave the Tampa port he was concerned. He called in the senior doctor who had me follow several directions like touch my nose with my right hand, then left hand. When he asked me to touch the heel of my right foot from the ankle of my left foot up to its knee I was very confused. His accent didn’t help. John said he wished he’d taken a video of the scene! The great news is that they determined no stroke, mostly the UTI and hyperventilation.

After 3 hours there they felt I could return to my cabin. I was pretty out of it by then, so happily followed John’s orders to take pain pills, change and slip into bed. He went to the buffet after letting our dining table group why we hadn’t come to eat with them. He also canceled the tour we’d signed up for in Key West.

Ah, by morning I was feeling much better.

Some thoughts on this cruise ship’s medical center: I was impressed by how efficient they were, doing a lot with little and quickly. There only seemed to be the doctor on call, his assistant, then later the senior doctor (female). They got the lab results quickly. I saw the doctor the on Friday for another urine test to verify that all the bacteria were gone. I think he wanted to be sure I was “good to go” before departing the ship. He was very helpful explaining everything. I was also impressed by the cost, considering all that they did, mostly under emergency charges for almost 3 hours, plus the extra visit. The total was about $900.

KEY WEST Since we’d been here just last week and had canceled our tour, we relaxed on the ship.

ROATAN, HONDURAS

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Honduras beach from the ship. See the grounded boat?

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Mahogany Bay, Roatan, where we docked and started our tour of Honduras.

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Our Hiking/Archaeology tour was at “Mayan Eden”

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It began with introductions to a variety of adorable local animals. Most are there for rehab help. Some are not caged and happily return at the end of the day for the free food.

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Yellow Toucan

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We also saw replicas of Mayan ruins.

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White faced monkey. Earlier I’d been standing by a short wall when the guide yelled at me to get the bottle off that wall. As a monkey grabbed it, I managed to pull it away from him. I saved the day!

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Butterfly enclosure located outside. Camel Eye butterfly. All the butterflies and plants are local. Pretty cool.

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Butterfly drinking nectar from its favored flower.

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Water figure replica. The owners regularly send water out its mouth down that path and the butterflies gather eagerly for the fresh water.

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Red Passion Flower

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Mayan Solar Calendar. It consists of 18 months (20 days per month) and a 19th month of 5 days. Its calculated out 5,000 years to 12/21/12. Our guide said that time ending was due to astronomical features of the calendar, not that it would indicate the end of the world.

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Replica that shows the man as the head of the household, he’s above the woman. Our guide is on the left.

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Moon (or Woman’s) Calendar

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Termite nest up in the crook of this tree. Note the dark line flowing from that nest. The termites keep it repaired because it is a tunnel that protects them from rain and predators.

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Our guide scraped some of the tunnel and those termites swarmed to repair it there.

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Hammock bridge. Lots of fun because it really swings when more than one person is on it, so we had to wait until the small group (2 or 3) ahead of us was well ahead.

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This young red parrot bit our guide when he brought his arm for the bird to hop on. He explained that the bird did not want to leave me. I was touched.

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Parrots on a break.

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Spider Monkey

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Island Deer (similar in size to Florida’s Key Deer)

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Lion Monkey

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Island Rabbit (it looks more like a small javelina than the rabbits we’re used to!)

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John and I at a view point. Our cruise ship is in the background. The gentleman who offered to take our photo wanted us to kiss. We did, but we were pretty fast.

GUATEMALA

During our 1 ½ hour air conditioned bus ride to the ruins we learned not only more Mayan history, but a lot about Guatemala. What I remember is that Guatemala was in a civil war from 1960 to 1996-36 years. It was largely over the army killing the Mayan people, indigenous to the area. After that the new government started taxing the all the Guatemalan people and offering public (free) school and public (free) health care. There are also private schools and hospitals. I was impressed by the sites of large tracts of green land that were fenced off. Some had Brahman cattle (they only raise cattle for the meat, not milk) and some sugar cane. Their places appeared neat. He said the people were unhappy with the politicians so they voted in a comedian who is their current president. He said they’ve been happy with what he’s accomplished lately.

Guatemala shares a border with Honduras but a one mile width of that area is called “no man’s land” , because it’s rich in jade and both countries want ownership of it. Unfortunately, even with threats that anyone seen on that land would be shot, many people who smoke marijuana live in that area. It’s a headache for both countries. According to our guide their country is willing to give up the land to Honduras so they can get rid of those “freeloaders” and the headaches they present.

He also explained how the new Lidor technology enables those who look through it to see through the jungle and dirt to more archaeological sites, without having to dig. They’re pretty excited about that.

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Tour of Quirigua Archaeological National Park

We toured a museum about Jade, then went through a jade store before we walked on to the National Park.

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A jadeite replica of the largest Jade artifact found in the Maya area.

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A replica of a Jade mosaic portrait mask. I think it’s cool looking.

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An image of Mayan royalty when they are getting married. She pierces her tongue, drawing a string through it as he has to pierce his penis, to show their commitment to one another.

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The wooden implement on the magazine is a took the Mayans used to drill teeth (for cavities and to place Jade – only for royalty). They used agate crumbs glued to the end of the stick – one of their rulers discovered this was the only thing that could cut Jade.

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Jade Colors

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Cacao pods

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Stella (Large rock carving). These were created by skilled carvers hired by a royalty, to denote the power of that royalty.

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Close up at bottom of above Stella. The face at the bottom is their sun god.

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Another close up showing a monkey on the left. Can you find anything strange with its hands, feet? Note the figure to the monkey’s right? There was a story here but I can’t for the life of me remember it! The red feather is from our guide’s pointer.

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Acropolis.

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This was a really hot, humid day but I still couldn’t resist climbing up this acropolis. Then we agreed we were exhausted and just wanted to return to the ship. We still had 50 minutes before our bus would leave.

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Cool sites on our way back: a large air plant

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Long Vines

As we were sitting at our meeting point we heard an engine. On investigating it we discovered it was our bus and we could get inside and enjoy the air conditioning!

As we were sitting at our meeting point we heard an engine. On investigating it we discovered it was our bus and we could get inside and enjoy the air conditioning!

We truly enjoyed our experience on Holland America. We met 2 couples that were just loads of fun, enlarging our bucket list even more. I loved the classes (computer and at their test kitchen) as well as all their quiet, intimate spaces. We found their theater productions were more intimate than those on Royal Caribbean and Carnival, really touching our souls. John enjoyed Holland America but missed the better quality of their meals and larger quantity of food choices, especially outside of meal times.

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Spring Cruise on Royal Caribbean

3/18 to 3/25  starting Sunday- Visiting Key West, Cozumel, Belize City, Costa Maya

KEY WEST, FLORIDA

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Key West Flamingo, “cribbing”

Since we’ve been to Key West a couple other times, we decided to walk about 15 blocks down Duval St. to the Butterfly Conservatory, my favorite place. I bought my 4th butterfly, encased in clear acrylic. Each time we’ve been to Key West since the first, I’ve bought at least 1 butterfly, displaying them in our kitchen. We also walked through their butterfly room, meeting a sweet Flamingo who, someone near me said, was “cribbing”, out of boredom. We even saw a female there but it didn’t seem like she wanted to have anything to do with him. On our way back to the ship we stopped at “The Key West Key Lime Company”. We watch “The Profit” on CNBC and this is one of his small companies. The pie was to die for-ice cold straight out of the refrigerator on a really hot day.

COZUMEL, MEXICO We had signed up for a tour of “Secret River” where you go into a cave via a river . Because we’d learned that the water was very cold and we’d need to swim much of the way. We decided to cancel that trip. We also didn’t leave the ship since we’ve been there before.

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Towel Creature Here is one of the adorable towel folded creatures our room steward made for us.

BELIZE CITY, BELIZE

On 3/22/18 we snorkeled off a tropical island near Belize City. Since we didn’t bring any camera, I have no photos to share. This place has been on our bucket list, to snorkel on the 2nd longest coral reef (after the Great Barrier Reef off Australia). The water was crystal clear, affording us views of the most diverse and largest coral I’ve ever seen. There were all sorts of fish as well, though not as colorful as those in Hawaii. Still, our guides were wonderful, even diving down to bring up a live conch (Kahnk). We stayed out so long the backs of our legs got sun burnt.

COSTA MAYA, MEXICO

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Costa Maya, Mexico ruins – Mayan iconography

On 3/23/18 we took a tour of Mayan ruins, a good 2.5 hour bus ride from the port. It was good to see the land and homes that lay along that route. Lots of poverty, places with old rusted things lying about. As we traveled our guide explained much about the Mayan people. She was extremely knowledgeable about the Mayan civilization but her accent made it a struggle to understand her. The civilization began around 2000 BC, spreading through Guatemala into Mexico, Belize, Honduras and El Salvador. Their rulers were considered divine and had temples built to the sky so they were close to the gods. Their elite were also literate, using the only hieroglyphic system of this early time. Our guide tried to explain that they used inscriptions (epigraphy) and symbols (iconography) in their writings. Below are the ruins we saw at two different sites.

DZIBANCHE RUINS  –  Building 6 – a pyramidal platform with a temple with two vaulted galleries at the top 600-900 AD).

Note that one must go down sideways because of the limited width of the steps. This was deliberate – so the people would not turn their back on the gods (or rulers who were seen with divine rights).

Some other Buildings and Spider Monkeys we spotted on our way back to the bus.

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KOHUNLICH RUINS This is a National Park yet still owned by a private party who live there with the responsibility of caring for the grounds.

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These are Kohun nuts (on the Kohun tree) that these ruins were named after. Lich means rich (the Mayan people don’t use the sound for “R”, so they used “L”). This is a large area with many ruins that happened to be rich in Kohun (Cohune in English) nuts. The Mayans would boil the shell to extract oil. They’d also enjoy the food inside.

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To the left is a “poison tree” – our guide (on the right) said that just touching the black sticky stuff on that tree would kill a person is just a few hours. The red tree to the right of it has the antidote – you would rub its bark onto the place where the black material touched you. Isn’t nature fascinating? The Mayans knew about the antidote tree. Not to mention that red was a special color for them.

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Ball Court, where games and ceremonies were held.

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Place of sacrifices; blood letting and sometimes killing .

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Building of carved images. They are being protected by the organic hatched roofing.

Figureheads. These are looking towards the setting sun, revealing members of the ruling Kohun lineage, represented in the form of the sun face.

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Acropolis: the largest building in Kohunlich

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Palace. In 600 AD this was a simple one story house. Later it was partially dismantled, with a large platform and elegant residence built in its place.

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The dark hole at the top is suspected to be an underground escape route for the royalty.

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The line in the midst of the rocks denotes where the original (below) and reconstructed (above) rocks are.

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Commoner Residences near the Palace.

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A Polo Match at The Villages

3/16/18 Friday in The Villages, Florida

Since our last post of Zion National Park we drove lickety split for home, trying to be ahead of a big storm headed for Montana. We also changed our original plans from driving through Montana to driving through eastern Oregon, then up into Washington. We managed to only hit some snow on our way although we were greeted with numerous flakes falling as we entered Spokane! Such a cold welcome.

Since that day (Nov 4, 2017) we’ve been involving ourselves in our new home life of exercise classes at 8am Monday through Friday, with line dance classes for me and golf for John in addition. We’ve enjoyed time babysitting our grand kids periodically and even did a lot of bush and tree trimming in preparation for winter. The snowfall wasn’t so bad this year. We also chose this time to remodel our kitchen, getting it finished just before Christmas!

For a treat we committed to a couple cruises in the Spring (March 18-25, then March 25 to April 1) out of Tampa, FL. In conjunction with those cruises we arranged time to visit with John’s cousin Lynn and wife Nancy who live nearby in Clearwater and were sweet to drive us from/to the airport and to/from the cruise ships. We also got to spend time with our good RV friends Greg and Marcia who live in the Villages, east of Clearwater. Besides showing us all the wonders of The Villages (wonderful homes whose owners get to access all sorts of activities befitting the over 55 crowd). Thus they generously invited us to a real Polo Match.

I love horses anyway, so this was extra special. It also happened that the week before we flew to Florida we saw a piece on “60 Minutes” about a special polo match in Argentina. It featured the two top polo players and their horses. The special part is that the #1 polo player uses horses that are all clones of his favorite and the all time best polo pony (They’re called ponies in polo). Everyone at that match wondered whose team would win. They explained that the ponies are 80% of the game. It was an extremely close game and at the end of a tie round, the team with the cloned horses won. Note this sort of cloning is not allowed in the US.

Back to the Spring Polo game at The Villages. Polo started way back, before Christ, somewhere in Central Asia (China, India, Mongolia maybe) as way to train horses used in war. The game has 4 periods called “chukkas”, with a half time break where the onlookers rush onto the empty grass field to tap down the divots created by the horses. There are 2 goal posts at each end indicating where the small white ball must be driven for a point. If the referee standing outside that area notes the ball came through successfully he holds his red flag up, down if it didn’t. They hit the ball with the wide part at the end, not the narrow part, so it won’t fly so far.

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Stadium Seating. We were parked and using lawn chairs just outside the hedge on the opposite side, from which I took this photo.

 

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The farther player has just hit the ball. You can see the polo mallet hanging from the wrist of the nearer player.

 

 

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You can see the ball towards the right. They get clustered when trying to knock it away.

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The man on the right is the referee. Notice his horse’s tail is not tied up.

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This player has just hit the ball hard towards the goal and is dashing to stay ahead of the others and hit it again into the goal area.

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Here we are at “half time” with Greg and Marcia as other onlookers continue filling the divots behind us.

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Zion National Park

10/31/17 Tuesday in St. George, UT

Happy Halloween!! Just as we explored a different part of the Saguaro NP this time, so we checked out a different part of Zion this time – the East side, along the top of the canyon instead of the bottom. Later we also walked the Riverside Trail, one of my favorite memories in this park.

Zion -East side, on top of the canyon, below:

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We drove through the 1 mile tunnel that included “air vents” as John put it at various spots along the way – from inside the tunnel they were nice breaks of air (from car exhaust) as well as sunlight.

Checkerboard Mesa above.

Zion -Riverside Trail, on the bottom of the canyon, below:

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Zion, Riverside Walk

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As we left, the Bear Grass was so lovely, I have to share this image.

We rested the next day, noting that we’re headed for 3 long travel days and will be heading into predicted snow. We have lots to do when we get home and don’t really have any travel/fun plans until March, so it’s unlikely I’ll be posting any blogs until then.

Spokane is due to have a low of 25 degrees the first day we are there – Brrr… it will be interesting how we “survive” winter at home!!!

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DeGrazia Gallery In the Sun

10/28/17 Saturday in Tucson, AZ

It looked like we really wouldn’t be able to get parking near the Tucson Art Museum and the Center for Creative Photography, so John dropped me off at the DeGrazia Gallery In the Sun while he visited “Bookmans” for some Louis L’Amour books.

Degrazia is a Tucson oil painter who became famous for his renditions of little Indian children. I wasn’t that thrilled with those paintings, but did enjoy his impressionistic rendition of horses and Pueblo Indians. He built his home, as well as a chapel and gallery on 10 acres outside of Tucson.

DeGrazia’s home is above. He died in 1982.

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DeGrazia’s chapel which burnt recently, thus the cyclone fencing to keep people away

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DeGrazia’s gallery floor, made with cholla cactus, chopped into 6” lengths, then set into the floor

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Mission San Xavier at Christmas celebration

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Paintings. He painted with a palette knife, leaving more for our minds to complete in his paintings.

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Paintings. He painted with a palette knife, leaving more for our minds to complete in his paintings.

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Paintings. He painted with a palette knife, leaving more for our minds to complete in his paintings.

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Saguaro National Park (Tucson Mountain – West)

10/25/17 Wednesday in Tucson, AZ

We were enjoying a presentation at the Visitor Center on Mountain Lions by a Volunteer Naturalist when the fire alarm went off so he continued his talk outside by the flagpole. This was a hot day (over 90), he was looking into the sun and had to talk over the alarm, voices of other “escapees” and soon the fire truck engine. I was as impressed by his perseverance as his knowledge and fun stories.

We learned that this animal has more “common” names than any other – about 80. Among them are: Cougar, Puma, Panther, Ghost Lion. They are the most efficient predator – getting their prey 85% of the time. Wolves only manage 15% of the time. They are proficient in Stealth (nocturnal), Sight, Strength, and Smell. They even have their back paws step into the depression made by their front paws. What they don’t have is stamina, like the predators that run like wolves and lions. Once they’ve “pounced” onto the back of an animal (they most often attack mule deer and javelinas in the Park), they’ll use their powerful jaws to crush the victim’s neck vertebrae.

Don, the volunteer, shared a couple stories. In one, he was hiking early in the morning and spotted what he thought was a mountain lion (later he saw through his binoculars that it was a bobcat, another animal that frequents the park). It was facing off against 2 coyotes. He turned and dashed onto a 2 foot high rock, then leaped onto the 13 foot high egg shaped rock just behind it. The 2 coyotes approached from in front and behind the bobcat. The one in front scrambled to reach the bobcat. As his head came above the top of the tall rock, the bobcat swiped at it’s head. The coyote ran off once it’d tumbled to the bottom. His partner was never to be heard from. After a little grooming (probably waiting to see if either coyote reappeared) the bobcat proceeded off his rock perch.

Our naturalist suggested that we take his favorite hike up King’s Canyon Wash. We’d see lots of petroglyphs at one point on the hike. We did that hike. Boy were we grateful for the winds on this very hot day.

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At the beginning

Petroglyphs below

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Petroglyphs

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Petroglyphs

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Petroglyphs

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Just beyond the area of the petroglyphs. Just below that rock cliff at our feet was a couple gatherings of bees. We skirted them by climbing over at the far right end. The least favorite part for John.

After this we trekked up hill to a picnic area, then returned the way we’d come, grateful for the shade of our car at the ending of our hike. A good place for our picnic lunch.

We determined that this side of Saguaro NP (Tucson Mountain – West) was not nearly as nice as the other (Rincon Mountain – East). Granted there is the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum there, but it’s more a zoo of the animals and plants of the desert ($20/person). There is also the Old Tucson Studios, another pay for activities place. Both seemed like places we’ve seen before, so we skipped them.

At this point we’d had enough of hiking, took off for home base, with stops at a car wash and grocery store before crashing at our condo.

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Mission San Xavier

10/24/17 Tuesday in Tucson, AZ

We were so fortunate to arrive shortly before the 11 am guided tour, which was far more interesting than if we’d just toured on our own.

This Roman Catholic Mission was founded in 1692 by a Jesuit priest, Father Kino, born in Italy but sent by Spain to Mexico, then later here. The current structure was begun in 1793, by Spanish Franciscans. At that time Spain didn’t want to continue spending the money for Catholic priests, so the Spanish Jesuits no longer could afford to come to this part of the world. I don’t know how the Franciscans manged. Work continued for 14 years before the money ran out (loan from a rancher). “The villagers helped from start to finish. They gathered sand, lime, clay, rock and wood; built kilns and excavated trenches. Thirty-three inch foundations were built and brick was laid up for both the inside and outside faces of the wall, rock rubble and lime-sand grout was poured between. Artists from central New Spain (now Mexico) worked to complete the interior.” The walls are super thick. For the towers, the bottom is 6’ thick. They taper as they go up. In the main part of the church the walls are 3’ thick.

Restoration has been ongoing, much by volunteers, even Art Restorers from all over the world, but at this point they need $3 million to complete the restoration. Restorers don’t complete what didn’t get done in the beginning, thus you see the tower on the right doesn’t have the dome that the left one has, since it hadn’t been built in the first place.

This is Baroque style, where everything is matched, that is what is done on one side is repeated on the other.

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Outside-architectural rendering

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Outside-view from the front

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Inside

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Saint Francis Xavier image. The small medals pinned to the cover are “milagros”, little symbols of the kind of healing that is being requested of the saint.

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Lovely Madonna statue

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Jesus, King of Sorrows

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Mary, Queen of Suffering

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“Man in a Maze” This is a Tohono O’Odham symbol of man and how he makes choices that create the maze that is his life. Did you notice this symbol on the Queen of Suffering statue above this image?

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