Cooking in Italy


After spending most of the day exploring Pompeii, we rushed back to Sorrento for an evening cooking class up on a mountainside above the main part of the city. We made eggplant parmesan and  cheese ravioli. Their take on the eggplant dish was different from any I have seen in the US.  They had sliced the eggplant on the diagonal and already cooked it.  Each person received several pieces of the already cooked eggplant and a bowl of their homemade mozzarella cheese.  We were instructed to place a teaspoon of the cheese in the middle of each piece of eggplant, roll it up, and place it in a small casserole dish with their homemade tomato sauce already in the dish.  Instead of layers of eggplant, sauce, and cheese, this was rolls of eggplant filled with cheese atop a tomato sauce in a casserole dish which they baked while we made ravioli.

For making the ravioli, in front of each person they placed a pile of a couple cups of flour and dishes of water and oil.  We were instructed to add the oil and a little water to make a stiff dough.  Then we were told that the key to really good ravioli dough (and I am guessing any pasta dough) is to knead it a lot.  Yes, to do all this, we had to use our hands.  After the dough was thoroughly kneaded, we patted it out into an oval and then ran it through a pasta maker several times to make it thin.  We laid this rolled dough on the table and then with a ravioli cutter, we cut circles, filled them with mozzarella cheese, but not too much.  The key is to get just the right amount of cheese so you have enough but can still fold it over and seal the edges with the cheese inside.  It must be sealed thoroughly so it does not fall apart when being boiled in the salty water.

The owner asked my grandson to help cook the ravioli.  Here he is working away.

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After the ravioli was done, we all sat down and enjoyed the eggplant, the ravioli with their homemade tomato sauce, and their local wines.  Making both dishes was much easier than I expected.  And fun.  The evening was filled with joy, laughter, and good company.

 

 

 

Italy–the Amalfi Coast


On one of our day trips from Sorrento, we headed down the Amalfi Coast.  For years I have seen photos and told myself, “Wow”.  No photo can do this coastline justice.  The highway is excellent but narrow.  On many of the turns, only one vehicle can proceed.  A large bus cannot travel this highway.  Even with the small ones we took, the driver would often honk as we turned a corner which we could not see around.

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We stopped at one of the few turnoffs along the highway and took a short hike down to an overlook.  This is the town of Positano. I took the following photos while at this overlook.

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I love bougainvillea and all colors grew everywhere.

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Looking across the Mediterranean.

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The land is rugged with both new and ancient buildings hanging off mountainsides and cliffs.

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A closer view of Positano.

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Another view across the Mediterranean.

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The highway, houses hanging off the edge, olive trees, lushness everywhere.

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It was a stormy looking day.  We kept thinking it would rain but luckily it did not.

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The Amalfi Cathedral in the town of Almalfi.  Its design is unique and shows the cultural influence of the Muslim world with whom the town was a major trading center for centuries–arches, gold and green.

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A typical street in Amalfi.  We walked all the way up this street to just below the school, found all sorts of delightful shops, and ate our favorite food of the entire trip.   My favorite was spaghetti with a lemon creme sauce.  Recipe comes later.

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Near the sea looking up into the city.  The large building up on the slopes is now a cemetery but used to be a monastery.

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Same spot as previous photo, just looking the other direction.

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We were supposed to take a little boat trip out into the sea but it was too rough.  Ema, my daughter, walked all the way out to the end of the pier.

The water was so high I thought perhaps it was high tide.  I was told it was not.

 

Today I asked my daughter and grandson what/where was their favorite in Italy.  We all agree, Amalfi. I also loved Capri–more about there later.

Italy–Rome


Where have I been?  Italy, on a trip planned for months, a trip with friends and family centered around a group of women writers with The Story Circle Network, a group focused on women telling their stories.  Yes, we had classes and wrote every day.  When we were not writing, we discovered a little part of Italy.  The first half day we strolled through ancient Rome, starting with the Coliseum.

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To the left of the Coliseum stands this arch–see a bit of the Coliseum on the right side of this photo.

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The Coliseum is so large that it is impossible to take of photo of all of it at once.  We were there on a holiday.  There was a long line of people waiting to get inside.  We did not go inside.

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The arch in the first photo seen from the side.

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On the other side of the Coliseum facing down a wide pedestrian only boulevard.  Many of the following photos were taken along this boulevard.  The trees in these photos are umbrella pines.  They are everywhere in Rome and other parts of Italy south of Rome.

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My daughter and grandson strolling along with friends in the background.

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One of the things I found most enjoyable strolling along were the street musicians:  One played classical guitar music, farther down the boulevard another was playing popular music while another man danced to it. I wanted to stop and dance along but everyone was walking fast away from me.  Getting lost in Rome did not seem to be a great idea.

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While sauntering along, I turned around and took a photo of the Coliseum in the distance.

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In one short walk in Rome, I saw so many things from thousands of years of history, it was hard to fathom.

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Away from the boulevard and walking toward Trevi Fountain, we saw this memorial.  It was a rainy, stormy day.  I kept thinking it is going to rain but it didn’t. In many places, the ancient, the not so ancient, and the new could all be seen in one place.

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And, of course, one of the most famous places in Rome.  We found a little restaurant near here.  I had my first Italian cappuccino and a delectable desert which I tried to find everywhere else we went but did not. It was in a little cup, 2/3 was a creamy bottom, 1/3 was berries on top.

 

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Walking along another route.  I seem to have a little problem taking photos, walking, and keeping my fingers away from the iPAD mini frame while taking some of these photos.  So much seen in a mere half day in Rome.  Shortly after lunch, visiting the Trivi Fountain, and passing by the above monument, we headed on the four hour road trip to Sorrento.

I could not resist taking a video of the lush emerald Italian countryside south of Rome.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

California Dreaming–Part Two


My friends and I spent the last two days of my California sojourn driving to and staying in San Francisco where they have an apartment.  I had not been in this part of San Francisco before and some things there surprised me.  Next to their apartment building resides a grocery where we went shopping for some salad items and cheese.  Much to my astonishment most prices were no greater than in Amarillo Texas, near where I live.  Some items were cheaper.  Who would have thought?  Not me.

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On the road to San Francisco.

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The view from their apartment.

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The purpose of our going to San Francisco rather than staying near Carmel was to see the new opera, “if I were you”, commissioned by Merola Opera.  It is a modern retelling of the Faust story.  The devil is female and much to my astonishment sung/acted by a young woman, Cara Collins, from Amarillo, Texas.  The director, a good friend of my hosts, informed me that Cara’s teacher, Mary Jane Johnson who is famous throughout the opera world, was there also.  That saying about how small the world is seemed all too true.

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After the opera several of us went to a French restaurant where the waiter spoke several languages.  I felt a bit envious.

After breakfast the next morning, we took a walk to Alamo Square and to The Mill, a famous coffee shop.

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A view of City Hall through the trees.

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Above:  the Painted Ladies.

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Latte at The Mill.

Then off to my flight home.

 

 

Day Trip to Wineries and a Lebanese Restaurant Near Lubbock, Texas


Yesterday,  Martina, my exchange student from Italy, and I drove to Lubbock so I could say goodbye to Venty, the young woman from Indonesia, whom I co-sponsored at Texas Tech University in conjunction with the teachers’ sorority Alpha Delta Kappa.  She received her Masters in Applied Linguistics recently.  She will return to her home in what used to be called the Spice Islands later in June.

First, we decided to try something new for lunch.  Neither had eaten much food from the Eastern Mediterranean area so we went to Manara.  For appetizers we ordered falafel, dolma, and baba ganoush, none of which they had eaten before.  After enjoying these appetizers, two of us ordered the kafta kabob dinner and one ordered the chicken.  Although the salad was rather ordinary, the saffron rice was heavenly.  The kabobs had somewhat different spices than the kabobs I have previously eaten but were fine.  They were served with two sauces:  garlic yogurt and another which was quite spicy.  We enjoyed both. If you want to try something different while in Lubbock, I recommend this restaurant.  I would go there just to eat the saffron rice.

Second, once I discovered that Venty did not know there are vineyards and wineries near Lubbock, we decided to take a run over to Caprock and Llano Estacado Wineries.  Llano has recently opened an expansive new tasting room.  Caprock is still called Caprock Winery, but the wine produced there is called English Newsom Cellars.  The following photos were taken at Caprock and Venty’s house.

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Argentinian Adventure–The Road to Wine Country


Late on a Monday morning, Gaston’s parents and I headed toward Cafayate, a relatively small town at the edge of the sierra which grows some of the best wine grapes in the world.  It is a long drive through incredibly varied landscapes.

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One of the first towns we drive through is Jesus Maria.  As in many Argentianian cities, trees line many streets.  Here acequias provide water for the trees.

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Except where cleared for farming–giant soybean and corn fields, much of the land through which we drove looks like this.

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Taken as we sped along, this photo show soybeans in the distance.  Since it seemed relatively dry here, I asked if they were irrigated.  Gaston’s father told me no, that they had developed a type of soybeans that require much less water.

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When I first saw this out my window, I thought maybe water, but no, this was the beginning of miles and miles of salt.

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Another photo taken looking through my window.

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And then we speed into the cloud forest. I was astonished my whole time here.  I had to idea there was such a thing in Argentina.

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We climbed higher and higher and stopped at a visitor’s area where displays explained the flora and fauna which live here.

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This area is a subtropical jungle.

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Often we drove through clouds or along the side of rushing mountain rivers. And then as suddenly as we arrived in these mountains, we were on the other side where it was dry.  The selva–jungle–stopped almost as suddenly as it began.  One side of the mountains lush and green with ocelots, all sorts of other wildlife, and on the other semi-arid country, equally beautiful but so astonishingly different only a few miles away.

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Adventures in Argentina–Flora and Fauna Near Iguazu Falls


Across the highway from the helicopter business, we visited a surprisedly large bird sanctuary, recommended by our taxi driver/guide.  We did not expect anything as lovely as what we found. Most of the birds and flowers there are native to the area.  However, a few rarer species from other parts of the world exist there as well.

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Surprised, I recalled seeing these exact same flowers on my two trips to Costa Rica.  In fact, I found another photo on an older blog post from one of my Costa Rica trips.

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Endangered, many countries where these wonderful parrots live do everything they can to save them.  They pair for life–we found the evidence amusing and enchanting.

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Whenever we saw an uneven number together, we looked elsewhere and found the mate drinking or feeding.

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Of course, there has to be toucans.  Some even clowned for the tourists.  People clustered all around to watch their antics.

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Where you have flowers you have butterflies.

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Butterflies love Gaston.

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They landed on him, flew to his fingers, let him pick them up without flying away.  I tried, but no luck.

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A fabulous morning on the Brazilian side, starting with the helicopter ride and ending here with flowers, birds, and butterflies.

 

Adventures in Argentina-Buenos Aires Neighborhoods


Buenos Aires has many neighborhoods, areas with sometimes distinct character.  Our hotel in San Telmo made it easy to see a lot of the city by walking.  Other areas we strolled through include Centro and Recoleta. In the three days we stayed there, we walked 35 miles according to my Fitbit.

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This Starbucks was exactly one block from our hotel.  We went there the first morning for the typical Argentinian breakfast:  coffee and a biscuit (not like the ones here) or a small croissant with some sweet glaze on top.  Starbucks can be found throughout the city.

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Everywhere you see beautiful parks and people use them for strolling, dog walking, jogging, relaxing, picnicking, hanging out–you name it.  Plus the trees–on all major streets, on side streets, everywhere.  Of course, it was the end of summer.  Perhaps parks receive less use in winter.

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Even on main thorough fares, like this one which is claimed to be the longest street in the world, trees reside on the sides, in the middle, everywhere.

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This is a mall, seriously.  We ate a delicious lunch here one day and came back the next day for a drink.  I had coffee; Gaston had a green drink with mint and ginger which was refreshing and delicious.  The ceiling is well–take a look!

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Hard to believe this is a mall.

One day we took the train to its end at the train station. The recently restored train station contains the fanciest Starbucks ever with incredible murals.

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The ceiling is beautiful too.

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From this station it is possible to take a train to various parts of the city but also trains go from here way out into the suburbs.  Reminded me of the subway and train system in New York City and its suburbs where I once lived.

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San Martin, the hero who freed southern South America from Spain, crossed the Andes with mules, not horses–Hugo, Gaston’s dad, gave me lots of history lessons.  However, when I saw this statue, I did not know all the history yet.  This park, filled with huge trees, borders several streets where, like much of Buenos Aires, modern and antique coexist.

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Suddenly we notice men on horseback riding out of a military area next to San Martin Park.  We rushed across the park to watch, hoping they would ride around the park.  They did not; they headed down a street.

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We never discovered the purpose of this little parade of military personnel on horseback.

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The buildings around the park provide a perfect example of the traditional, the centuries old beside the modern.  The traditional building in the middle houses very exclusive apartments.

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The opposite side of the park from the statue of San Martin overlooks the English Tower, given to Argentina by the English before the little war over the Falkland Islands which both countries claimed.  The English won.

A friend told me to take tea at the Alvear Palace Hotel so we headed to Recoleta area.  We strolled around, did not take tea, but we did have lunch in one of the small restaurants inside the hotel area.

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Next to this restaurant resides a tea store, Tealosophy,  where they sell nothing but tea.  I quit counting at fifty different blends.  In Argentina International Women’s Day was highly celebrated. This tea shop created a special blend just for that event, Mujeres Power.  I bought some; it smells heavenly but have not tried it yet.

We walked down to another park near the famous cemetery where all the national heroes and important people have been buried for centuries.  Nearby we saw the largest tree I have ever seen.

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The branches, which were impossible to photo in one picture, extend far and are so heavy they are supported by cement or metal columns.

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The tree is to the left in this photo.  The walk leads to a monastery and the cemetery.

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The cemetery was full of people.

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The artwork here speaks for itself.

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As we walked back we circled this famous piece–a tulip that opens and closes.

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Then farther down the street which is close to the port–we could hear ship sounds, etc.–we saw this living wall.

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Yes, this wall is made of living plants.  I could not help but stop and stare.

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The building which holds their equivalent of the US Congress.  I continue to wonder how I managed to walk past the Pink House–like US White House–several times and never take a photo.  Perhaps I was distracted by the protesters.  Argentina is used to protests which appear to be legally protected.  In the one we saw one evening, the protestors carried banners of Che Guevara.

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And finally some typical views, this one along a side street.

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Adventure in Argentina–Buenos Aires


On March 4, a little before noon, I arrived in Buenos Aires EZE airport.  Customs was relatively organized, straight forward, and simple.  Once I acquired my luggage, I headed out.  There stood Gaston waiting for me, the reverse of when he came to live with me a little more than eight years ago and I waited for him at the Amarillo airport. One thing remained the same–hugs.  We hailed a cab, loaded my luggage, and headed for the hotel which his dad, Hugo, had arranged.  In spite of the fact that neither of us had managed much sleep the night before (mine was sleep on a ten hour red eye flight and his was a night in the bus from Cordoba), we headed out to find some lunch and explore.

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After a long walk (I have a Fitbit and we walked 35 miles in 2 1/2 days before we left Buenos Aires), we arrived here at this very modern business district on the right.  The tall building in the distance is a Chinese bank.

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To the left are many old warehouses which have been converted into apartment buildings, restaurants, and shops.  It has become a fashionable place to live.  Several of these sailing vessels floated in the water.  Some could be boarded for a tour.  We just strolled around and enjoyed the views, the weather.

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We crossed the bridge and explored a rather exclusive area.  Buenos Aries is an old city which combines the old and the new.  Many of the sidewalks and streets have not changed in hundreds of years–the original cut stones remain.

We did have to laugh at our first lunch experience.  Although the restaurant appeared to be quite traditional and Argentinian on the outside, the menu was mostly Tex-Mex food.

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One of the longest streets in the world, this one goes from one end of the city to the other.  Note the trees!  Every city I visited contained an astonishing amount of trees.  Except for the most narrow streets, trees lined them.  Later I learned about an Argentinian saying:  there are three things you must do in life, plant a tree, write a book, have a child.  I feel grateful because I have done all three.

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Parks, parks, and more parks–they are everywhere and people use them–children playing, dog walkers, runners exercising, people relaxing on park benches, chatting.

Hugo had given Gaston a list of some places to visit, one of which is an old area with colorful buildings, traditional dancing, e.g. tango, and lots of tourists.  Many of the restaurants this time year–end of summer there–are open air, filled with people enjoying summer’s end.

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We had a coffee (we drank quite a lot of coffee–for breakfast and after dinner almost every day), watched tango and traditional country dancers.  Tango is a Buenos Aires dance tradition.  People in other parts of the country dance the traditional dances, not tango.  We watched while a woman in her 80s left her table and danced perfectly with a young man dressed in traditional clothes–everyone cheered.  People there eat dinner late, 9-10 at night.  One day in Buenos Aires we somehow sort of forgot lunch and were hungry so we went to this special restaurant (they have a very unique way of making a potato dish which Gaston likes) about eight.  The waiters looked at us as if we were crazy.  No one else arrived at the restaurant before nine and most even later.  This suited me fine.  I much rather eat late than early.

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A Tribute to My Dad, Doyle Lightle


Dad lived his entire life, 90 years, on the farm which my great grandfather, Gottlieb Werth, homesteaded in the middle 1800s.  Gottlieb Werth came to the United States from Switzerland when he was 18.  Even though Dad lived in the same place all his life, he liked road trips.  The first occurred when I was three.  He drove us all the way from Northwest Missouri to Monterey, Mexico.  I still have photos of us wading in the Gulf in Texas before we crossed into Mexico.  Thereafter, we almost never missed at least one road trip a year between wheat harvest and the start of school.  Sometimes instead of a summer trip we took one around Christmas, like the year we went to Florida when I was in elementary school.  I skipped school a couple of weeks, took my work along, and came home ahead because the flu, which I missed, put everything behind.

By the time I was six, I had probably covered half the continental United States and, of course, been to Mexico.  I do not remember some of those first trips but the later ones I remember well, like the summer we spent in Crested Butte, Colorado, when it was still a mining town, and another in Placerville, Colorado, down the road from Telluride.  Then it was just a nowhere place, filled with the Victorian houses of its mining heyday.  Dad joked later that he should have bought one of those houses when it was cheap.

One year, the year between my junior and senior year in high school, we took a one month trip and drove 6,000 miles, from home to the Black Hills, where we had relatives, to Vancouver, to Vancouver Island and then to Victoria.  We visited every national park along the way,  Grand Tetons, Yellowstone, Glacier, Olympic, then drove up the Columbia and cut back across Rocky Mountain National Park and through Colorado. On an earlier trip we went to every park in Utah and Northern Arizona and Mesa Verde.

Dad’s interest in and curiosity about everything seemed endless.  He tried the latest agricultural methods in his farming, was an avid conservationist, wanted to check everything out on these trips, talked to people about what they were doing.  At home he read National Geographic and Scientific American and endless books.

Because of these trips, his sense of wonder, his propensity for intellectual activity, my friends in college were always shocked to find out he was a farmer.  They often thought, originally, that he was a college professor.

He moved into this house where I grew up when he was ten.  After Mom died, Dad and I were at her grave on Memorial Day when a man came up and starting talking with Dad.  I learned that the building in the foreground of this photo, before it was used for livestock and storage, was used for dancing during the Depression. The sheriff would send out deputies to make sure no illegal alcohol was consumed. I took this photo four years ago when I took a trip back.

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There used to be woods to the right of this photo but someone bought the land and bulldozed down all the huge oak trees.  The tall douglas fir tree in the middle was tiny when we brought it home on one of our trips out West.

I will forever be thankful to Dad for instilling in me a love of exploration, wonder, and curiosity.