10-04-2015 Last day in Ireland

St Buite Monastery (1 of 1)-28 As we fly high over the Atlantic Ocean on our way home, (I wrote this post from the airplane) it is fun to roll around in my thoughts a bit, examining what stands out most for me from the last two weeks.  Surprisingly, the last day we spent in Ireland was also a highlight, and that will be the next story.

Park-Inn-by-RadissonIn Belfast, the night before our day in Northern Ireland, Mo and I skipped going out into the seedy streets of the city and opted instead for dinner in our hotel.  It might have been the very best dinner of all for me, with succulent baby back ribs, corn on the cob, cole slaw, and sweet potato fries, all done up high end chef style.  Wow!

Belfast to Dublin (1 of 1)-2 The next morning, we were on the road at 8:30 as usual, and with Dublin just over 100 miles south, didn’t expect much.  Our route was along A1, the very fast, very smooth, very nice “flyover” between the two cities, but again, within minutes of crossing the border back into the Republic of Ireland, we all cheered.  It was nice to see the Gaelic signs again and the castles dotting the landscape which seem to be missing in Northern Ireland, at least the parts that we saw. St Buite Monastery (1 of 1)-5

Isabella stopped again at one of her little trip extras at an historic site with one of the most magnificent Celtic crosses in Ireland.  The ancient monastery on the edge of the Boyne Valley was founded in A.D. 521.  Although none of the original buildings are still there, there are three high crosses and the round tower that all date from the 10th century. 

St Buite Monastery (1 of 1)-11 St Buite Monastery (1 of 1)-14 The crosses are beautiful, intricately sculpted with biblical scenes.

St Buite Monastery (1 of 1)-26 The cemetery site was wonderful, with graves marked back some hundreds of years. 

St Buite Monastery (1 of 1)-20 The round tower seems to have been the treasury as well as the belfry since the records indicate that it was burned in 1097 along with all the books and treasure of the monastery.

St Buite Monastery (1 of 1)-27 It was a lovely place to visit on a beautiful sunny morning after our somewhat dreary days in Belfast.

We arrived in Dublin around noon, with plenty of time and unbelievable weather once again to explore the city and see one of the most important things that we missed on our first time around.  We walked from the hotel, via O’Connell Street across the Liffey River toward Trinity College, beyond Gaston Street and down Kildare Street to the entrance to the National Museum of Archaeology.

The Last Day in Dulbin (1 of 1)-6 What surprised me most was how different the city felt from our first day when we explored it on foot.  After two weeks in Ireland, we had a much better sense of how things worked, and how Dublin was put together as well.  On this beautiful Sunday afternoon, the city was absolutely teeming with life and people, there was some kind of demonstration across the bridge and people literally thick everywhere.  Walking in Dublin requires concentration, the Irish walk very fast, at least in the city.

The Archaeological Museum (1 of 1)-34To our delight, we arrived at the Museum at 1:59 only to find out that on Sundays it was only open from 2 to 5PM.  How incredibly lucky!

I couldn’t help thinking of Erin as we perused the magnificent displays.  She does such an amazing job of documenting these world class museums.  I can only hope that the photos I took are as good as I think they are and that the camera, set on the “hand held night shot” setting, caught the beautiful detail of the art and archaeology that we experienced.

The Archaeological Museum (1 of 1)-9 The Archaeological Museum (1 of 1)-12 The Archaeological Museum (1 of 1)-19 The gold “hordes” were magnificent, dating from the Bronze Age around 1200 B.C.  I enjoyed the extremely well done interpretive displays, and got a real kick out of image of a person draped in gold.  It must have been incredibly heavy to wear.

The current special exhibition of Brian Boru, Irish King who brought the Celtic tribes together and defeated the Vikings in the late tenth century was impressive.   The name had been bandied about throughout our entire time in Ireland, and it was good to see this famous king with some kind of perspective about when he lived and the great battle for which he became famous.

The Archaeological Museum (1 of 1)-24 Precious religious pieces from the 12th century were beautiful, including this gorgeous silver chalice and the relic cross that allegedly once held a piece of the original wooden cross of Jesus.The Archaeological Museum (1 of 1)-26 However, nothing I have seen can quite compare with the special display Kingship and Sacrifice, the story of the Bog Bodies of Ireland.  Preserved for centuries and in some cases millennia, in the boggy peat lands, are the bodies of people who were killed somewhere around 300 B.C.The Bog Bodies of Ireland (1 of 1) It is incredible to look into the faces of real people who lived thousands of years ago.  It is an unforgettable experience.Hiking to the tower with Melody and Mattie (1 of 1)

The Bog Bodies of Ireland (1 of 1)-11We were impressed with the tasteful and respectful way that the remains were displayed.  The mood is somber, respectful; the lighting subdued. The written material is displayed on the exterior of simple circular enclosures that contain the softly lit preserved bodies in glass cases. The Bog Bodies of Ireland (1 of 1)-9 Mo and I were both enthralled with the kind of painstaking work required by archaeologists to retrieve everything from the peat bogs. We read with fascination how archaeologists have determined what each person ate before they were killed as well as what they ate for several months prior to their death.    Here is a link to more extensive information about the Bog Bodies of Ireland

Ireland is 17 percent peat land, only Finland and Canada have a greater percentage of peat.  I have mapped organic soils, knew of fens, peat bogs on a slope but really had no understanding at all how these thick peat deposits formed over bedrock and on hills.  I loved the detailed animated video of the development of these peat soils on this landscape.

When our own bodies finally wore out and we left the museum, we walked with the huge happy crowds toward Temple Bar to look for a good pub to have one last glass of Guinness and a bite to eat.  The Last Day in Dulbin (1 of 1)-7The Last Day in Dulbin (1 of 1)-11 The Temple Bar area was teeming with tourists.  We found an outside table at Gogarty’s, where the music was loud and lively, but certainly not Irish.  A sign proclaimed music to start at 10:30 PM until 2 AM.  Not for us.  We still enjoyed sitting there for a time where we had one last plate of crispy chips and watched the people walking by.  The Last Day in Dulbin (1 of 1)-8 It was easy to pick out the tourists: they were walking slowly and gawking up at the buildings.  The locals walked fast and never looked up at all, and were outnumbered by the tourists at least 3 to 1.

Back to the hotel, we actually had time for a short nap before our farewell dinner at the hotel with the group.  Once again, it was just OK, but gave Isabella the chance to give us instructions for our morning departures and to say goodbye to everyone.

This morning when we woke it was raining.  Actually dark and drizzly and raining.  Just such amazing timing!  even 12 hours earlier would have seriously messed with our 7 mile walk about the city yesterday.  Breakfast was included, and our group didn’t have to leave until 8:30 am for the airport.

Dublin airport is really quite nice, but the security level is definitely time consuming.  Isabella had warned us that three hours wasn’t too much and that we would need to be ready.  She got us as far as the first check-in kiosk and then we were on our own with a few other travelers to negotiate the security checks, two of them even before you get to Customs, the tax refund kiosks, US Customs, and then two more security checks in the US Pre Screening process.  Shoes and even iPads out four times!  Then more passport checks with some kind of screening machine before we finally made it to our gate.

Before entering the fray, Mo and I stopped in the main part of the airport to fortify ourselves with one last Irish Coffee.  With only 7 Euro left, it wasn’t enough for the coffees, but I did manage to find a trinket at the Duty Free shop just before our last gate.  We left Ireland with no excess pounds or euros.  Meaning money pounds.  I won’t know about personal pounds until I get home, but even with the food we have been eating, I am reasonably certain that all the walking (always much more than 10,000 steps per day according to the FitBit), the pounds added will be minimal.

Once on the plane, it pulled away from the gate right on time.  Perfect.  I was impressed.  Until the pilot informed us that we were overweight and would have to return to the gate to offload cargo and burn up some fuel before we could take off based on the conditions.  Bummer.  We finally pulled away from the gate 2 hours late, so what would have been a 9 hour flight became 11 hours on the plane.  At least they brought us water and let us get up and about to use the bathrooms.

Once again, we are satisfied with the GoAhead experience. Although the focus on education isn’t as strong as some other travel companies, we were lucky to have an excellent tour guide who taught us much about the country. I would love the  luxury of staying in one place long enough to really explore an area, and do hope to do that when I visit Italy with daughter Deanna in the future.  For now, however, I am at a time in life where I have no idea if I will ever get the chance to return to Ireland.  I would rather see as much as possible in the time I am here.  GoAhead kept us moving, with only 2 or 3 nights at the most in one place, and days packed full with activities. I can’t think of any of the sights I would have chosen to miss, but now that I have seen a good portion of the country, I do know which places I would chose to return.

A tour like this is a bit like a cruise, it gives an overview, and a taste, and if you want more there are other ways to do that.  The hotels were OK, and some were quite nice.  The included tours were good, the excursions that we chose were excellent.  Of course, another highlight for us was the Newgrange Tour which I researched and booked myself.  I wouldn’t have wanted to miss that.  I am so glad I took the time to study a bit  and booked that tour a couple of months prior to our trip.

We will be in Portland tonight, and we are both so ready to get back on the road to Eugene to pick up Mattie!  Joanne has sent a few photos and stories of the time they spent, and it is wonderful to know Mattie has been loved and coddled and so well taken care of.  Now we have to hope that she still remembers us!  Tomorrow, after a good night’s sleep at the Radisson Portland Airport we will once again have the little dog safely tucked between us for the long trip home.IMG_5329

Ambling around Bishop and Lone Pine

Current location: Furnace Creek Ranch, Death Valley, California; Current temperature: 101 degrees F Hi 102F Lo 70F
We are at the Furnace Creek Ranch RV Park hiding in the MoHo shelter with the air going full blast.  It isn’t very cool in here, but it is a good place to be at the moment, and lots better than outside.  The swimming pool is great as well.
desert peach in the SierrasWednesday morning May 1 in Bishop, CA
It is great to wake up in the morning after a good night’s sleep to know we have absolutely nowhere to be at any time at all.  We are hanging out in Bishop, a town we have traveled through often, but never really stopped to visit.  We knew that a few things were on the list, including a visit to a famous bakery and a drive into the mountains.  The rest of the day would be fleshed out after we checked out the lovely visitor center directly across the street from the previously mentioned bakery.
Day 4 Bishop_013DSC_0015The visitor center didn’t open until ten, and since it was only 9:30 we had no choice but to spend time in Schat’s Bakkery.  Awww…too bad.  even though the place was established in 1904, it is clear that now it caters to the tremendous tourist industry that plies the road between LA and Reno.  There is no way a tiny town of under 4,000 people could begin to support a bakery of this size and quality.  They are famous for their sheepherder bread, but the rest of the choices are fun as well.  We had a great pastry and sipped perfect coffees while we watched the tourists come and go with their big bags of bread and pastries.  I left with a bag of bread as well.
Day 4 a day in BishopMo parked at the visitor center, adjacent to the city park, with a large sign once again proclaiming “No Dogs”.  We keep seeing these signs in most of the small city parks along this route and it is a bit discouraging.  Mo waited in the car while I picked the brains of a very informative young woman, a local resident for her entire life.  She told us about some of the places to go, but more important she knew the history of the little Rovada Village that we had seen yesterday afternoon.  It was built by the owners of the Tungsten Mine up Pine Canyon, now closed because even though it was the largest tungsten mine in the US, it is cheaper to mine tungsten in China.  The village is a leftover, and consists of old, somewhat poorly kept rentals.  The young woman lived there until very recently, and didn’t think it was nearly as charming as it appeared to us yesterday as we drove through.  On our list today: drive the canyon to the tungsten mine.
great Bishop Dog ParkFirst things first, however.  We needed an Abby place, and just around the corner from the visitor center and city park we found a wonderful dog park.  There were even toys lying around, lots of doggie bags, grass and trees for shade.  Another young woman there with her dog told us that the locals all take their dogs on the road on either side of the canal, just 1/4 mile east of the park, where there are old cow wallows that are perfect for doggie swims.  Hmmm.  Maybe not today, but good to know.
galen-rowell-0By the time Abby had played to her heart’s content, it was time for the opening of the Mountain Light gallery down on Main Street.  No one except maybe Ansel Adams has photographed the Sierran light the way that Galen Rowell did.  His images are breathtaking, and the gallery was incredibly beautiful.  I have wanted his book, Mountain Light, since forever, and a 25th anniversary edition was right there in front of me.  Yes, I bought it.  Galen and his wife were killed sadly in small plane crash right here at the Bishop airport in 2002, but his legacy lives on, not only for the Sierra, but for all the other magical mountains in the world that he climbed and photographed.  I stayed in the gallery a long time while Mo waited patiently with Abby in the car and read brochures about more things to do in the area.
Round ValleyMid day we went back to the campground to enjoy the beautiful sunshine and rustling breezes before wandering off in the  opposite direction north of town to find Pine Canyon and the tungsten mine.  Bishop has a long history in cattle and mining, and the valley was once magnificent with the waters of the Owens River.  Now that river has been diverted for the thirsty developers in Los Angeles, and the valley looks nothing like it did before the 1920’s when the LA water district bought up all the water rights.  Our helpful history woman at the info center told us that Round Valley, on a narrow road west of 395, still was naturally sub irrigated, and looked like it did when her family ranched there 4 generations previous. 
Rovana village built by the mining companyWe drove through Rovada again with different eyes.  Yesterday we came through the town trying to find our campground, but that was just a little mistake.  Today it was on purpose.  Pine Canyon was beautiful, with huge glacial boulders strewn on the canyon floor and the steep crest of the eastern Sierra directly above us.  The natural stream has been diverted by the mining company, and according to our local resident, there is something in the soil, left over from mining, that interferes with growing veggies to any decent size. 
found a place where she could get in at least a little bitWe looked for a place to let Abby go swimming, and took some bumpy hidden old dirt paths that looked like they went to the river.  Once down there, we found some perfect spots, except they were completely taken over by large groups of campers.  Not RV types, but more like the kind of campers who might be living there permanently.  So much for a swim, Abby.  Near the diversion gate we did finally find a little place where she could at least get her feet wet, but the water was much too fast to let her get even knee deep.
desert peach on the east side of the SierrasThroughout the canyon we saw desert peach in full bloom.  Somehow I knew nothing of this common eastern Sierra shrub, in the prunus family, that has a bitter small fruit and blooms all over the hillsides in spring.  It stands out because it is so rare to get desert flowers that are this shade of pink.
Home in the afternoon to chicken quesadillas at our picnic table with cards and wine and more beautiful breezes.  I loved this little wayside park and am so glad that we decided to stay here more than just overnight.
Thursday morning we knew our travels to Death Valley would be less than 150 miles so we decided it was a good day to see some of the sites along Highway 395 we never seem to have time for.  Sabrina Canyon was first on the list, but after missing the turn in Bishop we ended up driving out to Keogh Hot Springs Campground and Resort.  A drive around was enough, and  I don’t think we really need to think about staying here.  The pool is developed from the spring and the place didn’t look very clean.  I would much rather have a natural spring or a really clean pool, no in between for me, I guess.
the cemetery at ManzanarA few more miles south and we passed the small town of Big Pine and then arrived at Manzanar.  This was our day to actually stop and go to the visitor center and drive the grounds.  The story is daunting, and the visitor center is filled with eloquent words and evocative photos and exhibits.
Day 4 D Valley_009DSC_0070There were ten “relocation centers” for American citizens who happened to be Japanese, and the largest of them was near where we live now in Tulelake.  Can you imagine having to suddenly leave your home and business with only what you could carry?  The homes and businesses were almost completely gone years later when the people were allowed to return after the war. Much to think about as we viewed the center and drove the now empty sites. 
Continuing south to our beloved Alabama Hills, we finally made the stop at the Film Museum in Lone Pine. The Hills are a primo boondocking site, and lots of RV folks have written about them, but once again, the museum was something we just hadn’t made time for in the past.  We parked in the nearly empty huge parking lot, in the shade of some big cottonwoods, and paid our 5. entrance fee to see the museum.
Day 5 Manzanar and into Death ValleyThe short movie about the area was fascinating.  As we went in and Mo saw all the huge movie posters, she was skeptical that there were really THAT many movies made in this area.  But there were.  Literally hundreds of them, especially in the heyday of the B westerns and then the TV era that was so dominated by western series.  My first radio memory was The Lone Ranger, and then TV brought old black and white films of Hopalong Cassidy, the Cisco Kid, and so many more.  It would be fun to have a list of all the movies made in the hills, but I didn’t actually see that anywhere amid the displays of posters and old cars and gun belts and sequined outfits that belonged to Roy Rogers and Dale Evans.  An era long gone, I am afraid.  It was a fun stop, but the only photos I took were of the murals on the outside walls.descent into the valley
The afternoon was waning and it was time to head east from Lone Pine on Highway 136 toward Death Valley.  Tonight, Stovepipe Wells and hopefully a site with hookups.  Reservations are not taken after April 30 at this park, but a phone call assured us that only 1 or 2 of the 14 available hookup sites were taken. 
We are ready for a few days in the beautiful valley of death, or as the Paiute’s and Shoshone’s called it, the Valley of Life.

Day 14 July 19 Delta Junction to Fairbanks

moose north of Delta Junctionrain and gray on the Richardson HighwayWhen we left Delta Junction this morning, it was raining hard, but within minutes of getting on the road, we were treated to our first moose of the trip.  She was running along the road, but then conveniently stopped for me to take her photo.  Along this part of the highway, moose are a constant problem, or I should says cars are the problem, with hundreds of moose killed every year by motorists.

the Fairbanks Visitor CenterOur drive to Fairbanks was short, and we arrived in time to spend the afternoon visiting two places on our list of must-see sights.  2 Morris Thompson Visitor Center-6The Fairbanks Visitor Center is at the Morris Thompson Cultural Center in downtown Fairbanks along the Chena River. The display gardens are wonderful, filled with the huge flowers and vegetables that thrive in the long daylight.  The center itself is filled with interesting and lovely displays, including painted dioramas and artifacts from the area.  We really enjoyed it.

3 Museum of the North-5greenhouse at the University of AlaskaWe then traveled across town to the northwestern hill above the river to the dramatic Museum of the North at the University of Alaska Fairbanks.  This university is in the perfect place for studying polar climates, and for materials testing in climatic extremes. The Museum itself is fantastic, with a controversial architecture that represents the landscapes of the north, tremendous displays from all the regions of Alaska, and a gallery dedicated to Alaskan art.  There are hourly movies scheduled, one that we are sorry we missed was called “Dynamic Aurora”.  These cost an extra $5, but it was more the time than the money that kept us from attending.  We also knew that we were going to see another aurora presentation at the Ice Museum in town, so thought we could skip this one.

the mummified steppe bison, Blue BabeWe spent enough time there to get “museum fatigue”, with our eyes and brains overloaded with tons of information and our legs and feet tired from all the standing around reading rather than actually moving.  I loved seeing “Blue Babe”, the steppe bison killed by something with teeth that may have been a lion and then preserved in the cold climate with skin and hair that could be studied by scientists for clues about his existence.

the outhouse of the northWe had already decided to stay at Pioneer Park in their pavement parking lot for $12 no hookups, but with a nice row of shade trees behind us. It seems we managed to arrive in Fairbanks during their Gold Rush Days and the parking lot was full.  I still laugh at the fact that we never managed to actually go inside the park to see all the stuff there that was drawing the crowds.  It was a noisy place, and for the first time on the trip, I used my ear plugs to sleep.  Once the shades were drawn and the ear plugs were in, we could have been anywhere!

After a bit more exploration of Fairbanks we found out that we could have joined the many RV’s at the east side WalMart for free and had access to shopping and probably less noise.  Also, just up the block from where we were parked was a lovely, quiet state park, with access to the river and hookups for a bit more money.  Still, it was kinda fun being in the parking lot directly across from the famous Salmon Bake.

3 Museum of the North-17This is supposedly another great thing to do in Fairbanks, and I had my heart set on doing it.  Mo agreed to the spendy $32 per person, but she wasn’t in the mood to do the ‘all you can eat’ thing and was going just for the ambience since I didn’t want to do it alone.  After our museum visits, we came back home and I decided to go read the blogs and then checked in with TripAdvisor about the bake.  I am sooo glad that I did. Even though some folks may have enjoyed it, the reviews were less than stellar, and we decided  to skip it.  Lots of money saved on that one, I think, and we won’t have to try to walk off all the unneeded calories.

3 Museum of the North-15While we watched the cruise buses and Salmon Bake blue bus shuttles started rolling in, one after the other, unloading people by the dozens.  The bake is offered from 5 to 8 and there must have been hundreds of people in that place.  No wonder the food is reputed to be cold and the service non-existent.  Remember, this observation is rumor only and not my personal experience.

I also can’t believe that I never took a single photo of our parking lot campsite or the mine entrance to the Salmon Bake.  I guess that may have been because it was actually pretty warm out there, and there were so many people that we would quickly retreat to the safety of the MoHo when we arrived.

CaptureMiles traveled today: 95

Road condition: excellent paved highway

The rest of the photos for this day are linked here