Landlubber time is running out

With November upon us we began stepping up our plans to head back to Ice Floe. But first, there is one more visit to Michigan and Thanksgiving to share with family and friends. November, you must be thinking – it is already February.

An aside, I will do my best to catch you up on all the great adventures we have had this season in the Caribbean as soon as possible. Camera and photo and internet and emergency dental challenges have presented obstacles to summarizing the wonderful time we have been having here.

Sneak preview. Hanging out between dental appointments on Canouan

Brief Michigan Visit

George has an often-used phrase “Its on the way if you go that way”. That attitude has allowed us to sneak in visits with friends and loved ones en route to quite different destinations. On one such trip to or from Marilla’s and Mitch’s we made a quick stop at Allison’s and Mike’s for a day or two. We were able to see Riley participate in a climbing competition. She is strong and lanky and beautiful on the wall in the gym (or the side of a cliff).

We also had a chance to have Tristan try on the Halloween costume I was working on. It was a challenge for me with my deficiencies as pertains to any kind of orientation. All’s well that ends well and Tristan made a very fine dancing shark. Riley made herself up to be a little, pink, Piggy.

One of our favorite Halloween Persakins, Edna, was a fine model during construction of Tristan’s costume.
Tristan, Riley, and PD all ready for Trick or Treating
Tristan, the dancing shark

Thanksgiving 2021

We did not have a Thanksgiving Family gathering in 2020 due to the pandemic. To the best of my knowledge, it was the only year I celebrated Thanksgiving without family and friends. With almost everyone vaccinated, we felt comfortable gathering in 2021.

Conversations with several family members led to re-consideration of how we wanted to honor this tradition. Most participants were indifferent as to whether we celebrated on Thanksgiving Day. Switching up the date would mean the flights would be cheaper and airports less crowded. However, it did present challenges to children in school. Everyone was in favor of making it simpler. Some voted to have a family gathering independent of Thanksgiving entirely. In the end we decided to celebrate on November 13th and to move it to Florida. Our Floridian family members have born the task of flying for years.

The Best Laid Plans….. Covid Strikes Back

Susan, David and Brenna had to hold up the younger generation’s end as last minute Covid infections took out some who planned to come – Tristan days before he was eligible for vaccination, Mike, who caught it from Tristan and Brian. Marilla and Mitch, having vacationed with family for several weeks earlier in the year chose not to come.

That left us with several extra bedrooms and we filled them with friends, Diana, Ruth, Ann Marie and Matt. Sometimes we elect change and sometimes it is imposed by circumstances. Those who could not participate were surely missed, but the inclusion of these friends certainly marks our 2021 Thanksgiving as one of the very best.

Each Thanksgiving is unique and 2021 was remarkably different from all others. We spent an entire week together. Many brought contributions from home including breakfasts to please any pallet (pumpkin rolls, egg bites, waffles, English muffins, baked eggs, smoked salmon and cream cheese (and bagels))….

We simplified the menu, keeping some favorites (mashed potatoes, stuffing, cranberry sauce, brussel sprouts, string beans, roasted roots and added a cornbread and sweet potato casserole (no doubt I missed some).

Lunches throughout the week were a wide variety of “appetizers” which for prior Thanksgivings were saved for lunch on Thanksgiving day.

We reduced the number of pies to 6 and started eating Margaret’s contributions of lemon tart and peanut butter and chocolate pie BEFORE Thanksgiving day. We played board games that Marilyn brought and labored over a ridiculously difficult puzzle Susan contributed.

We took a walk through Robinson’s Preserve across the water from Ana Maria Island, FL, sighting many waterfowl and birds of prey.

We rested, gathered, shopped, ate, drank and thoroughly and completely enjoyed each other’s company.

And a week later, we were on a plane to Grenada.

Back Home and Gone Again (Part 2)

Visiting Marilla and Mitch in their new home

A week after Grandma’s Summer Camp we were on our way for a visit with Marilla and Mitch. They recently purchased a home in Flagstaff, AZ and it would be our first time seeing it.

George planned a leisurely pace for the trip, driving 7 hours each day and he reserved hotels for each night’s stay. What a wonderful change from our typical approach which had been to drive more like 10 plus hours, start looking for a town with a hotel that accepts dogs, is near our route, has a room, and won’t break the bank. Inevitably we would arrive near or after most restaurants were getting ready to close, search for something to eat, drop into bed and wake up the next day to do it all again. Our 7 hour drive turned our road trip from 3 exhausting days to 4 relaxing days with time to stop along the way for lunches, sometimes a walk and line up a dinner location / reservation before arriving at our hotel. Each day we enjoyed a relaxing dinner, a good night’s sleep, and got up refreshed looking forward to doing it all again! This is our new and improved road trip modus operandi.

Marilla and Mitch’s home in Flagstaff, AZ (Winter 2020)

It has certainly been an education seeing the challenges facing our children in purchasing a home. With interest rates so low, fixer-uppers are hot commodities. Buyers are lined up to pay over the asking price in cash. They’ll flip them in a matter of months and make a pretty nice profit. Next level up in price is not much better and it has been routine for buyers to offer more than the asking price. Contributing to the competition amid rising home costs are now also supply chain issues that have drastically reduced the construction of new homes. Yikes!!

Marilla and Mitch purchased a home about 20 miles outside of the center of Flagstaff. Our visit was in early September (2021). The area is described as “high desert”, with an elevation around 7000 feet and limited precipitation outside the summer months when the native vegetation comes alive. In Marilla’s and Mitch’s case, the vegetation turned out to be predominantly Russian Thistle, otherwise known as, tumbleweed.

Two plus acres of tumbleweed
Manzi (right) and Ooni (left) in a winter field of Blue Grama Grass. OOni was added to Marilla’s and Mitch’s family a while after our visit, but I wanted everyone to meet him.

Russian thistle is native to southeastern Russia and western Siberia and was originally introduced into the United States as a contaminant of flax seed in South Dakota in the early 1870s. The seed is spread when mature plants detach at the base and are blown along by the wind. A large Russian thistle plant may produce more than 200,000 seeds. It also spread great distances in railroad cars transporting cattle. Within 20 years, it had spread to 16 western states and several Canadian provinces.

Russian thistle can quickly establish itself in disturbed soil, at the near exclusion of most other plants. It is much less successful in areas with established native vegetation. Luckily, it is an annual, and with persistence, can be eradicated and replaced by native vegetation. Time will tell, just how much persistence as Marilla and Mitch plan to return their 2 acre property to fields of the native Blue Grama Grass and the many beautiful wildflowers that thrive in the summer months.

We all set right off to pulling the obnoxious Russian Thistle and collecting wildflower seeds. During our visit, we collectively weeded out the Russian Thistle from about half of their 2 plus acres. Within a couple of weeks after we left, Marilla and Mitch polished off the rest.

Marilla and Mitch purchased enough Blue Gramma grass seed to heavily seed the weeded fields in the late fall and early spring in addition to purchasing and collecting wildflower seeds. We are very excited to visit again to see the progress.

Mitch and George also installed a beautiful new wood stove and a door on their front porch that enters into the garage. I took on a fun project of stripping an alarming array of bold wallpaper borders (very satisfying).

Marilla and Mitch are still waiting on some of the living room items they bought (supply chain delays) but they have made short work of transforming the living room (see below, before and after photos).

Well, we all know what is said about “All work and no play”.

George, Duhkxy and I took some time off to visit Zion National Park, one of Marilla’s and Mitch’s favorite for hiking and camping. It was our first visit. We stayed at the Zion Canyon (pet friendly) Lodge in the town of Springdale, UT. Springdale offers a free shuttle up and down the Main Street of town and, just a couple of minutes ride away, to the entrance of the park.

Springdale, UT
Zion Canyon Lodge, Spingdale, UT

Duhkxy was restricted to a short portion of the park just outside the entrance along a bubbling river bed.

Luckily, most restaurants welcomed him and he enjoyed long walks in the morning and evening. On one of Duhkxy’s morning walks, George and he encountered several tortoises. Just my luck – I slept in.

Some of the “wildlife” has become all too familiar with humans, and despite repeated messages to not interact with the animals, people find it difficult to ignore the brazen antics of the squirrels and chipmunks in hopes you will reward them with a treat.

We enjoyed an assortment of walking trails and hikes each day. Our first hike “Emerald Ponds” takes you high providing scenic views with water features.

We had dinner out every night and restaurants were plentiful and covered the gamut of cuisine and settings from the most informal to decidedly fancy. Every meal was wonderful. Virtually every restaurant was more than happy to accommodate Duhkxy. One evening just as we returned from a gorgeous and exhausting hike, we rode the shuttle back lusting after a tall fresh brew. Not only were we disappointed to find the first brew pub closed, we learned that a power outage affecting the entire town had resulted in most restaurants having shut down for the night. We returned sadly to our room and called one restaurant after another getting no answer or the answer that they were closed for the evening. There was one left – a ways out of town, with a $$$$ rating and super fancy. We called and they were not only open, they said they could “Certainly accommodate Duhkxy”.

We were seated in an outdoor area just outside the windows in the next photo.

We made a grand night of it sharing a delicious sparkling wine and fabulous meal. George hit the jackpot with his order of rack of lamb.

Rack of lamb at the Switchback Grille, Springdale, UT

We made our first acquaintance with an unusual bird that repeatedly dunks its head underwater to catch insects.

On our final day we took “The Narrows” trail that follows a river up an ever-increasingly narrow canyon. We did not quite make it to the end where we understand it is less than 6 feet wide, but we certainly made a good effort and had a wonderful time.

Returning to Marilla and Mitch we capped off a wonderful visit with a paddleboard/kayaking trip on the Colorado River. Marilla and Mitch had taken this trip earlier on paddle boards, both paddling up-river and then back down. We accompanied them on this trip in which a boat took us up-river and we kayaked back down. Lest you think less of us, we were subjected to a lengthy downpour and the river water was quite chilly.

Manzi, as comfortable and surefooted on the paddle board as her parents did not hesitate to move around and switch boards.

Along our way we jumped on shore to view some very well preserved petroglyphs.

The steep cliffs bordering the river changed hue as clouds obscured the sun and daylight began to wane.

Long day filled with beautiful sights, memories, and friendship. Mitch drove on the three hour ride back while we filled ourselves with what was left of lunch and snacks, followed by a blissful, deep sleep.

Our visit ended with a birthday party for Manzi who enjoyed a cheeseburger for dinner with ice cream for desert. Duhkxy loves visiting Manzi.