A Day In Palo Duro Canyon

If I told you our recent outing to Palo Duro Canyon resulted in scraped knees, a sprained ankle, an attack of wind and sand, car trouble and temps in the 100’s you might be left with the impression it wasn’t a very good day.  But, take my word for it, it was.  Surrounding those mishaps was time spent together hiking, exploring, eating,  watching wildlife and a great musical.

When we arrived, our first stop, before going down into the canyon, was at the scenic overlook.  Rugged, simple, beautiful – that seems an apt description of the view.  Everyone enjoyed the scenery, the visitor center/gift shop and even took this first opportunity to meander down some paths and explore some old ruins.

Top of the Canyon looking down
Old dwelling just waiting to be explored
Leslie and Ben hiking

The sun was hot but soon, cloud cover moved in and provided a welcome respite.   With the clouds came a few rumbles of thunder and we searched the sky to see which way things were moving but, weren’t overly concerned since it seemed to be moving away from us.  We had been there for 15-20 minutes when I took the grandbaby, Colette, and stood on the path to admire the view.  Suddenly and without warning,  a gust of wind whipped the hat right off of her head.  It landed just over the side and got caught on a small branch but, between juggling her and the ‘big’ camera I wasn’t sure how to retrieve it.  That predicament was short-lived and ended up being the least of my problems because just a few seconds later the wind became ferocious and big, fat drops of rain began to pelt us.  Trying to run – into the wind – we were assaulted with grains of sand while getting drenched.  Trying to shield the baby and the camera from the rain and sand I finally made it back to the car where, luckily, the door was unlocked. Meanwhile, in haste to seek shelter five-year-old Gianna fell and skinned up both of her knees. Two minutes and two band-aids later all was calm again, and the brief storm both Mother Nature and Gianna unleashed had passed. The camera and Colette – baffled by the commotion and Nana’s antics – were fine.

As the saying goes here in the Lone Star State, “If you don’t like the weather wait 5 minutes and it will change.”

Just like that, the sun came back out and we decided it was time to move on.   We gave the teenagers, Patrick and Ben, a moment to alert their peeps that, once in the canyon, there would be little to no cell service.  The anticipation anxiety of being cut off from social media required some deep breathing on their part but after a moment they too recovered and we began to make our way down.

At the bottom, it was HOT – about 111 degrees  – with very little shade.  Meandering the two-lane road we kept the a/c in the car on full blast while we took in all of the rugged beauty. Undaunted by the heat, we got out and braved the high temperatures to hike, play and explore.  And, drink lots of water.

Our first stop was to look at some rustic cabins that we hadn’t seen on previous trips.  We marveled at the Cow Camp Cabins and the man who, in the distance and in the oppressive heat, sat with his easel painting.

Rustic cabins with bunk-beds, a/c, and a fireplace but no running water.
Can you see the speck sitting on top of the hill?

Unfortunately, Ben stepped off the side of the asphalt wrong and twisted his foot. Immediately, it swelled up but since we had coolers filled with ice and drinks we were able to get a nice cold-pack on it quickly.  It was sore and swollen for the rest of that afternoon and evening, but the park hosts provided us with an ace bandage and that, along with ibuprofen and ice, kept the discomfort to a minimum.

Moving on we discovered a cave in the side of the hill so all of us (except Ben and Granny) jumped out to explore it.  The pictures tell the story better than I can.

Let’s check out that cave!
Grandpa helping Therese
Almost there
Success
What a view

Following that fun, albeit hot and steamy hike we stumbled across a surprise snow-cone stand.  Without a second thought, we overpaid for the luxury of cold, refreshing flavored ice and enjoyed it in the only spot of shade around.

Days like this make me feel like I’m the luckiest person on earth and I’m very thankful to God for the opportunity to have these adventures. I love my family and I love spending time with them.  Even though we were missing several members we had fun with those who could be there.  $$-wise we didn’t spend a whole lot of money but the memories we made – priceless.

I hope this summer you find fun, too.  Even when things don’t go absolutely perfectly.

Carpe Diem!

To all the father’s out there – have a very Happy Day!  And may God bless you and your families.

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TEXAS and Calvin in the Park

Recently, several members of our family took a day trip to Palo Duro Canyon just outside of Amarillo and Canyon, Texas.  We hiked and played and had the best time despite high heat and several mishaps along the way. Since childhood, this has been one of my favorite places to visit.

 

Part of the plan for the day was to see the musical production of TEXAS.  The Pioneer Amphitheater, nestled in the heart of the park, is a family favorite and a visit to Palo Duro Canyon is always more complete when we eat barbecue and see the show.

As we enjoyed our meal a few clouds along with some nice breezes moved in and felt great.  After an afternoon of hiking and playing the adults were happy to sit and enjoy a cold beverage while the kids continued to climb the hills.

As it always is, the show was terrific.  The lone cowboy riding across the top of the canyon with the Texas flag was poignant.  The music, dancing, and singing were superb.  The fabricated lightning and gunshots made us all jump – even though we knew they were coming – and the finale with the dancing water and lights was amazing. After the show ended the actors were gracious and patient while they chatted with the audience and posed for many pictures.  Eight-year-old Claire was excited to get a photo with some of the main characters, especially  Calvin Armstrong and Elsie McClean who were two of the leads.

Calvin and Elsie

After we loaded up the cars and began the drive out of the canyon I exclaimed, “This was a great day!”  Hubby Ronald, looking in the rearview mirror, mentioned that our son-in-law, Leslie, kept turning his headlights off – presumably to try and see the stars. As we neared the top, and a good cell signal, his phone began to ring and our daughter, Krista, told us their car was acting up and they were losing power.

Limping they made it to the entrance where we were all able to pull over without blocking all the traffic behind us.  Popping the hood it looked like it was either the battery or alternator.  Hubby Ronald is always super prepared, the handiest person I know and incredible to have around in an emergency like this.  We would be back on the road in no time….no problem! Except this time, with all the tools somehow the jumper cables were missed.

Uh Oh.

The traffic coming out of the canyon had slowed to a trickle but we began to wave our arms in hopes someone would take pity.  Several people offered to stop but no one had the jumper cables we needed until a young man came along.  He rolled down his window and told us he could definitely help.

As Ronald and Leslie got busy we began to chat with this nice young man.

“Did you see the show?”

“Um, actually I’m in the show”

“Oh, really?  Do you have a part or do you work behind the scenes?”

“Oh, I have a part. I play Cal – Calvin Armstrong”

Um, what?

Remember Cal?  One of the leads?

Mouth opened and foot inserted.

The good news – he had taken so many pictures with fans that he didn’t recognize us, either.

Phew.

The car started and, giving Sean (that’s his real name :)) many thanks before saying our goodbyes we finally made it back to the house around 12:30 in the morning.  Pretty much dropping dead-weight and deeply-asleep kids into their beds the logical thing would have been for the rest of us to follow.  Instead, we ended up in the kitchen where we laughed until we cried and rehashed the events of a spectacular family day.

Car trouble resulted in us being saved by the star of the show.

Go figure.

p.s. – it was the alternator but a couple of hours under the hood and Ronald and Leslie got it all fixed.  And, in the end, it was….no problem.

Well, maybe I should say…it wasn’t a big problem.

Coming up next  – a day of hiking, hot temps, and more mishaps.

 

 

 

 

Painted Churches of the Texas: The Tiny One

Leaving the central Texas area around Schulenburg – and not feeling tethered to a strict timeline – we were making our way toward Huntsville and enjoying the scenery.  We had visited all the churches on our list plus one more and were satisfied with our exploration of this small section of the Lone Star State.

All of a sudden we saw a teeny tiny building in the distance that looked like a small church.  As we flew by at 65 mph we saw the sign and, indeed, it was a church!

Hitting the brakes and making a U-turn we quickly made our way back to see what was what.  As the sign states, visitors were welcome to tour the grounds and the building.

 

On the altar was a notebook for prayer intentions along with a note which stated that Mass is held once a month.

St. Martins – It was the most charming stumbled-on find of the weekend.

Thanks for joining me on this journey to visit The Painted Churches of Texas- I hope you enjoyed seeing the pictures as much as I enjoyed taking them.

If you would like to see the other churches we visited that weekend I’ve included the links below:

St. John the Baptist in Ammansville and Queen of the Holy Rosary in Hostyn

St. Mary’s in Praha and Ascension of Our Lord in Moravia

St. Mary’s at High Hill

St. Cyril and Methodius in Dubina

 

Painted Churches of Texas: St. Mary’s at High Hill

There is joy in slowing down and relishing the journey.  Preferring to meander and not dash through the weekend we were delighted to experience these amazing, stunning, ornate, intricate and exquisite churches. Attending Mass at St. Mary’s in High Hill, Texas (known as the Queen of the Painted Churches) gave us even more time to slow down and soak in all the beauty.  Indeed, she was a splendor to behold.

I got the distinct impression this parish really loves their barbecue.  Their grills and smokers were some of the largest I’ve seen.  I think I’d like to attend one of their parish picnics!

Next up:  Sts Cyril and Methodius in Dubina, Texas.

Click here to see my post on parishes in Praha, Moravia and St. John.  Click here to see the post on Hostyn and Ammansville.  Each church is stunning.  Enjoy

 

 

Painted Churches of Texas: Praha, Moravia and St. John

No scampering for us as we continued our journey down country roads in search of the next Painted Churches in Texas built by Czech immigrants.

Having started our tour at Queen of the Holy Rosary and St. John the Baptist we meandered down more rural roads in search of our next stop.  We didn’t have to go far since all of the parishes are within a few miles of each other.

St. Mary’s Church in Praha (English for Prague)

The next two churches were only open to guided tours.  Since we were doing self-guided we were not able to go inside.  They were still gorgeous in their simple and quiet surroundings.

Ascension of Our Lord in Moravia

 Looking through glass doors Hubby managed to get a picture of the altar.

St. John in St. John, Texas

Many of the parishes had these wonderful outdoor spaces for gatherings.  What a great concept!

Next up – we attend Mass in High Hill at another church named St. Mary’s and also known as the Queen of the Painted Churches.  You won’t want to miss the beauty!

 

 

WPC – What’s In A Shanghai Name?

A trip to Shanghai provided many opportunities to see names in English and the character equivalents in Mandarin.

Shanghai hotelOur hotel in the Shanghai ‘suburb’ of Jiading

Ikea and Amway

Grocery items at the local Auchan (equivalent to Wal-Mart)

A wealth of western shopping opportunities in downtown Shanghai

Shanghai street sign

A street sign on a side street

McDonald’s quarterpounder and KFC/Pizza Hut

A wonderful trip!

 

Mass in Mandarin

Staying in the Jiading ‘suburb’ of Shanghai or district, as they are called here, our light colored skin, hair and freckles have proved to be a source of fascination for many locals.  Heads have turned as we walk by and many have taken our picture.  Some openly and others, thinking we can’t see them, take our photo on the sly.  It doesn’t bother us and we are happy to smile and pose as long as they are relatively polite and respectful.  Which, without a doubt, they have been.

This morning we went to a very small (300 people) local Catholic Church to attend Mass.  We came in the back and sat in the last pew but, in no time at all, word spread through the sanctuary that foreigners were present. Heads turned and they made no secret of staring at us.  I’m not kidding, LOTS of heads turned.

Mass was lovely and while I understood 4 words total….Ni hao (hello) XieXie (thank you), amen and alleluia I was able to follow along because worldwide the service is the same wherever you go.  Same readings and same prayers no matter the language and no matter the location. It.Is.Awesome. (Plus, with Mass Apps I can follow the readings in English)

Jesus I trust in YouI know what this says!! (Jesus, I trust in You)

Sared HeartThe altar of Sacred Heart Catholic Church in the Diocese of Wenzhou

And a big kudos to the congregation for the beautiful and roof-raising singing.  It was amazing to hear such joyful voices being lifted unto the Lord!

After Mass we wandered back into the courtyard where we ended up the main attraction for pictures. We happily posed for about 10 minutes while taking different group shots and individual selfies.  It was fun and the Chinese – in all their curiosity – were welcoming and excited to see us.

Sacred Heart

Taking a picture of them taking pictures of us

Sacred Heart

Acts 2:42 They devoted themselves to the teaching of the apostles and to the communal life, to the breaking of the bread and to the prayers.

Stormy Day in Jiading

The rain came fast and, because I hadn’t been watching weather reports, unexpectedly.  Thunder followed and a stormy day set in.  It was a good time to relax the schedule as the heat and humidity, while sightseeing the day before, had tired all of us.

When the rain tapered off we ventured out for lunch and ended up exploring the streets and shops in the surrounding area.  Our group split up which left my son, Patrick, and I hanging out together.  JIading shoppingWe were wandering around, ambling in and out of the little shops when I spied a sign with a teapot.  Loving all things tea, and especially drinking tea in Asia, we went into the shop to see what was what. The shopkeeper seemed excited to see us and began talking to us.  Unfortunately, we had no idea what he was saying.  We wanted to ask him questions but were not able to communicate effectively with him.

Note….Patrick has had two years of high school Mandarin and both my fluent-speaking Mandarin son, Joshua, and me, his mom, (speaking absolutely no Mandarin) are highly impressed with how well he has been able to communicate.  However, this chatting was above his capabilities.

Finding no success in asking him if his teapots were for sale or display we left the shop to find Joshua and, upon our return, discovered this gentleman was completely delightful and wanted nothing more than to share his tea while working on his painting and flute-playing.

One of the things I love about staying in the less touristy areas is stumbling upon these amazing experiences that you can’t buy with money.  It had been a lazy, rainy day calling for a ponytail and no make-up.  No matter that I was ultra-casual though, our host could have cared less.  Discovering this hidden gem and being treated to an absolutely wonderful encounter completely made my day.

Jiading Tea

Confucius Temple and Huilongtan Park

 

We are enjoying our time as guests of Jiading District – outside of Shanghai – and our sweet little hotel.  Having time to leisurely explore the area and appreciate the sights I’ve been especially taken with the abundance of parks and green space.

Confucian TempleWe saw the Confucian Temple of Jiading also known as the China Imperial Examination System Museum.  This is where philosophers spent much time studying and taking the exams to become scholars.  It was a high distinction to pass these tests.

Confucian Temple

On the other side of the park from the Temple was the Huilongtan Park.  A peaceful area with families, walking trails, a tea room, some amusements and a small lake.

Huilongtan ParkHuilongtan Park Huilongtan Park Huilongtan ParkI really love these gentle oasis’ amongst the hustle and bustle of a busy city.

 

Life Around Jiading, Shanghai

No desert to be found anywhere near here as we are smack dab in the middle of a very large city.  In other words – We made it to Shanghai!  Despite a setback on our original travel day we did finally arrive, without further incident, on the next flight to China.  Shanghai, being on the southeastern coast of China, is hot and sticky but we are having a good time.

My son, Joshua, who lives here, met us at the airport and got us to our respective accommodations before we crashed for the evening. After all, jet lag does take a toll. For this trip we are staying north of Shanghai in the Jiading district.  It’s kind of like a suburb of Shanghai. My teenage boys – Patrick and Ben are staying at the apartment with Joshua and his Japanese wife, Ema, while my mom (Granny) and I are tucked away in a quaint little hotel in a historic part of the city.   We have been keeping it low key since we arrived – soaking up the local culture and becoming familiar with our surroundings.  It’s been lovely.

Jiading Villa Garden Hotel
Our boutique hotel
Jiading Villa Garden Hotel
The view from our room
Granny waving from the window in our room
Granny waving from the window in our room
Our private patio
Our private patio

Scooters are a way of life and it is amazing how creative people can get with transporting things and extra people.

These children were so cute – following me and practicing their English “hellos”.  I couldn’t resist taking their picture and they couldn’t resist hamming it up.

Shanghai McDonaldsMcDonalds