All posts by Wooly and Raeski

Wooly was born with the travel bug. Raeski caught it somewhere in her life. And when they met they had no idea what craziness would ensue.

Can a goose’s neck really do this?

Monument Valley, AZ.
Monument Valley, AZ.

At 7:30am, Wooly and Raeski left Phoenix and started their journey through the state and national parks in Southern Utah with a couple of national monuments tossed into the mix.  Getting up early and beating the heat allowed us to start our trip topless.  With the occasional pit stop along the way and a few photos of Monument Valley, the trip to Goosenecks State Park, Utah took almost 7 hours.

Twisted and folded earth
Twisted and folded earth

The Goosenecks are an out of the way, I mean you really have to go out of your way to find it, state park without much to offer except a single exceptional viewpoint.  After turning off the main road and then turning off to an even narrower road and driving a few miles you reach the end of the road and the park.  You can keep going if your names are Thelma and Louise and care to go ‘car diving’.

Goosenecks State Park, UT
Goosenecks State Park, UT

While on this drive you are treated to views of earth that has been uplifted and twisted.  Wooly thinks this is cool because there is a bit of a geology bug in him.  At the end of the road you reach the park and find a couple of picnic tables, an outhouse and nary a tree.  And yes, it’s a hot 100 degrees or about 38C.

Goosenecks State Park, UT
Goosenecks State Park, UT

However what you do find is a spectacular view of the San Juan River meandering and cutting its way through 1,000 feet of sandstone.  We were even able to watch a couple of rafters running the river.  Capturing them gives a sense of perspective of what Wooly saw while teetering on the edge of the cliff.

Goosenecks State Park, UT
Goosenecks State Park, UT

We hope you enjoy the photos.  But I have one question.  Can a goose really bend its neck that much and live to see another day?

Topless it is!

We’re going topless! Why? Because it’s more fun!

Raeski found this seat removal kit for Minis online and ordered it. Wow, what a difference it makes. After installing it the choice was simple. There’s an amazing amount of room in that little car once the back seats are gone.

Tomorrow we take off for a three week adventure. The first day will be a long one as we will be driving over 500 miles. I’m looking forward to it because we are escaping the heat. Today it reached 109F or for those living in most of the world, 43C.

Our first side trip tomorrow will be a side trip to Goosenecks State Park to catch an outstanding view of the San Juan River a few miles upstream before it flows into the Colorado River. It’s 10 miles of dirt road that’s going to really mess up a clean car. I’m curious to see if we get much dirt in the car while driving with the top down. My guess is we might end up having to put the top up. In the past when on dirt roads the back of the car got quite dusty.

After the Goosenecks we head to the Moki Dugway which has a couple of great viewpoints overlooking the Valley of the Gods. From what I have seen and read the valley is like a miniature Monument Valley. After that we head to Blanding to check into our hotel.

But we’re not done yet. Tomorrow night we are going to Natural Bridges National Monument. Why at night? Because they have some of the darkest skies in the lower 48 and Wooly wants to try to photograph the Milky Way.

Going Topless

The great debate rages on in the Wooly and Raeski home. Raeski wants to go topless on our summer trips. Wooly is concerned about the compromised security when going topless. Of course all that time we spent in the sun getting some color might go to waste if we don’t go topless. We’re not concerned about the stares and smiles we get when we go topless because we’re used to it. When you drive a Mini Cooper convertible with the top down you get lots of smiles.

But the problem the Mini and countless other convertibles have is security. How do you keep your valuables safe? Let’s face it; a bit of canvas isn’t much of a deterrent to the common thief. Actually there won’t be any irreplaceable valuables in the car when it’s unattended. There will be food, clothes, and stuff like that but nothing irreplaceable. My camera gear will always be with me. But it’s the perception of something of value being in the car that worries me along with some stupid thief cutting the top to get to some clothes and food. But one also might say we run that risk every day when the car is parked.

The alternative is driving a car that’s not nearly as much fun but a little more comfortable with more room and a trunk. Yeah, it has a sunroof but it’s not the same. A sunroof lacks the element of freedom and lack of restraint a convertible affords. Plus you really do see more when you’re topless.

Maybe I have to think a bit more creatively to figure out how to jam what we need into the Mini. We could reduce the amount of food by shopping more often. Fewer clothes and a stop at a Laundromat once or twice (being stinky is not an option) could cut down on the amount of clothes required which would allow us to use smaller suitcases that will fit in the tiny trunk of the Mini. That would leave just the ice-chest and food visible. It’s food for thought…  (Yes, I did it again. Sometimes a good pun is irresistible.)

Or we could play it safe and drive the Lexus I don’t like even though it’s my car. It would have more room, and much larger trunk and a better stereo. The ride is smoother, bumps in the road don’t jar you, and your hair looks good when you get out of the car. We could certainly take more stuff. The Lexus is a simple solution to a vexing problem and those of you who know Wooly know he’s a simple guy.

So let us know what your vote is. Should Wooly and Raeski go topless this summer? Vote and let us know. And if you have any ideas leave us a comment.  Cheers, Wooly.

Waiting on the Mail

Our mail often goes unclaimed for a day or two simply because we forget about it even though we drive by the mailbox daily. Recently I have had reason to look forward to the mail. I’ve ordered stuff!

Our National Parks pass came in the mail the other day. So far I’ve identified about 25 National Parks and Monuments we plan on seeing this summer and fall so the savings will be significant. Another piece of mail arrived the other day with gas cards. I converted a bunch of my American Express points into gas cards. That $350 will really help keep the costs down.

Ahh, the things we get all worked up about. And if you’re about to say get a life my answer will be, “I did!” Today I got up when I wanted to, did what I wanted, and didn’t answer to a boss. I worked a little more on trip plans and and generally lived a life without much of the stress that those who are still working have.

And now the mailbox is neglected once again because I’m not expecting anything of importance to show up.

The Utah Trip

In my last post I wrote that we are planning three trips this summer in order to see as much of the West as possible. The possibility of moving to South America by the end of this year or early next year has created a sense of urgency to see as much of North America as possible.

Our trip to Utah will be in the southern part of the state because that’s where most of the National Parks are. So far our itinerary includes the Natural Bridges, Grand Staircase-Escalante and Cedar Breaks National Monuments. The National Parks include Arches, Canyonlands, Capitol Reef, Bryce Canyon, Zion and the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. Other points of interest will include the slot canyons, Paria Canyon and the Vermillion Cliffs in both Utah and Arizona.

We are planning this trip in June because it is the driest time of year which is important when you are in a slot canyon. These slots rapidly fill up with water when it rains and you don’t want to be in one when it happens. Sadly there are people who haven’t heeded this precaution and have paid the ultimate price for the oversight. I don’t want to become a statistic and neither does Raeski.

We plan on hiking at every destination. There will be none of just driving through and saying we saw that. Experience has taught us that sometimes the best “wows” are found away from the road. All it takes to see a wow is a willingness to walk or hike a little bit. Our easiest hikes will be at the beginning of our trip as we acclimate to the higher altitudes. By the time we get to Cedar Breaks we should be ready for 10,000 foot elevation. We both have been at 14,000 feet, and yes, Wooly lugged his camera gear in his backpack at that elevation.

It’s a full itinerary with a lot to see but with a month to do it we should be able to see a lot. Our next step is to discover what each destination has to offer and how long it will take to see it. Raeski and I like to “wing it” so I checked the cost of RV rentals which would give us the ability to linger. However the cost is quite a bit more than a hotel room. Further analysis is needed but I think in the end we are going sacrifice flexibility for the lower costs of hotel rooms. And no, we don’t care for tent camping. It’s an age thing…

We’re open to suggestions so if anyone has recommendations of things to see at any of our destinations we would like to hear them.

Change is in the Air

Yes, it’s been a while. Okay, a long while. There have been many changes to sort through since our last posting. Raeski and Wooly both have had employment changes. Raeski starting working again and Wooly stopped. Raeski’s was by choice, Wooly’s wasn’t. After some introspection we decided that all the changes are for the good. We are now anticipating moving our retirement plans up with a few modifications.

The first change is one of occupation. While our goal has always been to travel and live in different parts of the world after retirement, neither of us anticipated it starting this early. One of our changes will be to move to Chile hopefully as early as next year. The plan is to teach English as a second language wherever we land. Wooly is currently getting certified to teach ESL to help make this happen. Raeski, the accomplished teacher that she is, already has ESL certification along with the teaching degree.

By now you’re probably asking yourself why do I care about that? This is a travel blog! Okay, you’re right. But circling back around to traveling; this is a key development because it changes all of our plans. So for the rest of this year our travels will be confined to North America. We are going to cram in as much to see as we can.

Because we are moving to South America the plan this year is to see as much of North America as we can. So far we have three major trips planned. In June we are going to visit the National Parks in Southern Utah and Northern Arizona. In July we’re planning a major trip that starts in Arizona and goes as far north as Jasper Park in Canada. In August we are going to drive the Pacific coast from Southern California all the way to Seattle.

My employment situation (or lack of…) changes we will change how we travel this year. Before it was always catch a flight and go. Rent a car when you get there and stay in some nice hotels. And a lot of times frequent flyer and stayer points paid for everything. Now it’s drive to your destination and stay in cheap hotels and limit how much we eat out. Both Raeski and I aren’t wild about camping so hotels and motels are probably the ticket for us. Staying at the Fairmont Hotel at Lake Louis in Canada is probably out of the question now. *** sigh ***

So there are many stories to come. And yes, you may have a chance to participate in our planning. As I write about any particular place we are going and haven’t included a highlight you think we should see please send us a note with your suggestions.  Cheers, W.

Sorting, sorting, sorting…

SONY DSCThree thousand, three hundred and eighty five. Some are really bad and some very good. Those two types are easy to spot. It’s the others that require real effort. Sorting would be easy if it wasn’t for those that aren’t obviously great or bad. That’s the problem Raeski and I have after shooting so many photos during our trip. I have no idea how many photos we deleted immediately after taking them or not liking the results when reviewing them in the evening. My guess is we took over 4,000 photos in all.

SONY DSCIt was different back in the day of film. You probably were more selective about the photos you took because you knew there were development costs when you got home. However with digital cost isn’t a consideration and you take as many shots as you like. If you don’t like something delete it. No harm, no foul.

But this leads to a question I’ve had since the advent of digital photography. Did film photographers get those magnificent photos because they were always thinking of composition? Were those photos a result of more planning? Or does digital allow a person to advance their craft faster because they can see the results instantly and make adjustments? Does the digital photographer eventually arrive at the same destination as the film photographer when it comes to planning the composition of a shot?

Or, perhaps with digital we take more shots because we have the freedom to experiment without the concerns of development costs. Instead of taking one great shot we experiment with different angles and exposures. Then we pick out the better shots and toss the rest. But I’ve read that’s precisely what film photographers did.

I come to the conclusion that anyone who has a serious case of the photography bug takes a lot of photos and they sort and sort and sort. Some shots we love and others force us to think about the composition. Eventually we all move beyond the, “Even a blind squirrel finds a nut occasionally” stage and arrive at the place where great photos are the result of experience and planning regardless of the media we choose. – W

About those French People

In the US one hears a lot about French attitudes and rudeness. Personally I haven’t seen it. I’ve been told the people in Southern France are nicer than those in the Northern part. Again I haven’t seen a difference. I’ve also been told it’s the only those who live in Paris that are rude. You know, big city, people in a rush and generally rude. Actually I can spot this more in large American cities than in Paris.

So what’s the deal? Where’s the disconnect? Am I just lucky or could it be our own attitudes coloring what I must call a myth? I’ve found a smile and a ‘merci’ goes a long ways. I try to utilize as much as possible my very (VERY!) limited vocabulary of French words and have found an amazing number of French people that know English. Maybe it’s because I’m trying or possibly they don’t want to hear their language mangled anymore, but for the most part the French have been very kind and gracious.

Take any large American city and ask yourself how often someone will without being asked try to help direct you to where you want to go? When was the last time you saw someone step out of a restaurant to take a cell phone call? Or step in when a con-artist is bugging you. Heck, they even stop for jaywalking pedestrians without complaint.

And now I find myself wondering what foreign visitors have to say about us Americans in the USA. – W

Eiffel Tower Thoughts

Wooly at the Eiffel Tower

It’s big, it’s tall, it dominates the landscape, and best of all it’s not another religious edifice. It was not put on the highest point dominating the city as a show of power by the church over the people. Better yet, it was built purely for enjoyment of those attending the 1889 World’s Fair. It ranks as the most visited paid-for site in the world. But most importantly, it is the symbol people most associate with Paris.

On a clear day you see it towering over the city. On a typical fall day you see it disappearing into the fog. But you always know it’s there and find yourself looking for it. By night it is lit and searchlights scan across the sky from the top. And on the hour it sparkles brilliantly in a 5 minute show of splendor and 20,000 flash bulbs.

The tower has a fascinating history. At one time it was almost torn down. It withstood Hitler’s invasion and plans to destroy it as the Germans were losing the war. There’s a lot of information about it; even some of it is even interesting to the non-engineer types.

To me it is the symbol that best represents the Paris and France today. Not one of the religious excesses of the past but a secular monument that displays France’s humanist freedoms. W


For years I never gave it much thought. It was just part of the landscape. That is until I took up photography. Now everywhere I go I find it. Gaudi churches? It’s there. Roman coliseums? There too. If there is a photogenic landmark you can almost be sure you will find scaffolding.

Finding bleachers inside the coliseum at Arle took me by surprise. 10 days later I almost expect to find scaffolding in front of any shot I would want to take. You have to be really creative to keep it out of your shots.  I’ve ended up taking tight shots to cut it out.

But it has given me an idea. I’m thinking of doing a series of photographs that pair my best shots with ones that include the scaffolding. Call it truth in images. People then could know there are shots to be found but they have to deal with the scaffolding. Or maybe it could be considered a service to the casual tourist who doesn’t expect it.

I only wish I had thought of it earlier. But as I work my way around Paris I will think of doing this. So what do you think? Should I shoot the scaffolding?