The occasional, often ill-considered thoughts of a Roman Catholic permanent deacon who is ever grateful to God for his existence. Despite the strangeness we encounter in this life, all the suffering we witness and endure, being is good, so good I am sometimes unable to contain my joy. Deo gratias!

Monday, June 2, 2014

Western Trip Part 1: the (Still) Wild West

Every so often I change the focus of this blog and get personal. I suppose that's to be expected since my purpose here is to praise God for the gift of our very being, and I can think of no better way to do this than to describe His work in my life and the lives of those I love.

Last month Dear Diane and I, accompanied by our new pooch, Maddie, left our home here in Florida to drive across this great country so we could visit our daughter and her family who live in the Bay Area. Our primary purpose was to attend the First Holy Communion of our grandson, Ezekiel Francis. But we decided to turn the trip into a major vacation, visit a few old friends, and see the country up close and personal. We spent nearly a month away from home and added almost 7,000 miles to the car's odometer as we made our way to California, avoiding the Interstate highways whenever possible. It was a marvelous trip.
First Communion day: daughter Siobhan, me, son-in-law Jeffrey, Ezekiel, Phineas

The addition of Maddie, our seven-year-old rescued Bichon Frisé, led to some changes to our usual style of travel. First, we had to find accommodations that would accept a dog. Understandably, many hotels don't. That's where the Internet came in handy. I discovered a wonderful website -- -- on which one can search for hotels, restaurants and other facilities that tolerate the presence of pooches. It was a lifesaver. I also discovered that La Quinta Inns have a corporate policy permitting dogs at all their inns at no extra charge. We stayed at quite a few on the trip, and most were clean, comfortable, and reasonably priced. Many other hotels call themselves "pet-friendly" but charge from $10 to $50 (or more) per pet. They might well be pet-friendly, but they're certainly not pet-owner-friendly.

Maddie's presence also required us to stop fairly frequently so she could "use the facilities," but that actually worked out well since our bodies likely benefited from the occasional stretching of aging muscles. As for Maddie, she sat on a soft, comfortable dog bed behind the driver seat. We also tethered her to a seat belt to keep her from flying about in the event of a sudden stop or worse. She actually adapted well to these arrangements; indeed, to all the travel, with just a few exceptions. Maddie demanded that her window be opened, if only a few inches, whenever she was in the car; otherwise she subjected us to a constant, very high-pitched whine that no human ear could withstand for more than a few seconds. We decided that any attempt to train her to be quiet while driving at 70 mph was probably a bad idea. And so we opened her window and she settled down, while we were forced to adjust to the constant roaring of wind and road noise. It would seem we were the ones being trained. Oh, yes, and our little fur-ball has a "need for speed." Whenever I slowed down or came to a stop, she whined, but once I returned to highway speed she again settled down quietly on her bed. Very strange.

Diane, Penny & Maddie on the Riverwalk
Our first major stop was San Antonio, deep in the heart of Texas, where we stayed at a lovely hotel, the Hotel Indigo - Riverwalk. They deigned to accept Maddie as a guest in our room for a mere $30 extra...grumble, grumble. Actually, it was worth it. Our room was about as perfect as a hotel room can be, the staff were wonderful, and the location excellent. 

We were able to spend the day and evening with our old friends, Penny and Bill McBride, who were our neighbors back in the mid-70s when Bill and I both taught at the Naval Academy in Annapolis, MD. How wonderful it was to see them again. 

Our friends gave us an abbreviated tour of the city, strolled with us along San Antonio's famous Riverwalk (where little Maddie was quite a hit), and dined with us at outdoor restaurants that tolerated our dog's quiet presence. I've included a few photos taken during our visit, including shots of the Alamo and the Mission of San Jose and San Miguel.
A view along the Riverwalk in San Antonio
Diane, Penny and Bill deciding on our lunch

Mission of San Jose & San Miguel

Walkway at the Mission of San Jose & San Miguel
The Alamo at Night
San Antonio is a beautiful city and perhaps we will return and spend more time there so we can better appreciate all it has to offer. After leaving the city we made out way across the stark, dry, beautiful landscape of West Texas and after a day or two found ourselves in famous Tombstone, Arizona, the "town too tough to die." This was actually a return visit since we had spent a day there about 45 years ago. Little had changed, other than a few more shops, saloons, and touristy stuff. But it's still a fun place to visit, and once again our hotel -- the Landmark Lookout Lodge -- was wonderful, especially the breakfast. A few photos follow...
Sunrise at our Tombstone Hotel
The Stagecoach rolls into downtown Tombstone
A Tombstone Street Performer Greets Us
Beautiful desert flora of Arizona
Diane keeping Maddie out of trouble in Tombstone
I'll continue with our trip West in the next few posts. Tomorrow: I'll tell about our visit to San Diego, Laguna Beach, the Sequoias, and joining our daughter and her family in Danville, CA.

Here's a link to some of the photos I took during our San Antonia visit: Flickr Texas

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