HOB-nobbing on the PCT in the Mokelumne Wilderness

I was looking for the perfect camp location on Forestdale Creek when I noticed another man putting up a tent nearby. I went over to chat, or hobnob, so to speak.

The 65-year-old Hob McConville was on a mission: finish his second trip over the PCT. (His first trip had been back in 1976 when I was hiking on the Appalachian Trail in Maine.) He had already hiked the Appalachian Trail twice, and the Continental Divide Trail once. He and his wife had walked across Europe three times. In other words, hiking long distances is pretty much what Hob does. He didn’t know whether he would do the Continental Divide again. Large bears, i.e. grizzlies, worry him. 

“I’ve camped under this beautiful sugar pine,” he informed me, “because it is my tent’s last night and I want to give it a good experience.” Obviously he liked his tent. In fact, it was well-loved, like a child’s teddy bear after five years of hard loving. The tent was literally falling apart at the seams and Hob had been repairing it with Post Office packaging tape. “My wife is meeting me at Echo Summit with a new tent,” he sighed, more sad than excited. Hob deeply believes that anything you purchase should be used until it is beyond use, and then a little longer.

I hated to tell him that his beautiful sugar pine was a white pine. I’m not sure why I did, except older mountain men like the two of us enjoy knowing our trees. He wanted to debate until I pointed out the cones. And the tree was a beauty, regardless of the type of cones it produced. I am sure that his tent felt well-honored. I wondered if Hob would take it home and bury it in his Connecticut backyard, like a favorite pet. Hob’s pack was in similar condition, but apparently it had a lot of miles left.

This gorgeous white pine with limbs askew sheltered Hob’s tent on its last night.
Hob’s backpack looked a bit threadbare, as well. But it hadn’t quite reached the status of being retired.

The next morning, our discussion turned to the PCT and Hob’s philosophy on long-distance hiking. “It shouldn’t be a race,” he proclaimed fervently. His feeling was that it was becoming more and more like one. He could foresee the day when companies like Nike might sponsor races to see who could finish the trail in the shortest amount of time. I agreed. Just completing the trail in a season leaves little time to appreciate the beauty of the region. Jumping from the already long 20-25 mile days to 30 or 40-mile days would make such appreciation much more difficult. I see nothing wrong with the pride through-hikers feel in finishing the trail; it is a pride well earned. And Hob was quite proud of his accomplishments. But the ultimate value of the hiking the PCT— beyond personal satisfaction and growth— is in experiencing nature and developing a commitment to protecting wilderness areas. The PCT is not a race track.

While the conversation had been stimulating, Hob had miles to go to meet up with his new tent (and wife), and I had more nature to go appreciate. We parted company with Hob heading north and me heading south. Here are some of the things I saw along the way.

No more than a quarter of a mile up the trail, I came on a beautiful flower garden that would make an English lord lust over having it on his estate. I promptly took a half hour off to admire it, which is time that few through-hikers could spare.
The garden was filled with a variety of flowers. I think that the daisy like flowers are asters. The yellow flowers are groundsel.
The aster-like flowers up close.
And the groundsel.
More groundsel.
Rock fringe.
And monkey flowers.
Not much farther along, I came on this small lake that demanded another 15 minutes of my time.

I passed a few more lakes and then the PCT did what the PCT always does. 

It headed up a mountain.

I met a young woman who was talking on her cell-phone with her brother. “I just saw a bear up the trail,” she told me breathlessly. I didn’t see the bear, but I did see…

Red elderberries…
Rabbit bush with an iridescent blue butterfly… 
A caterpillar chomping down on a leaf. When I tried for a closeup, it saw my shadow, assumed I was something wanting to eat it, and dropped to the ground.
Charteuse green on the rocks. This may not be Facebook, but I am lichen it!
A closeup of the lichen. A pretty rust-colored lichen is also found in the area.
I don’t have a clue what this plant is, but I am pretty sure it was left behind by a UFO-alien. I kept my distance.
Looking way down from the mountain I could see the Blue Lakes. The tiny dot on the road is a car.

The last time I had hiked through this area, we had walked around the lakes. The night before, one of my long time trekkers, Nancy Pape, had choked on pills. My friend Ken Lake had jumped in with the Heimlich Maneuver and saved her life. The time before, we had hiked out from the lakes to the small town of Markleeville, California and happened upon the Clampers holding their sacred initiation rites. Men were walking around with toilet seats over their necks shouting obscenities. They were quite upset that we had women along who witnessed the ceremony. The women were amused.

As I started down from the mountain, I came on this bunch of dead flowers that were reflecting the coming fall. I thought of it as a dried floral arrangement.
I also had a view of this Mokelumne Wilderness landmark that has been known from the days of the early pioneers up to today as the Nipple. Once again, smoke filled the skies.
I found a snag…
That pointed toward the Nipple.
And a tall, weird, flowering plant that is known as deer’s tongue. Why? I don’t know.
A close up of its greenish flowers.
Corn lilies are another plant with greenish flowers. These were backlit by the sun.
These are corn lily flowers.
I’ll close today’s post with this shot of hemlock trees silhouetted against the sky and forest. You can tell that they are hemlocks by the way their tops are bent.

NEXT POST: A walk down Puerto Vallarta’s Malecon and an exploration of the public art along the way. After that, I will do a post on Huichol art in PV and then another post on the PCT.

The Day of the Dead Ladies of Puerto Vallarta

As I went through my photos for today’s post, I noticed that almost all of the human size sculptures were women. I wonder why?

The Day of the Dead, or Día de Muertos, is a seriously fun holiday in Puerto Vallarta and throughout Mexico where the dearly departed are celebrated with hopes that the celebration will help them on their journey. People dress up in dead-people skeleton costumes, altars are established, and special foods are prepared. Gaily decorated skulls and skeletons are everywhere. Peggy and I have yet to be in Mexico when the event takes place (which is at the end of October/beginning of November), but the skulls and skeletons are still around, lots of them.

The skulls seem to represent both sexes equally, although this one seems to have a feminine cast to it. The gold teeth made me think of the dentist’s chair, a place I am all too familiar with. Ouch!

Of the life-size sculptures, I photographed, I could only find one man. This led me to speculate, naturally, as to why. I don’t think there is a reason particular to the holiday. About an equal number of men and women die, right. So is it that the girls dress up prettier, or that their eyes are more beautiful, or is it some other attribute, like the colorful bosom of the top photo.

Obviously, clothing is important, and you can do so much more with hats!
And certainly this woman with her red flowers and curls is well-dressed.
The hat and the boas lit up the lady from an earlier year. But what’s with the dead roses?
The eyes have it here…
And here. Same girl dressed up differently it would seem.
Remember the Red Hat Ladies. How about a long necked Red Hat Lady?
This gal had something to say. But I am not sure you would want to hear it.
Here was my only large guy sculpture. I had to go back in time to find it.
Smaller sculptures are found in the shops, often representing Huichol art.
Another example but probably not Huichol art since it is lacking in Huichol symbolism. (More on this in a later post.)
The red fingernails were a nice touch.
Peggy and I were walking down one of Puerto Vallarta’s road and came on this lady walking her dog.
And then there was this tile of a man out walking his dog— a dog that has a mission on its mind. Humor is an important part of the Day of the Dead.
Here’s a lady monkeying around.
A lady on a tile…
And a lady on a dish. Once again, the hat is an important item of clothing.
Skulls are found just about everywhere.
And are creatively decorated, with clouds, for example.
And with hearts.
You could have your kitchen decorated with Day of the Dead tiles. Maybe even peace symbols.
The Huichol have their own versions…
I conclude my Day of the Dead collection with this fellow. Just possibly, he had imbibed a little too much Huichol peyote!

NEXT POST: I am back on the PCT making my way between Carson Pass and Sonora Pass.

The Corsica Galeria de Art, the Galerie des Artistes, and the Cafe des Artistes… Puerto Vallarta

The Puerto Vallarta Art scene is extensive ranging from public art to private galleries and extensive crafts. I found this delightful sculpture at the Corsica Galeria de Art. This fellow looked like he was commenting on my failure to check on whether the Cafe des Artistes was open for lunch.

Peggy and I were in search of a good place to take her sister Jane and brother-in-law Jim to lunch when they joined us in Puerto Vallarta. Both are quite talented cooks, a fact we have benefited from many times. Since we had fond memories of the Cafe des Artistes, it was at the top of our list. Unfortunately, as we discovered when we arrived, it was closed for lunch. (Whoops.) There was no danger of starving to death, however. Restaurants are rarely farther than a block away in downtown PV. More to the point, we found a couple of top art galleries located right next door: The Corsica Galeria de Art and the Galerie des Artistes. I remembered both from earlier visits. Both galleries welcomed us and told me to take all of the photos I wanted. They were quite open to my blogging about them.  Publicity is publicity, right. I’ll start with the art I found at the Corsica Galeria de Art .

These Mexican Chihuahuas caught my attention immediately.
I was reminded of these two cuties we found on Puerto Vallarta’s Isla Cuale a few years ago. It appears that the light brown fellow was getting an earful! Maybe he forgot to take the garbage out. Obviously, he cares. Grin. (Actually, he was about to get his ear bitten. Teach him.)
The gallery featured several other colorful dogs in three dimension. I’m thinking boxer, here.
A profile shot!
This one reminded me of a cocker spaniel from my youth.
The obvious companion to the sculpture I opened the post with. The shadow seemed a little sinister to me, like an evil twin sister. And what’s with the sort of scorpion, sort of cat, sort of person on her hand? 
This was one of Peggy’s favorites in the way the eyes, mouth, teeth and tongue stood out, becoming almost real in comparison to the rest of the painting.
Peggy also was drawn to this hat with its many feathers. I found it almost surrealistic in its intensity.
Are you a person who finds clowns scary? The little girl with her balloon didn’t.  The triple chins suggest a bit too much fast food!
I liked the colorful bull although the eyes suggest it could have been a member of the devil’s herd in “Ghost Riders in the Sky.” (One of my favorite songs when I was growing up.)
Remember Senior Fish Head from my post on the Furniture Mart. This fellow seems to have a similar problem with fish on the brain. 
I’ll close my section on the Corsica with this sculpture. I found it quite unique. You can learn more about the gallery and its artists by visiting its website:  Corsica Galeria de Art

The Galerie des Artistes was immediately down the hill from the Corsica and had a decidedly different feel to it.

I felt that this fellow could have been found hanging out in the woods of ancient Greece.
One artist used hot air balloons to connect his paintings. Here the balloon is offering cherries to the bear. Knowing what I know about bears, it is about to gobble them down.
This giraffe is either coming out of or morphed into a city, giving a new meaning to the term skyscraper.
Alligator with companions on a unicycle? I’ll bet the artist has some very creative dreams. What would Freud say…
Mixed medium skull. I’m starting to think Day of the Dead. (Next post)
I am not sure whether cat woman is facing forward or backward, but she was colorful. Note the extra pair of arms. I blew this photo up and found bears, owls and rabbits staring back at me. But as you know, I have an active imagination and I am pretty sure that the artist was okay with me seeing whatever I wanted to see.
More eyes staring at me. Is that a come-hither pose? Or is it Blake Shelton saying ‘choose me’ on Voice..
And finally, i was quite taken with this collage of floral images.  I couldn’t find a website for Galerie des Artistes but apparently the gallery is on Facebook.

That’s it for the galleries, but it is not the end of the story. Peggy and I weren’t finished with our desire to revisit the Cafe des Artistes. So we made reservations and went there for our 28th Anniversary dinner. The ambience was superb, the waiters great, and the food delicious. Each year, Puerto Vallarta has a celebration featuring world-famous chefs and we ended up with one of the top chefs from Mexico City. It was a close to a perfect evening. We had to rely on our iPhone for photos. I had previously left my camera behind in a taxi and we weren’t able to recover it. The phone didn’t do well with capturing colors in the dim light, however,  so I have rendered these photos in black and white.

We were greeted with a free drink. Cheers!
A free hors d’ouvre arrived at our table next. There were also rose petals scattered on the tablecloth. .
I had short ribs in a delicious mole sauce and Peggy had an out of this world duck leg that melted in her mouth.
We couldn’t believe it when our dessert arrived on a large mirror platter complete with Happy Anniversary in chocolate surrounded by small dollops of raspberry sauce. A candle lit things up and a large spun sugar heart provided the backdrop! And no, I wasn’t a two-fisted drinker. We had moved Peggy’s glass of wine for the photo. Needless to say, the waiters were well-tipped!

NEXT POST: It’s time for the Day of the Dead. We missed it by a few days, but there were plenty of sculptures and crafts around to remind us of the event. Get ready for some bone-rattling fun.

The Chalk Art and Murals of Puerto Vallarta 2018

Chalk art from the 2018 Madonnari Festival in Puerto Vallarta featuring a shaman and his spirit animal.

Half the fun of travel is coming upon the unexpected. Peggy and I were walking across Puerto Vallarta’s main square when we came across a number of people creating chalk art. We had happened upon the annual Madonnari Art Festival that the town shares with its sister city of Santa Barbara, California. Category competition ranged from children to adults. Here are a few of the highlights. 

This was the young woman who was working on the shaman featured above.
Young people were working under colorful umbrellas to finish their work.
Which included these colorful fish.
A pregnant woman provided quite a contrast.
Not sure you would want this guy around your baby!
I liked the colorful flowers this young woman wore.
A close up. Peggy and I visited the area a few days later to take more photos. Time was beginning to impact the chalk art, reflecting its impermanence.
Another artist worked on his masterpiece. I admired the young boy’s look of surprise or wonder..
A masked woman…
And finally, never trust a smiling shark.

Mural art shares a lot with chalk art, both in terms of its limited time frame and spontaneity. Peggy and I revisited a number of the murals we had seen in past visits to Puerto Vallarta plus discovered some new ones. 

This was an old favorite…
I decided it would be fun to render the mural in black and white. I liked the results. I believe the symbolism represents Huichol art, which I will be doing a post on.
Nice kitty!
Realistic cow and moth.
Rather scary shaman/animal.
An interesting decoration for a woman’s restroom. Just how bad do you have to go to face up to a devil fish and devils?
A closer look.
Senior Iguana plays a banjo while an excited frog jumps out of the lake.
We found a couple of black and white murals.
This one reminded me of the popular books where you fill in the colors.
This was part of the same mural.
Shaman woman rising out of a lake, possibly working a little magic on you.
A woman/shaman with a coyote mask?
I’ll conclude today with this native woman who is holding a fawn.

NEXT POST:  I head south on the PCT from Carson Pass, which is named after the explorer Kit Carson, who happened to be caught in a snow storm starving on his first trip across the pass. He reported that dog and dried peas made a tasty treat. I don’t know if I would trust the word of a starving man, however.

A Wonderful, Whacky Pelican… Puerto Vallarta

I’ve spent a lot of time watching and photographing pelicans. Their committee-put-together look makes them a favorite of mine. But I have never seen one do this. It delighted me. I think it was trying to scare up a fish. The majority of brown pelicans make their living by diving from the air for dinner. This fellow may have been a bit young and small for the big time.

The Rio Cuale sits in the heart of Puerto Vallarta. It’s a delightful place with a long island in the middle (Isla Cuale) that includes good restaurants, fun shops, and some very interesting art. The island got its start in the 1960s as an airstrip for rich Hollywood types such as Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton and John Huston. 

My favorite thing about the Rio Cuale, however, is the rich wildlife it supports including a variety of water birds and giant iguanas. Bird life includes pelicans, cormorants, herons, egrets and more. On my recent visit I was particularly taken by the young fellow featured above and a snowy egret.

Here is the young brown pelican behaving more or less like I am used to seeing brown pelicans behave.
I am not sure what the youngster is up to here. Scratching an itch? Spreading oil?
Its action here is clear. It’s preening. The pelican and other water fowl have an oil gland near their tail that they use for oiling their body to make feathers more waterproof.
Here it is again, apparently trying to scare up another fish.
And a final shot of our young friend. We speculated that maybe it was a little young for the normal brown pelican approach to fishing.
A few hundred feet away, brown pelicans were fishing in the more traditional way.
I caught this orgy of Pelican fishing in Puerto Vallarta in 2016. The insane dive on the right is one of the things I love about pelicans.
I must say that this snowy egret on the Rio Cuale provided a great photo-op as well.
Here’s the snowy egret in a more traditional pose.

The River Cafe is a short way up the Isla Cuale from where we found the pelican and the snowy egret. We like it for its tasty, well-presented food. But we also like it because you can almost always find iguanas hanging out in the trees and on the ground next to the river. This year we spotted a very green one…

It was so green, it almost disappeared among the leaves. The large flap of skin hanging down from the iguana’s chin is called a dewlap. No self-respecting Iguana would be without one. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

We’ve had numerous encounters with iguanas over the years in Puerto Vallarta. But none matched the time when one came to visit us in our villa. I did a post on our welcome visitor, but just for fun, I decided to put up a few photos on him again.

It all started out with a stranger staring in our window at us. Naturally we had to see who had come to visit.
Outside, we found this large iguana staring at his reflection in the window. There were two possibilities: One he had found the love of his life. Or, two, he had discovered a large rival impinging on his territory. Iguanas can be quite territorial.
On closer inspection, our visitor appeared to be quite handsome. I imagine he was a heart throb.
His claws appeared a bit on the scary side. I, for one, wouldn’t want to get on his bad side.
I looked him in the eye, wondering what a lady iguana would see in him. I call this photo The Eye of the Iguana after the Richard Burton, Ava Gardner, Deborah Kerr movie “The Night of the Iguana.” The movie, directed by John Huston, was filmed in Puerto Vallarta giving the then small fishing village a kickstart to becoming a mega-tourist attraction.
Of course we had to invite Senior Iguana in for a visit. His tail is still outside. He was a big fellow.
He wandered around looking for his love/rival and then finally settled down on the floor like a dog. I couldn’t help but think he would make a great burglar deterrent! After a while, he stood up, checked our villa one more time and then wandered back outside. Next post I will feature a chalk art festival and several murals in Puerto Vallarta. After that, it’s hitting the PCT again, hiking south from Carson Pass.

Weird Things— and Unique Furniture… The Furniture Mart Of Puerto Vallarta

I promised some weird things I found at the Furniture Mart in Puerto Vallarta. I think this guy qualifies. Maybe his weirdness  goes along with having fake, orangish hair. (grin)

Peggy and I have now returned from our trip to Puerto Vallarta. It’s always a good source for blog material. Today, I am going to wrap up our visit to the Furniture Mart, which was right across the street from our hotel. Later I will have several more blogs on PV’s burgeoning art scene as well as get back to a couple of my favorite animals: pelicans and iguanas.  I was amused by both the weird things and unique furniture at the Mart. Enjoy. (Note: Some of these photos came from an earlier visit in 2015.)

Do you think that the Furniture Mart could have hung more things on its walls? And do you find the bony fish as amusing as I did?
Speaking of fish, I suspect these  gave this guy a horrendous headache. I’m pretty sure there is a myth here, but I don’t know it.
Here’s a front view of the fellow I introduced at the top of the post. He’s still scary.
Not so scary, but still not someone you would want to meet on a dark night. Check out the eyes. The teeth remind me of piranha that Peggy and I caught on the Amazon River— and ate. 
I found these masks more intriguing than frightening. The blood shot eyes suggest a long night of partying.
I think that this is a Mayan warrior. There were several life-size sculptures like this scattered throughout the store. Is he holding a monkey or a baby?
A close-up of his head.
Senior Metal Head had wild hair and a wiry mustache.
But his eyebrows and beard were no match for Senior Rope Hair.
As one might imagine, you can find a lot of furniture in a Furniture Mart. This 20 foot table cut from a single log is an example. It appears that the two frogs were impressed.
I decided that a large mirror would serve for a selfie. I look appropriately small.
How about carved wild horses for a table and chairs?
This table was made by cutting through roots of a large tree root. It will be covered with a glass top, I assume.
This table featured a colorful, carved ocean scene.
Matched by the chairs.
This cabinet, featuring a painted ocean scene, was also quite impressive.
A room divider…
As I mentioned in a previous post, the Furniture Mart is a family affair. 85-year-old Grandpa makes these attractive glass lamp-shades.
I’ll conclude with an example of the lamp shades being used in a chandelier. My next post on PV will include pelicans and iguanas, but first it will be back to my hike down the PCT.

NEXT POST: A beautiful lake in Lassen National Park along the Pacific Crest Trail, plus Bone makes some new friends.

The Furniture Mart + The World of Tiles and the World of Crystal… Puerto Vallarta Art

Ceramic art and crafts are found throughout Mexico. I found this colorful iguana at the Furniture Mart.

In my last post from Puerto Vallarta, I featured the Furniture Mart that is located across the road from where we are staying at the Krystal Hotel. As I noted, the Mart is full of thousands of items. These included a wide variety ceramics ranging from the inexpensive mass produced items you find in most tourist shops throughout Mexico to finer pieces that border on art. 

Almost any tourist shop in Mexico features mass produced figures such as these Day of the Dead skeletons. (I am going to do a separate post on Day of the Dead characters, which tend to be more amusing than scary.)
Stereotypical Mexicans wearing sombreros while taking a siesta are another common tourist shop item. (I’ve yet to see a Mexican peasant wearing a sombrero and taking a nap in all my years of visiting Mexico.)
Do you need a butter dish?
My kind of inexpensive pottery.
Finer items, such as this cow, receive much more attention in their production.
Peggy’s sister, Jane, was impressed by the dishes found in the Mart.
Many of the dishes were painted with colorful tropical scenes.
While I found myself amused by this pig.
And its snout.
Jane and I would agree on the value of a beautiful vase.
And having a colorful water pitcher.

Today I am also going to include ceramic and glass pieces from the World of Tiles and the World of Crystal located in Puerto Vallarta’s Zona Romantica. I found the World of Tiles particularly interesting because we were able to watch the artisans at work making tiles in the store’s ‘factory.’

Stopping by the World of Tiles (Mundo de Azulejos) is a must-do for people visiting Puerto Vallarta’s Zona Romantica. As you might expect, there are lots of tiles!
Including humorous ones. This represents the worm occasionslly added to a bottle of tequila. I can remember a few times drinking tequila in my youth when I resembled this worm (grin).
The tiles are sold individually or incorporated into scenes. This is Puerto Vallarta’s famous church, and Peggy.
Another view of the church looking out on Banderas Bay.
A rooster. But with eggs? Maybe the hen hired him to babysit.
And a cornucopia.
The front of the store…
And the tiled stairs leading up to the tile factory.
Where we watched an artist paint a boat scene.
In addition to the tiles, a number of other ceramic items were sold at the World of Tiles including wash basins.
Of which there were many different types. Check out the sun and the moon.
“We are Siamese if we please…” Remember “Lady and the Tramp”? These cats may have come from the same mould, but they each have different personalities. I like the zoned out kitty in the left rear.
There were also dishes.
Including white sheep and cow dish sets.
A large bowl featured a happy bee. But I noted it still had a stinger. I ended up on the wrong side of one of those twice this summer on my backpacking trip.

The World of Crystal featuring glass art is just down the street from the World of Tiles. I’ll include a few items from it to finish off this post.

This glass was reflecting the sun when we walked into the shop.
I discovered a green frog with buggy eyes.
A cute cow…
Doggy tiles…
A cat tile for those of you who lean toward kitties…
And a pair of attractive masks to wrap-up this post.

Next post: I’ll wrap up the Furniture Mart with some real furniture and weird things.

Life on the Trent and Mersey Canal… A Narrow Boat Tour in England

A pilot’s perspective on a 65 foot long, 6 feet wide, 16 ton narrow boat.

This is my final post introducing new readers to they type of stories they can find on my blog. This tale takes you off to England and a journey on a narrow boat tour of the Trent and Mersey Canal. As I note below, this was my first experience at piloting a 65-foot long, 6-foot wide, 16-ton vehicle. If you would like to learn more about this adventure, go here:  https://wandering-through-time-and-place.com/2018/01/02/  I hope you’ve enjoyed this trip back through history. I guarantee that it is just a small taste of what you can expect to find on these pages. Next week, I will continue my PCT series and likely start working in a few Mexico posts. 


I never imagined (even in my wildest dreams) that I would someday pilot a 65-foot long, 6-foot wide, 16-ton vehicle. But that’s what I ended up doing last week.

Peggy and I, along with her sister Jane Hagedorn and her husband Jim, did a seven-day narrow boat tour on the Trent and Mersey Canal out of Long Eaton, England. If Long Eaton doesn’t ring a bell, think Robin Hood. Nottingham is nearby.

The prince of thieves was one of my all time childhood heroes. I knew the location of Sherwood Forest long before I knew the location of London.

Jane and Jim stand in front of the Sawley Marina office. Note Robin Hood on the right!

Jim and I had pilot duty. Our job was to stand in the back with tiller in hand hoping that the boat would go where we wanted. This included not running into other canal boats, avoiding overhanging trees and mudflats, navigating under watch-your-head, boat-wide bridges, surviving locks and learning the delicate art of mooring our not so delicate craft.

Is our narrow boat narrow enough and low enough… is the question.

I park the boat kitty corner in a lock. Maneuvering back and forth is necessary to keep the boat positioned.

Two boats in a lock at once. Jim is up to the challenge.

Peggy and Jane were in charge of locks plus a certain amount of backseat driving. For example, they would point out boats coming toward us that we had been worrying about for five minutes.

Lock duty was not easy. Heavy cranking was involved in opening and closing the paddles that let water into or out of the lock. Full body strength was required to open and close the gates. The women quickly became lockmasters and I am sure wowed the English males with their prowess. (Honey, can I have one of those?)

Jane cranks open a paddle to let water out of the lock.

Peggy demonstrates the importance of ‘butt’ power in opening a gate.

Other chores included muscling the 16-ton boat into shore and filling the craft with water. Getting from the aft to the bow of the boat for work or pleasure involved maneuvering along a narrow gunnel.

Jim muscles the boat into shore.

Peggy hangs over the edge while filling the boat with water.

Jane walks the gunnel.

Upon arrival at Sawley Marina we were provided with two hours of training for our adventure. That was it. Afterwards we were turned loose with the 16-ton barge for on-the-job training.

Canals are found throughout England. Once upon a time they were vital to the nation’s economy as transportation corridors. Reflecting the good taste of the Brits, beer was one of the major items transported over the Trent and Mersey.

Now the canals are mainly used for recreational boating… primarily by brightly colored, cleverly named, narrow boats. We also talked with a number of people who live on their boats year around.

Owners work hard to give their boats individual personalities as is demonstrated here by the Molly Rose. Bright colors, flowers and names such as Belly Button and Simmerdown add to the character.

Boats were found wherever mooring was good. (And a pub convenient.)

Although we came uncomfortably close to hitting a couple of boats (give or take five inches), banged into the shore several times during mooring (as expected) and grounded the boat three times (Jim won 2 to 1), the adventure was quite enjoyable.

“Mudflat” Jim grounded the boat. I work hard to pole it off.

Picturesque countryside, abundant bird life, and attractive villages entertained us along the way.  Pubs served surprisingly good food and even better ale. I worked hard to sample all of the local brews. Even Peggy developed a taste for dark beer.

There was much beauty along the way as this tranquil scene shows.

Peggy loved the brightly colored flowers that were found in both fields and towns.

And I have always had a weakness for reflection shots…

Bird life was abundant along the canal. We took photos of this nesting swan coming and going.

This Mallard Hen was one of many with babies. They would wait for our boat to pass and then swim along behind us. I wasn’t sure whether they were taking advantage of food we stirred up or drafting, like bicyclists do.

We always found colorful pubs with excellent English beer and good food.

Several small towns along the way provided an interesting contrast to the rural areas.

Accommodations on the boat were quite comfortable. There was sleeping for six, a gallery and two bathrooms.  Jane and Jim’s beds were a wee bit narrow, however… make that body wide, and one of the bathrooms required a shoehorn for entry.

Jane’s narrow bed…

You learn a lot about each other on a small boat. For example, Jim likes coke and peanut butter toast for breakfast. The only exception was when he substituted a mixture of orange juice and beer for his coke.

Jane believes it is totally uncivilized to use paper towels at meals, period. Those who know Jane will understand this. She began to ‘borrow’ napkins from the pubs. Peggy, in order to keep her sister from a life of crime, started neatly folding our paper towels to look like napkins.

I didn’t ask Jane and Jim what they learned about us…

Time slowed down on the boat. It had to considering out top speed was three miles per hour. We arrived at Burton on the Trent and turned around to return to Sawley Marina. Scotland and dead ancestors were waiting.

A final view of life on the Trent and Mersey Canal.

Furniture Mart or Zoo or??? … The Art of Puerto Vallarta

A friendly wolf licks Peggy’s face at the Furniture Mart in Puerto Vallarta.

Peggy and I have been coming to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico for a long time, long enough to see the lovely two and three story hotels along the north beach replaced by would-be sky scrapers that encroach on more and more beach.

We always stay at the Krystal Hotel, which is located along the main road between the airport and downtown. Years ago, we bought a time share here. It’s not something you do as an investment, regardless of how fast the sales people talk or whip out figures that you are not allowed to take away and study. In fact, there are much less expensive ways to see Mexico. Forget what we paid originally, the ever-increasing maintenance fees alone would easily cover an annual visit to PV, or anywhere else in Mexico.

But Peggy and I like the staff, our villa comes with a swimming pool, and we have fallen in love with Puerto Vallarta: its art, great dining, tropical sunsets, friendly people and amazing wildlife. There is even a taste of more traditional Mexico once you escape from the popular tourist areas.

I’ve blogged a fair amount about the town, more than I remember. I laughed a couple of days ago when I was doing Google research on PV’s public art, came across a promising heading, clicked on it, and landed on my blog.  

I’ve even blogged about the furniture store directly across the road from the Krystal. And I am going to blog about it again— today. I can pretty much guarantee that it is unlike any furniture store you have ever seen. It all started as a failed restaurant. Peggy and I ate there once upon a time.The food was good but the customers were scarce.

The family scurried about,searching for some other way to make a living and decided to make furniture.They also decided to sell art decorations for the home, everything from cute little ceramic frogs to giant metal rhinos. Collecting unusual items became something of a passion.

There must be hundreds of ceramic frogs hanging out at the Furniture Mart. This one is a cutie, complete with eyelashes.
Contrast it with a full sized metal rhino!

The three, or four, or maybe five story structure feels like an Escher painting where you meet yourself coming and going. It is crammed full of art, wood carvings, pottery, strange statues, masks, and Mexican knick-knacks galore, as well as very unique furniture. There are thousands of items. The family of Carlos Paez Coronado describes their building as the Furniture Mart, the largest store of its type in Mexico, and a museum.

We visited this time with Peggy’s sister Jane and her husband Jim who were staying at our villa with us for a week. Jane loves ceramic plates and has dozens of them. We knew she would like the store. Senior Pepe greeted us and assured us that if we bought any item costing a few grand and weighing who knows how many pounds, he would personally deliver it to our doorsteps in Oregon or Sacramento. (Anyone need a 20-foot-long table?) He and his brother fill up a truck with purchased items and make an annual trip across the border. We disappointed Pepe on the mucho grande sale, but Jane almost bought enough plates to make up for it.

I have enough fun wandering through the Furniture Mart that I am going to do three posts on it: One on the wonderfully wild (and tame animals), one on the pottery, and one on the furniture and weird things. Today it is all about animals!

A ferocious jaguar stalking across the floor.
With big teeth.
A friendly dog…
That Peggy pets.
A toothy lion.
An eagle and a jaguar have a discussion about which is most ferocious.
Given this eagle, I’d say a toss-up.
A realistic carved horse…
That Peggy befriends.
Puerto Vallarta’s favorite lizard: The iguana. I’ll be doing a post on these big fellows.
Head shot!
A turbaned elephant…
A trumpeting trunk.
A crabby crab.
A fighting stag displays its hooves.
I’ll conclude my exploration of the Furniture Mart today with this striking painting of a giraffe. Next up on the Mart will be ceramics ranging from pigs to plates.

It’s Turkey Day here in Puerto Vallarta, so Peggy and I will be heading out for a traditional Thanksgiving dinner. Several restaurants cater to the day. But I couldn’t find a turkey to represent the holiday…

So, a moose will have to do!

HAPPY THANKSGIVING to all of our Internet friends! –Curt and Peggy. 

Rome’s Colosseum… Where Hippos and Rhinos Once Fought

The Colosseum in Rome

Rome’s Colosseum lit up at night.

This is the third in my series of introducing new followers to what they can expect to find on my blog. This series reflects a trip that Peggy and I took visiting a number of locations in the Mediterranean. Go here and scroll forward or backwards to discover more of the series:  https://wandering-through-time-and-place.com/2013/05/01


I first viewed Rome’s grand memorial to gladiators in 1967. I was as impressed with the number of feral cats living in the ruins as I was with the structure. Massive renovations have taken place since then. Today’s Colosseum is crowded with tourists instead of cats. We joined the throngs.

Cat in Colosseum.

This is the one cat I found in the Colosseum. I am sure it had aunts, uncles, cousins, parents, kids, etc. somewhere. But check out the stance… ears back, paw posed to strike. He was ready to take on a gladiator, or at least a camera toting tourist.

Originally the Colosseum was known as the Flavian Amphitheater, after the family of emperors who built it. Nero, who had a bad case of self-adulation, built a huge statue of himself nearby. It was known as the Colossus. At some point, the name was applied to the Colosseum. A later emperor, by the way, removed the head from Nero’s statue and affixed his own stone likeness on top. Why pay for a whole statue? It became the custom with each succeeding emperor. So much for everlasting fame…

When completed in 80 AD, the Colosseum could seat 50,000 screaming people. Some 2000 gladiators killed each other and 9000 animals over the 100 day inauguration.

While their taste in entertainment might be questionable, the Romans’ engineering abilities were superb. The Colosseum is high testament to this. Modern stadiums are still built on a similar model, designed to move large numbers of people in and out quickly. I was amused to learn that the Romans called the entrance/exit passages vomitoria– hence our word, vomit.

Spectators were issued tickets on pottery shards that listed their entrance gate, section, row and seat numbers. The higher your rank, the better your seat. The top rows were saved for slaves, foreigners and women. Some people, such as actors and gravediggers, weren’t allowed in the Colosseum at all. Now we elect actors as presidents and governors. Gravediggers are still gravediggers.

Painting in the Colosseum that illustrated a typical crowd cooking, eating, fighting and drinking.

The early Roman crowds have arrived for their day of entertainment at the Colosseum in this illustration of the upper tier. Cooking, eating, drinking, fighting and betting were all part of a typical day. As was carving graffiti  on the benches. (Illustration from Colosseum exhibit)

The top could be covered for bad weather by a large canvas awning that was put up and taken down by sailors from Rome’s navy. The true gem of engineering was the floor, however, which covered a network of tunnels and cages where wild animals and props were stored. Eighty different elevators operated by pulleys served to bring scenery and wild animals to the surface. You might be in the middle of an African jungle for one scene and a Greek city the next.

This illustration from the Colosseum exhibit shows a cutaway of the floor.

This illustration from the Colosseum shows a cutaway of the floor with its elevators, wild animals and gladiators. (Illustration from Colosseum exhibit)

This illustration shows what the Colosseum would have looked like with it's awning.

Here’s what the Colosseum would have looked like with its awning. (Illustration from Colosseum exhibit)

And you never knew when or where the next wild animal might pop up, which could be bad news for gladiators. Cats at the Colosseum then meant lions and tigers with long claws and sharp teeth, oh my. There were also elephants, rhinos, hippos, crocodiles and even giraffes–although I can’t imagine why or how you would fight a giraffe. I once chased a herd across the Serengeti Plains in a Volkswagen beetle, however.

Gladiators came from the ranks of slaves, poor people, and criminals. (Contrary to legend, there were very few Christians.) The most successful earned fame, fortune and freedom. Rick Steves, in his book on Mediterranean Ports, reports they even gave endorsements. I can see it in neon lights, “Barbarian Bob eats at Papa’s Pizzeria.”

Looking down into the basement of the Colosseum where wild animals, props and scenery were stored.

Looking down into the basement of the Colosseum where wild animals, props and scenery were stored.

This photo, taken from the opposite end of the Colosseum provides a perspective on what the original floor might have looked like.

This photo, taken from the opposite end of the Colosseum provides a perspective on what the floor might have looked like. Only about a third of the original Colosseum remains.  While earthquakes have done their share of damage, much more was done by Romans taking building blocks and iron supports for use in other construction throughout Rome.

A window view out of Rome's Colosseum.

We started our tour on the upper level of the Colosseum. In addition to providing views into the arena, the walkway provided views of the surrounding city and Rome’s ancient Forum. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson)

Peggy took this photo from the lower level looking up at the upper level. (photo by Peggy Mekemson)

Peggy took this photo from the lower level looking up at the upper level. Special tours also take visitors to the lower, basement level. (photo by Peggy Mekemson)

A basement view of Rome's Colosseum.

A close up view of the basement. Imagine it filled with lions, hippos and giraffes.

Roman emperors loved their triumphal arches even more than they loved statues. It provided a very public opportunity to show how great they were. The Arch of Constantine is located right next to the Colosseum.

Roman emperors loved their triumphal arches even more than they loved statues. It provided a very public opportunity to show how great they were. The Arch of Constantine is located right next to the Colosseum.

The Arch of Constantine in Rome.

A second perspective on the Arch of Constantine. This photo was taken earlier in the day.

A final view of Rome's Colosseum at night.

A final view of Rome’s Colosseum at night.