Because the groundhog’s home is up in the Northeast of the USA and Canada, it’s harder to get a photo of the rodent in Texas. But Punxsutawney Phil’s little cousins, the Prairie Dogs, live here in the Southwest. And they are happy to hear, that Cousin Phil’s prediction is for an early Spring, because he hasn’t seen his shadow, in Pennsylvania this morning.
Happy Groundhog Day!
Before I can start a new chapter, I have to review the old one for a moment. Wow, what a year!!! I think, I’ve never done so much in one year before, than what I’ve accomplished in 2017.
- In January, I’ve got my US citizenship. Nine months after applying for it, I took the oath on the 12th. What an exciting moment in my life.
- In February, a couple of ladies and I started a new community garden. Now, we can grow food for people in need. And we can enjoy it, because it is drama free.
- In March, my maternal grandmother passed away. Unfortunately, it would have happened sooner or later. It’s a part of life, and it has to go on. ~ We also had a hail storm. I’ve never seen hail this big. Our cars got a few dents from that storm.
- In April, Kevin had to go on a business trip in Long Beach, CA. He used the opportunity to go to Downtown Disney in Anaheim for an evening. ~ My friend Janet visited with her husband and son from Germany. We had such a fun day at the Fort Worth Zoo.
- In May, Sara had her dance recital. She got a trophy for that. ~ Kevin and I saw U2 live in concert. They performed in the AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. It was on my bucket list for the last 14 years.
- In June, Kevin and I went to the musical “Rock of Ages” at the Casa Mañana in Fort Worth. The guy, who played “Stacee Jaxx” flipped a thong at me. I’m still laughing. That was hilarious. ~ We also went on a trip to New York. I saw my long-time school friend Katja in Ohio after 30 years, again; we visited Kevin’s highschool friends in Niagara Falls, he hasn’t seen for 24 years; we went to Canada, New York City, and saw the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia.
- In July, Finley passed away. I still feel sad of his passing. But I also believe, he’s in a good spot, hanging out with our dog Ranger. They both earned their wings for sure.
- In August, Sara went back to RCJ Machado to practise Jiu Jitsu. Since Katelynn is very busy with her school band, we needed an activity for Sara. She started Jiu Jitsu in 2015, took a two year break, and then went back again.
- In September, we got our floors done in our house. Those old nasty carpets and laminated floors went out. And a brand new tiled floor came in.
- In October, Kevin and I saw the Bret Michaels Band live in concert at Lava Cantina in The Colony. Bret is sooo sexy. I’m still drooling. 😀 😉
- In November, Kevin and I went to see Jeff Dunham’s show in Wichita Falls. He is a great comedian. Walter, Peanut, Achmed & friends are just awesome.
- In December, we went to California. Santa brought tickets to go to Disneyland. We had a beautiful time with family; went to the beach in San Diego; checked out Hoover Dam; visited the Grand Canyon, again; and therefore avoided some of the cold weather in Texas. We just came back home, two days ago.
Yep, it was a busy and amazing year. I’ve knocked out three items on my bucket list in the first half of 2017.
After posting 400 blogs, I can close this book and start a new one. May 2018 be as awesome as the previous year. Kevin and I plan to see P!nk live in concert in May. P!nk is on Kevin’s bucket list. He always wanted to see her, since he listened to her music and watched her first video. Let’s see, how that show will be.
I wish all my followers a Happy and Prosperous New Year!
June 20, 2017
Tuesday morning, we left New Jersey. Surprisingly traffic was not very heavy. And we got out of the thickest in a decent time. When we went to a gas station, Kevin got a little surprised. In New Jersey, you don’t pump your gas yourself. It’s illegal in this state, and a gas station operator will do it for you. The windows got washed with no extra costs, in the meantime. But the gas is a little bit more expensive, because of the service. Kevin made a short comment to me: “Hehe, we need this in every state.”
Our plan was to make it to North Carolina by the evening. But first, we had to go and see another historic symbol of the United States of America. Leaving New Jersey, we entered Pennsylvania to get to Philadelphia. In Philadelphia we parked in the park house of the Independence Visitor Center. We had 30 Minutes to walk to Liberty Bell and come back to the car. And somehow, we did it. It wasn’t too busy in the Independence National Historical Park and in the building. Therefore, I could capture pictures in a decent time. And we got out of Philly fairly quick.
After Philadelphia, we reached Delaware (State #33). Being on I-95 it is not a wise idea to blink, or you’ll miss the State of Delaware. … LOL We stopped at a rest area to get a bite to eat. I loved, that they served a mix of German/American style sandwiches. The Turkey-Brie-Apple Ciabatta-Sandwich I had for lunch was very delicious. The lady at the counter warmed it for a minute, which made the cheese melt a little bit. I also had a Danish as a dessert. It was good, very good! Half of the sandwich, I kept for later on the road. Because it was very filling.
As soon as we passed Baltimore, Maryland, we decided to go on a different road. Since we’ve been in Washington, D.C. back in 2015, we could avoid the country’s capital traffic and make our way faster into Virginia. In Virginia everything goes in a slower pace. It was relaxing after the faster pace, we’ve experienced the days before. The landscape is stunning. We always enjoy driving through the Appalachian Mountains. Up and down the hills we went. People start to greet ya more often at the gas stations and rest areas. It’s a sign of being back in the South. ❤ At another rest area, we stopped a little bit longer. Katelynn and Sara needed to run and chase each other, playing tag and get some fresh air. Down the hill, I discovered some berries. And Katelynn found a centipede crawling in the grass. I let her watch it, but told her not to touch it. Katelynn loves all kinds of bugs. And sometimes, I have to remind her, it’s not a good thing to touch every creepy-crawly.
After refilling the little cooler with water and juices, we were back on the road. It felt so good to see the North Carolina state sign. It meant, we were not too far from our Tuesday’s destination anymore. Kevin got some bread, lunch meat, cheese, tomatoes and cucumbers. This was dinner at the motel for that evening. Kevin called his parents to let them know, we had arrived in town. We would meet for breakfast the next morning.
… to be continued …
I just went through some of my New York City photos and realized, that I have to split the travel diary of the “Big Apple” into several blogs. Here is the first part of it. And one or two more will follow in the next couple of days.
June 19, 2017
Monday was an odd day. On one side, I wanted to spent more time in Niagara Falls. But on the other side, I was excited to see the “City, that never sleeps”. To get there the fastest way, we had to drive through Pennsylvania and New Jersey. But first we’ve spent some time driving through New York state. And let me tell you: Despite being annoyed with the toll roads, New York has a beautiful landscape to offer. We stopped at a rest area, while it was drizzling a little bit. I loved the smell of the mosses, which grew on the tree trunks. And I got reminded by childhood memories, from back in Germany, when I saw those maple seeds. As kids we used to pick up the fresh green “helicopters” and opened them up a little bit to pull the seed out. The part where the seed was protected had a sticky residue. We split it and “glued” it to our noses. Now, we looked like rhinoceroses. Yeah, as kids we played some interesting safari games. Imagination was everything!
The weather became interesting in Pennsylvania. We drove through these sheets of rain. One moment it was try, then we saw the line of rain, and within the next few seconds, we were in it. It repeated about a couple more times, before we entered New Jersey (State #32). In New Jersey, it was a beautiful sunny day. We stopped at the Welcome Center to stretch for little bit, before we kept driving towards New York City.
Once we were close enough, we came over this hill and here it was, stretching from one point of the horizon to the other: Manhattan … WOOOW! NYC was right in front of our eyes. So close, but still so far away.
In North Bergen, we checked into our motel. After getting cleaned up, we called Uber. Surprisingly, it didn’t take long for the Uber driver to show up at the motel. Driving through the Lincoln Tunnel, the driver told us a bit about New York. He really enjoyed giving us some advise of certain sights. He also mentioned, he lives in New York for the last 28 years, and the city grew on him. He loves it so much, and he can not imagine to live anywhere else. I replied: “I totally understand. I feel that way about Dallas. Cities like them grow on you.” Our destination was the 9/11 Memorial. Carefully I asked the Uber driver, if New York has changed since the attack. He paused for a moment, then he answered: “Yes!” I felt, it was a very sensitive subject for him. But he continued: “About 70 percent of the population, who used to live in Lower Manhattan, moved further north towards Upper Manhattan. The attacks on that day scared a lot of people. They didn’t want to live close to Ground Zero.” I let him know, I appreciated his answer. Sara lightened up the conversation by pointing out every single hot dog stand, since Kevin mentioned he wanted to eat a New York Hot Dog. 😀 We also noticed, people are very busy and a little bit more impatient in New York, than we would see it in the south. But somehow, they figured it out. Not once have I seen a fender bender.
Arriving at the memorial, we said “Good-bye” to our Uber driver and parted ways. When we walked up to the fountain, which was once the place of the North Tower, a lot of people gathered around to show respect to the victims of 9/11. People talked quietly to each other. It was pleasant. Kevin picked up Sara, so she could see the fountain better. He explained to our girls what happened on that day in September 2001. Both girls listened very carefully to their Daddy. They had some questions, too. I was very proud of them at this moment. Because they were respectful, didn’t act out and kept their voices low. I was so impressed, I forgot to capture this moment in a photo. 😦 Then it was my turn. I laid my hands on some of the names stamped out of this beautiful metal plates. And I began to feel the pain. The pain wasn’t physically, but more mentally. Tears ran down my cheeks. It hurt so bad, but something told me to look up. And I gazed at the new tower. The mood began to change. I felt pride. This day took the wind out of us. But it couldn’t bring us down. One World Trade Center stands as a symbol for us Americans growing stronger and closer together. It reminded me, we should be kind to one another on a daily basis. It doesn’t really matter, if we have different opinions, believes, orientations, complexions etc. We should treat each other well.
Kevin found a hot dog stand behind the subway station. I found a bench, where the girls could sit together and enjoy their hot dogs. Next to them, two men had a conversation in German. I waved at them and asked them, where they came from in Germany. The older man seemed a little grumpy and answered: “Berlin!” I nodded and replied: “I’m from Würzburg.” The men looked slightly confused, and Kevin added: “We are also from Texas.” I guess, my accent mostly had confused them a little bit. Over the years, I gained a new accent in the US. Lots of Germans get a little bit irritated by it. They usually expect me to talk in my Franconian accent. But there is always some American slang mixed with it. I don’t hear it. But I think, it’s cute when people started pointing it out. 😉
Clouds began to roll into the city. The sky became darker. A thunderstorm was in the forecast. Kevin, the girls and I looked for shelter. The World Trade Center PATH-Station seemed to be the perfect place. A lot of people had the same idea, and therefore it became crowded very quickly. While we were waiting out the storm, we checked out the PATH-Station a little bit. Kevin and I looked for some places to check out along the Hudson River, once the storm would pass by. Katelynn and Sara were glad, they were in a try spot.
… to be continued …
June 17, 2017
Waking up to the smell of German-style pancakes, bacon and fresh brewed coffee was great on Saturday morning. Katja’s husband had fixed breakfast for all of us. The kids had eaten already and were outside catching frogs in the pond. It gave Kevin and me the opportunity to get cleaned up, before we would hit the road again. But before we left, we spent some time outside to look at the farm, the life stock and the frogs. Of course, we had to capture photos for our online albums. Before we left, Katja and her husband said we were welcome to visit again. We definitely have to repeat that. But next time, we’ll fly to Ohio. 😉 After getting directions, how to get back to I-71 faster, we were ready to leave for New York.
After we passed Cleveland, we soon entered Pennsylvania. For the girls, this was a new state. Kevin and I have been traveling through Pittsburgh many years before. I’ve noticed a lot of vineyards along I-90. But the grapes were still teeny-tiny. East of Erie, Pennsylvania we made a stop at a park and had some homemade sandwiches. We all needed to stretch our legs, and the park was leading to a beach at Lake Erie. Katelynn and Sara couldn’t wait to get their shoes and socks off to get their feet wet in the water. When it was time to get out of the water, Kevin had to carry Sara to a shaded area. The sand got hot due to the sun baking it.
Soon, we entered New York (State #31). The whole toll road adventure began right at the border. Oh boy! New York state really knows, how to pull money out of people’s pockets. 😉 Buffalo was only an hour and a half away. Once we arrived there, I was really excited to see the Niagara River. On the east side of the river is the USA; on the west side is Canada. After we crossed Grand Island, we made it to Niagara Falls (USA). We got a hotel room 1500 feet from the falls. When the helicopter landed and the pilot turned it off, we could hear the water falling. But we had to keep watching the falls for later that evening. First Kevin got some sodas and waters, so we could meet with his high school friends in the Oppenheim County Park. Jackie arrived with her daughter shortly after I managed to drag that heavy cooler across the field. I was glad, we had the first gazebo. Christine rolled in with her boys, minutes later. And she brought snacks. Oh my, her Texas dip was so great! I couldn’t stop eating it with some chips. Delicious! All the girls and the boys had a blast in the splash zone and at the play ground, while Kevin enjoyed talking about the good ol’ times, when they all were in high school. When Lisa finally arrived, she had some stories to tell as well. I can’t count, how many times I laughed so much, I had watery eyes. When the sun set and dusk crept upon us, we decided to go to the falls.
Walking from the hotel to the falls, the falling of the water became louder and louder. After walking over a little hill, the Niagara Falls were in sight. Both, the American Falls and the Canadian Horseshoe Falls looked very impressive. They reminded me once again, how small we really are as human beings. It’s very humbling seeing all this water falling 167 feet deeper to the lower part of the Niagara River, which flows from Lake Erie into Lake Ontario. What makes the Niagara Falls very attractive in the dark hours are the different colors of light, that illuminates the water. It is so pretty to see it change colors every several seconds.
The evening turned out to be great. We made arrangements with Lisa and Jackie for dinner on Sunday. Kevin and I had plans to go to Toronto that day. And then we would have a nice meal in a Texas restaurant, after we come back into the US. Yep, we traveled all the way to New York to eat Texan food. 😀 😉 But I’ll write more of that, tomorrow.
… to be continued …