Dawes Glacier, Endicott Arm, Alaska, July 31, 2018

Dawes Glacier, Endicott Arm, Alaska, July 31, 2018
Dawes Glacier, Endicott Arm, Alaska, July 31, 2018

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Can Do a Walk in CAN Antonio - Sat., Sept.15, 2018

Forecast: hot and humid with an 80% chance of rain. It's a good thing that today's Volksmarch is inside North Star Mall. Bob and I walked 10k (four laps on the main floor and twice on the upper level). 

On our laps, we had to go down each corridor toward the exit doors. As we turned down those hallways, you could feel the heat and humidity which got higher the closer we got to the exits. At some of the exits, we could look out and see the rain. Also, as the day wore on, the mall became more and more crowded. I felt like we were Dodge 'em cars as we wove our way through the maze of people. 

We enjoyed window shopping and the exhibits! Until September 22, you can see the result of a design/build competition called "CANstruction" which is taking place inside the mall. Local businesses compete to build the best/cleverest/cutest can sculptures. As in cans of food. The sculptures are judged and, when the competition is over, all the cans of food are donated to the San Antonio Food Bank to help end hunger. 

This is the 13th annual competition which raises funds and awareness for the San Antonio Food Bank. Ten teams representing the San Antonio chapters of The American Institute of Architects and the Society for Design Administration are taking part. On Sunday, September 9, the teams were given 12 hours to build their structures using approximately 30,000 cans of food.

What do the teams "win?" Awards for most original design, the best use of labels, structural ingenuity of the sculpture, and for the number of cans used. But the prize most teams want to win is Best Original Design. Best Original Design earns a blue ribbon for the team, AND their CANstruction can be re-built in the lobby of the San Antonio Food Bank for all to see.

You will see in the photos below that the builders carefully chose the cans of food with the right colors on the labels. By rotating the cans, they could expose different colors. Some even removed the labels completely to expose the silver color of the cans to make the San Antonio Spurs logo. 

The first entry we saw was called, "Walk Around CAN Antonio." It won a blue ribbon and it was easy to see why. The firms who created this clever masterpiece are Marmon Mok Architecture, Metro, Jones/Carter, and Datum Engineering. A total of 5,389 cans of food were used. You can view this sculpture from three different angles and see a different part of San Antonio on each side. There were footprints stuck on the ground on each side to show you where to put your feet for optimum viewing. Take a look.

Side 1: "300" for San Antonio's Tricentennial.
Side 2: San Antonio Spurs logo.
Side 3: The Alamo
What we found fascinating was that it was hard to see the designs with the naked eye, but as soon as you put your camera up to take a photo, the image was much easier to make out. Here are other photos from today's walk...

"Pinata de Cumpleanos" (900 cans)
"The Ban of Hunger" (back)
"The Ban of Hunger" (2,416 cans) shows a Spanish bullfighter ("Matahambre") who, with his red cape (muleta), takes on the "Bull of Hunger."

"The Ban of Hunger" (front)
"El Luchador Mask...It's Rumbling Time."
(5,003 cans)
"Ate-Bit" (Donkey Kong)
The photo below depicts Hemisfair Park's Tower of the Americas, the San Antonio River, and the Workers Project Administration Bridge (now known as the Selena Bridge). 
"CAN-Bridge the Hunger Gap."
"Scary Cans" (Monsters, Inc.)
(3,100 cans)
Slinky dog

I had no idea what the sculpture above was supposed to be; in case you don't know either, see the sign below.

Click  on the photo to enlarge it.
"Food Fight" featuring The Hunger Fighter,
mascot of the Food Bank.

The Shoe Palace in the photo below, has a fun-house-type mirror at the entrance. I took my photo in front of it and came out upside-down and wavy looking.
Entrance to Shoe Palace.
Adorable alpaca adorning the
stage by the Andean pan pipe

We finished our walk and headed to Salata for lunch. Salata is a salad buffet restaurant. You pick the size of your bowl when you walk in and the servers behind the counter fill your bowl with the type of lettuce/kale/spinach combo you want. From there you follow your server on the opposite side of the glass and tell them everything you'd like on your salad. Over 100 ingredients are available, most are included. However, if you want avocado, salmon, chicken, or other meaty protein there is an up-charge. You choose your salad dressing and they mix it into your salad. One roll or pita chips are included. Soup and wraps are available too.

I was so happy Bob walked with me today. Thanks, sweetie. 

Sunday, September 9, 2018

A Volunteer's Viewpoint - the Other Side of an Event - Sat., Sept. 8, 2018

San Antonio, Texas is world renowned for a few things, among them, are the River Walk, Tower of the Americas, The Alamo, and four other missions. Two years ago, our five missions gained UNESCO World Heritage site status. 

As San Antonian's we, as a city, are proud of our culture and historical heritage. One of the things we love to do in San Antonio is to celebrate, so an event was created to honor our inclusion into the rarefied air as one of the UNESCO World Heritage sites. That event is the World Heritage Festival which took place over the past five days.

The organizers describe the festival as follows:
"The City of San Antonio, in connection with Bexar County, San Antonio River Authority (SARA), National Park Service, The Alamo, Mission Heritage Partners..., and Las Misiones organized the first City of San Antonio World Heritage Festival in 2016. The fesitval occurs after Labor Day weekend and overlaps with the Organization of World Heritage Cities, Solidarity Day of World Heritage Cities that occurs annually on September 8th. The Organization of the World Heritage Cities was created on this date and urges the administration of each organization city to take advantage of this day to stress the important responsibility of the city to protect as well as promote the world heritage and especially the privilege of having a part of that heritage in their city.
"The World Heritage Festival is an annual collaborative event to celebrate and promote our San Antonio Missions, a UNESCO World Heritage site. The Festival is a five-day celebration spread throughout the five San Antonio Missions and surrounding area and has something for everyone, while providing funding for nonprofit organizations and projects that preserve, maintain, promote, and connect."
I am going to tell you about "our" little piece of that festival: organizing the Tour de las Misiones 5k and 10k walks. The "our" I am referring to is the American Volkssport Association (AVA: America's Walking Club) and the Selma Pathfinders (a member club of the AVA). [NOTE: Tour de las Misiones also has 22-mile, 17-mile, and 7-mile bike rides, as well as 5k and 10k runs. Those are managed by other groups.]

In 2016, the first year of the festival, a different group was in charge of the walk portion of the festival. Apparently, it did not go well and in 2017 the AVA took over stewardship of the walk. The 2017 event was a success with 200 walkers participating, and close to 500 enjoying all the events.

2017 World Heritage Festival AVA volunteers
With a large nonprofit event, multiple layers of volunteers are needed. Paid staff were involved as well for infrastructure, such as emptying trash, cleaning and maintaining restrooms in the parks, public safety (police escorts and safety officers at crosswalks), etc. The Tour de las Misiones and Mission Pachanga took place in Mission Pavilion Park.

Each year, months of planning lead up to the festival. This year, I attended only the second to the last meeting. (I was taking over for my friend Susan Medlin, one of the AVA volunteers, who was going on a Canadian cross-country train trip. A group of Volksmarchers were on board the train and would do walks in stops along the way.) From my little glimpse into what was needed to run the festival, my eyes were opened and I was amazed and a bit overwhelmed.

I am no stranger to the walks. At least year's festival, Bob and I helped a little. We joined Susan on the walks to make sure the written directions were correct. 

This year, Susan and I did the 5k walk together to check the route 1-1/2 weeks before the event. Then our group of volunteers had a "worker's walk" six days before the event to strategize optimum placement of our walk checkpoints and to let everyone know where the festival's "water/wellness" stations would be located. Major portions of our walk routes were on trails along the river. Our volunteers had jobs ranging from organizing the walk portion of the event, working at the water/wellness stations and checkpoints, to working in our booth selling items, talking with people who wanted to join AVA, checking people in at the end of the race, and stamping members' AVA achievement books.

You never know what might happen to change a walking route, such as construction causing a detour or flooding on the Mission Reach of the River Walk, the main part of our trail. During heavy rains in San Antonio, the river can (and sometimes does) come over the banks onto the Mission Reach Trail. When it does, it deposits mud, garbage, and fish along the sides of and on the trail itself. We cannot be on the trail with conditions like that for safety reasons. The mud is thick, oozy, and extremely slippery. Walking on that mud was described to me as being like walking on marbles over ice. I have slipped in it myself.

In this year's planning, we had to be hypervigilant about the weather. Thunderstorms and flooding in previous days had inundated other parts of the San Antonio, especially the west and north sides. So far, we had residual flooding coming down the San Antonio River from creeks and tributaries flowing into it from the north/northwest. 

I should mention, that in addition to Tour de las Misiones, Mission Pachanga was also scheduled for Mission Pavilion Park from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. After the bike rides/runs/walks, we could stay to enjoy musical entertainment, and food, informational, and shopping booths. So all of these events hinged on the weather cooperating. 

The forecast for Saturday was for thunderstorms and a flash flood warning. The event leaders had to make a determination on Friday whether or not to hold the Tour de las Misiones on Saturday a.m. 

When a group went out Friday a.m. to check the trail next to the river, the San Antonio River was 10' over flood stage. Later in the afternoon, when checked again, it was 5' over flood stage. The trail would not be safe to walk.

The decision was made to go ahead with the event; however, the walk routes would be changed to be the same as the run routes. The runners were going on streets, not trails. That presented our group leader with a challenge. We didn't have exact written directions of the new (to us) running routes. We hand out detailed written instructions to our walkers to go along with our trail markings.

We have to give a lot of credit to John Ives, our stand-in walk organizer, for getting new written directions together in an afternoon and getting them printed and sent out to everyone involved via email.

Incidents and unexpected events like this test the true mettle of volunteers. John handled the whole turn of events with aplomb. He did say, however, that our regular walk organizer would not be allowed to go anywhere during the festival in the future...he was going to put an ankle-tracking device on him (all in jest, of course).

So, overnight, all of us worried about the festival. Would we have thunder, lightning, and downpours? Would the river become a raging torrent? Would we be able to put on all the events?

Saturday morning, 5:00 a.m.: Volunteers and city workers started arriving. The area did not have thunderstorms overnight. The forecast had changed and no storms were predicted until noon. Yay!

Bob and I were in charge of marking the 5k (me) and 10k (Bob) walker's routes. The San Antonio River Authority (SARA) provided ATVs to take us along the routes. We gathered up our trail-marking materials -- metal stakes, arrows, and streamers on clothespins -- and loaded them into the ATVs. It was pitch black, so we were happy to have ATVs with headlights. 

My part of the trail marking took us through some woods on the way to Mission San Jose. The cart did not have a windshield. I could see spider webs across the trail in places and I hoped we did not get any spiders in our faces!! (No one told me about THAT hazard when I volunteered.) 

As we drove along, there were places where I put in stakes with directional arrows, and in other places hung AVA streamers on tree branches or fence posts. At one such stop, my ATV driver, Carlos, was trying to get something off the hood. It was a big spider we had apparently picked up in the woods! Eek! 

I was able to mark all of the 5k route except inside Mission San Jose's walls...it was way too early for them to open. Normally, the missions open at 9:00 a.m.

Bob and I met back at Mission Pavilion Park. Most of the AVA volunteers were there setting up our tables, banners, brochures, items for sale, and table displays.

At 7:00 a.m., I had an appointment with Greg, the local national park security manager, who was going to open Mission San Jose early so I could mark the route inside the mission grounds, and the volunteer set-up crew could put up a water/wellness station and a checkpoint. So far, so good.

My next obligation was to lead the walkers through the start gate and onto the trail at approximately 8:30 a.m. All the prep and set up of booths by volunteers at our and other organizations were either done or well underway. 

The thoughtful organizers of this event brought in free breakfast tacos (donated by Nicha's Restaurant) for all the volunteers. I think even the participants partook.

As I was eating and waiting for the walkers to start, I was perspiring like crazy. The humidity must have been 90+%. My hair was wet and dripping down my neck. Just before the start, I changed from my walking shirt into my volunteer shirt.

The bikers headed out the start gate first, followed by the runners. The walkers were in the back of the pack because we're the slowest. Last year, when we headed out the start gate, my friend Susan Medlin was the lead and she carried a huge rainbow umbrella. Before they left for their train trip, she gave me the umbrella so I could continue the tradition this year. At last, they counted down the walk start time, and we were off. 

2017 Tour de las Misiones walk.
[Photo courtesy of Martin Callahan.]
I led the walkers as far as Mission San Jose but kept walking the rest of the 5k. When we came to the 5k/10k split, the runners had a person directing everyone in one direction. Our written instructions had the 5k walkers splitting off to head back. 

So as not to confuse the 5k walkers, I became a human arrow before the running group person to direct our 5k walkers toward the directions indicated on the walk instructions. (I found out after the walk that our 5k instructions only came out to about 4.5k. Oh, well, we did the best we could at the last minute. As far as I know, no one got lost, although some 5k walkers who had passed me after the mission, did end up going the runners' route. They did not get lost either, LOL. All was good.) 

After I finished leading the walk, it was time to take down the 5k markings. Since I was headed out with the ATV, there were supplies that needed to be delivered to some of the water/wellness stations. One station was out of water and cups. It was crucial that job got done before I took down the trail markings. 

On the way back to take down trail markings after the deliveries, I saw a lady walking who looked like she was in distress. We stopped. She hurt herself walking and needed a ride back to the park. Blake gave up his spot in the ATV and we took her back. She was very grateful.

I then went out with Carlos in the ATV and we removed the 5k arrows and streamers. There were still four people on the 10k walk course, so we left up those markings until they finished. Bob took down the 10k markings that the people had already passed.

Our weather was good with no rain at all during the full day festival. Toward the end of the walk, we had a little breeze, although the temperature was still about 92.

What I would like to leave you with is this. 

  • Even though our original leaders for this festival were not there, the rest of us pulled off the event.
  • In the RVing world where we have spent a lot of our time, we call this "plans made in Jell-o." We remained flexible and went with the flow. It was a little wobbly at first, but we didn't melt down. In the end, it turned out fine.
  • If you are volunteering and major changes have to be made, keep your chin up and a positive attitude. People participating in the event don't need to know all the details or your woes. They are there to have a good time.
  • If you don't already, make time to volunteer for an organization you believe in. They need you and will appreciate whatever you can do.
  • Even if you can't volunteer for some reason, thank the volunteers you see.
  • Support your local events. It took a lot of effort to make sure you have a good time.
  • Everything may not be "perfect," but things are probably good enough.

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Finishing - V is for Victoria - Fri., Aug. 3, 2018

What is it with me, anyway? Who knows? Maybe you're the same way. I start something, get it almost all the way done, and then leave the last bit hanging. That's the way I feel I've left you, readers, hanging there, waiting for the finish of a number of vacation blogs:

  • Hawaii in 2016
  • Total solar eclipse in 2017
  • Minnesota and North Dakota, July 2018
  • Alaska, August 2018
Is it just procrastination? Or am I ambivalent about putting a definitive end point on the vacations? A combination of both, I think. Here is my attempt to go back and finish off those blogs, starting with the most recent trip first--our Alaskan cruise.

Friday, Aug. 3, Victoria, B.C.: Today we spent the majority of the day at sea. Fog enveloped us for most of the morning. By afternoon, when we entered the Strait of Juan de Fuca on our way to Victoria, British Columbia, the fog lifted. 

We spent part of our time sitting in the observation lounge looking for whales, but didn't see any. After lunch, we went to our stateroom and I hung out on the balcony with the binoculars looking for whales. Bob was inside reading.

Close to the shore of Vancouver Island, about 4 miles away, I saw a couple of small sightseeing boats, so I scanned the calm water around them and saw lots of whale spouts. I never did see a whale back, fin, or fluke. I was out there a good 20 minutes scanning the water in the distance.

At that point, I was ready to give up on seeing whales. However, I looked closer to our ship. It wasn't a minute later that I saw two spouts close in on the port side of the ship (the side our stateroom is on). I called Bob out. We watched the two whales -- humpbacks (we saw a small portion of their backs) -- go by our ship in the opposite direction (toward the stern of the ship). As soon as they got past the ship, we saw the fluke (tail) of one of them as they dove out of sight. That was awesome.

At 2:00 p.m., we went to the Bliss Theater and again enjoyed the music of Britain's Finest. Lots of singing along was going on in that theater as the Fab Four Tribute Band played songs from their early years in Liverpool's Cavern Club, up through Twist and Shout, A Hard Day's Night, Got to Get You Into My Life, Revolution, and they played songs the Beatles never had a chance to play together (although no singing along in that part because we didn't know the songs).
Britain's Finest
Fab Four tribute band: Britain's Finest

By the time the concert was over, we were almost into Victoria, British Columbia, on Vancouver Island. Pilot boats were waiting to guide us into the slip at Pier A. Our side of the ship got to see all the action.
Two pilot boats coming to guide us into port.
Coming up on the port side.
A view of Victoria, British Columbia.
Kayakers enjoying a lovely Friday afternoon.
Prince of Whales sightseeing boat.
The pilot boats had white sheets on their bow to keep from making black marks on our beautiful white ship. The diesel-powered pilot boat was below our stateroom for about ten minutes so we had a big dose of diesel fumes while we watched. Cough, cough.
Pilot boat.
A view of the pier building and Victoria from our balcony.
Debarkation started just about 4:00 p.m. We were supposed to meet with the Garden City Wanderers Volkssport Club and they were going to walk with our group. We made it off the ship about 4:15-4:30 p.m. However, Bob and I didn't know what time or where to meet the rest of the group. Obviously, word got out to our group somehow because I saw a photo posted on another site with a big frame that said Victoria, B.C., and a lot of Volksmarchers standing behind the frame. 
Norwegian Bliss

But we had our walk instructions and we started out on our own. I have to give major kudos to the Garden City Wanderers. Not only did we have the instructions for our 10k walk, they also added historical notes and I will reference those throughout the blog.

We made it out of the parking lot and past the port buildings. As we were walking, I noticed people carrying a big plastic tub and Volksmarch sign board. Apparently we had missed the Victoria club meeting point and they were packing things up.

We followed Dallas Road until we came to Fisherman's Wharf Park which we walked through. On the other side of the park, we saw businesses on piers, and we followed the David Foster Harbour Pathway into the Inner Harbour of Victoria. 
Fish & Chips Restaurant

Center foreground looks like a "tiny home" boat!
Beautiful water lily in a pond by condos.
Looking at the Inner Harbour/James Bay we saw ferries, sightseeing rafts, water taxis, kayaks, and seaplanes: a large variety of ways to get around on the water!

Adorable water taxis.
David Foster Harbour Pathway curved around the Inner Harbour and brought us into the heart of downtown Victoria.

Friendship Bell from Morioka, Japan.
History of the bell.
Huntingdon Manor.
The next two photos are taken in Confederation Square (which we were supposed to visit on our way back to the ship; however, we saw it from the road and took a turn into it before the Parliament Buildings). This park shows the Canadian coat of arms and the coats of arms of the provinces and territories that make up Canada. Beautifully done!

Confederation Square coats of arms
Canadian coat of arms.
From Confederation Square, we crossed the street to the Parliament Buildings. Unfortunately, the building was closed for the day, so we were not able to tour it. It was there that Betsy of the Garden City Wanderers Volkssport Club found us. She stayed with us the rest of the way and we learned a lot from her.

The British Columbia Parliament Buildings were designed by Frank Rattenbury who was only 25 years old when he won the competition for the design. He was a recent immigrant from England. His first round contest drawings were signed with the pseudonym "A.B.C. Architect." When he progressed to the second round, he signed his drawing "For Queen and Province." The architectural styles of the Parliament Buildings are Neo-baroque, Renaissance Revival, and Romanesque Revival. Construction was started in 1893 and finished in 1897. Rattenbury also designed the Empress Hotel, The Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) Steamship Terminal, Legislative Library, Crystal Gardens indoor swimming pool, and the Vancouver Court House (now the Vancouver Art Gallery).
Parliament Building
The stag and the ram at the entrance
The Empress Hotel (sans ivy).
The Empress Hotel was built by the CPR on pilings driven into the tidal mud flats of James Bay. It opened in 1908 and additions were made in 1929 and 1988. Every time we had been to Victoria in the past, the front of the Empress Hotel was covered in ivy. Apparently they had to remove it to clean the hotel. I asked Betsy if they were going to grow it again and she said she didn't think so. I miss that look! 

We continued on past The Empress Hotel and passed the Visitor Info Centre. There was a lot going on. A mime was acting in front of the Visitor Centre. Down the stairs by the harbor were booths and a restaurant. Across the street was a beautiful Orca topiary. I have a photo below, but it's hard to see how pretty it is. 
Topiary orcas (mother and calf).

Painted orca.
Nautical memorial with Bob and Betsy
in the left background.

We were on Wharf St. and passed the old Custom House before turning right into Bastion Square. Part way through the square was the Court House built in 1889.
Wharf Street
Bastion Square -
Board of Trade
Bastion Square
There are lots of cool alleys in Victoria and our walk took us through three of them: Trounce Alley with its reproductions of wooden paving blocks (an early solution to the problem of muddy streets), Water Gardens Passageway, and Fan Tan Alley.

Water Gardens Passageway
Market Square's old water
Market Square's Main Gate Fountain (above) has three levels of water: one for parched pedestrians, one for thirsty horses, and one for smaller animals, such as dogs, and pigs on their way to market.

Fan Tan Alley
Fan Tan Alley shopping
Friendship Gate
Upon exiting Market Square, we were smack dab in the middle of Chinatown. Here we saw Fan Tan Alley featured in the Goldie Hawn movie, "Bird on a Wire," and the Friendship Gate. [Note: Fan Tan Alley was named after a gambling game popular in Chinatown.]

From Chinatown, we crossed the street and walked through Centennial Square with its park and artwork. We passed City Hall, built in 1878. The clock tower was added in 1891. The clock came from England, but was delayed when it was mistakenly shipped to the state of Victoria, Australia! Oops.

City Hall
We next saw beautiful churches: St. Andrew's Cathedral, consecrated in 1892, and Christ Church Anglican Cathedral, consecrated in 1929. Even though Christ Church Anglican Cathedral was consecrated in 1929, the Great Depression and war years delayed completion of the building. In 1955, the west towers were completed, and in 1971 a two-story addition was constructed and splendid stained-glass windows were commissioned.
St. Andrew's Cathedral
Christ Church Anglican Cathedral
Christ Church Anglican Cathedral.
Our walk next took us to St. Ann's Academy. Construction of this school and the convent of the Sisters of St. Ann began in 1871. Across the street is part of the former St. Joseph's Hospital, opened in 1876, and operated by the Sisters of St. Ann until 1967.

St. Ann's Academy
What remains of St. Joseph's Hospital
As we headed back to the Bliss, we passed Thunderbird Park which displays reproductions of totem poles taken from northern coastal Indian villages.

Thunderbird Park totems
Seawall and breakwater by the cruise ship terminal.
Three cruise ships in port in Victoria.
We bade farewell to Betsy at the seawall and thanked her and the club for putting on a most excellent Volksmarch. Hopefully, she can come to Texas and walk with us on our Texas Trail Roundup in February.

Below is an interesting sundial. I've never seen anything like it. Instructions say, "Stand where the centre line intersects the current month line. The time will be indicated by your shadow on the dial (Pacific Standard Time), plus or minus the minutes shown on the month line." The time was right on!

Next, we added about a mile onto our walk by taking the breakwater out to the end. I'm glad we did because it was a beautiful view of the ship!
NCL Bliss in Victoria, B.C.
At the end of the breakwater are some memorial benches. I loved the quote on the one below.

A strong, cold wind had blown in. You can see my hair is blown straight back in the photo below. I was so happy I had my windbreaker on!

Me and Bob at the end of the breakwater.
 We found a great spot to take photos on the way back to the ship.

After all that walking (about 7 miles) with no food, we were famished. (I particularly regret we did not have halibut fish 'n' chips in Victoria.) The buffet sounded particularly good this evening. We had all we could eat and then some.

After showers, I just wanted to put my feet up and ice my knee. I spent some time reading on our last night on the ship. Bob walked around the ship for a bit and then he came back and read before he crashed out for the night.

Tomorrow morning, we return to Seattle.