Wednesday, September 18, 2013

The Black Hills, Wall Drug and More in Surprising South Dakota

On Monday we left Denver in the late afternoon, and headed north up I-25, spending the night in Wellington, Colorado.  We awoke on Tuesday to beautiful weather and a pleasant drive through eastern Wyoming, and decided to drive as far as Deadwood, South Dakota.  It was when we neared the South Dakota border that the landscape changed from pleasant to spectacular.  Wide open fields gave way to pine trees and rock formations, and literally minutes after we crossed the border we started to see animals.  First we were greeted by this curious cow standing right by the side of the road,
followed by wildlife spottings,  including deer,
and wild turkeys.
The subsequent drive through "Ice Box Canyon" offered breathtaking views of both landscape and wildlife.  We had at least five more deer spottings, some in groups of two or three at a time, the most we have ever seen along one short stretch of road.
We were told that the Black Hills are very popular for winter sports, especially skiing and snowmobiling. 
 It is called the "banana belt", because while they get snow, they enjoy mostly bright, sunny days, making the weather particularly pleasant even in the winter. 

We spent the night just outside of Deadwood, which is an old western gambling town, boasting many inns, restaurants and casinos in original historic town buildings. 

On our way out of town this morning, we took a drive through beautiful Spearfish Canyon, enjoying one last look at the Black Hills.  We noticed a sign stating that scenes from the movie "Dances With Wolves" were filmed in this area.
As we came of out Spearfish Canyon, we hopped onto I-90 East and started our drive across the state of South Dakota.  The landscape changed again, and became gentle rolling hills and wide open fields. 

We began to see billboards for a place called Wall Drug.  A lot of billboards.  For miles.  So of course, we decided to check it out, even though we didn't expect much.  We were thoroughly delighted with our stop in Wall, which is just outside of the Badlands.  Wall Drug was established in 1931, basically in the middle of nowhere.  By putting signs out on the road (that was then the old Route 16A), the owners were able to draw hungry and thirsty travelers into their store.  They became successful, and continue to use that same advertising technique to this day.  They still sell coffee in the cafe for 5 cents a cup, too.  We had some!  And one of the best fresh chocolate glazed donuts I've ever tasted.
Wall Drug has an amazing bookstore with an extensive selection of books about the history of the American West, and they also boast over 300 original oil paintings lining the walls of several of the dining rooms, featuring works by the likes of N.C. Wyeth and Dean Cornwell.
After our visit to Wall, we were back on the road heading east toward our goal for the night of the Sioux Falls area.  Even though the landscape was back to rolling hills and open fields, the big open sky was really beautiful as the sun started to set and the giant clouds took on the hues of the sunset sky.
We were delighted with the beautiful surprises we found in South Dakota, and would definitely like to come back and visit.  Because our time was limited, there is a lot we didn't see, including Mount Rushmore! 

Since we crossed into the Central Time Zone tonight, so it's now 1 am!  Time to say good night and sweet dreams to all.

xo Linda

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Drenched in Denver at the 46th Annual Gem and Mineral Show

As the shows draw to a close, I have to say it's been a fun and interesting week here in Denver.  Our reason for coming was to attend the 46th Annual Gem, Fossil and Mineral Show, as both buyer and seller.  Although there were shows in various locations throughout the week here, we were sharing space outdoors at the Denver Coliseum with some wonderful Mexican mining friends from September 7th to the 15th.
We arrived midday on the 7th, and were greeted with brilliant, sunny skies, and scorching temperatures.  Our first full sales day was on Sunday, the 8th, where we had another hot but beautiful day, and had a great time meeting people from Colorado, Montana, Wyoming, Nebraska, Washington, Missouri, Oklahoma and more, all here for the show.  Our tables featured an eclectic mix of our amethyst, amber, opal, obsidian and fire agate gathered in Mexico, as well as many other unique jewelry items collected from our travels.  We also featured my hand beaded artistic necklaces and Eduardo's beautifully wrapped pendants and rings.  Sunday was a great and successful day!
Monday afternoon is when the weather started to turn, and the rest of the week would prove to be a roller coaster of rainy weather.  Although able to sell for part of the day, by about 3:45 on both Monday and Tuesday, we made a hasty retreat to the car with our things when the sky started to look like this,
And once the rain started, within minutes the place looked like this!
It proceeded to rain nonstop throughout the next day, now Wednesday, so we seized the opportunity to visit some of the indoor shows. We were able to buy some great material for our work, and meet more interesting rock and mineral loving folks from around the country, and the world.  You can expect to see these great amethyst specimens on our tables the next time you come to visit us.
We met a wonderful gentleman who is one of the few craftsmen that makes fine handcrafted jewelry from dinosaur bone set in sterling silver.  I did not know that dinosaur bone occurs naturally in a variety of colors!  Take a look at this beautiful mosaic bracelet made from the bone.
On Thursday we awoke to yet another relentless day of rain, this time with the additional feature of flash flood warnings popping up periodically on our iPhones.  I checked to see what the situation was on the local freeways, and found one of the ramps we used daily was closed due to standing water on the freeway.  Four feet of standing water, to be exact.
Being Angelinos, this weather is a bit foreign to us.  We decided not to risk going out, and instead spent Thursday at the hotel catching up on some work.

Friday morning showed some partial clearing, but left us with a puddle the size of a small lake in front of our tables.
With the rain once again threatening, we decided to visit the Denver Mart instead to check out the Renaissance Bead Show, as well the International Gem and Jewelry Show.  I was very happy to pick up some mermaid beads, along with many beautiful glass seed beads to add to my repetoire at the Renaissance show.  At the International show, I saw some extremely expensive minerals for serious collectors.  Check out this sulfur specimen, for a cool $45,000.00.
Saturday the heavens parted, and we were blessed with sunshine!  We set up our tables and were once again able to sell, sending a variety of fossils, stones, and jewelry, as well as several mermaid necklaces to new homes.  A great day!  Then at about 4:00 pm, the weather turned again, and the sky grew darker than dark.
Time to pack it up pronto and fling the things back into the car!  And then the rain came.

And that brings us to this morning, Sunday, the last day of the shows.  Did it rain today?  Yes.  All day.  But it gave us the opportunity to attend the indoor part of the coliseum show, along with our new friend Kim who we met earlier this week, and we had a great day.  I continued to be wowed by the fossils.  Here's the head and tusks of a wooly mammoth from the Ice Age,
and a fossil from Australia that had impressions of octopus type creatures.
I really enjoyed seeing how many young people love rocks and fossils.  Some were attending the show because they had a school assignment, and some came just because they are already collectors.  So great to see natural passion at such a young age.

Tomorrow morning we will go back to pick up our table, help our friends to pack up, and start the journey to our next destination, Wisconsin.  Although the weather proved to be a real challenge to selling outdoors, we are so grateful for the opportunity to be here.  We reached our goal to both buy new material and sell some of our treasures, and it was very satisfying, indeed.

I send you a ton of good wishes for a happy, healthy and productive week.  Good night and sweet dreams!

xo Linda

Thursday, September 12, 2013

The Beautiful Drive from Las Vegas to Denver

We've been on the road for over a week now, and it's raining like crazy here in Denver.  With flash flood warnings, it's turned out to be the perfect day to stay in, and a great time to bring you up to speed on our road trip.  After spending our late arrival the first night near state line, we headed for our next stop,  Las Vegas.  Now I figure it's been about eight years or so since I've been to Vegas, so there's a lot that's new since then.  We visited the Aria Resort, which we found to be edgy, artistic, and dramatically beautiful.  A good example is the exterior of the poker room.
The Aria features "Zarakana", a Cirque de Soleil show, and I loved their statue in the lobby.
We also visited the Bellagio, always a favorite stop, which has some really lovely hand blown glass in the casino,
and had some fun golf clubs out front waiting to be taken to "their" room.
Las Vegas requires time, which we did not have a lot of.  We spent the afternoon exploring, and then got back on the road, stopping for the night at the Virgin River Casino in Mesquite, Arizona.  One thing I learned on this trip is that casinos in the outlying areas are a great place to spend the night.  The rooms were a wonderful value at a total of $44.50 a night.  Clean and comfortable, they also featured delicious and very affordable food in the casino restaurant.  We ate both dinner and breakfast there, with a total tab of under $15.00 for two each time, including tip!

Day three we were back on the road heading for Utah, where I caught a glimpse of this All-American Gas Station.
Taking the 15 freeway to the 70 East, we mostly covered ground that day, stopping to catch a beautiful Utah sunset.  The rain in the distance made the clouds look more like a pastel painting to me than a photograph.
We spent the night in Green River Utah, which is quite close to Arches National Monument.  There we found another great value of only $45.00 at the Robber's Roost Motel, thanks to its wonderful reviews on Trip Advisor.  Since we are traveling for a month, these affordable motels are greatly appreciated!

Day four took us east on the 70 Freeway on one of the most beautiful drives I have taken in the United States, through Glenwood Canyon, Aspen, and Vail, Colorado.
It was delightful to see the ski runs and chair lifts right along the side of the road!  Not to mention the gorgeous chalets and hotels.  We spent the night in the charming mountain village of Frisco, another ski location just east of Vail.
At just under $80.00, our lodging at the Snowshoe Motel was a little more pricey than previous nights, but it was a resort town on a Friday night.  On the upside, we had a kitchen, where we were able to make dinner and breakfast.  And the king sized bed was cushy and soooo comfortable!  We thoroughly enjoyed our stay there.

Day five (Saturday) we finished the last leg of our drive to Denver and the Gem and Mineral Show, arriving early in the afternoon.  We checked into the hotel where we are spending the week, and then headed over to the Coliseum to check out the event.  It is here that I will leave the story until tomorrow.  Let it just suffice to say that we are experiencing a lot of rain here!  Glub glub.  But still we are so grateful to be here.  We love our life and our job!

We wish you all a beautiful evening, and stay tuned.
 Love,  Linda and Eduardo

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Ode to the Previa, and Off to Colorado and Beyond

It's 9:15 am on Wednesday, and we are in a casino hotel in Jean, Nevada.  We arrived here last night at 1:20 am, after a busy day and late departure on our newest road trip.  I had nostalgically hoped to spend the night at Buffalo Bill's in Primm, where I once rode
the gigantic roller coaster that gave me a neck ache for two days, and had won $500 on a Wheel of Fortune slot machine as we were leaving (I rarely gamble).  But I mistakenly routed us off the freeway in Primm, and then right back on, wistfully watching Buffalo Bill's disappear in the background.  So here we are in Jean, the next exit, eleven miles down the road.  But it's comfortable and clean, not to mention $40 a night.  And I foresee a glorious breakfast in my near future, as our new adventure begins unfolding.  Life is good.

One of the noteworthy things we did yesterday before leaving was bid a fond farewell to Eduardo's beloved 1991 Toyota Previa, the magical car that carried us safely and happily for four months in Mexico.  She suffered what turned out to be a fatal engine problem three weeks ago on the 101 freeway.  Upon being towed to my faithful mechanic Dr. Bob, we were informed that the engine had frozen.  After much deliberation, we released the Previa to the Universe yesterday, selling her for parts.  We pray that a similar loyal and faithful servant will come our way after we return to Los Angeles in October!

So that's the news for now.  No photos as I am writing this on my iPhone this morning and can't figure out how to upload on this little machine.  Photos to follow!  We are excited to be heading to Denver for the country's second largest gem, fossil and mineral show, where we will buy, sell and trade stones and handmade jewelry, including a great new selection of brass casted pendants lovingly made by Eduardo.  It all begins Saturday.  We will hit Las Vegas and then some gorgeous Utah scenery along the way, so stay tuned.  We wish you a glorious day as well.

Love, Linda