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Posts tagged ‘United States’

top of Texas

A third of the way through our Southwest road trip, Christmas Eve found us in Artesia, NM – a small town that owes its name to a long ago depleted artesian aquifer and whose present existence is supported mainly by oil and gas refineries. A ghost town under ordinary circumstances, Artesia seemed doubly so as we navigated its deserted, halogen-lit streets. Even grocery stores were closed on account of the approaching holiday. The neon billboards of fast food restaurants, which remained stubbornly open, provided the only sign of life as night approached. We had stocked up on groceries before our arrival and hunkered down in our inn with a board game to while away the evening.

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hidden beauty

Hands down, the top highlight of our most recent trip to the Southwest was a visit to Chiricahua – a little-known national monument that is tucked away in the southeast corner of Arizona, near the border with New Mexico. The park receives between 50,000 and 60,000 visitors a year – less than one-tenth of the number of people who visit nearby Saguaro, where we had spent the previous day.

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snow day

A friend of ours is fond of saying that there is no such thing as cold weather; rather, the problem lies in poor clothing choices. Junebug, for one, disagrees with this sentiment. It does not matter how warmly we dress her or how much we play up the fun to be had with fresh powdery snow. The last few months she got her first taste of a proper winter – with snow and temperatures in the teens during our Thanksgiving trip to Maine and a snowstorm in DC this weekend. To say that she did not enjoy her exposure to the frosty weather would be an understatement.

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dino tales

In a way, our end-of-year Southwest road trip was the vacation D had envisioned taking six months ago, when we wrapped up our assignment in Kigali.

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holiday musings

Growing up, there is no question that the winter holidays were our favorite: Hanukkah for S, New Year’s for D. Sweets, festive decorations, and lots of presents – it’s easy to win a kid’s heart over with these. Now that we have children of our own, we’ve come to appreciate other holidays a lot more. Any holiday that gives us a three-day weekend is to be celebrated, but the ones, like this past Veterans Day, when we get the day off from work while schools remain open feel particularly valuable. Of the holidays we miss being stateside the most, Thanksgiving tops the list: there is simply no substitute for family and home-cooked, traditional meals when one is serving overseas.

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Boise greenbelt

In retrospect, three nights in Boise was probably one too many out of our all-too-short home leave road trip, and we should have spent an extra day hiking in the Sawtooths. Still, Boise proved charming and we found plenty to do with the kids.

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all over the map

This summer marked the twentieth anniversary of D’s first concert, a one-day festival featuring the likes of Green Day and the Offspring. In the intervening two decades, D’s musical tastes changed and expanded, but his passion for (obsession with?) live music has remained constant. Of the 430 shows he’s seen over the last twenty years, 17 have been in just the last couple of months since we’ve returned to the United States, and these concerts have been literally all over the map – D has managed to catch shows in seven states plus the District of Columbia this summer.

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birding with a broken lens

Perhaps the saddest moment of our Kigali tour happened a couple of months before our departure, when D realized just a split second too late that he had neglected to zip up the side pocket of our camera bag. As if in slow motion, he watched with a sinking heart as the camera tumbled out and dropped several feet, the lens landing with a sickening crunch on the tiled floor.

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the zen of slow walking

With Labor Day approaching, we initially planned to take advantage of our first long weekend in DC to go hiking in Shenandoah National Park. Given the 100-degree heat this past week, however, we’ve thought better of it. Hiking, as we discovered to our chagrin a couple of months ago, is not Munchkin’s strong suit anyway.

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holiday extravaganza

After our hike in the Sawtooth Wilderness, which proved a little more hardcore than perhaps was advisable, we enjoyed a rest day in Sun Valley. It was the Fourth of July – a rare opportunity to celebrate this most American of holidays on American soil, only the third time we have been able to do so (out of eight potential Independence Day celebrations) since D joined the State Department.

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