Where In The World Is The Tomato Lady? Air Force Academy (In The Afternoon)

I never cease to amaze me. The things that I think are going to be boring, really aren’t. Like the Fight Museum in Seattle. Or the Custer Battlefield. After Pike’s Peak, we went to the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs. It was beautiful. It sits on 18,000 acres at the base of the mountains and was established in 1954.



One of the coolest things I learned was that they still teach falconry there. I guess you could call them the originals drones!Image


The Chapel is what I really came ot see. Everyone said it was stunning inside. Unfortunately, they were having a wedding so we weren’t allowed on the top floor. It is a most unusual looking building with 17 spires.

chapel-large chapel-1

We were allowed to see the downstairs portion where they have a Catholic, Jewish and Buddhist worship center. This picture is of the floor by the Synagogue which is composed of real stones from Jerusalem.


This next picture is of the a Holocaust Torah


Here’s a shot of some new cadets, 2 days off the boat learning to march.af-incoming-students

This is picture of the 911 Memorial. It is a piece of the girder from one of the towers. It was very moving.



This for all of you who know jets. Can you name what kind these are what they were used for?

jet-3 jet-2



Where In The World Is The Tomato Lady? Pike’s Peak (In The Morning)

This morning we went to Pike’s Peak. That vast gray thing in the background. I was absolutely incredulous that we could drive all the way to the top. But we did. We drove up and up and up…you get the picture. I was ok until we left the treeline (I guess the trees made me feel like they would cushion our fall if we rolled off the edge, however erroneous the thought may be.) Then the road got narrower and the shoulders, if you could call them that, even narrower!


We switch backed the rest ot the way until we reached the top. The views were amazing. My vertigo kicked in in a big way and there were times when I had to face the side away from the cliff. The day was clear and beautiful when we started out. The grather up we went the colder it got and there a stiff wind blowing. Good thing my brother told me to bring a jacket.Image

The views were amazing


It is a long way down there. This picture doesn’t do it justice.ImageImage

You could see forever.



The next day, this race was being run…in cars…up the mountain,,,and then back down. I was told that the shortest time was 10 minutes and 1 second. I wonder how many cars have gone off the edge? After having taken the trip, I think these guys must be crazy. It is so steep that the rangers have a mandatory brake check half way down. Your brakes can’t be hotter than  300 degrees. and they tell you to gear down.


Here I am at the top of what felt like, the world. 14,400 feet. The clouds were rolling in and there were patches of showers all around us. While at the top, I indulged in the Pike Peak donut. They are an example of high altitude cooking, the only donut made at over 14,000 feet. They don’t use yeast (at least that was what I was told) in them and they were warm and tasty.


This is a plaque at the top that shows the lyrics for “America the Beautiful” It was written by Katharine Lee Bates after a trip to Pike’s Peak inspired her deeply. The neat thing was, there were a group of people standing in front of this singing it. I love our country.


This is a view of part of the switchbacks that I captured on the way down. It started to snow on us for a short while.


Some alpine flowers I stopped to take pictures of. Very pretty. It amazes me how plants can adapt to extreme climates. These plants were no more than 3 inches tall.



Sasquatch really does live! I didn’t realize he was so svelte! Must have stopped noshing on the tourists!





Last but not least, let me introduce Dayne and Pancho. He is a park ranger and his mini donkey sidekick. Both of them dress in costume and entertain the public. We saw them at the Crystal Reservoir stop.


Tomorrow I will show you the Air force Academy which we saw in the late afternoon.

Where In The World Is The Tomato Lady? Colorado Springs

I got into Denver Wednesday night, 45 minutes late. I remember being so excited about getting such a cheap flight, $98 dollars! Then I read the fine print: everything was ala carte! You had to pay to check a bag ($20), to bring a carry-on ($35), if you wanted water or peanuts (several bucks each) or if you wanted to choose your own seat ($5). Suddenly it wasn’t so cheap anymore. My husband asked me if I had asked for a deluxe milk crate next to the chickens (think South American buses.) Consequently, my free personal item weighed at least thirty pounds since I had my heavy camera, my laptop, my purse, 4 magazines, pretty much everything I would have put into my carry-on that I don’t want the airlines to handle. As soon as I got into Denver, which by the way is HUGE, I found my suitcase, unpacked it right there, took out my carry-on case and loaded it up. What a relief! My return flight is on an airline that allows two free checked bags, a carry-on and a personal item.

It was good to see my brother and his wife and daughter. He lives in Colorado Springs which is 70 miles away. We got back to his lovely home at around 10 pm. We were all exhausted. Since it was dark, I didn’t actually get to see any part of Colorado.

Couple of things I did notice was that the speed limit is 75 which makes everyone go 80. And they have no compunction against cutting right in front of you. Coming out of the airport, there was still enough light to see that is was really flat which surprised me. For some reason I thought it was mountainous. My brother reminded me that east of here is plains and south is desert. Where was I in geography class? Don’t laugh but my tired brain forgot where in the states Colorado was. Go figure.

This morning came bright and not so early for me, still being on Pacific time. We went to McDonalds for breakfast (see my facebook post about that) and headed out to Garden of the Gods. Wow. Here are some pictures of the Red Rocks. They reminded me of a spine jutting sharply from the earth or a Stegosaurus back. I know that it is to due erosion and harder and softer rocks but it was simply amazing!


the entrance


A selfi at the entrance. My husband loves these kinds of pictures.


These are the “Three Graces” and others which I can’t remember the names of.


This is a picture of Balancing Rock. It somehow manages to stay upright even though there a hundreds of people climbing all over it. If you look in the next picture,you will see columns that have been placed under the edge of that shelf to keep it from collapsing.


We saw horses and their riders. There is a stable where you can rent from but it is pretty expensive. Still, I’d love to bring my horse here. She probably wouldn’t like the drive all that much though.


Even though I know that the first Star Trek was filmed in California, these rocks remind me of when Captain Kirk was fighting the Gorn. It also would make a great place to film the Flintstones movie. Yabba Dabba Do!


This is a living history museum called Rock Ledge Ranch. For $8 dollars you can enter the houses and stables and see how people lived back then. You can also walk around for free and just admire the buildings.


This is beehive oven of some sortImageImage

This is picture of an old cabin with a lovely stone fireplace. I can’t imagine living in something that small for an entire winter. Especially with no electricity, running water (although my husband says they did have running water, you ran to get it).


Or flush toilets. Gives new meaning to “cabin fever”.


the ranch garden


Here is their orchard backed by a portion to the Garden of the Gods.


This is a picture of what is called Incline. According to my brother, there used to be a trolley type car that ran up the mountains. When they took it out, the tracks were left behind for people to use to climb to the top. I think I’d just stay at the bottom and have my heat stroke and heart attack right there. Makes it easier for them to collect and remove my remains.Image

Pike’s Peak, we will be going up there tomorrow


This is Cheyenne Mountain where NORAD lives.


My brother and his daughter

The Tomato Lady Goes On Vacation


Last year I went to Florida for two weeks and I posted my trip on my blog. Rather than starting a new blog, I figured you needed to see how The Tomato Lady relaxes (at least one of the ways).

This year  I am going to start out in Colorado Springs and stay with my brother for three days. He will pick me up at the Denver airport. I hope to see Pike’s Peak.

Then my compadre in crime, Deb, will drop her husband off there (they live in Florida) to take a motorcyle trip with his buddies and she will pick me up. We will be going to Moab, Utah, then Zion National Park and then on the fourth of July, I will fly out of Salt Lake City and get home just in time to go to Couer d/Alene, Idaho for the fireworks, our yearly tradition.

I am bringing my camera{s}, their manuals,m tripods and we will be taking lots and lots of pictures. I wish I could take my horse so we could ride where they have filmed some westerns. Yee hah. 


I hope you enjoy my trip as much as I am going to.

Check out last year’s vacation to the Biltmore, Georgia, N and S Carolina by searching for any of those terms or vacation. There are some great pictures.

Gracious Living and Other Things


Where did May go? This morning I went out sight seeing while my roommate got ready. I went into historic Beuafort, (there’s always a historic district in each town here) and looked at some of the antebellum homes. They aren’t the Biltmore, (but then nothing is quite like that 55 bedroom castle), but they were every bit as stunning. The symbols of gracious living amongst giant oak trees swathed in spanish moss. Broad verandas, sweeping staircases, windows on every level, probably for the breezes, and usually a gate of some sort around it, wrought iron or stone. Most of them with their backyards overlooking the salt marshes and river. I pictured sweet southern women in crinolines and corsets, drinking mint juleps, the men smoking cigars under giant fans.



Not to be outdone, this house was one I spotted in Georgia

Bits and Pieces

Camo is big here in clothing lines. I actually saw a guy dressed in camo sweat pants and tee shirt. The tee shirt I get, the sweat pants? Complete with elastic at the ankle.

We are still in the Bible belt. Lots of different varieties of Baptists, Methodists, Catholics, and non-denominational churches, probably pentecostal. Little churches tucked away in a glade.

Have I complained about the heat yet? hmmmmm I don’t know how people live here. It’s pretty but I wouldn’t want to  go outside in the summer. And I’m an outdoors kind of girl.

On Marine Graduations and Cemeteries

We went to the graduation of a few good men (the Marines) at Parris Island in south Carolina, this morning. When I stepped out of the hotel at 7:30 it was like walking into a wall of water. And they it isn’t that bad yet. I wouldn’t want to be there when it is, that’s for sure. To my Washingtonian (state not D.C.) sensibilities it is dang hot. At the graduation It was like having a hot flash the entire time. I can’t remember ever being so hot for so long. I felt for the guys standing at attention on the hot pavement in their long pants and shirts and hats. The little guide book they give you about the marines at Parris Island, it talks about being forged in a furnace etc. and I thought that term was accurate. It’s wonder they don’t have all heatstroke! Yes, it was hot but I was very proud to be an American, watching those young men, knowing how hard basic  training was, all for the job of protecting our nation. I was also very glad for all the support and love that the crowd gave them.



I have never seen so many cemeteries in my life. It seems like every town has at least 4-5 and possibly more than that in the backyards. some are very old, you can’t read many of the headstones, others are grand, like the Beaufort National Cemetery.  It is the only National cemetery in the country that has confederate soldiers buried in it. I saw a lot of headstones for men who died in just about every war, including WWl, WWll, Korean, and Vietnam. There were alot of older headstones that jus thad names or their name and usa or me. Not sure what that means but I’m assuming they are for the older wars. Possibly the Civil War. One of the cemeteries that I stopped at was called the Citizen’s Cemetery. Some of the names on the graves made me think that possibly these were for the slaves.


From the Citizen’s CemeteryImage

National CemeteryImage

At the National Cemetery, not sure which war this represented.ImageThe National Cemetery

The Biltmore in Asheville, North Carolina

This was an all day event for us. After entering the gate, you follow a lush, green winding road through the forest. I tried to imagine how it must have felt dressed in my finery, sitting in a horse drawn carriage, no, riding side saddle on a fine Tennessee Walker, trotting through the glade. It must have been such an honor to receive an invitation to stay with the Vanderbilts at their new country house. I’m sure it was the talk of the town.


The Vanderbilt’s money came from steam ships among other things. They were one of the, if not the richest, families in the country. When the “house” first came into view, I was stunned with it’s majesty. It seemed so grand. I was unable to imagine that this was a home at one time. Where children grew up and played in the yard. And yet, having been into genteel society, they probably never ever considered that they were living in the lap of luxury. Such things just came naturally. The servants, the ponies, the fishing pond, the reflecting pools. Not a life I can conceive of ever living.

 This house is so large that I could imagine my seeing my husband in the drawing room and greeting him, welcoming him back from his trip only to find out that he’d been home for three weeks already! It is that big. I can’t imagine cleaning the bathrooms.


If you go, wear good walking shoes. The inside tour takes several hours and I highly recommend taking advantage of the audio tour. You will get a lot more out of it than just walking around. The narration is well done. I especially loved the  winter garden, an inside courtyard filled with plants. High ceilings don’t even begin to convey how large the first hall is. It soars above your head. The grand staircase is off to the left and it is lined with windows and narrow doors that let the servants step out to clean them. 


A lot of the walls were papered with velvets, fabrics, linens, tapestries and hand tooled leather. We got to tour the upstairs bedrooms and the guest’s living room, the billiard room, dining room (three fireplaces), the kitchen (there was a rotisserie kitchen, a pastry kitchen and the main kitchen.) There was an incredible indoor swimming pool, (you gotta see that one)and a bowling alley. The amenities they had in those days were astonishing.

The bad thing was that you weren’t allowed to take pictures inside the house. I think they want you to buy the postcards or the books. 

 Next on our list to do was the gardens. It is a walled garden filled with perennial and annual beds and rose gardens of which I took many pictures. The scents were incredible, the colors were vibrant. I can’t imagine how many people it takes to keep those gardens tidy. 


Annual gardens just starting to fill in for summer.


One of my faves, these look like Globemaster alliums with orange poppies.Image

Into the walled garden.Image

Pink roses with a center spot. None of the roses had names on the tags, just numbers. Maybe they are test roses or there is a brochure with the name sot match the numbers. Anybody know?


Burgundy and chartreuse coleus in the pattern of diamonds. I was surprised to see them in the full sun.


Red single roses with a yellow center. Very striking.


A shot of the walled garden from another angle.


The rose garden.


This looks to be a coleus trained as a standard which I have never seen.Image

This is an attractive use of swiss chard in an ornamental basket with flowers.Image

A view of roses through a lattice keyhole.


A wisteria covered walkway. Nice and cool on that hot day.Image


these are some kind of succulent hung in an old frame on the wall. Love it!

Just when we thought we were done (our feet were killing us and my knee was giving me considerable grief, all those stairs inside and out) we looked down onto a building filled with exotic tropicals and orchids. I picked up some design ideas and interesting color combinations.


The conservatory



Orchids and other tropicals.

Finally, our legs could do no more and we walked back up to the top to wait for the shuttle. I would have loved to have had a shuttle from the bottom of the gardens! 

 I would suggest that you take two days for the grounds and inside tour. As it were, we missed the azalea gardens, the italian garden, the reflecting pools, and the bass pond. There is only so much that a body could do.


Catch Up on Thursday May 30

Whoever said blogging isn’t hard work was wrong! I skipped two days due to sheer exhaustion. Our days were very full and  I was too tired to take up the pen… and upload the pictures and tweak them in photoshop and try to be interesting and informative and… Whew! Right now I am sitting in a Quality Inn in Asheville, North Carolina. This is one beautiful state. Reminds me a lot of the wet side of Washington.

 The man at the next table was wearing a shirt that said “I survived the Dragon”. My friend, who rides motorcycles with her husband had told me about this crazy highway in the area that was really dangerous and had some series curves, most of them being hairpins that everyone wants to test their courage on. So I asked him about it. Apparently it’s a train wreck waiting to happen, or car or motorcycle etc. I went to You Tube and there are lots of videos on this stretch of road. Amazing! It’s only 11 miles long and starts in Tennessee and ends in Deal’s Gap, NC. Hwy 129. There are shots of semi’s trying to navigate and rolling over, jack knifing and motorcyclists with helmet cams racing around corners and motorcyclists going over. I saw one where the woman was wearing shorts and tank top. I know what a floor burn feels like, I can’t imagine what road rash all over my body feels like. This guy said the highway patrol was everywhere up there. I imagine the EMT’s do a good business also.  

 So let’s back peddle. We stayed in Blue ridge, a quaint little town with the most beautiful red rose I’ve ever seen. I stopped someone on the street, she said it was called the “knockout” rose. It comes in red, pink and yellow and is resistant to black spot and japanese beetles. She also said it was very low maintenance and needed very little care. The color was incredible and it was covered with blooms. I might try to get one at a local Home Depot and put it in  my checked baggage.



 We stopped at Mercier’s Orchard for a quick look around and some fried pies. They had every kind you can imagine. We call them empanadas in my neck of the woods. This is apple country in Georgia, similar to our very own Greenbluff. They had some beautiful views and yummy pies.


Deb and her husband had found a place by just wandering around called “Field of the Woods”  which is a spectacular side of a hill with the Ten Commandments on it. We set out to find it. On our way there I noticed that the medians between the highway were planted with the most spectacular wildflowers. The NC DOT must have planted them because we saw them almost all the way to Asheville.


 Through trial and error, we finally found this spot in the woods. It was built by the Church of God and the entire Ten Commandmants were set into the hillside, on the opposite one was a wall with Psalms of Praise and prayer walk. There was even a recreation of the tomb Jesus was in with the stone rolled away. Very pretty. 


 Getting hungry, we ate in a town called Murphy in NC at a place called Chops. According to the server, the chef had cooked for some of the presidents. This was some of the best food I’ve had in a long time. I had a chicken and ham sandwich and a bacon corn chowder soup that was to die for. I could have licked the bowl clean if it hadn’t been a public place. Who knew that you could find such superb food so far away from everything. It was a billion calories that were worth doing. The server, Dustin, I think, was wonderful and made us feel most welcome.

 The next stretch of the journey involved a very scenic, very windy, very narrow road. We passed several waterfalls, one of which was called Bridal Veil Falls. There was one you could drive behind the water if you wanted but the 15 foot drive had a sign that said the road was closed. At this point it started getting dark so we were trying to get through this stretch of raod pretty quickly. At the top we found a little town called Highlands. It was cute, reminded me of our towns like Winthrop and Leavenworth. Obviously a tourist town, there were more country clubs and golf courses that I have ever seen. I suppose if you don’t qualify for one, you can always start your own. Reminds me of the Andy Griffith episode where he and Barney try to get into one. 

This road was beautiful but I started getting car sick and I never do that. It was probably the tunnel effect of the trees and the winding road and the fact that we were trying to down by dark.


 We got into Asheville about 10 pm. Deb’s gps is a piece and we had a had time finding the hotel. We decided she deserved a name; Dora, Dumb Dora when she doesn’t make sense. We were exhausted by the time we got there. To be continued…

The Chicken Coop in Crawford, Georgia Monday, May 27 am

It is absolutely serene right now. I am sitting on their deck in an Adirondack chair listening to the cicadas (I thought they only came out a night) and watching the sunlight stream through the trees. I am enjoying my coffee, thank goodness they have real dairy cream, and their are two black cats wandering around the yard, one of which is rubbing itself on my leg. Makes me miss my own 4 cats. My bed last night was very comfy and I am picky about it, the house was built in the 40’s and is very quaint and furnished with all kinds of chicken things, hence the name. It really does feel like being an honored guest in someone home. Much better than a motel or hotel. Time to take some pictures which I will share later. I highly recommend this place. A big plus for me is that they are christians. Nothing overt, jus the kind of thing you know without being told although their website does talk about God on the bottom of the page. It’s actually how we should all be, known by our demeanor and not just our words. Be bold.


Off to Georgia Today!

Sunday, May 26

10:30 am


We have been driving for about an hour and a half and not a coffee shop in sight unless you count McDonald’s and Hardee’s. We’ve been through about 7 towns now. There is bubba’s shrimp shack, boiled peanuts, and flip flops with bottle openers built into the shoe at the local convenience stores, but not a decent cup of coffee. With the exception of Starbucks and Dunkin’ Donuts they don’t have coffee here. In Spokane we would have passed 148 places by now. Maybe it’s too hot. I would almost give my right arm for a Dunkin’ Donuts.


The flora and fauna has changed in the last couple of hours, less palms, more pine trees. The weeds and grass seem finer too. Further south, the grass is St Augustine’s which is hte only stuff that can take the heat, the sand and the bugs. It is very coarse and to my Inland NW way of thinking, it isn’t all that attractive. 


This picture is what the highway looks like, for miles and miles. Occasionally you see an old little house slowly being assimilated back into the landscape. 


There are a lot of churches here. Baptist, Catholic, Church of the Woods, Larry’s Church, Joe’s Church, Harriet Woods Ministries, you get my drift. There may be 10 0r 15 of them in a row. Deb reminded me  that this is the Bible Belt.


I’ve seen fields of head high corn, golden wheat ready to be cut and roadside stands of Georgia peaches. I think it’s peach season now. When we get to Georgia I will let you know.


Haven’t seen any rednecks yet, unless you count those with sunburns at the beach. I’m not trying to stereotype but lets face it we all have our prejudices. I think, that we think, that everyone in the south is a redneck and everyone here thinks, we all live in Seattle in the rain. Actually, you don’t hear any southern accents, most people in southern Florida are transplanted from the east coast, like New York.


There are a lot of highway patrol here. At night, it looks like a holiday light parade with all the lights flashing on the side of the road! It’s probably because these straight, well maintained roads beg to be driven on like a racetrack. And they do. Thank goodness for cruise!


10 pm

We are finally here! It is a little B&B in Crawford, Georgia called the Chicken Coop. The proprietors are a sweet couple who waited up for us. Pictures to follow tomorrow, too tired tonight.