Up, Up and Away!

Up, up and away! I went to the Albuquerque, New Mexico balloon festival and to ride in a balloon! Not the kind you buy at the store, but a giant kind that can hold 4-6 people in the basket. The balloon part is called an envelope, and the basket beneath it is called a gondola. Hot air fills the envelope, and before long we were drifting through the quiet air, looking at the people and scenery below. Most balloons launch in the early morning, when there is little wind so landing is not as bumpy. A chase crew follows the balloon and picks up the people and equipment when the balloon lands. After my ride, there was a balloon fiesta where 600 balloons went sailing through the air at the same time, creating a rainbow of colors in the blue sky. Purrs, Gulliver

balloon 3

Idaho

After our tour of the State House, there was time for questions.  One of the first things I learned was the building is heated by underground hot springs which come from deep in the earth. Idaho is an interesting state with lots of mountains and rivers. We found out that if all the mountains were flattened out, Idaho could be the size of Texas.  Idaho is famous for its potatoes, it grows about 20 percent of the nation’s crop, and about 50 percent of McDonald’s french-fries come from Idaho potatoes.

Everyone wanted to know what the word Idaho means.  It is actually a made up word! People in Colorado tried the name out first for their territory, but didn’t like it.  Then it was used by miners looking for gold in the territory and it stuck.  Idaho became a territory in 1863 when Abraham Lincoln signed the bill, then a it became a state in 1890. In 27 years the Idaho Territory had 16 governors, four who never set foot in Idaho!  Maybe that was why so many silly laws were passed, because no one was there to say no to the voters.   Purrs, Gulliver

IMG_0924

Idaho Capitol

I am a law abiding cat, and try hard to stay out of trouble.  But it helps to know what the rules are so you don’t break them.  I visited the Idaho State House where people make laws for Idaho when I was in Boise. It can be a long and complicated process, but I really enjoyed hearing about laws that might have made sense at one time, but sound silly now. For example, it is against the law for anyone over the age of 88 to ride a motorcycle, and riding a merry-go-round on Sundays is considered a crime.  It is against the law to live in a dog house unless you’re a dog. Some cities have their own strange laws.  In Pocatello, a person may not be seen in public without a smile on their face. In Tamarack, it is illegal to buy onions after dark without a permit. You also can’t sell chickens after sundown without permission from the Sheriff. Snakes have been banned from biting humans on a Sunday – except when it’s snowing. How do they explain to the snake about human laws?     Purrs, Gulliver

 

Idaho map

Zulus

Today I am visiting Zulus, a tribe of people who live in South Africa along the coast of the Indian Ocean.  They are famous for their basket work.  By tradition, Zulu baskets made of dried palm fronds and were plain, with no decoration. Now, the baskets are made with recycled wire and each is unique in shape, pattern, color, weave and size. No two baskets are ever the same, even if made by the same person.  The patterns, each with their own meaning, vary from pretty bands to triangles, diamonds, zig-zags, and checkerboard styles. Cats always like baskets to sleep in, I think I will get one for my new bed!

Purrs,  Gulliver

zulu basket

Bryce Canyon

I went camping in some of our national parks last summer. In Bryce Canyon, I had a wonderful time listening to the rangers talks about hoodoos – such a scary sounding name for the tall, odd shaped pillars of rock that are caused by erosion.  I loved the moonlight night hikes and stargazing in one of the darkest skies in North America. Even without a telescope, I could see over 7,500 stars, according to the ranger. I didn’t  try to count them all, just imagined what it would be like to visit another galaxy. Would it look like ours?  Purrs, Gulliver

bryce

Arizona

After Colorado, we headed south to Arizona, stopping at Four Corners, which is the only location in the United States where the borders of four states meet at one point. I had to stretch, but I managed to put a paw in each state – Colorado, Arizona, New Mexico and Utah. Arizona has a lot of “ghost towns” which are abandoned towns where people came to mine minerals, then left when the work was finished. There is even a range of mountains called Superstition Mountains – spooky place!
Arizona is the last state to join the union in the “lower 48” connecting United States. It became the 48th state on February 14, 1912, earning the nickname “The Valentine State”. Arizona is also called the Grand Canyon state, and there is a Native American tribe called the Havasupai Indians who actually live inside the Grand Canyon. It is the only place in the country where mail is still delivered by mule.   Purrs, Gulliver

Scan66

Saguaro Cactus

Last year I wrote about the Cholla, or jumping cactus. Another kind of cactus is the Saguaro cactus, called the “old man of the desert”. The Saguaro cactus is the largest cactus found in the U.S. It can grow as high as a five-story building and live to be 150 to 200 years old. But they also grow very slowly. It can take 10 years for a saguaro cactus to reach 1 inch in height.  They grow their first arm at the age of 70. Since they live in the desert where rain and water are scarce, they have one root that goes deep into the ground, and more roots are close to the surface to collect water. They can shrink and expand depending on how much water they are holding.  After the saguaro dies its woody ribs can be used to build roofs, fences, and parts of furniture. Native Americans used these cacti as water containers long before the canteen was available. The Saguaro is only found in the Sonoran Desert in Arizona and Sonora Mexico.  The flower of the cactus is the state flower of Arizona!

Purrs, Gulliver

IMG_0945

Cockney

Do you ever have a hard time understanding what someone said? I thought I understood English but when I met Cockneys in London. I think they were talking in code! Instead of one word, they would use two, and it always rhymed with the word they really meant. Here are some examples:
A frog and toad is a road: “Just go down the frog and toad until it ends”
Apples and Pears are stairs: “Let’s get you up those apples and pears”
Pig’s ear is beer: “I think I owe you a pig’s ear”
Sausage and Mash is cash (money): “I forgot all my sausage and mash!”
Dog and bone – phone: “What’s that ringing? Is it the dog and bone?”
Purrs, Gulliver

cockney

The source of the sun

The Japanese refer to their country as Nippon, or Nihon, which means “the source of the sun”.   A typical Japanese breakfast is soup, rice and picked vegetables, however many people also eat cereal or toast and drink coffee. Chopsticks (a pair of equal length sticks) are used instead of forks, and may be made of wood, bamboo, plastic or other material. I couldn’t hold the chopsticks any better than I could a fork!  No matter what you eat, it will come with tea, which is Japan’s national drink.  For lunch or dinner, you may enjoy sushi (raw or cooked fish, seafood, vegetables and rice with a seaweed wrapper) , yaka-tori (shish-kabob) or domburi, sweetened or savory stews of fish, meat, vegetables or other ingredients cooked  together and served on rice.  Ramen is also popular. It is a Japanese noodle soup dish made of Chinese-style wheat noodles served in a meat- or fish-based broth, with toppings such as sliced pork dried seaweed, and green onions.  Purrs, Gulliver

IMG_E0925