Fall 2022 Episode 1: Onward After A Long Hiatus

After a long spring and summer, fall had arrived. A week later, we examined our calendars to find no more doctor visits, no more physical therapy sessions, and no more reasons to stay at home until the week before Thanksgiving. Whoopee! Time to get out and explore.

We picked the de Young Museum in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park for our first adventure when the Ramses the Great and the Gold of the Pharaohs exhibit beckoned us from across the bay. It seemed appropriate to start out locally before packing up the trailer and hitting the road. On October 4, 2022, Laura, our daughter, and the two grandkids joined us for the field trip.

Laura, Jackson, and Maya Silvey at de Young Museum

The de Young Museum

After signing in at the ticket counter, we walked toward Wilsey Court. There have been many interesting exhibits displayed here, but the Resident Alien II, by Hung Liu is one that’s hard to miss. The 28-foot-tall version of Liu’s 1988 painting of her original green card doesn’t just compete for attention, it commands visitors to look and pay attention. This is something important.

Resident Alien II, by Hung Liu

Note the name change from Hung Liu to Cookie, Fortune, a pejorative term. Liu also changed her date of birth from 1948 to 1984, the year she immigrated from China to the U.S. to study at UC San Diego. The change in year commemorates the year she started her new life in America.

We had a few minutes to spare before our scheduled exhibit time, so Laura and the grandkids took a spin at the virtual reality experience, Ramses & Nefertari: Journey to Osiris, while Jon and I watched through the door. After seeing the pods where they sat wearing VR headsets move back and forth, up and down, and all around, I was glad I didn’t take a ride. No sense getting motion sickness before we saw the Ramses exhibit.

Ramses the Great and the Gold of the Pharaohs

The pictorial in the photo below features Ramses with an axe in hand. The three shorter figures represent his enemies of Egypt: a Syrian, a Nubian, and a Libyan. Note how Ramses towers over his prisoners, reflecting Ramses’s power over the men he’s about to smite.

Painted Limestone Blocks

Waiting a few minutes to watch the multi-media production was worth the time. The production features Ramses’s triumph during his largest chariot battle fought at Kedesh. The narrative, sights, and sounds bring the battle to life in a way that a 2D format could not match.

Multi-media presentation of Ramses II battle at Kadesh

The replica below shows how the dawn light animates the facade of the Great Temple. The sun first illuminates the four colossal statues of Ramses, then the small sculptures of Nefertari (first wife), Isitnofret (second wife), and their children, then floods the interior with light.

Replica of the Great Temple façades

Artists used Ostraca (flakes of limestone) as their “notepads”. Below is a practice sketch of a king giving an offering. The one on the right is a depiction of the board game Senet, which was popular during Ramses’s time and symbolized the deceased’s passage through the Underworld.

Egyptian notepads consisted of flakes of limestone

Outer coffin of the ancient Egyptian artisan Sennedjem, who lived in Deir el-Medina (ancient name, Set Maat, translates to Place of Truth) during the reigns of Ramses II and his father, Seti I. Sennedjem, a skilled craftsman, worked in the tombs in the Valley of the Kings. His tomb was discovered in 1886 on a hill overlooking the worker’s settlement where he

Sennedjem’s outer coffin

Below is a falcon-headed collar and counterweight that belonged to Princess Neferuptah and a girdle with leopard heads that belonged to Princess Merit. wearing the double-headed leopard girdle hanging from the hips functioned as a protective amulet.

Imagine the weight of this collar

Painted and gilded cedar outer coffin lid of Pinudjem II’s wife, Princess Nesikhonsu, and inner coffin lid or Mummy Board of Pinudjem II

Coffin lids

We took a break for lunch at the museum’s cafe where they always have good things to eat and drink, and then we wandered around the other museum rooms.

Faith Ringgold: American People

Jon and I both enjoyed artist and activist Faith Ringgold’s exhibit, which included paintings, quilts, and other artistic forms. A few words came to mind while viewing the work; Strong and emotional and sometimes playful. Unfortunately, the exhibit’s last day was November 27, 2022.

Feminist Series #12: We Meet the Monster
American People Series #13: The Flag is Bleeding
Listen to the Trees: The American Collection #11
Mother’s Quilt
Detail of Mother’s Quilt

Hamon Observation Tower

The Hamon Tower was our last stop within the museum. It offers fantastic views from its observation deck at 144 feet above ground.

SkyStar Wheel and view of San Francisco neighborhood
California Academy of Sciences building with 2.2-acre living roof and UCSF Health buildings in the background

SkyStar Wheel

The SkyStar Wheel is a temporary installation that celebrates the 150th anniversary of Golden Gate Park and I found it interesting that the wheel stands at 150 feet tall. It weighs 465,000 pounds, and its circumference is 500 feet. The 36 enclosed gondolas hold 6 guests, except for the VIP gondola which holds 5 guests. At night, colored LED lights illuminate the wheel. Jon and I passed on riding the SkyStar during our visit, but now I want to be one of the 500,000 people that are expected to take the 12-minute ride. I still have time. The Wheel will be around until March 2025.

And, here’s a bit of trivia: Another Ferris wheel once graced the grounds of Golden Gate Park in 1894 during the Midwinter International Exposition. It stood 120 feet tall.

SkyStar Wheel next to the plinth where the arches once protected a statue of Francis Scott Key

On Juneteenth 2020 (Friday, June 19, 2020), protestors vandalized the Francis Scott Key statue and it was removed. Monumental Reckoning, composed of black steel structures referred to as the Ancestors and sculpted by Dana King, surrounds the foot of the plinth. The sculptures represent the first 350 Africans kidnapped in 1619 and brought to America. According to a sign on the plinth, the protestors targeted Francis Scott Key because of his views and actions against Africans in America. they also call for Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing to replace the Star-Spangled Banner as America’s National Hymn. Monumental Reckoning is scheduled to remain in place until June 19, 2023.

We always enjoy our visits to the de Young and the many exhibits on display. We feel fortunate to have seen the Ramses the Great and the Gold of the Pharaohs exhibit, since it is unlikely we will ever travel to Egypt to see such historic artifacts. Visitors have until February 12, 2023, to see the statues, jewelry, and other objects on display. After that date, it travels to Europe and will be in Paris from April through September 2023.

Four days later, we had our fifth wheel trailer packed and drove off for a five-week trip to the mountains, to the desert, and to the ocean. Watch for new episodes soon.

Safe Travels

Heading North to Alaska

Leaving the truck and fifth wheel behind, we climbed aboard the Grand Princess in San Francisco on June 5, 2018, for a 10-day round-trip cruise to Alaska.

I was shocked at my first glimpse of the ship as we crossed the Bay Bridge. The San Francisco skyline impresses me every time it comes into view. But to see the ship tower over the embarcadero was something to behold. From the perspective of the ship’s sun deck, the city looks like a Lego set in comparison.

View of San Franciso skyline from Sun Deck

Sail Away

As soon as we entered our stateroom, I was giddy with excitement and wondered about our forthcoming sail on the high seas. Whoopee! A real vacation, I wanted to scream. I managed to contain myself, not wanting to alarm the neighbors.

Wait a minute. Didn’t we just spend almost three months traveling around the southwest in an RV? Isn’t that like a perpetual vacation? Well, sort of. When we’re on the road, we cook our own food (most of the time), wash up the dishes, launder our clothes, make the bed, clean toilets, dust and vacuum, and patronize grocery stores. All this plus Jon keeps busy with all the maintenance and we (mostly me) plan our route for our next stay, make reservations, and arrange sightseeing activities.

No, we’re not tired of our RV trips. We love traveling and driving the highways and byways of these beautiful United States. But ten whole days of doing none of those tasks listed above was going to be heaven.

We left our bags to unpack later and headed to the Horizon Court on the Lido deck for lunch. The pocket-sized map served as our GPS for getting around the ship. So many decks and keeping track of aft, forward, midship, starboard, and port was going to challenge these two novice sailors.

We found our way back to our cabin after lunch, unpacked our bags, and with an hour or so before our departure time, Jon relaxed on the balcony.

Jon studies the itinerary

Unable to sit still, I spied on the delivery inspections and the U.S. Coast Guard and captured a ton of city skyline photos from the perspective of the ship.

Inspectors at work

Coast Guard checking things out

Fog City Diner and Trolley Car

When the captain announced that the ship would soon be on its way, we joined other passengers on the sun deck. As the ship prepared to sail through the San Francisco Bay, servers offered a specialty drink, for an extra fee, of course. Why not? We’re on vacation.

I spilled my drink after taking this photo. Boohoo!

Cruising the bay was nothing new to us, but from the height of the sun deck, it was magical. Especially the way the buildings shifted positions as we made our way toward the Golden Gate Bridge. Notice how Coit Tower (the fire hose looking building on top of a hill), the Transamerica Pyramid (the pointy building), and the new Salesforce building (the tallest of them all) shift positions in the triptych below.

I have driven on the Golden Gate Bridge and admired its beauty from the south, west, and north, but never have I sailed under the rust-colored steel structure. This would probably be my only chance to take a photo from underneath. With continuous shooting on and my eye to the viewfinder, I clicked away while fighting the wind and the movement of the ship.

Under the Golden Gate Bridge

And so our adventure began as we took one last look at the bridge and skyline and headed for open waters and north to Alaska.

Fort Point is under the bridge support on the right side of the photo. The national historic site, a popular place for photography, is open for self-guided tours on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

Two Days at Sea

Managing to keep busy for the two days at sea was not an issue on the Grand Princess. Exploring the ship was like a treasure hunt with a lot of climbing up and down stairs multiple times a day. The elevators worked fine, I just prefer not to cram myself in one if I can help it. Then there was the calendar of events that began at 9:00 a.m. and continued into the night for I don’t know how long. I had trouble lasting much past 10:00 p.m.

Sea days are good days to walk the Lido deck

One afternoon, Kelley White demonstrated totem pole carving. Kelley, a member of the Tlingit tribe, learned his craft from Nathan Jackson, a master carver and famous Alaskan artist. Kelley amazed us with his storytelling and carving skills. He had the audience in his hands as he told stories about the Tlingit tribe, history, and purpose of totems while he wandered around the log, examining his cuts, thinking how he was going to approach a certain section, and chipping away the wood to create the animals that will adorn the totem. I was in awe at the way he kept talking while straddling the tree and digging bits of wood out with a hatchet pointed in his direction. I was so afraid he was going to slip and hit a knee, or worse, his private parts.

This looks dangerous

First cuts made on the log

We learned the population of the ship included a number of Bay Area folks. On June 8, the ship broadcasted what turned out to be the last playoff game when the Warriors beat the Cavaliers. Passengers filled the room and hallways with their Warriors T-shirts and hats, and high-five slaps and hoots and hollers rang out at the end of the game. If there were any Cavaliers fans about, they must have kept quiet.

Fun Ship Facts

  • Built in Italy in 1998
  • 24 knots maximum speed
  • 2,600 passengers
  • 1,150 crew
  • 107,517 tonnage
  • 949 ft. length
  • 188 ft. height

Coming up next is the port of Juneau, our first stop on the cruise.

Safe Travels