Author Archives: Alan Bates

Skywatch Friday – Life on the River

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From the end of my bike ride earlier this week. I love a little color in the sky.

The Arkansas River runs through the middle of Tulsa from North to South. We are lucky because a huge part of the River is a public park of one sort or another for miles and miles. So we have lots of bike trails, many on both sides of the river. I have either run or rode my bike or walked every inch of them. I have  never got tired of them.

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The 21st street bridge from far away.

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And up close. 

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The ONEOK Boathouse in the background with Peggy’s Pond. 

Tulsa’s brand new park A Gathering Place for Tulsa is right on the river. Check the link. The home page is basically a flyover of everything and you can see how intimately the park is integrated with the River.

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I love the ripples in the pond. See the tall grass across the way. Most of the park is planted in native prairie grasses so no mowing, a lot less water, and fertilizer, so less money spent on maintenance, less chemicals on the land and the river, better habitat for bugs and birds. Win-win-win. Sustainability to most Okies is how to maintain high flows from  older fracked wells. 

It has been open about 10 days and I have been there five days. That’s ratio that I would like to keep up. Looking at the video I mentioned above I saw about four or five things that I hadn’t seen yet.

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One of these days, maybe when it gets cold, and it isn’t so crowded I am going to come over here and climb the towers and do some exploring. I may forego the slide though. I think my outside diameter is greater than its inside diameter. That would be a problem.

It’s a great place to take photographs. There are all sorts of things, and angles, and reflections, and interesting structures to make photographs. So I hope you don’t get tired of it. You see I’m still pretty excited about the Gathering Place.

I am linking to Skywatch Friday this week.

Our World Tuesday – Trumpeter Swans of Yellowstone Park

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I saw lots of sights on my August trip to Yellowstone National Park to explore the park with my sister Ellen who works there. One of the most graceful and beautiful things I saw was a lone Trumpeter Swan feeding in a river. (I think it was either the Firehole or Madison River, I forget which, the first flows into the second).

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Definitely not a sight one sees in the wild in Oklahoma. We stopped and took lots of pictures of this guy (gal?). It was paddling around, dipping its head in the river, and sometimes tipping its entire body forward so just its butt was sticking up in the air. The Cornell Lab has a great web site on Trumpeter Swans here.

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We stayed for quite a while looking at this swan as he swam about. My sister tells me that he stays there a lot and sees it almost every time she drives through the area. Just thinking about it gives me a sense of calm.

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Earlier in the day we had been in Jackson, Wyoming and on the way back we saw a pair of Trumpeter Swans at the National Elk Refuge

Ellen and I sure packed a lot of things into three days!!

I’m linking with Our World Tuesday.

Skywatch Friday – Yellowstone’s Lamar Valley

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Sorry, not sorry, another post of my trip to visit my Sister Ellen who works at Yellowstone National Park. One day we went to the Lamar Valley in the northeast section of the park. We saw lots of bison, a couple of antelope, and went on a couple of hikes. 

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It is a beautiful broad valley with mountains on both sides and it takes a while to get there. Forget about any bars on your cell phone because there are not any to be had. Great news!!

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The Lamar Valley is known as a great place for watching wildlife including wolves. My sister Ellen tells me that you have to get up and be in place early to have a chance of seeing them.

Here is a video by the National Park Service about the wolves. 

 

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We went on a short hike but the sun was beating down on us and we wanted to get into the woods.

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We saw a couple of fishermen wading in the Lamar River. It looked like they were having a great time.

I’m linking with Skywatch Friday.

Tulsa’s “Gathering Place” Riverfront Park Opens

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Saturday, September 8 was a big day in Tulsa. A Gathering Place, our new $465 million privately financed public park opened up. Seven years in the making, over three years of construction, including shutting down a one mile stretch of one of Tulsa’s busiest streets, Riverside Drive, came to an end (kind of they still have a some final touches to do.) And they took down the barricades and told everybody to come on down and check out your new park and  despite the sometimes misty weather people did.

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The Architect who designed it is Michael Van Valkenburgh. He and his firm have designed other parks and he came  well recommended. He spent a lot of time just  listening to the people who were financing the park about what they wanted and he came to Tulsa and looked at the city and the surrounding region and tried to capture the soul of the city.

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One article I read talked about his visit to Chandler Park and how struck he was with the “lost city section” with the stone making seeming streets and alleys and he incorporated that concept into the park.

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The place is full  of details. I think they spent a fortune on landscaping, including many wildflowers.

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And stuff to do? My gosh their is a lot to do there. Especially if you have kids. I think this log course above might be something I could try.

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They have a lot of areas for relaxing and will have several restaurants. This a nice area that is well shaded. I love the wood furniture.

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This is view from the the previous area down to a bridge across a pond.

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And this is from  the bridge back up to the eating area. This is the ONEOK Boathouse. My employer paid for it. (I’m so proud, really, I am.) What a legacy. (And yes ONEOK is all caps, you pronounced it One Oak.)

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The heart of the park is a huge playground for kids of all ages. Oh man, for the first time since I was a little kid, I wanted to be a little kid. This looks fun.

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And so does this. I would settle for having an eight year old again. Son Logan was with me, but he is 20 years old and 6’3″ tall.

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Kids were having a blast. Talk about a bunch of places to climb into, climb across, slide down. It is the ultimate “do touch” place. And yes, it is all free. There is no charge. In addition to the $400 million is money for security and maintenance. What a gift to the city.

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The concept of A Gathering Place is that is a place for the whole city to come and reconnect from each other. I think we need it. A little known secret is that Tulsa is home of the worse race riot in US history, the Tulsa Race Riot, now increasingly known as the Tulsa Race Massacre. Read about it here.

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In my opinion, the city has never recovered from that and the wounds still exist. There are still survivors of the riot alive in Tulsa today. Anyway, the New York Times has a pretty good, if a little more than slightly condescending article on the park, and the riot. Read it here.

Read the comments also. I know us Okies get a bad rap and my favorite comment was from a New Yorker who said she would never visit the state because she hates us Okies because of the hate we have in our heart. (Huh).

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Be that as it may, the park is fun, and great. And I expect to spend a lot of time there especially when the hubub dies down a little bit. It is only a couple miles from downtown where I work. I figure during the day the kids will be at school, so I can come and try out the banana slide for myself.

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Pooh!! I know it is probably not officially a Pooh bear, who could afford the licensing fees. It has a nook inside just right for several kids and an adult reading a story.

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There was a steel drum band playing. I love steel drum bands.

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My favorite place is probably the Williams Lodge. It is like a ski lodge in the Rockies. The woodwork is superb. 

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I loved the ceiling!!

The guy behind the park is a Tulsa Oilman billionaire philanthropist named George Kaiser, who over the years has been very generous to Tulsa through his George Kaiser Family Foundation. He is in the oil business and obviously has done very well. I know several people who have worked for and with him and they credit him as being a very good but tough boss and also thinks very out of the box. I get the impression that he is playing chess when everybody else is trying to figure out checkers. He has several hundred million dollars invested in the park and was able to convince lots of other companies to contribute as well.

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The fireplace is a favorite.

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The designer of the place had to contend with something. Most of the land was on one side of Riverside Drive and the Arkansas River was on the other side. He wanted to integrate the park with the river so he used “land bridges” to link the park with the river. There are two of them and they are genius.

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I am just glad the running/biking trail is back in business. It is all new. For three years we have contended with the one mile gap, now we don’t any longer. And the trail integrates well with the park.

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Sports is a big thing in America and Tulsa and the park has tons of sports courts of all kinds. Logan and I sat down and watched the ladies play 3 on 3 basketball. They were very very good. The park plans on having lots of sports programming.

I am linking with Our World Tuesday, come join us!

Skywatch Friday – A Hike to Taggert Lake

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Still another outing with my sister, Ellen, a seasonal Park Ranger at Yellowstone National Park. This time we went to Grand Tetons National Park south of Yellowstone Park. This is the same day that we hiked Trout Lake, a hike at Colter Bay and went to Mormon Row that I have posted about previously. 

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Taggert Lake is in the foothills of the Tetons and is a very scenic trek and not that long, about 3.5 miles round trip, and not that steep.

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We passed Taggert Creek, the outlet of the Lake.

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There were several people at the lake when we arrived including some teenagers who were swimming in the ice cold water. More power to them. What would the world be like without teenagers to remind everybody else how old we are. The air was still hazy from the forest fires way to the west but the mountains are still majestic.

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Nothing nicer than an aspen grove in my book. I would like to come back when the leaves turn. Which should be relatively soon.

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I love these kind of log fences they have in the mountain west. I don’t know what they call them but they are great. Also, to the right, that is my sister. She is a fast hiker and I had to hustle to keep up with her. 

I still have a few more posts of my time with Ellen. I only spent three days with her but we saw lot!!

I am linking with Skywatch Friday.

Our World Tuesday – A Hike by the Lake

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During my brief stay at Yellowstone, sister Ellen and I went down to the Grand Tetons National Park just south of Yellowstone and looked around. We went on a short, flat hike, of about 2.3 miles on a little Island next to the Colter Bay visitor center and the Jackson Lake marina.

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It was a nice mixture of shoreline and woods. I was able to get a few photos of some of the wildflowers in the woods.

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I like old dried out tree trunks.

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We found some berries including these. Bears eat berries as well so even though we were close to the visitor center we stayed aware of what was going on around us.

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The shoreline was beautiful.

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And here is my sister, the Park Ranger, Ellen taking a break. I felt guilty taking up all of her three days off. But we had fun. Check out her blog.  

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And across the lake the Grand Tetons. The most powerful and majestic mountains I have ever seen, even when obscured by forest fire smoke.

We mosied along taking over an hour for the walk. We both take lots of pics, and especially when you are shooting in  manual mode, that takes lots of time. At least it does for me. I hope that you are not tired of my adventures with Ellen. I have several more posts coming. We saw a lot during my three days with her.

I’m linking with Our World Tuesday. Come join us.

Skywatch Friday – Hike to Trout Lake at Yellowstone Park

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During my trip to Yellowstone Park earlier in August to see my sister, we took a hike up to Trout Lake. It was a hike that kicked my butt but was only 200 feet in elevation change. But it was worth the climb. The lake is absolutely gorgeous as are the the views from the lake.

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There were a couple guys fishing from  floats for cutthroat trout. One of them told us that he had caught (and released) eleven and they were gorgeous with deep rich colors. He was a little older guy and mentioned that the hard part was hauling all the gear up the trail from  the road. I had a feeling that he lived not far from the Park. I am wondering if he stashes his gear nearby.

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My fellow bloggers over the years have taught me the beauty of imperfection and change in plants. So I took lots of pics of plants in the midst of transition. Nature is beautiful in all its cycles.

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Here is my sister Ellen, the Park Ranger. I felt guilty as we were out from 8 am to about 9 pm every day. She loves showing off Yellowstone Park. Check out her blog. She saw wolves today on a hike.

Here is my Garmin connect view of our outing. It doesn’t lie, like I might. It says 200 feet of elevation change, I’d of sworn 2000 feet. And 1. 4 miles long. Why, it was easily six miles, if not longer.

I am linking with Skywatch Friday today. Come join us! You don’t have a blog? You can link an Instagram photo!

I’m a little late with my post. I was going to write it Wednesday night along with setting up the Skywatch Friday meme and my brand spanking new Dell laptop with super duper quad core processor and solid state hard drive decided to not work, at all!!! As I thought about it though I remembered that Staples, where I bought it from, had given me a thumb drive which they said to keep track of because it was a recovery drive. So a few hours ago, I stuck it into my Dell and fired it up and it came up normally and asked if I wanted to restore my settings to factory, and I said yes and everything now works fine. What’s up? Can anybody tell me?

Our World Tuesday – Yellowstone Park’s Grand Prismatic Spring

My last few posts have been about my recent trip to Yellowstone National Park to see my sister Ellen, the Park Ranger (so proud of her, our father was a Forest Ranger so it is great to see her carrying on the tradition). I only spent a few days with her as we went around the Park and the adjoining Grand Teton National Park, but I saw so much.

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So one day we went to see the Grand Prismatic Spring at Midway Geyser Basin. I’ve seen lots of photos of it the last few years and maybe, or maybe not, I saw it as a kid during our whirlwind 1960’s style vacations that we took as kids.

This trip I was wondering what the first people who saw the thermal features in the park thought. Steam and boiling hot water coming out of the ground. What a wonderland or what a nightmare. Plus the ground could give way any time sending somebody to their doom or at the very least severe burns.  Something that happens to the dummies today who think the rules do not apply to them.

Yellowstone is a wonderland in many senses of the term. Its natural beauty is astounding and its supernatural features such as the geysers and hot springs are bewildering. 

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When you leave the parking lot of the Grand Prismatic Spring you come upon this scene of boiling hot water entering the aptly named Firehole River. The chemical engineer in me was doing mixing calculations trying to figure out how much the temperature of the hot water raised the river temperature plus wondering how much bad stuff from deep down in the earth is now dissolved in that how water, and how  much precipitates out of solution when it mixes with the cold water, and how the remaining dissolved minerals and higher temperature affected the trout fishing. My sister just said she sees lots of fishermen (fisherwomen too!) on the River and so I decided I would worry about something else, especially since I didn’t bring my calculator with me.

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But it was like entering a different world with all the steam all around us. I learned that autofocus cameras don’t like swirling clouds of steam so I would focus a on a rock and then pan away. Just in case you are wondering why the steam is out of focus and the rocks are not.

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The closer you get to the Spring, the more steam you see, especially on a chilly morning.

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They have benches but they are mainly for people getting a better angle on the water.

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At first, I could see why you got up on the benches. So much steam swirling around obscuring the view.

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I liked this view. You can’t really see the spring, but you can see the colors of the spring reflecting off the steam.

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Ah here you go, things kind of cleared up a bit. The different colors are from some of the bacteria that live in the spring that thrive at high temperatures. I find that concept fascinating. How can anything live close to boiling point with all sorts of strange chemicals involved. 

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The strangeness just extends away from the spring.

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There is an overlook trail that Ellen took us to where you can get a better look of the Grand Prismatic Spring. You have some elevation and perspective that you don’t get at a lower level and it is easier to see. It is more than just a little walk but it is worth it if you are up to it. I think the spring is gorgeous. And I love the name Grand Prismatic Spring. I think it lives up to its name.

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One thing about Yellowstone that I learned very quickly is that not just Americans love Yellowstone. The world loves Yellowstone Park. A huge percentage of visitors are from outside the USA. Somehow I feel that increases the responsibility of us to take care and preserve the park. The international visitors bring their culture with them and selfie sticks but somehow it all works and everybody gets along. I think that is great.

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This is a view at ground level below the overlook. We are pretty far away but one can still see the colors of the spring in the spring.

I’m linking with Our World Tuesday, come check it out.

Skywatch Friday – The Teton Mountains from Mormon Row

As I mentioned in my previous post, last week I spent a few days with my sister, Ellen who is a Park Ranger at Yellowstone Park. One day we ventured from Yellowstone down to the Grand Teton National Park and looked at a few of the sights. One of my favorite places is an area called Mormon Row in the valley below the Tetons.

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Long before the area became a National Park the area was settled by Mormon settlers in the 1890’s at the direction of their church. Rather than being spread out from each other they put their homesteads close to each other for community and shared labor.  They built their farms and an extensive irrigation system to water their farms.

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They stayed on their homesteads until the 1950’s when they were bought out when the land for the national park was being acquired.  Many of their buildings are preserved, especially the barns and photographers (and picture takers like me) flock from all over the world come to capture images of the buildings with the mountains in the background.

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I love the color of this stucco. 

This trip though,, the smokey hazy skies along with the shadowy afternoon light defeated me. Still, I love the area. I had an aunt and uncle who had a mountain ranch tucked deep into a valley in southeastern Idaho and their buildings were similar in design and construction to those in Mormon Row. 

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A Loo with a View 
(Sorry I couldn’t resist”

I sense that although a settler’s life is hard that it must have been a pleasant place to live in the summer with the cool breezes and the astounding view of the mountains. The Tetons are the most awe inspiring mountains that I have ever seen and I couldn’t get enough of looking at them. I am just sorry that I couldn’t capture that.

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I really love our national parks, I love that they are a precious resource and are defended by all against exploitation. We need more areas like this, not less. 

How about you, have you ever been to Mormon Row?

I am linking with Skywatch Friday

Our World Tuesday – Yellowstone Park’s Gibbon Falls

I have been out of pocket for a few days. My sister Ellen  who works as a seasonal Park Ranger in West Yellowstone, Montana for the Yellowstone National Park  invited me up for a few days for a chance to see a bit of the park with her. She loves sharing the park. 

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One of the first things we looked at was Gibbon Falls on the Gibbon River. A beautiful 84 foot drop of the Gibbon River.  This is the view from a bit downriver.

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The Gibbon  River is about 25 miles long and starts near the center of the park at the outlet of Grebe Lake and confluences with the Firehole River to form the Madison River.

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This is a view of the river downstream of the falls as it flows toward the Firehole River. I came across a post talking about how the Park Service is starting a process to remove non-native fish like rainbow and brown trout from the river and re-introduce native species such as cutthroat trout. They are starting later this month and is expected to continue to 2020 or 2021.  I love these kind of projects.

 Ellen tells me that the week I was there the visitor count had dropped off presumably because of schools starting. The park had the fewest people I have ever seen on my visits there. That being said, the parking lots fill up early and so you need to get up get out early to go see what you want to see.

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My sister Ellen

This is just a small bit of all that we saw in my few days at Yellowstone. I am trying to break my visit down into bite sized pieces to make it easier on me, and hopefully you.

This was maybe my fifth time to Yellowstone and the first time I didn’t just do a drive by, and instead got to hike a little and spend some time getting to see things. When I was a kid, we did the standard 1960’s thing and just breezed on by and maybe stopped to see Old Faithful and maybe a few thermal features but then it was back in the car and head out.

How about you? Have you ever been?

I am linking with Our World Tuesday