The afternoon sun started to sink behind the trees and the wind rustled the coloring leaves. I took in the turn of seasons and thought how perfect it would be to go into the woods today. Instead I swiveled left to right and right to left in a faux leather chair as my fingers pressed print marks on to the polished glass covering the laminate conference table. I waited for a financial planner who would assess my capacity to live without a real job – one of those employment situations with insurance and w-2’s. He joined me dressed in the obligatory consultant attire of grey suite, white dress shirt, and blue tie and after pleasantries began the questioning. He did not have a drill Sargent or interrogating lawyer approach, but rather a quiet and unassuming demeanor. The inquiries seemed reasonable, almost rote: What was my monthly income to expense ratio? Did I have any foreseeable changes in my near future, like getting married, inheriting a big estate, or a move to a foreign land? His questions were met with an easy response. Then he asked: How many more cars will you buy in your life time?
My eyes widened as my brain slammed on the breaks. How many more cars would I buy? I felt a swift slap of reality: life is finite and so is your car-buying future. The question also drove home the reality that my finite life continues to shorten. Continue reading →
Early morning on the porch. The time of day the stoop invites me to sit and take in the last vestiges of the night and welcome the first flecks of dawn. Today the train whistle blew. Nothing new. A familiar city noise. But its tone was strong. It seemed to be calling.
Southeast Alaska sails into spring at a breakneck pace as daylight reaches double digit differences within a week’s time. The cold waters below the brightening sky fill with fish returning from their winter sojourns as locals head outside to prep well-composted beds and summit melting mountain passes. It is the place I now sit miles away from, but I close my eyes and I can hear the water and smell the sea brine and if I am lucky my skin pricks with the remembrance of spouting whales and calling ravens. Continue reading →
When the radio stopped working in West Texas, I was pretty certain that the universe was testing my resolve. I mean, the desert expanses and border patrol vehicles whirling past could keep my interest for only so long. The inconvenience was soon forgotten as Big Bend National Park took my attention. Between the mountain hiking that swept my breath away—from beauty and elevation—to the Rio Grande that offered a hot spring with a view of Mexico, I was enchanted. I darted around the park like a kid in a candy store. I thought Texas was only about oil and cowboy hats—and it is that too, but not entirely. Continue reading →
The words of John Steinbeck stay steady in my ears. I have always advocated for each traveler to take hold of their own experiences. Gather tips from friends, hear about the greatest places to go and the stops not to be missed, and then chart your own course. Or, better yet, chart nothing at all and head on until you feel the draw to stop. So far, that has worked for me.
My mother always said it is better to leave before you want to go rather than wear out your welcome. Thus I left California and began the trek eastward last week. When I headed East to West, the trajectory felt very frontierswoman like. Yes, I was minus the wagon and the bushwhacking and I tote an IPhone and GPS. I suppose it is nothing like being a frontierswoman. Hunted animals did not stew over the campfire, nor were any animals skinned for my warmth. Still I left behind the congested cities of the East for the wide expanse of the West and felt an exploratory sensation as the roadways torpedoed me toward large mountain ranges, vast open lands, and skies that seem to extend beyond the earth. Along the way, signs warn: No services the next 72 miles and one gas station noted: Welcome to the Middle of Nowhere. The heightened sense of wonderment pulled this traveler westward. That and the gain of time! Each zone adds an hour onto life. In my twisted calculation, I not only gained more daytime, but I went back in time…with each mountain pass, age slipped away. Of course my return to youth may have more to do with the camping, eating dinner out of the pot I cook in, and not showering some 2 or 3 days at a time. All which may have contributed to my feeling a tad younger….or perhaps a tad regressive?
Heading East takes those hours back and in the late fall as winter begins, the light has been taken away as well. After dinner the other night I was thinking of bed when I realized it was 5:30. I took a walk instead and killed enough time to justify getting in the tent to read. I think I made it another two hours. Morning seeks its own delay, but late fall sunrises are most stunning. My last morning in California was in Joshua Tree National Park. Not far from Hollywood and my campsite rivaled any movie set.
Before the high desert and human-like rock formations of Joshua Tree where I saw faces and figures in most boulders, I traveled the California coast. Along the winding roads of Highway 1, I oogled at the mansions pitched on the side of the cliffs overlooking Big Sur and took in the boulders being whipped by rising waves. The elephant seals lounged along the sands and seemed only bothered by the invading tide. I set up camp at Carpinteria State Beach and prepared to enjoy a spot between the surf and the railroad. Two of my favorite sounds for never have I heard a train whistle blow and not wished to be on board, nor a wave cresting the shore and desiring nothing more but to be in its wake.
The California rains chased me down the coast which I outran before mudslides and road flooding, but
not before being evacuated from a campsite. I packed up when the State Patrol rounded up the tent dwellers due to the predicted fifty mile an hour winds. Evacuation is typical in the East with our hurricanes, so I am familiar with the drill. West Coast folks, in their adventuresome ways, seem to seek the challenge. My friend Tina took me to Yosemite last year during the Rim Fires. When I asked if we should be concerned, she thought not.
On my accord, I headed East for higher ground and less drama. A young woman I met who was traveling with her cousin was going to ride out the storm. She packs a little more moxie than me. She also packs her own marijuana. She let me know this since I was traveling East through Texas and would hit the boarder patrol. “Best to just be honest and tell them you’ve got pot on board. You are packing your own, aren’t you?”
The last time someone asked me if I was “packing,” it was in reference to a firearm. In both cases, I have answered in the negative. Somehow I love that this young women did not assume that I was not smoking. Do I hold that air of Western hipness or am I just that disheveled at this point to look like I am an obvious pothead? She translated my non-packing to mean I was buying pot while on the road.
“I always pack my own. You never know what you’ll get out there. Best to get it from a trusted source.”
I share her wise practice; I always pack my own…my own coffee. I mean you never know about the sources out there.
I did come across those boarder patrols even though I did not go to Mexico. Since I was darn close, I assume there is a chance I could have a stow away. When the official bent down to inspect inside my car he inquired: “Traveling alone?”
“Yes, sir, I am.”
His head swung toward my back seat where the clothesline hangs. Guess all he needed to see was my wash cloth and underwear hanging on the line to know I probably wasn’t packing anything more questionable than my laundry.
“You can go on.”
Texas is big. You have heard that before. Even the sign that reads: Historical Marker 1mile, translates to three miles away. But someone said Texas is flat. There I disagree. Big Bend National Park is a gem of a place with a small reputation and a big output.
I tried to take in as much of the park as possible, but several days could be spent in just one or two areas. After climbing a few miles straight up, I was rewarded with a view that offered desert, mountains, river, and even another country. As the day crested and the sun created long shadows, I sat a top huge boulders at the end of the Grapevine Trail. Silence surrounded me, not even the wind moved. It was one of the places I wanted to stay forever.
For my birdwatching friends there is apparently plenty to view at Big Bend, although I missed migration season. There were roadrunners and a few owls serenaded the early morning hours. I slept better in the park than anywhere yet. Perhaps it has to do with the weather, the clear skies, the Rio Grande lapping not far away, or the fact that this adventure had no plans for Big Bend…heck I never heard of it until a month or so ago. And, yet, here it is and here I am…taking in that journey that has really taken me.
The days filled with sun and blue skies have given way to wind and rain…a lot of rain. For those of us (aka: Me!) contemplating the next camping move, the rain is not exactly an ecstatic premise. However, the thirsty lands of our country’s fruit growers, nut purveyors, and cattle ranchers are drinking up the rain and everyone is talking rain with broad smiles. (Well, maybe not the folks who got stuck on the Bay Bridge when it flooded.) Continue reading →
When traveling, everyone should do something a little out of step from the regular routine. Whether that something is sleeping late—or not sleeping at all—leisurely reading for hours on end, or perhaps indulging in a bit of extravagance. For me, I love pie and coffee whether I am traveling or not; however, it seems when I travel, the desire to find pie is accelerated. I know there are cake people out there who just are not going to get this, but for me on the rolling pin of life—give me PIE.
Leaving Wyoming, going south on 287, the clouds in the far distance thickened and looked ominous almost daring me to go on. Or, were they giving me even more reason to go back? Back to Wyoming. I somehow think the latter. My appreciation for Colorado is kind. I’ve been through the state before—run a race in Fort Collins and skied the slopes at Keystone years ago, but as I crossed that state line where six million year old rocks tower on either side of the roadway, I felt like a speck on the map—a speck not sure she was ready to leave Wyoming.