Posts Tagged ‘travel’

Show Diving

July 26, 2011 2 comments

The past weekend was filled with unusual activities for us. On Saturday, BJ and I went to the Glacier Rally of the Rockies Classic Car Show here in Kalispell.

The Show and Shine made a definite impression. Vehicle owners from all over the country and Canada had come to show off their dedication to the past and their hard work.

Chrome sparkled with glints of sunlight while azure sky ensured a good showing. Owners polished away dust motes while lookie-loos poked heads inside trunks and windows for a better view. With approximately 150 classic cars and trucks from the 1930s thru the 1980s, everyone had a chance to see favorites up close and personal.

BJ snapped photos of vehicles, the crowds, and lots of engines for those enthusiasts gathered along the street and in the parking lots. We spent a busy hour in the sun examining our favorites and speaking with the occasional owner. All of these lovelies would be winding their way through the Rockies in the days to come.

We went home so BJ could begin processing while I began writing down impressions and planning possible uses for the info gathered. I knew Sunday would be even more exciting, though in a different way.

We left home mid-morning Sunday to travel west along Highway 2 on our way to Marion, Montana. Several miles west of Marion there is a skydiving school and on Sunday they were holding a diving exhibition. Yes, you saw that right. It was time to watch people jump out of airplanes rather than drive classic cars.

We arrived at Lost Prairie, Meadow Peak Sky Diving around 11 a.m. and had nearly missed the first jump. Not quite, but we’d just parked the car in front of the beer tent when the ‘chutists began carving out air paths for a landing above our heads.

The wind was good and light, the kind a diver can maneuver in without difficulty. Bright punches of color dotted the sky while the drone of a light plane sounded in the background. Sun shelters, tents, and campers dotted the grounds across from the beer tent and porta-potties. The local ambulance stood at the ready off to one side.

Divers, crews, and families roamed and chatted, laughed and planned future dives. It was like watching the circus come to town; a smaller and very specialized circus. Parachutes were strung out on ground cloths awaiting the precise task of folding and stuffing fabric and lines into their compact carrying cases.

Thanks to the generosity of the diving school’s owner, BJ and I were afforded front row seats on the covered deck of the main building where flight announcers called out line-ups and flight times. Divers scurried in and out, handing in tickets to this flight or that. BJ readied camera and tripod while I enjoyed a comfortable seat with a direct line of sight on the landing field putting me close enough to see much of the action.

Interacting with skydivers is a marvelous experience. Lawyers, doctors, teachers, professionals of all stripes wandered around in shorts, jumpsuits or street clothes. From twenty-somethings to those in their sixties, skydivers came in all shapes, sizes, and backgrounds. And they all loved to laugh.

I think that’s what I’ll remember most from my day ringside at the sky circus. Diverse conversations—from a specialized hand-made device for locating gold in stream bottoms to elk antler chandeliers–filled the air. Talk of other diving areas crossed speech paths with speculation about who would ride the inflatable toys during a dive. Laughter came in liberal doses throughout. The atmosphere was one of a party where these challengers of the air could rub shoulders with like-minded enthusiasts.

They’d come from around the country for this event. Drop planes were brought in from Sky Dive Arizona in Eloy. Every half hour parachutes of all colors floated through the sky while club banners, pennants, and flags lined the drop zone, waving at divers above and telling them wind’s direction and speed.

In the end we came away from our weekend of exploration with a profound appreciation for those with passion in their lives, whether as classic car enthusiasts or as sky divers chancing disaster for the sake of flying free with eagles.

I hope everyone out there gets a chance sometime this summer to enjoy such events as those we chanced upon this past weekend. Give it a try. You might be surprised at what you learn.

Have a great week, people. Enjoy your life and take out your passion, dust it off, and take it dancing.

Until we meet here again, a bientot,


 **NOTE: All photos printed with permission from BJJones Photography 

When Life Shows You a Curve in the Road…

June 7, 2011 2 comments

When life shows you a curve in the road, drive forward and see what’s on the other side. Sister and I did that the other day. We started out for a two-three hour tour of the shoreline of Flathead Lake. It’s one of our favorite drives and BJ was in the mood to take photos.

We stopped in to gas up. I know. The needle showed we had half a tank, but one never knows when inspiration will strike and another hundred miles will get tagged onto the trip somewhere along the line. That’s how our little drives turn out.

We got ourselves something to drink, had a full gas tank, and no need to hurry.

Somewhere between Kalispell and Big Fork we changed our destination. Told you that’s what happens sometimes. We chose to go down to Swan Lake instead. When people say The Swan, they refer to the Swan River. Swan Lake resides on the south leg of that river. A town by the same name accommodates tourists and full-timers without prejudice.

Swan Lake

The entire area exudes mountain charm and calm reflection, both of the water and the mind. The sunshine struck peaks still swallowed by late snow and left breath-taking to those reflections in the river and lake. Along the way horses and cattle grazed, unconcerned with those taking advantage of marvelous Saturday weather.

We had to stop at the Hungry Bear restaurant for a meal. It’s expected of any who’ve ever eaten there. A person simply can’t pass by without stopping for something to eat. The food’s too good for that kind of rudeness.

After we waddled out under the influence of Western Omelets and coffee supreme, we made our way south once more. Another lightning decision. Since we’re this close—well, thirty or so miles—we’d just drop on down to Seeley Lake. That small community with its own lake of the same name and a murder mystery on one of the islands carries its own charm.

We didn’t bother spending too much time there. Yep, you guessed it. We thought we might as well run over to the east side of the mountains to see what we could see.

It was after noon by then. We drove, took photos of cool scenery and made our way around the big loop. Up Highway 200 we finally, after another 100+ miles, came to a town some might know called

First Dam of Breaks

Great Falls. Once in the city, we stopped for a quick meal and proceeded to the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center and Giant Spring Park along the Missouri River.

That park also runs along the edge of the Missouri Breaks. The Breaks are a series of dams and natural cliffs where the river tumbles through and makes a run for the Greater Mississippi. I can tell the fishermen out there, that those Breaks have some mighty fine fishing alongside and in them. Most who can, fish the Breaks for giant rainbow trout.

We began our serious wildlife photography of the day along the Breaks. The average person doesn’t

First Group of Goslings

expect to see pelicans in Montana waters. They’d find surprise in that stretch of water. Montana sports both white and brown pelicans. Canada geese are always around, and this year must have created a bumper crop of goslings. Those little buggers were everywhere.

Later on, when we drove Highway 89 back toward Glacier Park to get home, we came across other species. Elk, deer, antelope, and sand hill cranes all made their appearances. When we got to Goat Lick on Highway 2, BJ got more photos of Rocky Mountain goat, as well.

We had a great day and finally got home around 9:30 pm. We drove around the curve to see what was on the other side and made some marvelous discoveries.

I hope all of the curves in your life allow you such discovery. Until next time, a bientot,


Observations From the Edge of the Road

January 15, 2011 2 comments

Any description of travel through the Gulf Coast states requires commentary on the physical state of said locales.


 The coastal edges of Texas exhibit damage left behind from Ike’s rampage. Galveston Island continues to reel from the blow it suffered. Many of the signs are subtle ones.

 For example, the small businesses that remain boarded up and unsafe, the large Victorian homes in the historical district spray-painted with warnings to stay out because of unsafe conditions, the house on stilts that stares out to sea with its tattered and disintegrating American flag that persists in waving all tell stories worth hearing.

 These are far more telling than the large hotel at the north east and of the sea wall that’s undergoing extensive renovation and stability. These tell of personal struggles of the smaller less obvious sufferer. These tell a story of their own of pressures brought to bear that may break the bearer of that stress.

 After all, Ike blasted across the island in September, 2008. Two-plus years later, some owners of the businesses and homes requiring less to repair are still either unable to get back on their feet, or perhaps have given up on that dream of renovation.


 Everyone should remember Katrina and its destruction. Evidence of the lasting changes stand for witnessing today. Small affected towns work with tireless determination to rebuild communities. The state has what appear to be major projects of infrastructure rebuilding to do, as well.

 The report we received from residents of New Orleans tells of progress with rebuilding efforts but leaves behind much distressing news of crime rates rising to rates above acceptability. No current authority measures seem to curb these rising rates—according to some who live there.

 Those amenities most taken for granted, such as parking spaces, have come to a point of competitive prices to provide safe parking for the car owner. $28-30 per day/night is a common rate for secured parking per car. With a shrunken job market adding continuing stress, The Big Easy may need the distraction of February’s Mardi Gras this year.

 During our drive along the gulf shore only one mention was made about the Gulf Oil Spill. We were cautioned by locals about going to certain areas because of the spill. Travel to those areas was discouraged. However, Jo found only one small blob of crude on the beach and that was at Pass Christian, Mississippi.


 A small plantation reproduction greeted us at the Mississippi state line. I’ve been to many visitors’ centers but never one more entertaining, informative, and impressive as this one.

 The grounds sprouted colonnaded pavilions for picnics. The main building had more than adequate visitor appeal with a fire burning in the fireplace and rocking chairs waiting to be used. Of course, the elaborate Mardi Gras costumes with capes, headdresses and crowns on display didn’t hurt the eye, either.

The coastline, however, tugged at the heartstrings, showing less completed reconstruction from storm and oil than Louisiana.

This impression remained along Hwy. 90 that skirts the shoreline.Pristine white beaches lure the beachcomber to stretch legs and vision. Believe it or not, periodically a few yards from the highway out on the sand, a large concrete square squatted—alone and looking out of place. In the center of the square is a manhole cover.

 These, it was explained, are clean-out drains for the huge purge water pipes that remove storm water from those areas below sea level. The incongruity of their appearance confused this visitor for certain.


Gulfport crews work to build new sections of sea wall and boardwalk along the highway. I don’t think I’ve ever seen such white sand beaches. They almost blind the unprotected eyes when the sun’s out. Unfortunately for us, only oyster shells dotted that brilliant expanse.


The boardwalk on the Gulf side runs from Biloxi to Ocean Springs. Eyes scanning the beach and water to the right miss the antebellum homes on the other. They don’t see the empty lots that have only foundations left. The sculptures carved on the standing remains of snapped-off palms and live oaks recede unnoticed by many, which is a pity.


Stationed life-saving shallow boats wait for use along areas of beach. Sand fences try to contain the blowing white powder, but sometimes only manage to diffuse the sweep of sand toward the opposite side of the road.


At Pass Christian on Market St. a shrimping fleet dries its nets, the boats wait for their next wave rum. Just south of Ocean Springs is Gulf Islands National Wildlife Refuge. The forests border the road in pine, palms, cypress, hickory, and heavy underbrush.


None of that shoreline appeared affected by the oil spill, but we didn’t take the time to wade out into the bordering vegetation.


Though we saw all of these reminders of destructions and rebuilding, we did have a marvelous adventure throughout the Gulf States. The differences between regions that share so much titillate the mind and demands clarification of those differences.


Bayous run from Texas to Florida. Cattle anchor both ends of that corridor. Rice fields share the land with alligators while pride of heritage flies on flagpoles throughout–from Goliad to the heart of the Confederacy, from military monuments to battleship masts.


For all the peculiarities of individual states, the south shares too much similarity to every come apart for long. Any visitor who spends time along that highway system will come away with an appreciation of that solidarity. 

When you make your visit there, or if you already live there, take the time to look for all those things that make the South itself. You might be surprised at the things you find.


Until next time, a bientot, 


Another Road Experience in the Making

January 7, 2011 1 comment

Yep, that’s right. We’re about to go out again. We’ve got people to see and things to do before the month is out.

It’s back to Houston for us to meet with friends and distant family. A day on the Gulf Coast might be possible before the rain moves in again. You heard that right, too. The rain will be following us again. The Universe seems determined to have us act as the harbingers of cloud and rain. We’ve reluctantly taken up that mantle and are trying to make the best of the title.

This will be a short post. I still have a few things to do before falling into bed to concentrate on the insides on my eyelids for a few hours before our departure.

Think about this when you have a moment. Our wee car is stacked to the roof with all that we need (aside from dry weather). Each time we stop to get out for longer than the few minutes it takes to make a restroom run, gas up, or buy drinks and a snack, the contents of said car get rearranged in order for us to get what it is we’re going to need for whatever task it is that we’re attempting to do.

And don’t even think about needing a spare tire. There’s not enough roadside for that eventuality.

Think, too, about every time we camp and all those things that make up a good lengthy stay that emerge from the confines of that little car. Taking it all out isn’t really much of a job. All that gear seems determined to help with the task every time any portal  is opened wider than a handwidth.

No, the time , effort, and frustration comes into play when everything must go back into said car in approximately the same place from which we’d removed it. It was in that spot for a reason–it fit there. That’s the only reason for anything being where it is.

In case anyone’s wondering, the car is already packed for take-off. All we have to put in it in the morning is ourselves, our coffee mugs, and our pillows. Nothing else is left to stuff  in the car.

So, with that, I’ll say goodnight. I have a couple of other postings to make before bed. At that point I’ll gratefully drop into unconsciousness.

Have a marvelous weekend, everyone. Enjoy your own adventures. Hopefully, I’ll be posting something again in a few days. Until then, a bientot,


Internet Connections and New Friendships

December 17, 2010 3 comments

We’ve been hanging out with a friend and her husband in near San Luis Obispo; wonderful area, I must say.

My friend, Mikki, and I met a couple of years ago on one of our writer’s forums. Since then we’ve corresponded, assisted each other, and generally built a good internet relationship. It never seriously occurred to us that we’d meet in person unless it happened at a conference somewhere.

We were wrong. This trip is giving me an opportunity to meet and come to appreciate even more all those writers I’ve met online in the past two years. (at least, those who wish it) That’s an opportunity I certainly couldn’t pass up.

Mikki has been the first. People do have lives and those don’t always accommodate the incidental touring writer. I’ve missed being able to meet with three writers so far on this leg of our trip. However, we’re making plans to return before the end of our exploration to pick up those that we can’t see now. I think that’s only fair.

It’s astounding how close writers get with one another. Mikki will remain one of my dearest friends. Of that I’m sure, and I’ll treasure that knowledge. Sister and I have adopted Mikki and her husband, who exemplify those with generous and loving hearts.

Now we turn our sights on the LA area where we’ll meet with another online writer friend. I’m not concerned about compatibility now. I’ve learned more in the past week of talking and laughing with these marvelous people than I’d ever expected.

Writers really are a breed apart. I’m so glad that I’ve joined their ranks for however long they’ll allow me membership.

Have a wonderful weekend, everyone. Go out and enjoy your friends. Talk to those you love and laugh at the antics presented. Time is a fleeting thing. Take a chance. make a new friend.

Until next time, a bientot,


Octoberfest in a Tent

October 7, 2010 2 comments

Today has been a hectic one with preparations for several days camping and a photo shoot with photographer sister. Those little ideas just keep churning when the brain is exposed to other environments. I have no idea what I’ll come home with, material-wise, but I bet I’ll get several pieces out of it and maybe a story or two.

After all, if I’m going to add travel writing to the repertoire, I do need material. We should get some good stuff where we’re going.

That poor little car of ours may never be the same. It’s loaded to the roof supports with camping gear. At dinner tonight, as I slid out of the booth to go pay the ticket, my poor old body hit the wall. All the frenetic activity for the past two days and especially today, hit me all at once.

And then I couldn’t take the time to get in a nap. Too much to do before bed. I’m working on that proposition now. I may make it by midnight thirty, if I’m really lucky. Five AM is going to arrive way before I’m ready for it.

Just wanted to warn everyone that there would be no postings for the next couple of weeks or so while I’m incommunicado in the wilds of camping territory. We’re just hoping we get cell coverage.

I hope everyone has plenty of success in whatever endeavor pursued while I’m doing my research thing.

Take care, all, and God bless. A bientot,


Expanding Limits

September 27, 2010 Leave a comment

The most enticing reality of being a writer is the fact that the job can be done anywhere. And if the writer plans ahead, it can pay for itself anywhere, too. 

Writer’s marketability insurance comes in the form of learning, studying, and anticipating future needs. Planning for those needs and contingencies takes work. 


Writers learn something new everyday if they want to remain marketable. It’s part of the job’s requirements. Workshops on various pertinent aspects of writing are added periodically to the work load. 

Part of the reasoning for this continuing education is that trends in the publishing business shift from year to year and sometimes from month to month. The shift can effect the types of stories in demand–think vampires here. Some workshops deal with how not to become trapped in such trends. 

A workshop might revolve around language usage in both print and online work. It could be something as seemingly innocuous as word definitions that change from traditional to contemporary. Or, it could be a discussion of those publishing terms, phrases, etc. that have fallen out of favor, along with those replacing the old ones. 

Workshops dealing with technology and software usage have become increasingly necessary for the freelancer. Those workshops concentrated on web design and social networking are in demand. Simply learning how to develop a viable and usable platform becomes fodder for workshops. 

Reading other writers’ blogs and websites also contributes to any writer’s learning curve. Studying style, attitude, approaches, both toward writing in general and public displays, helps writers evaluate their own offerings. Personal re-evaluation is always valuable time usage. 


Workshops are necessary and valuable tools for the writer. It’s true. Additional study of writing techniques comes in more formalized classwork most of the time, though. 

Taking a course in creative non-fiction can broaden a writer’s marketability into hitherto uncharted waters. This study can carve a new niche that allows the writer to share memoir pieces that wouldn’t fit the market earlier. It allows nostalgia to break through into print where before only a rejection slip arrived in the mail box. 

Expanding into a semester of poetry class can free up the Muse and teach the writer about an entirely different personal side and encourage a creativity that hadn’t yet been tapped. Poetry teaches many things about writing, not least of which is: focus, taut descriptive expression, metaphoric and symbolic expression, and observation of the surrounding world. 

In another direction, saturating oneself in a research methodology course can open up pathways that had always intimidated the writer. Technical and scientific writing is always in high demand and pays decent returns. A writer working on only short-term projects can usually find a number of these types of projects crying out for attention and get paid well for them. 

Anticipating Future Needs 

There comes a time for many writers when writing the same old stories, novels, essays, etc. just doesn’t excite the neurons like it once did. The writer wants to change styles, pen names, genres, whatever. When that feeling of personal dissatisfaction or boredom narrows its beady little eyes and dares the writer to make it go away, the tug-of-war between known work and unknown comes into play. 

One way to prevent that tug-of-war from ensuing is to anticipate that future need. The writer can dip a toe into the waters of something totally foreign and just as demanding in its own way. This exploration can be a vacation from the known writing projects. 

For example: the children’s literature devotee can try a hand at writing travel pieces. No real travel is necessary, really,  unless absolutely desired for additional vacation flavor. Concentration on sights and events close to home can make for a wonderful travel piece for those who haven’t seen them. 

Why would a writer want to do that? you ask. Most people take vacations each year. A weekend jaunt to the nearest ski lodge in cold January, if written well to standard, can pay for that trip. Regardless of the potential sale, however, the key is the change in attitude toward that ski weekend. Surroundings look and feel different because expectations, observations, and potential needs have also changed. 

All of this new observational detail adds to the writer’s artillery when putting any project into words, whether it’s a children’s story or a quick piece for the local paper. It keeps the writer’s existing skills honed and adds to them at the same time. It also allows the writer to think differently about the use of material available to them. 

Reaping the Rewards 

Any writer takes notes–mental, written, or taped. Using those notes for projects is exhilarating and energizing. When the writer can find between five and ten viable project ideas from one set of notes, the exhilaration goes into overdrive. 

Learning to take those multiple ideas, using the market studies that are mandatory for writers, creates future work that can prove profitable in many ways. No writer has to work in multiple genres. Shifting between genres, however, can broaden the writing experience and magnify the writer’s pleasure in the craft. 

Each keyboard pounder decides where to spend time with words. Whether full-time, part-time, or hobbyist, the writer sits before a smorgasbord of possible venues in which to express the life experience. As everyone knows, it always polite to sample at least a taste of each offering from the table. 

As always, a bientot,