Posts Tagged ‘traveling’

Learning The Way Around

April 10, 2011 4 comments

One of the things that keep a person engaged is finding new locales to explore.

A person doesn’t have to take a plane, train, bus, or even a car. All that’s required is physical mobility. Some use feet, others use personal wheels. Sometimes when the weather is bad, a leisurely finger walk through the yellow pages can give a person an entirely new look at their hometown.

When Sister Jo and I go into a new town where we’re going to spend a few days, I look at the yellow pages as soon as I can. From those pale tissue leaves I discover the range of amenities available to locals and visitors alike. The demographics of the community are contained with that phone book section.

If you don’t believe me, go to the restaurant section of the pages. See what’s available for your dining pleasure. How many Mexican restaurants are there? Chinese, Thai, or Japanese? What about Mid-Eastern fare? Any Russian, French, or American Steak Houses? These numbers often reflect the population of an area.

What about churches? What denominations are there and how many of each can one choose from?

Is there a dealership where you can take your car if something goes wrong or you need an oil change? What if you need a new tire? Can you find a reputable local tire dealer that won’t cost you the contents of your bank account?

Sheer volume of entries in the yellow pages, their sizes, and the boldness of print tell the explorer much about where they are and what they can expect while in the area. This kind of information is overlooked many times in favor of asking available locals specific need-to-know questions. That’s fine, too, but laborious in nature. The phone book holding the yellow pages also gives you a map of the town so that you can find your way around without having to use the trial and error method.

Much entertainment can be reaped by locals from tourists asking those “Can you tell me…?” questions. Ask any farmer outside any small town how much fun it is to give directions to newbies.

Of course, if you ask the right questions and pay attention in the right locales, you can find your way around easily. Oklahoma is one of those places. The state’s smaller road system is set up on a one-mile grid and named accordingly. That holds true everywhere with one exception. Those areas in former logging areas along the eastern edge of the state and where rivers and lakes don’t allow for straight roads.

Local signage also clues the traveler as to the demographics of an area. There are clues everywhere. It’s up to the visitor to look for the gems.

Here’s an example from yesterday. We took in a local fresh-air farmer’s market in Templeton, CA. There was almost a carnival air to the occasion. Kids ran and played while parents selected the best of the locally grown produce.

We saw artichokes twice the size of softballs. I’ve never seen anything like them. Beside them were egg-sized purple artichokes. I’d never seen their like before either. Vine-ripened tomatoes that filled the hand snugged up against green onions that could feed three. It was marvelous.

The local historical society building was open for visiting where we found fodder for many future investigations. Watching the shoppers told another story. Old or young, they enjoyed the sunshine and produce presentations. Conversation was lively and relaxed.

The morning activity allowed us to see the people of that small Victorian town as individuals and as a community. What more could a visitor want from one farmer’s market? Of course, the marvelous fresh strawberries the size of hen’s eggs would have kept our attention with no difficulty.

Here’s another question for you. Have you tried to find tourist post cards lately? During this trip we’ve learned that finding post cards for the folks back home is an adventure in itself. Some Visitor Centers have them, but certainly not all. Some Travel Plazas have them, but not all.

It seems to depend on where a person is as to whether such travel reminders and neener-neeners are available for purchase. We’ve contemplated using some of our own photos later to make personal post cards for sending to friends. No final decision has been reached on that.

A local calendar of events presented us with our next adventure—a wine-tasting tour of the local wineries. There are so many to choose from with a terrific selection of types and vintages. That excursion will take up a day and a designated driver. We’re so looking forward to it.

You can see the types of decisions we have to make right now in Central California. Should we do wine on Monday or do a photo shoot of the thoroughbred farms? Another trip to the beach or photo ops at the area missions? How many more days can we schedule for?

Today is for planning and regrouping. I hope everyone can take advantage of their  local areas and discover something new to explore.

Have a marvelous week ahead and enjoy the trip. A bientot,



Reading the Manual

February 28, 2011 1 comment

Like many people on Sunday, I spent a quiet day yesterday. Part was spent in study, part in worship, and part in socializing. During each of those activities came reflection.

I doubt if writers ever truly stop writing since so much of the outside world gets rolled into potential material use. Yesterday was no exception to that unwritten rule.

For those who haven’t spent time with an official manual for Microsoft Office 2010, take the time to do it. I began my in-depth study of it yesterday and came away astounded at the possibilities for my future work. Does that mean that I haven’t been using Office 2010?

Nope. I’ve used it for nearly a year now—as a simple point and shoot word processor that allowed me to put words on-screen, add and delete, and create unsophisticated raw formatting that could maybe impress the local insect zoo. I had no clue that the whole package could do so much.

Why? You ask. Simple. The software comes without a manual.

Anyone who’s bought software or downloaded any in the past few years knows that the only option for major understanding of it is to go online and read the tutorials, etc. for that particular program or pay to take a class. Only then do you get the overall picture of uses, functions, and potential support needs.

I happened, by chance, to find my small manual in Borders not long after I had purchased Office 2010. I wasn’t happy about having to buy any support books for it. I felt that given the price of the software, it should come with an actual manual.

Extra time is something I didn’t have a lot of at the time and the manual got put aside until later. So when we began this journey of ours, I threw it into my work satchel so that when I found some down time, I could learn the software.

Nice thought, wasn’t it? Actually, yes it was, because when I decided to do more than glance at the manual, I found a world of possibilities I will be exploring for a long while to come.

It was like Christmas.

In fact, all of yesterday had a sprinkling of holiday cheer to it for no specific reason. I went to bed with that satisfied feeling, coupled with anticipation, of having come to a junction in my life. Oh, not because of the software study, although that did give me pause.

The reflection that I’d done had broken loose some unrecognized needs that required fulfillment. That’s when the light bulb when on. That’s also when I knew that my life was taking another turn.

I suppose that sounds a bit out there, but what I rediscovered were neglected layers of me and my own potential. I started asking myself what the manual to my life contained that I’d never paid real attention to. That personal question needed more reflection. As a result, it became a late night.

The odd upshot to this is that my daily life won’t look much different from what it is now—at least for a while. Later that will change, but then all things do given time.

In many ways this trip of ours has rewritten my life in profound elemental ways that others can’t see. The mundane chores and tasks of my life remain as always. What has changed is the underlying processor that’s become supercharged to travel on unexpected highways of life.

I don’t know how all the facets came together yesterday to elicit my personal epiphany. In the end it doesn’t matter. Irony does manage to enter the picture. I began my day trying to understand Word. I finished reading The Word. In between those two activities my life shifted. That’s quite a bit to expect of a Sunday, don’t you think?

Until later, folks, a bientot,


Finding the Skeleton

February 3, 2011 1 comment

While on my way from my father’s place in Indiana to the Tulsa area a few days ago, I jotted down ideas for various posts that could be used in the coming week.

Confession time–what I see off the side of the road had better be something big, different in outline, and vaguely recognizable for me to notice it at all. It’s astounding what details the brain will fill in when the eyes don’t see them.

One of the main things I began thinking about on the road was something very simple. You see, I think that at some point everyone considers what becomes visible/invisible during winter that isn’t during the rest of the year.

Odd thought? I suppose to some it is. Think about it for a moment, if you will, and discover how little attention you focus on a daily basis to details and description.

Case in point. With trees bare of foliage and understory vegetation eliminated during winter, the viewer can see the skeleton of a forest. The small streams and brooks become the arteries taking much-needed nutrients to the rest of the forest body.

Ever-changing tattoos show themselves on the forest floor made by sun-cast shadows of tree limbs and trunks. Those features either visible or invisible during winter take on new meaning than during the rest of the year. Bird’s nests–from owl and hawk to sparrow and hummingbird–reveal their locations for those interested in looking for them.

From the writer’s perspective this new look is revealed much like that of a story, essay, poem, etc. that is written well. Winter for the story is when few–if any–descriptors are used. Without those words, only the essence of the story is displayed for the reader.

This streamlined writing has its own demands, its own skeleton, which can change with the season or style needed for a given project. There are a finite number of seasons for both nature and for writing. Words and how they’re used determine writing seasons. Nature uses leaves and ground vegetation to paint a more colorful picture for the viewer.

Our lives in this busy world are crowded. Stimuli bombard us continually from all sides, trying to capture our attention. Until we strip away the extraneous stimuli, we fail to see the bare bones of any subject’s skeleton.

The forest is passed by without being recognized for its uniqueness. The story misses the mark by concentrating on the heavy meal instead of displaying the centerpiece and listening to the conversation.

Such are the thoughts of this writer. Experience and time reveal many details that act as mile markers along the highway of life. This trip has taught me more than I would ever have imagined.

The one thing that has stood out above most has been that each tiny detail has purpose–not to describe, but to define. None of those details need to be described. They are themselves, unique and finite.

And there you have it, my words for the day. I hope you’ve taken time lately to look for the essence/skeleton of a story, scene, conversation, etc. If you haven’t, give it a whirl. You might just enjoy the exercise. Take a scene out and try it on for size. Do a little dance to see if the world comes to an end just because you did it.

Until later, a bientot,



Tripping The Narrative Fancy

December 28, 2010 2 comments

Writing while on the road is an interesting prospect, regardless of how you slice pie.

As everyone knows Sister Jo and I have hit the road for the ultimate US touring experience. I’m suppose to be writing about it as we go along. Right now, we’re stationary while bunking with a cousin and her husband for several days.

Traveling is good. The finer points of the stationary life comes home with stronger vigor after rolling for two weeks without much respite. So far we’ve managed to put on approximately 3200 miles in just over two weeks, and accounting for seven days of actual down time.

In that time, writing has consisted of sporadic blog and website postings and text messages to a few friends who’re following and keeping track of our trip for the rest of the gang.

Now, I’ve come to the point of putting together articles to go out to editors. It all sounds so easy to people for me to say, “I have a few articles to write so that this little trip can start paying for itself.”

I read a blog the other day about writing narrative pieces. I thought about it for a while, trying to decide if that was the kind of writing I normally did. I know that sounds odd, that I needed to think about whether I do narrative or not. The fact is that I don’t think about that area of writing. I’m an organic writer.

Organic writers, I’ve found, don’t necessarily concern themselves with labeling types of structures used on a regular basis. I do narrative as a matter of course. The type of narrative depends on the subject matter involved.

For instance, I can write history pieces for both adult and children with lots of descriptive narrative. I’m sure to find a home for some of those. And we’ve certainly been to a large number of historic places, complete with statues.

I could write about the emotional times, when all around us is surrounded by rain and getting out to explore any sight or site would be miserable and demoralizing. That narrative of emotional cleansing could go along with missives about the drought-caused devastation we’ve encountered throughout the southwest. Some of those areas nearly broke our hearts.

There are always pieces for the kids on peculiar trivia about places we’ve visited. Those are easy and fun pieces to do. Adults enjoy those, too. Unfortunately, little narrative is required for those pieces.

You see what I mean. Narrative takes place most successfully for me in memoir, stories (fiction/creative non-fiction), and essay. In order for me to do any real work in that structured area, genre is mandatory.

Let me give you a small sample of what I mean. This is the bare bones of something I’d write about one historic site we encountered.

     In the small community of Goliad, TX, the visitor will find a monument location that dates back to the Texas/Mexican Revolutionary War. (That was in 1836 for those without ready history books to hand.) Inside the Presidio La Bahia area stands a granite monument representing a man named Fannin and his soldiers.

     Col. James W. Fannin was fighting for Texas’s independence. The Alamo had fallen. He and his men  held the Presidio La Bahia, which Fannin renamed Fort Defiance, in the latter part of March, 1836.

     As a result of a miscalculation on his part after being ordered by Sam Houston to retreat, Fannin and his nearly 400 men were trapped in the open by a superior Mexican force.  Fannin surrendered to the Mexican troops on March 20th, rather than die uselessly and were held in the Presidio by the Mexican troops. Their complement was enlarged by the capture of other Texas units in the area. Since they’d surrendered peacefully, Col. Fannin expected all of them to be considered prisoners of war.

     Instead, they were marched out on Palm Sunday, one week later, and executed as pirates on orders of Gen. Santa Ana. All of Col. Fannin’s men and many of those who’d been housed with them (342 in total) were taken outside the Presidio where they were summarily killed and then burned.

     Their charred remains were then buried a few hundred yards away and left to be forgotten. Fortunately, their final battle cry of “Remember Goliad! Remember the Alamo!” rang through the air, lifting the hearts and spirits of those still held inside the Presidio’s cells. Those men and their Battle cry were not forgotten.          

      Later, a huge granite monument was erected over their gravesite and engraved with the names of every man who died that day. It stands as a reminder to the courage and carnage of war and the price of independence.

        General Ignacio Zaragoza, Mexican hero of Cinco de Mayo, declared that Cinco de Mayo had nothing to do with Mexican independence, but rather the sacrifice of 342 lives for the sake of independence at a place called Presidio La Bahia in Goliad, TX. Much later, the state of Texas also recognized the celebration to represent the fallen of the revolution for independence.

This type of subject can make for fascinating narrative, but when it’s only a small blurb within the body of a larger piece, it suffers from lack of dedication and attention. Part of that lack is also due to lack of time for writing while on the road and having infrequent computer access, electricity, and online abilities.

Excuses notwithstanding, putting together viable publishable essays, stories, and articles draws out the competitor in the writer who wants to succeed while rolling along.

I hope all of those who choose such exercises in the writing experience the best of luck with narrative.

Writing on the fly is never easy. Writing on the fly while rolling along and trying to take in the new while writing about the old is doubly challenging.

Good luck to those who accept the challenge. I hope to see you in those small places along the way. Take care, all and write well and often.

Until then, a bientot,


Now You See Me…

December 9, 2010 4 comments

Tonight the desktop goes into its box, ready for storage. The monitor will sleep with its sister in a large storage tub cushioned with coats and sweaters. Keyboard will reside for the duration with its two brothers in a special box that’s just right in size. Right and Left Speaker plan to snuggle


up with Monitor in its tub.

They will go to garage storage tomorrow morning, along with desks and printer tables.  A couple of loads in the car will get everything where it needs to be. We’ll be left with our camping gear and folding chairs that will go to the garage last thing.

Yep, one more day before we move out. We’re so excited! Last minute items to take care of tomorrow will take little time.

From now on, I’m going to shoot for at least a weekly update; more often if I can manage it. The updates will consist of all sorts of things; weather along with traffic reports, sights taken in during the drive, speculations about traveling now versus during the warmer months of the year, and sundry other items.

I certainly hope to tie it all to writing. That’s one of the goals I have. In the meantime, I’d like to take the opportunity to wish everyone a wonderful holiday season.

I know most are preparing for those last days of the month. We’re planning on spending Christmas along the River Walk in San Antonio, then move on to Fort Worth before heading to Houston. At least once we’ll be tiptoeing in the warm Gulf waters along a strand of white sandy beach.

Please no tears. Some of you will be warmer than we are. Remember we’ll be using a tent when we aren’t visiting friends, and even then sometimes.

So have a great weekend and enjoy the coming festivities. Take care and God bless.

Until later, a bientot,


Shifting Future’s Gears

November 16, 2010 1 comment

I’ve been writing quite a bit about futures lately and with good reason. My sister and I had big plans beginning next April. We’d wanted to implement them this past October and couldn’t. As everyone knows, the best laid plans are subject to change without notice.

And so it has been. This past Saturday during lunch, however, we began talking about those plans for April. That’s when the shift took place. We’ve wondered if we are pawns in someone’s cosmic chess game for a while now. I think we’ve gotten our answer to that question once and for all.

She and I discussed whether we could get everything ready to take off on our road trip before Dec. 1. I know. Any significant road trip takes a lot of planning and strategy. This one was worth months of both.

Anyone listening in would have thought we’d lost our minds. Give up a perfectly good apartment, stuff all of our belongings into long-term storage and hit the road? It’s a joke. Right? Well, no, it’s no joke. We were going to do this in April anyway. We’d wanted to go in October. What’s so bad about December.

Let’s see. It could have something to do with the fact that we live in Montana and have umpteen mountain passes to travel just to get anywhere out of the state. Heck, we have passes to go through just to get out of our valley. Ski season approaches on the back of a hare in a race with a tortoise. The jockey on that hare is INCOMING SNOW STORMS!

You see the immediate problem.

Okay, so we’ll crawl out of the valley, through the pass south of here toward I-90. Then what?

We’re going south for the first part of our country tour. That would mean Wyoming–got stranded there in a blizzard a year ago. Don’t want a repeat. Or there’s always Highway 93 South. That goes through many more passes, part of snow-covered Idaho and into snow-covered northern Nevada. Once we hit Vegas we could get to Arizona’s snowy north and go down to I-10 from there.

Nope, too many possible travel headaches. That leaves I-90 West toward the coast. Only two passes in that direction–both really long ones, but well maintained and careful driving will keep us safe. First hurdle planned for and conquered. Get chains.

So we get to the coast and then move south on the I-5. We won’t be making many stops if the weather is crummy. We need to get away from the northern coastline and winter storms rolling in with irrepressible, ever-changing La Nina, who threatens to bring the worst winter in 50 years.

We’ll be in good shape once we hit LA and San Diego.

I know that most won’t understand why all the rush is critical to us. Let me clue you in. We’re tenting our way around the U.S. for the next year+. That means everything we will be using will be crammed into a small car: tent, bags, year’s worth of clothing, cooler, cooking needs, computer, photography gear, everything.

Now you see the rush. We’re not fond of winter camping, though we’ve done it. If we can avoid it, so much the better.

There you have it. Once we’re on that southern road, we’ll be able to get online once/twice a week, update blogs and website, do email, send out our articles and such, and generally work our way through the country gathering material for our book.

Sounds like a fun time, huh? It will be. We’ve been looking forward to this for several months now. Not bad for a couple of senior ladies, don’t you think?

For the next many months we’ll be seeing friends and family throughout the continental U.S. We’ll be writing travel articles and the like as we go along to help augment the finances. And we’ll be learning about ourselves, our ambitions, and our potential. Our website will be up in a couple of weeks so that we can keep our friends apprised as to our progress. Those updates will keep everyone informed of how things are going, where we are, and what we’ve seen.

Wish us luck as we move into this next phase of our professional lives. We already know we’re in for the ride of our lives, but then, we’ve already lived fantastically full lives. This is the gravy and dessert rolled into one.

I do intend to keep this blog and Claudsy’s Calliope blog going during this trip as well, so there should be no real fluctuation there.

Writing and photography go hand in hand. How we utilize both may shift a bit into new territory, but I consider that growth. My poetry certainly won’t suffer from a change in scenery and neither will the potential for wonderful writing ideas. So much potential, so little time to capture it all.

I hope you follow along as we explore this country’s nooks and crannies, the familiar and not-so-familiar. Be sure and pop back here once in a while to see what’s happening.

Until then, a bientot,