RSS

Category Archives: travel

The Journey of 6000 Miles Ends

I challenged myself to write a blog post a day while I enjoyed a four-week-long trip around the USA. I did it! It left me with an understanding of why people keep journals, and a better understanding of my trip. The act of sifting through the day and finding the funniest, strangest or most interesting happening changes the way you view the days.

If you choose to put your journal online like I did, it also turns out to be a fine way to sort and keep favorite photos and to share your journey with friends and family. Here are my 28 mostly very short posts, along with a smattering of pictures I liked best.

Day 1. The Journey of 6000 miles
Day 2. Rules of the Road
Day 3. Just Don’t
Day 4. Bloom Here.
Day 5. Yes Aretha. Respect.
Day 6. No Trucks. Just Corn.
Day 7. Cry
Day 8. There’s No Place Like Home
Day 9. It’s Okay to Ask a Human for Help
Day 10. Always Bring an Onion
Day 11. Gimme Three Steps Towards Nevada
Day 12. I Want to Scream.
Day 13. Dusty Virgin
Day 14: Magical ride
Day 15. As Nice as I Want to Be
Day 16. What Rules? What Road?
Day 17. If you get interrupted by a parade …
Day 18. I, Human
Day 19. A Border Crossing
Day 20. Someone to Help Me Get Home
Day 21. Time flies like an arrow and ….
Day 22. Stop, or Else …
Day 23. What’s Your Reality?
Day 24. If it seems ridiculous …
Day 25. Backing Up
Day 26. To Stop a Hurricane
Day 27. Lights Along My Path
Day 28. Grateful

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on September 20, 2018 in travel, writing

 

Tags: , , , , ,

Day 21. Time flies like an arrow and ….

fruit flies like a banana. Thank you Groucho Marx, because this day needed a little humor.

Today, day 21, has the longest single drive of this adventure, and in addition we re-enter Mountain Time and lose an hour. We’re already preparing for a long day through Utah and Southern Colorado when an old friend in Durango contacts me out of the blue.

Next thing I know we’re texting and we’ve changed our route to go through his town and have lunch because isn’t this amazing. Yes, it is great to see him, but throw in a little road construction and a couple of other longer stops than expected and we arrive well into the dark, 14 clock hours after we left.

Not a problem, except this Airbnb is along the unlit and poorly marked dirt roads west of Trinidad. Our host’s verbal directions are vague (and not entirely accurate) and once we make a wrong turn, my phone is so flummoxed it shows us heading across a pasture, which we clearly are not.

Frustrations are rising, so I call our host and describe our location. Yay for good phone service. She directs us back to a good starting place and then talks us, landmark by landmark, to the edge of her long driveway where she meets us with a flashlight to guide us in. Some Airbnb hosts go well beyond the expected. Yay for nice people.

We make a vow we’ve often made before, to allow more time tomorrow than we think we need. I decide this promise is worthy of being a rule of the road and more. I’ve been told the easiest way to reduce stress in one’s life is to leave early. Allow plenty of time and you don’t get hassled. I promise to take this lesson seriously once I get home.

The frazzled nature of the day has me craving soft music and pretty sounds as I get ready for bed. I think of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, maybe because we’ve driven through so much of the area settled by the LDS. I’m not particularly religious, but an old spiritual is wafting through my head as I settle down for the night and I look to see if the Mormon Tabernacle Choir ever sang it.

Of course they did, and it’s beautiful. I realize I’ve felt like a wayfaring stranger a lot for the past three weeks, and after a long and difficult day, the song brings me peace as I fall asleep.

 

 
14 Comments

Posted by on September 12, 2018 in being better, peace, travel

 

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Day 20. Someone to Help Me Get Home

Today it’s back on the road, but different. My husband met me in Reno last night, and we will share the 3000 mile drive home as we visit family and friends along the way. I’m glad to be with him, even though I’m worn out from my time at Burning Man. Honestly, it also feels good to have a driving partner, and someone to help me get home.

However, the car is more crowded with him and his luggage, and we both feel cramped. We have 500 miles to go today, most of it through Nevada on Highway 50, the country’s self-proclaimed loneliest stretch of road. We keep the gas tank at least half full, stopping at almost every available station because we know how few and far between they are.

There are no trees out here. Hell, there are hardly even bushes. We marvel at the wide expanse of nothing as we take turns driving, and treating ourselves to coffee, sodas and coconut water purchased at each gas stop as we whittle down the miles.

After a while though, all those liquid treats begin to catch up with us. An eager look at the map shows the next town is, well, quite a few miles a way.

“We can make it,” my husband declares. But after about twenty more minutes he is squirming in his seat, and finally he pulls over.

“Sorry,” he says. “I’ve got to go.” He steps off to the ditch and does what he needs to do.

Now, have you ever really, really had to pee and listened to somebody else take a leak that goes on and on and on? If you have, you’ll understand. There may be no bushes to hide in, but at that point, I don’t care. I join him on the side of the road, doing my thing the way I have to do it.

“That was kind of embarrassing,” he mumbles. I agree. But nobody passes us from either direction, so there are some advantages to a lonely stretch of highway.

This wouldn’t be a story worth telling, except that we get back in the car and round a slight hill and there is it. A sign saying “Rest Area One Mile.” Now, I am sure we have not passed a single Rest Area in the entire state of Nevada. This one had no advance signs and is nowhere near anything. But there it is, a nice bathroom facility just waiting for us.

And they say the universe doesn’t have a sense of humor.

Today’s rule of the road? Do what you have to do when you have to do it, even though you never know what might be waiting for you around the next bend.

Today’s song? Join me in enjoying the Goo Goo Dolls asking to be taken home. It’s exactly how I feel today.

If you’d like to read a short blurb from each day of my journey, check out
Day 1. The Journey of 6000 miles
Day 2. Rules of the Road
Day 3. Just Don’t
Day 4. Bloom Here.
Day 5. Yes Aretha. Respect.
Day 6. No Trucks. Just Corn.
Day 7. Cry
Day 8. There’s No Place Like Home
Day 9. It’s Okay to Ask a Human for Help
Day 10. Always Bring an Onion
Day 11. Gimme Three Steps Towards Nevada
Day 12. I Want to Scream.
Day 13. Dusty Virgin
Day 14: Magical ride
Day 15. As Nice as I Want to Be
Day 16. What Rules? What Road?
Day 17. If you get interrupted by a parade …
Day 18. I, Human
Day 19. A Border Crossing
Day 20. Someone to Help Me Get Home
Day 21. Time flies like an arrow and ….
Day 22. Stop, or Else …
Day 23. What’s Your Reality?
Day 24. If it seems ridiculous …
Day 25. Backing Up
Day 26. To Stop a Hurricane
Day 27. Lights Along My Path
Day 28. Grateful

 

 

 

 
12 Comments

Posted by on September 11, 2018 in travel

 

Tags: , , , , ,

Day 14: Magical ride

Yesterday was so exhausting that I sleep for nine hours on an air mattress without waking up once, while the soft slow bass of far off electronic music mixes with the wind and dust outside my tent. I wake to a chaos of supplies I dumped randomly, in the hope that I would wake with the energy to sort through it. I do, and, after a cup of coffee, I do.

This day is as dusty as yesterday, with short bursts of almost no visibility. I’m determined to survive in this and I fill the day with getting settled in to my camp and doing a little preliminary exploration. The beach bike I have brought to the playa is perfect, its fat tires riding smooth and sturdy over the desert.

As twilight comes, the winds stop, and the world takes on a carnival glow. Color is everywhere, blinking and twinkling in the most unexpected of shapes. My camp mates invite me out for a bike ride on the deep playa, that place away from the campers where art cars roam and art installations glitter, waiting to be admired.

Today’s rule of the road? Don’t let a day determine for you how the evening will go. I shrug off my dusty scarf and join them.

Our first stop is at the DMV, Department of Mutant Vehicles, where many of the art cars are lined up waiting to get their permits to roam. Yes, even at Burning Man one stands in line to get a permit.

We pause to take in their beauty, then we head out, each stopping to admire whatever shiny thing takes our fancy. Groups seldom stay together out here, as I learn, but often find themselves magically reuniting.

Magic is the word of the night for me. The world around me has turned from a dust bowl into a dream of a fantasy tale set in a science fiction world created by a magician. It goes on as far as my eyes can see, with a depth and scale no screen could capture.

I stop my bike and just stare, somewhere between amazement and disbelief.

Many camps near the edge of the open playa offer drinks or dancing. One has set up a roller rink.

Music of all kinds plays around me. I am surprised by the number of classic rock tunes I recognize as they mix with the ever present dance music. I hear this particular old favorite at least twice, and deem it the song of the day.

 
13 Comments

Posted by on September 5, 2018 in travel

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Day 13. Dusty Virgin

I’ve decided to not set an alarm, but to let my body pick when it is time to go. It must be ready for the adventure ahead, because I’m up at dawn and wide awake. I load the last of my things into Olive Oil, my trusty FJ Cruiser, and she and I begin the 100 mile drive that has worried me since I left home twelve days ago.

I’m headed north from Fernley Nevada to the Black Rock Desert to participate in an annual ritual of creativity, self-reliance and playfulness known as Burning Man. I’ve never gone before, making me what is known as a virgin burner. It’s been a few years since I’ve been called a virgin anything.

Law enforcement officials are known for lining this drive and pulling over drivers for minor infractions during the start of this event. I’m not carrying anything illegal, but the prospect of being searched on the side of the road has me nervous.

I have an early access pass, but it looks like a lot of other people do too. I join the line of ants making its way towards the playa as we all scrupulously follow every speed limit, and always come to a complete stop. It’s my lucky day. No one bothers me or anyone around me.

By 9:15 I’ve reached my destination, or at least I think I have. I don’t realize how slow a process it is to enter this event. I inch my way forward to the gate in eight lanes of traffic. The dust is sometimes so heavy that I cannot see well enough to stay in my lane so I move over to the edge, so I can follow the flagging. At one point I can’t see more than five feet from my front window and I start to have serious doubts about the wisdom of being here.

As the hours wear on, I text my family final farewells. I eat my lunch. I play yesterday’s theme song, Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D Minor, a couple of times. After a while, I need to pee so bad that I leave my car keys with the strangers in the car behind me so they can inch my vehicle along for me while I run to the porta-potties. Such trust seems perfectly natural here. Besides, where exactly could they go with my car, anyway?

Nearly four hours after arriving, I arrive. My ticket is examined, my car is searched, and I am officially greeted. Virgins like me are invited to make a dust angle in the desert’s fine alkaline soil and to ring a bell to let the playa know we are here. I realize this is a more emotional moment than expected when I hit the bell with a vigor that surprises me and everyone else.

As I make my way through the labyrinth leading to my camp, I put on my goggles and my scarf. I’m about to set up a tent in the dust. I don’t know why, but I am so glad to be here.

Today’s rule of the road? Don’t let a little dust stop you from doing what you want to do.

And today’s song. What else could it be?

If you’d like to read a short blurb from each day of my journey, check out
Day 1. The Journey of 6000 miles
Day 2. Rules of the Road
Day 3. Just Don’t
Day 4. Bloom Here.
Day 5. Yes Aretha. Respect.
Day 6. No Trucks. Just Corn.
Day 7. Cry
Day 8. There’s No Place Like Home
Day 9. It’s Okay to Ask a Human for Help
Day 10. Always Bring an Onion
Day 11. Gimme Three Steps Towards Nevada
Day 12. I Want to Scream.
Day 13. Dusty Virgin
Day 14: Magical ride
Day 15. As Nice as I Want to Be
Day 16. What Rules? What Road?
Day 17. If you get interrupted by a parade …
Day 18. I, Human
Day 19. A Border Crossing
Day 20. Someone to Help Me Get Home
Day 21. Time flies like an arrow and ….
Day 22. Stop, or Else …
Day 23. What’s Your Reality?
Day 24. If it seems ridiculous …
Day 25. Backing Up
Day 26. To Stop a Hurricane
Day 27. Lights Along My Path
Day 28. Grateful
 
12 Comments

Posted by on September 4, 2018 in travel

 

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Day 6. No Trucks. Just Corn.

Heading down the road this morning, and my sister wants me to turn my 5 /12 hour, 367 mile trip into a six hour trip. The mileage is about the same but I’d be keeping to the less driven State Highway 20 which, she swears, lacks the wall-to-wall trucks Interstate 80 is known for. You will have a better day, she insists.

Okay. What’s half an hour? I figure out early to turn my phone off, so I don’t have to listen to it trying to reroute me down to 80 every five minutes, and I head out into the corn fields. Literally, there are corn fields on every side of me as far as the eye can see.

Should I have gone the other route? Should I have planned for this route ahead of time and found a place to stay in Sioux City instead? Should I have filled gas before I left because it doesn’t look like there are a lot of gas stations out here in these corn fields? Should I this? Should I that?

I hush myself. Rule six needs to be no second guessing, I decide. The cornfields are lovely. The trucks are few. Iowa stretches on out to the sky. The day is mild, so I roll my windows down low and turn my music up high. The corn won’t mind the noise at all.

I open my play list of songs about being on the road, and sing along with the first one that happens to play. It fits right in, and I think even the corn likes it.

 
8 Comments

Posted by on August 19, 2018 in being better, travel

 

Tags: , , , , ,

Building Peace on Blue Mountain

I’ve just spent a week in Paradise. Okay, technically is was Costa Rica and my paradise was created by a genuinely loving but also savvy retreat center. I was fed fresh picked fruit, gently steered away from news and conventional entertainment, and encouraged to walk through lovely gardens and reflect. It worked and I did.

I also knew I was in a paradise created for those with the cash and support system to allow them to go on this sort of retreat. The idea of having people less fortunate than I conspire to create an idyllic week for me would normally give me at least some first world heartburn, but it didn’t. Here’s why.

I’m lucky enough to know more about this place and the people who run it. Human beings simply don’t come more compassionate. Employees are rewarded and respected and most have become family even if they didn’t start out that way. The degree of affection they have for each other is well beyond what any staff could be coached to fake.

The center, known as La Montaña Azul, is dedicated to sustaining the local environment. Located along the Talari River southeast of San Jose, the retreat has allocated 95% of its land (116 acres) as a natural sanctuary to protect the river and its flora and fauna. In addition, its proceeds support the local schools, help maintain the roads, and allow the center to provide free classes for the community. It’s hard to argue that you are doing harm by forking over your hard earned vacation dollars to this oasis of love.

IMG_5816This visit was my fourth one. I come here to study qigong, an ancient Chinese form of moving meditation that emphasizes energy flow and has helped both my writing and my wholeness as a human being over the last five years. I’m a different person without qigong, and not nearly as pleasant a one.

At this particular visit, I wasn’t surprised to learn that the center has taken on a new cause. They wish to bring about world peace. One might argue they’ve been slowly working at that all along, but this new approach is rather specific.

They have joined forces with an international group known as Peacebuilders. This amazing organization is striving to use restorative practices like meditation to keep young people out of the criminal justice system, to assist those of all ages in prisons and to further social justice. Though it has a presence in many countries, Peacebuilders is based out of Toronto and most active in Canada, where the organization began.

In Costa Rica, efforts are concentrated on the prison system. Inmates with sentences of forty or more years are trained in meditation, voluntarily spending hours a day in the program. The results are amazing. Recently, several such prisoners were certified to instruct others, as the program grows.

La Montaña Azul’s involvement began when the diminutive older woman who is manager and part owner of the retreat center walked, without guards, into a locked room filled with some of Costa Rica’s most hardened criminals. She laughs as she confesses she thought the guards were coming in behind her. The prisoners listened to her offer of an alternative, and today the retreat center provides instructors, resources and funds for the program. Guests at the retreat are asked to provide funds also.

You know we all did. After a week in Paradise, world peace seems like a totally reasonable goal. I hope the feeling will last.

 

 
3 Comments

Posted by on July 22, 2018 in peace, travel

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

 
%d bloggers like this: