Rome & Rental Cars: a Sweat to Remember?

Fern Brady — author and rental car ace!

NOTE: What’s your worse rental car nightmare? Fern Brady returns to RoadBroads to share hers. 

Guest blogger Fern Brady is the founder and CEO of Inklings Publishing. She’s worked as a foreign correspondent, schoolteacher, and realtor. Fern’s publishing credits include two children’s picture books, and multiple short stories and poems. Next comes her debut novel, United Vidden (Book One in her Jornian Chronicles Series). Follow Fern’s writing at: www.fernbrady.com. 

Thank you, Fern, for joining our RoadBroads team today! - Melanie & Ellen


Rome & Rental Cars: A Sweat to Remember?

After nearly missing our flight from Germany, we landed in Rome, Italy.

Ten o’clock in the morning and the four of us thrilled to a full afternoon of exploring.

All we needed was a car.

First, we had to find the car rental hub.

Winding our way through the congested airport, we lugged our five pieces of checked luggage and four carry‐ons then crossed a connecting skywalk. Entering the rental offices, we froze.

In horror. We had arrived in Donut Land.

Double doors opened up into a cramped round space. Employee offices centered the donut. Along the outside wall, individual rental car companies staffed counters crowded with passenger‐packed lines that jutted out like spokes on a wheel. I counted fifteen people in one line. They looked like us, tired travelers who craved any place but here.

At the entry, we noticed a floor mat with the room’s layout. Our car company was located, of course, on the opposite side of where we stood. We would need to make our way through every other line to get to ours.

I think it would be better if I stay here with the luggage,” I turned to my brother and father who were still trying to sort out the room’s diagram. “So we don’t have to go through these thick crowds with our stuff.

It’s time for baggage island,” I began to move our stuff to an out‐of‐the‐way corner where I could guard our luggage at my back.

My brother stared at the overcrowded space and sighed, “Good idea.”

Next to him stood his wife, Mariely. She turned to the hub.

Okay, we’ll get this done. Text us if you need something,” she said before squaring off as if ready to lead us into battle. My brother and father flanked her. The trio left. I stood there. On guard, and sweating.

It. Was. Hot. Like no A/C hot. Like dripping‐down‐everywhere sweat hot.

The lines grew. More and more people arrived. Hours ticked by. Other baggage islands began to form as passengers realized what I was doing.

I became an archipelago.

A line formed right next to me. With a child. Random, arbitrary, piercing shrieks issued from The Creature. Her parents ignored her as they tried to coordinate something with others of their party. I threw The Creature my best ‘teacher look.’ It worked for a time but had to be reissued periodically.

Two and a half hours later, we’re told we have a car.

We streamed sweat as we hauled our luggage through the bustling airport to the car pickup area. And, no, the car was not ready.

An hour later, we learned the insurance was incomplete. Runarounds ensued. My brother returned to the original counter attendant. Another told us a different story. We sweated. We steamed. We waited.

At seven p.m.—nine hours after we landed in Rome—we had a car.

A station wagon. Roomy. Cool.

We drove to the hotel then walked to dinner.

Declaring Self

Greatest gift from my recent 11‐day road trip?

This objet d’art, customized at a Boulder end‐of‐summer festival:

Repurposed license plate from Texas and Colorado redefines a life. Thanks to Neil and Blaise of www.JunkLoveArt!

With the plate, I now own the title.

Full‐time. With pride.

Thank you, Colorado.

Thank you, Oregon.

Recent excursions north and west marked one of the best trips ever for DH and me. That’s a meaningful brag, given how many places we’ve explored in 34 years of co‐adventuring.

More details in the weeks to come.

When I’m rested.

Yes, from vacation.

Losing Faith in Shining Moments

Inspiration arrives in odd places.

Its opposite does, too.

For years, the writings of Stephen King have enchanted, even as they terrified. The Stand. Carrie. The Shining.

DH and I planned our summer playtime around two creative locales: Boulder, CO and Portland, OR. From Boulder, he insisted on a quick jaunt to his old childhood haunt — Estes Park, CO. I replied, Stanley Hotel.

Copyright G. Wigler 2017

My mind raced to memorable scenes from the film made from King’s novel, The Shining.

”Redrum” scrawled in blood across a bathroom mirror.

Jack Nicholson taunting, “Here’s Johnny!” through a cracked‐open door.

A hundred sheets of paper filled with a single sentence, repeated over and over — “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.”

Memory reminded me the movie was filmed at the Stanley Hotel in Estes Park. What could be more fun than seeing the mirror, the door, the paper.

Then we did. Saw the paper.

What you can’t see in the typewriter photo is what’s beneath the space bar. A red cautionary note warns the tempted: CAUTION! Old! Do Not Touch! 

This third sign confirmed our suspicions. Nothing was as it seemed with either the hotel or the movie.

The first was the entry fee.

To enter the hotel parking lot — guest, visitor, whomever — you discover a $10 entry fee that “you only pay one time but you receive this $5 gold coin which you can use in our gift shop or restaurant.”

You mean the Stanley keeps $5 to stave off the unwanted, the cheap, and the wise.

We discussed leaving. As we did, a line of cars grew to the street. The parking gate behind the guard was down. He glared at us as DH and I strategized. My writerly curiousity won, we paid the ten and drove in, both of us irritated to a slow burn.

Seventy minutes later into our tour (another $20 per person, the reduced senior rate) and I seethed.

The movie was filmed in Oregon, not Colorado.

Because a different hotel was used, there’s no basement bar. No maze either. Except…

…for this: what the Stanley built itself. Three years ago. How many years is that post‐movie?

Room 217 is where Stephen King slept the night he conceived The Shining. Hotel officials asked the movie’s director to change the room number to 237. Here’s why: 

Room 217 never has a posted number. Novel readers are smart people. They figure things out. Eventually.

Kimg hated the movie so much, he helped to fund a later mini‐series of his novel. Filmed at the Stanley.

It is a beautiful, old hotel. With a rich heritage. And a clever marketing staff.

But now, when I think The Shining, bile fills my throat. I remember what the marriage of marketing and money‐making can create.

I hope Stephen King gets a cut of the Stanley dough.

I got mine. It’s a $5 gold coin. Forgot to use it when I bought that #217 room marker.

Road Trip Twist

NOTE: Not all road trips are alike. The following story offers a compelling twist on the Journey tale, one that only Kay Cox — our dear writing retreat friend — could tell, and well.

Guest blogger Kay L. Cox writes poetry and stories from her San Antonio home. She’s an experienced blogger (check out her writings on www.picklesandroses.blogspot.com). Earlier, Kay worked as an art and family therapist, teaching graduate‐level art therapy classes in the US and abroad.

Thank you, Kay, for joining our RoadBroads team today! — Melanie & Ellen


Road Trip With a Twist

Kay L. Cox

My lunch plate that Friday held sliced roast beef, slathered with gravy. But the instant mashed potatoes looked like a sauce, thanks to too much liquid on top. I spy broccoli. Fresh broccoli. I can’t wait. I grab my fork. Then the broccoli’s so tough, my fork can’t cut it and even my knife has a hard time. It’s so tough, I can hardly chew it.

I open my mouth to complain. Then I remember.

The previous Sunday. Dinner at my son’s house.

Emotion overwhelms me.

My family is active with local churches in helping documented migrant families as they head through San Antonio enroute to their next destination by bus. We were asked to house two families. One family stayed one night. The other was a young father, Juan, and his 2 ½ year old son, Ricardo.

When I arrived at my son’s house, the pair sat on the sofa watching television. Ricardo snuggled, sleeping, on his father’s chest. I greeted Juan in Spanish. He nodded, giving me a big smile. I noticed an ankle monitor on Juan. What have we come to in this country?

I went to the kitchen to help prepare the dinner. Chicken casserole and steamed broccoli. Soon, Ricardo awoke and Juan sat him in his lap to eat. Ricardo’s big brown eyes and shy smile won our hearts. He was so well behaved, almost too quiet. I surmised that in his long treacherous journey from Guatemala he had been taught to be very quiet. Ricardo looked at the plate in front of him. His eyes grew bigger still as he looked at the plate in front of him.

He picked up a piece of broccoli, looking at it as if he had never seen such a vegetable. He spoke softly to his dad. With my limited Spanish, I think he called the broccoli a tree before plopping it in his mouth. Then he picked up another, looking at each “tree” carefully before putting each piece in his mouth. Over and over, Ricardo did this, eating bite after bite. I think his body was craving fresh, green food. I wondered when he had last had fresh vegetables.

Never have I seen a child that young eat broccoli like that. Any complaints I might ever have about food from now on fall into a different perspective. I have so much to be grateful for.

My daughter in law bought clothes and diapers for Ricardo, along with snacks and books in Spanish, and his long journey with his father riding multiple buses to Washington. She found a children’s backpack and filled it. Ricardo proudly put it on and clung to her leg at the bus station when she turned them over to the woman who guided them to their correct bus.

What a beautiful experience to share what we take for granted. We were able to make a difference in making someone’s life easier.

I will never eat broccoli again – be it steamed‐to‐mush, raw or tough — without thinking of Ricardo and Juan. And I’ll feel grateful.

All we have to do is be kind to each other. It’s that simple to create change.

Calling Starfish Quinoa

Remember last week’s photo?

Here’s an update:

Welcome to life in the suburbs where a single damaged tree merits the grass treatment. As in mow it down. Its two pesky neighbors must go, too.

While you’re at it, get creative. You know, like a writer. Leave behind a mutant starfish in all three tree places.

Zoom in on the first picture above to see the name on the brick block in the back center of this frame. It reads MATRIX. This word nerd thought immediately of Keanu Reeves and his Neo film trilogy. Taking it a step further (because it’s one of those weird info‐junkie practices of mine), I researched the word on‐line. Dictionary.com cites “matrix” as a biology term: “ground substance.” Chill bumps broke out — the exact new form of this old tree. So ground into the earth, I thought of cooked red quinoa. Can you see it?

Odd metaphors of wood and grains. Actually, there’s nothing odd or weird about my writer eyes. I call them Imagination. In the matrix, who knows what we’re really looking at anyway?

On a lighter note, a photo from a RoadBroad weekend:


No imagination necessary — that truck was pointing at me, but under tow away from me. Odd sensation to drive behind this. And a first in 45 years on the road.

What Began Around Memorial Day

I’m home!

Melanie and I drove back to Houston yesterday. We got back a day early, but wanted to get ahead of any potential bad weather. After enjoying the low humidity and temperatures in the mountains, I am now enjoying the rain and humidity of the Gulf Coast. It is just too much fun to have my glasses fog up every time I walk outside.

I did face a bit of a welcoming committee as soon as I walked in the door last night:

Yes, there are two cats in the picture. Vesta, the Siamese, just likes to blend in with the carpet. By now they have almost forgiven me for abandoning them for so long — even if they were left in very capable and loving hands.

Today was a day to rest and begin to settle back in to home life. I only did one load of laundry, but I went through all of the mail that had piled up and I caught up with emails and messages. Even unpacked one of the two suitcases that traveled with me. I don’t want to do too much too fast and risk hurting myself. You know how that goes, don’t you?

Since I started off this blog writing about going to the Alley Theater to see Picasso at the Lapin Agile, it is only fitting that I end this segment of the blog with another trip to the Alley Theater. Tonight I saw a really good play on the downstairs stage at the Alley called, The Cake. Good story with humor, drama, food for thought and a happy ending:

After they play, they literally served small pieces of cake to all audience members. Yum!

Tomorrow I have a list of errands to run, unless it is raining too much. The good part about retirement is that I don’t have to set an alarm clock and if the weather is too bad, then I don’t have to go anywhere! Maybe I will just stay home all day reading and writing. Yes, retirement is good.

I am going to take a few days off from blogging. Both Melanie and I will return in a few days to share more adventures of the RoadBroads. Keep checking back and have a great week.

Good night!