Boulder At Last!

Early this morning we had to leave the wonderful Dream Catcher Bed and Breakfast in Taos to head out for another day of exciting travel. That bed sure was comfortable and the people there sure were nice. Even Jake, the dog and official B&B greeter, was a delight as you can see in his picture.

But our focus is getting to Boulder for the writing retreat. And, on the way, we needed to pick up Diana (another “Sister RoadBroad”) at the Denver airport. I enjoyed the wonderful travel through New Mexico as we were continuously hugged by all of the beautiful mountains. I could stare out at that scenery for hours on end.

Finally we arrived in Colorado. We took our first stop in what looked to me as a typical Colorado town called Walensberg. We visited a coffee shop called Serendipity that was right across the street from a building called “Roof and Dick”. There has to be a good story behind that name. Maybe one day I will write about it.

Inside the coffee shop there was a young gentleman playing the guitar and all of the pastries were homemade. I got the biggest cup of coffee available and Melanie got tea and a blueberry pastry. As people came in to the shop, you could tell everyone knew everyone else. I got the sense that some of the folks went by the coffee shop every morning for their daily caffeine requirement.

All through Colorado the wind blew and Melanie white‐knuckled the steering wheel to keep our car on the road. I once again fulfilled the role of navigator and tried not to forget too many important turns. Driving through places like Pueblo and Colorado Springs the traffic became more and more congested.

Colorado has as much road construction as Texas. At one point we slowed down when we had to pass a four car pile‐up. Then we really slowed down when we had to pass what was only described as “police activity”. We never did find out what that was except that there were 6 to 8 squad cars, one guy with a large camera looking out over a bridge and several other men gathered around. Mystery or mysteries.

Driving around Denver from the Airport to the Brown Palace for lunch I observed that traffic is as bad in Denver as it is in Houston. Of course it is Friday and people want to get away from work to start their weekends.

Once we turned off onto the road that led us into Boulder, traffic once again lightened up. We arrived at our home away from home, dropped off our luggage and made it to downtown Boulder for dinner. This gathering was the official opening of the writing retreat.

On the way to the dinner, I took a picture of Boulder Creek. The weather here is beautiful with no humidity and full sunshine. In Houston the temperature is in the triple digits. Here in Boulder the high temperature today was about 86 degrees. I think I am going to like it here.

Now off to unpack and get some good rest. I have a busy week ahead of me.

Late & Lovely

It’s after 11 p.m. TX time & we’re only now in our Taos B&B.

So much to see and eat as we cruised across two states. Already Amarillo feels like a week ago.

That’s because, for both of us, today was lovely. For different reasons.

For Ellen, Santa Fe buzzed with memory and possibility.

For Melanie, Taos reconfirmed where home is.

More details manana after we reach our third state in three days. Of course, who knows what state we’ll really be in…

Our writing retreat — led by the magnificent and incomparable Max Regan — begins tomorrow night. And that’s the real reason we RoadBroads hit the highway in the first place!

Since I’m writing this post on my cell phone (& I’m cranky & tired), only one trip pic tonight:

Can you identify what this photo is? Hint: it’s deep, it’s wet, and it flows.

Amarillo!

We made it! Our first day on the road is a success! Melanie and I arrived all the way to Amarillo after only 10 hours of driving (following 4 hours of sleep).

Sam Houston guided us by pointing the way north from Huntsville and our journey heated up!

The weather was good, if not warm, and the traffic, tolerable. I don’t even mind that the temperature reached into the upper 90s, the humidity is very low here compared to the Texas Gulf Coast. Tomorrow the temperatures will be even cooler and I cannot wait!

Melanie did all of the driving today while I co‐piloted with the use of a AAA Trip Tik. Loved the turn‐by‐turn directions. Really helpful when driving in and out of road construction that seems to plague every conceivable road and highway in Texas. Counted 14 cops running radar from Houston to Fort Worth. Funny how all the police disappeared in Cowtown. We could have used their help in navigating the worst road construction since TXDot started ripping apart the Gulf Freeway.

One of our first stops on the road turned out to be a Stuckey’s. I remember taking family vacations many years ago and we stopped at many Stuckey’s along the road. This is the first one I have seen in a really long time. Now this fine establishment is famous for fudge and sausages. I did not sample either.

Then while driving down the road, we passed many wind farms. I have never seen one up close before. I was amazed at how big the fan blades on the wind turbines are (I hope that is what you call them) and pleasantly surprised at how many wind farms there are in this part of Texas.

We drove through Memphis. Having grown up in Memphis, Tennessee, I found this quite entertaining. No, it does not take much to excite me during a 10‐hour car ride. Memphis, Texas is much smaller than Memphis, Tennessee. We drove through it pretty quickly.

Finally we reached Amarillo and stopped for the night. And, of course, nothing says “Lone Star State” like the Big Texan Steak Ranch. The deal here is that you can get a 72 ounce steak for free if you can eat the steak and all the trimmings within an hour. Yes, there are people who really take this challenge and succeed. Being a vegetarian myself, I munched on a salad, sweet potato, roll and iced tea.

No one took the challenge while we were there, but Melanie and I did get serenaded by some fine Cowboys. They sang The Yellow Rose of Texas.

Day one successfully completed. Now time for a long sleep before heading out for more adventures tomorrow in Santa Fe and Taos.

This road trip keeps getting more exciting!

Tick Tick Tick Tick…

I’m in trouble now. Serious time trouble. 

Can all this fit into that luggage?

In 8 hours and 15 minutes — yes, I’m counting — I must leave my house. Ellen expects me at her doorstep at 6:15 a‐m. Wake‐up for me comes one hour before.

At least it’s a makeup free drive. We agreed.

I digress.

A nine‐hour‐plus drive to Amarillo dictates our early departure. Land after 6:30 a‐m on any Bayou City roadway, especially US 59 heading to I‐45, and the asphalt clogs up. RoadBroads don’t do slow.

I digress again. My apologies. Look up there at the trashy picture. Can you figure out what’s not yet done?

But wait. Turn around, leave this room, look to your right. You’ll spot three piles of dirty laundry. Head down the hall, you’ll find an unfinished stack of June‐due bill payments. In the kitchen rests a week of RoadBroad blog papers to sort and file. Intensifying the growing overwhelm is the June family calendar: two birthdays followed by Father’s Day times four.

All awaiting these diminishing overnight hours, and this blog post.

At least, Mother Nature cooperates. Boulder weather shows 88 degree highs and 56 degree lows. Amarillo temps for tomorrow mirror Houston, less the coastal humidity. From my childhood I remember the dry heat of the Texas Panhandle. Translation? Manana, even in an air‐conditioned car, demands less. Tank top and shorts. Less equals cooler. For this post‐menopausal chauffeur and her human cargo, cool matters. As in non‐negotiable.

This begs what may be my salvation tonight. Hot weather means fewer clothes equals less to pack. Or should I pack more outfits because wet and sweaty demands dry and cool?

When did I get too old for this kind of silliness? Mind mania has set in, my god.

My brain hurts. I’m tired. And I’ve got miles of things to finish before I sleep. I can’t pull a Scarlett, either. Tonight and Ellen dictate action and completion. So off I go to take care of all the silly busywork a 19‐day RoadBroads adventure demands. Who knows when it’s lights out for me tonight. Besides, I’ll probably go all “journey proud,” as my grandmother used to say, and not sleep a wink.

We’ll see. Instead, I’ll leave you with what I saw on my morning walk.

The trio of deer lolled in the Full Moon morning, the sun insisting this day belonged to the animals.

Can you find the three deer?

I hope to observe similar vistas in the road days ahead. Amarillo or Santa Fe or Taos or Denver or Boulder.

Crossing fingers.

And off to pack.

Memorial Day

Memorial Day 2018. Let me begin by remembering the reason for this day which is to honor those who gave their lives in service for this Country.

Also today is a first for me. It is the first holiday of my retirement. Always in the past I have thought about Memorial Day as the long weekend before summer gets into full swing. Many people start their summer by vacationing this week. Personally, I have never vacationed around this time. I always thought this was time for people who had kids getting out of school for the summer to begin their family vacations.

My retirement is still new enough that I feel particularly excited knowing that tomorrow morning my former co‐workers will return to the office while I continue with my road journey preparations. Will all holidays feel like this from now on? I am hoping for the good vibes to continue through at least the first six to twelve months. I hope my former co‐workers do not hold that against me. This year I am, according to the USA Today, joining 41.5 million Americans projected to travel this week. EGAD! That’s a lot of us. Before I always had the pleasure of staying at home, listening to the news and hearing about all of the traffic. Now I will be in the middle of it. Hopefully everyone else will be where they are going by the time I get on the road. Watch out everybody! RoadBroads are on the loose and on the highways!

So, how did I spend my last weekend before heading out to the Wild West? Obviously I did not finish all of my travel preparations. Like Melanie, I am going to finish as much as I can and then leave. I will throw a bunch of suit cases in the back of the car and hope I have packed anything helpful or necessary. It does not help when I do a load of laundry, set some of the clean clothes aside for folding and hanging only to have Vesta, the cat, deposit a nice fluffy hair ball on them. Have I started packing? Of course not. 

I did go see a really good documentary over the weekend at the Museum of Fine Arts called, Lives Well Lived. Senior citizens aged 75 to 100 were interviewed to share their wisdom for living a long and meaningful life. Some of the interviewees reminded me of my Aunt Grace who lived to be 94 years old. She was active and independent until the very end. During our last conversation she told me to enjoy every day of my life. What a wonderful role model she was for me.Last night I went to the Alley Theater and saw Picasso at the Lapin Agile. It is a very funny play where Pablo Picasso and Albert Einstein meet in a bar. They discuss the differences between the creative process involved in scientific discovery and the creative process involved in developing works of art. I’ve known my share of both Scientists and Artists. Both groups tend to be full of very creative people. We need examples from both groups to keep society going. I am hoping for lots and lots of creativity during the writing retreat in Boulder. Can’t wait!

Now I am off and running to do more laundry and packing!

60 Hours to Launch a Road Trip…

and I’m letting go.

No more completing four page To Do lists.

No more pretending Wonder Woman inhabits my body.

My fantasy life exploded deep inside last night’s thunder and lightning storm.

At 7 p.m., the power went out, the computer crashed and into the weather ethers vanished three hours of writing. DH and I bailed, checking into a nearby hotel. Our disappearing act followed power company candor:  ‘we’ll have your power restored…some time later in the evening.”

What worried hands grab in dark lightning.

House temps rising above 80 degrees sped up our split. So did a scary black sky. Misery threatened overnight with lightning streaks boomed down to light the night, four belts at a time. I looked at Chuck, he looked at me and, with flashlights in hand, grabbed familiar bags in the dark. 

The two red bags hold everything two ex‐crisis communications consultants once needed for client emergency response. Odd to be both client and consultant in a single run of hours last night.

This morning, with the sun shining, I looked at last night’s haul and whispered to myself, “Too much luggage for one night.” But from somewhere deep inside came the defense:  we didn’t know what we would need — and we couldn’t see in the dark. We just responded. 

I’ve learned a lot about plans and fantasies in the last 24 hours. To wit:

  • John Lennon was right when he (or someone) said: “Life is what happens to you when you have other plans.”
  • I’ve lost 24 hours that I’d counted on to finish several Very Vital, Absolutely Must‐Be‐Done Projects that demanded completion before beginning any of the road trip nitty‐gritty preparation.
  • This afternoon, I sheared off two‐thirds of the Vital from the above‐mentioned To Do list. I have 60 hours to finish Everything. That’s on top of several outside must‐keep appointments, critical errands (gasoline in the car, hello?), along with routine daily chores.
  • Vital Learning: Vital can wait. It must. Truth is — cough, cough — most of it’s been waiting a long time anyway. C’est le vie.
  • Vital Learning: Road Trip packing list got major‐sheared. As in I’m packing half of what I’d earlier planned. No way I have time to pack everything I’d considered Vital only a day ago. I’ve got more important things to finish.
  • Vital Learning: When did Vital become so important to daily living?
  • Speaking of, next trip I take, I’m adding a blank page to the front of my Trip To‐Do List. The paper carries a single two‐word headline: The Unexpected. That’s Vital, too.

When life rolls, I rock. What else can a RoadBroad do?

Details and Mindfulness

I just read Melanie’s blog post about her experience at the Sherlock Holmes exhibit at the Houston Museum of Natural Science. I went to the same exhibition and, even though I went early in the morning before all the school children arrived, I still needed help solving the crime puzzle. Obviously I need to hone my skills at observing the details.

My life has been so hectic in the past few months, I am proud just to say that I am keeping up with everything. Yet, here I am heading for a long road trip where I can slow down and look. We are going through Santa Fe, New Mexico. The home of my favorite artist, Georgia O’Keefe!

Again, for those of you not familiar with the art of Georgia O’Keefe, please Google. Again, I will wait for you. She painted a lot of big flowers and a good deal of the landscape around the Santa Fe area.

One of my favorite quotes of O’Keefe’s is the following:

I decided that if I could paint that flower in a huge scale, you could not ignore its beauty.”

An artist like Georgia O’Keefe sees the beauty in the detail and gives us a painting to help us see. Doesn’t a writer do the same thing? Take an event, a moment or a thought and give it words so that the reader can read and understand.

Going on this road trip means that I will completely change my surroundings. I am a city chick. I like a big city and the energy it produces. The sounds of the city relax me and I feel a part of the big scheme of things. Now I am going outside the big city to cities that are much smaller and further apart. I want to see everything.

More than 20 years ago I traveled to New Mexico. I drove between Albuquerque, Santa Fe, and Abiquiu (toured Georgia O’Keefe’s home). I remember pulling over to the side of the road just to admire the beauty of the mountains all around me. After living so many years along the flat Texas coast, the mountains are a miraculous sight.

I also practice mindfulness meditation which helps me to stop in the middle of all of life’s craziness and just be. Sometimes it is just best to sit down and be quiet.

Looking forward to being mindful in Boulder.

Writer as Detective Observer

Semi‐bored, I sauntered through the Sherlock Holmes exhibit. A passel of schoolchildren entered the hallway and careened along its blacken walls. I winced. Turning to my right, I glanced a casual side‐eye to spot the piece of paper. It seemed an afterthought in the glass case until I read its message. Eerily appropriate for this day, this time. Indeed, my life this year:

Richer storytelling inspired by unexpected sources

Holmes’ words around “The Art of Observation” propelled me back to his era. As quickly, my mind jerked me back to where I stood. A whipsaw journey for an ex‐reporter absorbing too much of daily surroundings, fast‐forwarding to a writer determined to grow her storytelling skills. Further afield lies a chauffeur‐in‐waiting, prepping for a 19‐day road trip.

Was the Universe trying to tell me something? 

I stopped and turned back around. The rousing antics of youngsters faded away. I leaned in to peer beneath the glass. Sherlock Holmes’ advice about seeing but not observing left me blushing “guilty!” He wrote of inspiration, forensic science, discovery.

I read on and begin to substitute words. Personalize. Connect. Words written in the 19th century morph into new meaning in the 21st.

Observations captured here, for later translation…

Storyteller becomes detective, exploring the why of characters doing things as they do, propelled by setting, mood, temperature, intangibles awaiting discovery.

I am a writer; observation begins everything in my profession.” 

My heart pounds, remembering what’s approaching. A road trip through three states across 19 days. With a fellow observer. There’s something for both of us to see, observe. Discover.

Thanks for the reminder, Sherlock. Or is that “thanks, Sir”?

We’re all detectives — or can be — if we see lightly, observe deeply.

Go Local, not Global

In advance of this weekend’s kickoff of the summer vacation season, Bloomberg published a glorious photo essay of what it called “the‐10‐best‐global‐road‐trips‐to‐try‐this‐summer.”

My reaction came fast and hard: go local, not global.

Think of all the things you can see right where you are. Or within a few miles from where you live. Or after a few days on the road.

This time next week, Ellen and I will have driven across the cityscapes of Houston and Dallas on into the rural grasslands and canyonlands of Texas before driving high into New Mexico’s mountain lands then leveling out over Colorado’s dry grasslands, ending two straight days on the road in the flatirons of Boulder.

That’s 16 hours of a one‐way trip only two days from home.

From the coast lands to the mountains, we’ll see beauty everywhere. Because we’re looking. Really looking. And that’s the point this Memorial Day weekend, the kick‐off of the summer vacation season.

Look where you travel.

Look local.

Of course, this comes from the RoadBroad who wrote in her bio that she’s determined to spend the night on all seven continents.

As an old newsman I adore told me once, “never let the facts get in the way of a good story.”

I won’t. Not on this blog post.