Armchair Traveler, NOT Me!

Sometimes I feel like I am standing still. Other times I feel like time is running past me and I am not doing enough to get out and see the world … which is my goal, to see the world. Recently, I was organizing stuff and decided to compile my travel journals in a way I could find info more quickly, especially as I look for details from a trip. Once I had the box organized I realized I surely am not an armchair traveler!

A few adventures!

Time soon for another adventure and then to plan for international travel in 2024! Yippee! See you somewhere in the world … I will be happy to meet you!

Every Traveler Has A Story…

Talk with a traveler and each has a story to share, if you are willing to take the time to listen. I always find it fascinating to talk with people. Some come from beyond the USA. Others travel while in work-mode. Some are retirees seeing the world. Many are enjoying the outdoors with family and friends during their vacation or weekend.

I drive a Promaster, low roof, short van. Other van drivers are happy to show me their set-up and share the extensive travel they have accomplished or plan to do. One couple I met in Colorado were on their way to work on Alaska’s Kenai Peninsula. I see their luxurious van accommodations and hear the love they have for their vehicle. They are leaving their Colorado jobs for this new adventure of travel and work. They quizzed me about various aspects of my van since their van was totally new to them! Of course, I looked at their set-up, thought it luxurious, and helped them with a few questions they had for me since my set-up is very basic. No refrigerator or toilet issues to ever happen with my van since I have none of that. But I loved their story and appreciated their respect for my bed, bicycle and sliding shelves installation. Next morning, they were on their way north!

Campers walk by my van at a campground and quickly notice how simple my set-up is on arrival. I back my van onto a site, make sure my bed is level, set a step stool on a mat outside my side sliding door and I am done. At meal time, I pull out a milk crate containing my backpacking stove, dishes, and food. People stop by my campsite and ask what’s inside the van since I am cooking outside it! They are surprised to see its simplicity and then I hear their story. Some people have huge recreational vehicles and may even be pulling an additional vehicle behind it. While looking at my set-up, many people realize they could not do what I do … and that is okay … we each need to travel as we wish!

One Canadian couple converted a used ambulance to a camper with toilet, sink, stove, refrigerator and bed. They were walking the campground at the moment because they were waiting for a transmission repair. Bummer…. but we talked about their travel from Ontario, Canada to New Mexico with many miles completed. They shared information about Harvest Hosts; the joy they had in meeting other people on the road and supporting local businesses. I too have now had Harvest Host experiences, such as at Blue Heron Cheese in Tillamook, Oregon. It was great and I will continue to visit Harvest Host sites. Next morning I left the campground and hoped the Canadians would soon be back on the road.

At another campground a man looked at my van’s set-up and asked if he could call his daughter over for her to look at it. I said sure, thinking she was twenty years old or older. A teenager arrives and her father says, isn’t this what you are thinking about for your travel? That was so cool to think this young person was thinking about her future travel!

So… take time to talk with others … they may have an interesting story to share with you! To me, it is another advantage of travel!

Read … or talk with another about their travels!

Would She Quit Her Adventure?

An adventure has challenges. And there may be additional challenges for solo female travelers. Whether I was backpacking weeks at a time high in mountains, road bicycling hundreds of miles across parts of the USA, or driving thousands of miles in my van to visit new places, I know my adventures some days left me thinking, isn’t there an easier way to accomplish what I am trying to do?

My desire to travel solo has always been for a sense of accomplishment and discovery. The joy in solving challenges, meeting unknowns, and discovering all that may be new. They have allowed me to be more patient, hopeful, aware of the small things in life, and accepting of the kindness of others.

The books to read; adventures ahead: 

But this post is not about me. I had been motivated to solo travel since the 1970’s because while having my own adventures I read a book of a woman who trekked across the Australian desert at the same time I was backpacking in New York State’s Adirondack Mountains. There she was with 4 camels and her dog in an area of the world I would someday hope to see. She treks from Alice Springs to the Indian Ocean. Would either of us quit our solo adventure? No. The book I encourage you to read is:

Tracks: One Woman’s Journey Across 1,700 Miles of Australian Outback by Robyn Davidson

Another book about a woman hiking the Appalachian Trail in the 1950’s is a must read too. I have hiked sections of the two thousand fifty mile Appalachian Trail. But in this woman’s day, the trail was not so well-established as it is now and she hikes it in entirety. She really had her work cut out for her. Sections were not cleared or even connecting to other sections. Recently I had also seen Ohio’s Buckeye Trail which was established with her help. Did she quit her solo adventure? No, plus she had accomplished that hike more than once! The book I encourage you to read is:

Grandma Gatewood’s Walk: The Inspiring Story of the Woman Who Saved the Appalachian Trail by Ben Montgomery

Recently I read of another woman’s adventure in the 1950’s!! She was riding her horse from Maine to California while her dog ran along side for many of the miles. During this decade our current highway system was being constructed. She needed smaller, quiet roads for safe travel, but had to maneuver highway and bridge challenges. Did she quit her solo adventure? No. While today I can be happy for the highways and bridges as I drive across this country, I cannot imagine traveling only 15 – 25 miles on horse per day. The book I encourage you to read is:

The Ride of Her Life by Elizabeth Letts

What struck me about two of the three solo female adventurers, I mentioned here, was they were older women, living at times when women were expected to be in the home caring for family, not working in the world, let alone out on their own! All the more reason for me to admire them and their accomplished solo adventures!

Why would she not quit her adventure? I suspect it is for the same reason many women take on solo travel adventures … a goal is to be accomplished! Of course, one needs to have hope, confidence, a positive state of mind, courage, a willingness to learn, know her own capabilities and that of her equipment, and the ability to live with oneself no matter what happens during the adventure. Fortunately, solo travelers often discover so many new experiences thus providing interest in seeing what is next around the bend … kindness of people, an awesome sight, or a realization and appreciation of what one has accomplished … as a solo female traveler. For all those reasons I too will continue solo travel for as long as I can. Please consider reading those books, especially if you are an adventurer or even an armchair traveler. You will be impressed with their accomplishments!

Souvenir Shopper?

Souvenir shopper … are you? Let me be honest, I am not. I love to travel. I love photographing places and people I wish to remember. Buying a souvenir is not top on my list of things-to-do when traveling. Actually I am not even making use of many of the photos I take on a trip. Fortunately in this digital age, I am not worried about that. Those days of budgeting money for film and processing are long gone!

I had to chuckle recently though. I had just realized I had bought something in Texas and also Nebraska! Oh my gosh, I am a souvenir shopper. Maybe you guessed it would be food. Yes!

I love tea and when in Fredericksburg, Texas I bought a flavorful green tea. I was simply wandering through the store because it supposedly advertised itself as having everything! It did.

Hmm, would like to try this one!

While in Wahoo, Nebraska I stopped in a store to ask a question about the local grain elevators. I then wandered this store and was intrigued with how the beef jerky looked edible. The only way to find out if it really was, buy it! I can always use a snack on the road. Delicious jerky … dare I say, the BEST!

Yes, very delicious!

Souvenir shoppers, enjoy your shopping. You probably do a better job of having an item, or two, more representative of the locale, state or country you are in and one that lasts a lifetime. Kudos to you. For me, I may surprise myself again sometime with what I will consider a souvenir! These items brought great memories back to me … and isn’t that what souvenirs are all about!?! Safe travels all!

National Scenic Byway to Coolness … Then a Storm!

While the heat dome hovers over much of the USA, I too am tired of the excessive heat. My solution: drive 25 miles up Mount Lemmon here in southern Arizona. I’ll take any spot along the scenic byway to relax below the mountain’s 9100 foot elevation. Most often I drive about 20 miles to 8,000 feet where it is always at least 20 degrees cooler than where my home is located. 

The road to Mount Lemmon is a National Scenic Byway. It is one of three National Scenic Byways in Arizona. The other two are Kaibab Plateau – North Rim and the Coronado Trail. As of January 2021, there are 184 National Scenic Byways in all USA states, except Hawaii and Texas.

Here are some views enjoyed as one drives up the mountain:

On the road up the mountain.
No rock climbers today.

I have a “patch” of land where I stop and check to see if any birds are in the area. Last time I stopped I had a few birds, this time no birds in the neighborhood.

My “patch”

Summerhaven …

The very end of the road is where the ski area is, but most people stop short of those last 2 miles to visit the shops in the town of Summerhaven. Through the last few years of my visits here the town has really become congested. The one main road is through town and ends at the trailhead in the Marshall Gulch area. 

You may have heard about the horrible human-caused wildfire burning for about a month here in 2003. It started June 17, 2003 and 340 homes were burnt in Summerhaven. More recently, residents were evacuated when concerns about a lightning-strike-caused Bighorn wildfire could possibly affect homes in Summerhaven. That wildfire burned from June 5 – July 23, 2020. Residents returned after being evacuated from their town which fortunately had no major damage. Even now 3 years later, when hiking just outside of town, you’ll see burnt areas. Rain still brings debris onto the scenic byway.

Here are some photos of the newly built hotel and cabins in Summerhaven:

Cabins next to hotel.

Heading down the mountain …

Driving down the highway, I saw dark clouds ahead plus saw some raindrops. I also saw some folks sitting out on a rock ledge. Not the best place to be when a storm is coming!

Look other direction and see dark clouds.
Dark clouds!
Driving into the storm to get home.

So on really hot days, when leaving 109 degrees at my home and arriving at 83 degrees on the mountain, I am happy to have this “escape the heat” plan! Others find their way up the mountain too as they get away from the stifling heat. Do take care when you are in such heat; stay hydrated, find a cool and safe place to be when you are in high heat!

I drove through a major storm for about a mile on the highway and when I returned home a short time later we had the thunderstorm overhead us! Rain, 50 mph wind, half inch hail and we lost our electricity for 5 hours! No major damage done to our property, so we were fortunate. A good time to be reminded, nature rules!

Rainbow as we looked out our window!

Friends Just Know!

Friends can sometimes know you better than yourself, or so I think. It’s been 2 months since my best friend died; however, I was just thinking about a birthday gift I received from her during my visit with her 3 months ago. The card’s sentiment and added personal note were perfect. The gift card was perfect too, but my first inclination was to think, don’t we read all books on-line these days? The look on my face sent an unintended question to my friend. She responded, “they sell art supplies too”. Yes, perfect!I had no art supply need so I tucked the gift card away till recently. I was drawing faces from some on-line instruction when the instructor mentioned using different drawing pencils as you draw. HB pencil versus 2B versus 6B versus 2H, what? My lightbulb moment! Here was a perfect way to use the gift card! I purchased additional drawing pencils and discovered how to add texture to the drawing. Wow, plus the gift travels with me!

First sketch…
Second sketch with different pencils!

I love learning something new everyday, and now I have more to practice within my new world of sketching! Never a dull moment!

Could You Have Fun in a Box? Or with Many Boxes?

Fun in a box? We were talking the other day as we looked at some empty boxes, could we have fun in a box? Remember the day when it was just as exciting to get a new refrigerator as it was to play in the box it came in? Nowadays though, refrigerators rarely arrive to your home in a box … darn, young people are missing out on some great fun!
But what about all the other boxes coming to your home? During the pandemic, the amount of on-line shopping increased and so did the number of packages in boxes. Maybe not as large as you might want, but could you be creative and build with them? Look at what is happening with old railroad container cars … tiny homes and boutique hotels are being created. It seems your “fort” made of boxes would be a perfect escape from whatever your need. But would young people think about constructing such places or something else?
The creativity with a 3 dimensional form for a young person having fun with boxes is a leap away from the 2 dimensional screen too often looked at for hours on end these days. But I think it necessary to expose our young people to an environment stacked high with some boxes and to say to them, see you in a couple of hours. Problem-solving, creativity, patience and plenty of duct tape, paint and/or glue would allow time for fun with the boxes!
If I gave you 25 shoe boxes, 25 large chest cooler boxes and 25 ring boxes, what would you construct knowing there is plenty of duct tape, paint and glue for your use? Have fun with the thought and maybe even a construction … no one should stop your fun … and all ages can participate! Ha, you thought I was only referring to young people … wrong! 

Old-fashioned fun, new again!

Creating Moments of Silence

When no sounds happen around you, calm descends upon you, your blood pressure lowers, and nothing is on your mind at the moment … what is that? Ah, pure silence! We do not have enough of those moments in our lives, unless we make it a priority to create moments of silence. Whether you want to call it meditation, quiet moments, alone time or whatever, there are major benefits to having that time to ourself each day.

We are too often bombarded by loud sounds, disturbing news, or blamed for something. Any and all of it causes a stress reaction within our body. The negativity is not helping us, so it is important to counterbalance it with a positive calm. Whether focusing on a specific project, or taking a walk in the outdoors, or being mindful while doing a daily task … when completed in silence there is an additional dimension to all that is happening within one’s mind-body-soul connection. 

As I plan my day, either the night before or the current morning, it is important for me to have a “to do” list for the next day which will include when I will take at least 5 – 10 minutes of silence for myself. It may be as I awake or maybe later in the day when the environment and timing is better. It is especially wonderful when I can have a couple of times in a day with silence!

I want you to ask yourself, do you create moments of silence within your day for yourself? Why not? You are deserving of time alone with yourself; time when no one is asking anything of you; a moment when you are truly caring for yourself … we do not do enough of that for ourselves … take control, start in a small way … for your moment of silence! 

A walk in the woods may be best for you … or?

Memories of My Best Friend

Sandy was my very best friend for forty years! This past February she called me by phone. She thanked me for helping her change the trajectory of her life so many years ago and remaining a supportive friend. Well of course, that’s what friends are for … yet she did all the doing!

Sandy and I were colleagues teaching at an upstate New York public school. She was married, mother of 4 … one child still at home, and a pleasant person to spend time with when our school day ended. We talked about everything … over a cup of tea or glass of wine!

Within a couple of years, I was off to a new school administrative position; she divorced and started law school at age 50! New directions for both of us. We stayed connected and shared all that was happening in each of our new worlds. Sometimes that meant weekend visits, with phone calls always our best way to connect. She chose a new direction … I was proud of her.

We started to jog/run at local races, hike local trails and enjoy more of the outdoors together. She was my most frequent friend to visit my “shack” in the New York State’s Adirondack area. As a result we loved hiking there and especially in the Lake Placid area, where delicious pie was available for purchase. Unfortunately, a black fly bite just above her left eye required a trip to Urgent Care. This was one of our least enjoyable Adirondack moments! But what always brought a laugh to us was a memory of a mouse scampering across our sleeping bags one morning. Few others could ever appreciate that moment, but to even her last days alive we laughed about it! As years went by, she encouraged her family to visit the Adirondack area too. I would hear about their hikes and time near Mirror Lake. We laughed … and were glad to know the area we could share with others.

Both of us enjoyed reading and talking about books. We discovered we loved seeing Broadway shows. Often we drove to New York City to spend a weekend seeing the sights, enjoying a show, and sometimes spending time with one of her sons who lived in the area. We traveled other places, but our best trip was to Bermuda. It was a new place for both of us. Our trip ended just before a hurricane hit the island and unfortunately we had to cancel our parasailing. Darn, we never did have that experience!

Despite my move to the west coast, Sandy and I remained connected another 20 years. Thankfully numerous phone calls and a visit she made allowed her to see my new world. I often traveled to the east coast to visit my family and friends, which always meant visiting Sandy too. Her family was growing with grandchildren. I heard all about each of their births and activities … they always brought joy to her … her family was so important to her. Her travel to Japan to visit her family members was most interesting to me.

Years went by with so much happening. I was excited to hear about Sandy’s ice skating and eventually helping others with their skating skills. She took piano playing lessons. Despite her piano teacher encouraging her to participate in a recital she was hesitant. After years working at a law firm, she joined another one of her sons to have their own law practice. She loved doing research, so worked at their practice well after many other people would have retired. She also taught at the local community college … she was always an educator. She was playing golf with a group of women she really enjoyed traveling and having fun with. There were times I wished I had been with them, but always good to hear Sandy laugh about their fun.

A year before that February phone call, Sandy was battling cancer and having chemo treatments once a month. In preparation for that year’s April visit, I asked Sandy to choose a place for us to visit for a couple of nights. I wanted her to have a break away from her usual routine. She chose a visit to New York State’s Hudson River Valley. We had a wonderful time seeing the historic homes of the area, walking at Poet’s Walk and walking the pedestrian bridge across the Hudson River. Walking was a challenge for her, but with walking sticks she accomplished many steps each place we went. I would ask where she planned to turn around, since I did not want her to collapse, and she would always aim for about another 40 steps! Her years as a jogger/runner/hiker allowed her the determination to go on! Sandy’s goal was to walk the entire pedestrian bridge over the Hudson River. I know I have mentioned this before in another post, but it tells of what kind of person Sandy was. To accomplish this, she walked the bridge from one side of the river to the bridge’s middle and the next day we went from the other side of the river and walked to the bridge’s middle … goal accomplished! We had a wonderful trip!

Three months after the February phone call, I spent time with Sandy. Her daughter, who we affectionately called the “gatekeeper”, assured me I could spend time with Sandy when I got to the east coast. While at her side for many days during the month of May, I met some of Sandy’s grandchildren and that was fun. I’m very uncomfortable around ill individuals so I dug deep within myself to help my friend as she needed care. Hospice aides were wonderful in explaining what was best, and how, for me to help Sandy. Her daughter and I texted often to be sure Sandy’s needs were met. I loved getting Sandy outdoors and into the sunshine as I pushed her in a wheelchair in the neighborhood. Any opportunity for us to take a car ride and stop for non-dairy ice cream for her was a treat. I visited and stayed many days, sleeping on a couch in the same room as Sandy. One night we sobbed. I will never forget it. Neither of us had ever cried so hard in each other’s arms. It was then she told me about a book her daughter had given her. Patrice Karst’s book, The Invisible String. The next day I read the book to Sandy and we discussed its message. Sandy died this past June; she and I will always remain connected!

Sandy’s success hiking to this point at Poet’s Walk last year.
Sandy and I last year in NYS’s Hudson River Valley area.

Discovering Nebraska

Last year I had pinpoint focus on seeing sandhill cranes flying in and roosting along the Platte River near Kearney at the start of April. This year my goal was to visit Omaha and Lincoln. Here’s how those couple of days turned out:

Late afternoon, almost a half hour before the Omaha area:

Ordered a Reuben sandwich with fries, on-line from the Crescent Moon Ale House, and picked it up as I arrived in Omaha. Why a Reuben sandwich? I love Reuben sandwiches, but purchasing one from this place had some history. Was the sandwich created at a 1920’s poker game in Omaha’s Blackstone Hotel by Reuben Kulakofsky? Currently the Crescent Moon Ale House is across the street from where the Blackstone Hotel stood. Reuben and the hotel’s owner would want midnight snacks and supposedly Reuben Kulakofsky created this sandwich. It had corn beef on marble rye bread with Swiss cheese, a secret sauerkraut blend and thousand island dressing  …  named a Reuben sandwich. My sandwich was tasty, but I am used to having more sauerkraut on one. Isn’t learning history fun?

Next day in Omaha area:

My birding was at Hummel Park Nature Center. I was beginning to think I would only see the usual birds, nothing new, when a wood thrush hops on a tree branch!

Wood thrush

Then drove to the Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge. I walked across it, memories once again like my last post. This bridge is 3,000 feet long, crosses the Missouri River, connecting Omaha, Nebraska with Council Bluffs, Iowa. The Missouri River is a tributary of the Mississippi River. The Missouri River is 100 miles longer than the Mississippi River! (BTW, Bob Kerrey … former Nebraska governor.)

Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge

I drove to the Old Market area of Omaha, finally finding a parking spot and downloading a QR code to pay a parking fee. After walking a few of the brick-paved streets, window-shopping, watching people in horse-drawn carriages, I headed out. 

Time to discover a runza. I saw fast-food joints named Runza and didn’t think anything of it till my partner shared Nebraska info with me, runza was one item. I stopped at one of the establishments and discovered they sell hamburgers, but also runza. A runza is a pocket bread with ground beef, cabbage and onion. I ordered a runza and added mushrooms and Swiss cheese. Well it was an experience!

Next day in Lincoln area:

Lincoln is the capital of Nebraska and definitely has a different feel from Omaha. There are parks, International Quilt Museum, National Museum of Roller Skating, Nebraska State Prison and it is a college town. My first stop was Spring Creek Prairie Audubon Center. I spent hours hiking the trails, heard a couple of northern bobwhites, but never could get a photo of them.

Drove to Sunken Gardens and across the street was Hamann Rose Garden. Sunken Gardens had many people visiting and the other garden very few people. Sunken Gardens was constructed in the winter of 1930-31! Hamann Rose Garden was created in the 1940’s and has more than 100 roses. I could see either place being perfect for a wedding or a photographer wanting beautiful photos of flowers!

Sunken Gardens
Hamann Rose Garden

Next stop was Sheldon Museum of Art, the outdoor sculptures. The museum, on the University of Nebraska- Lincoln campus, was closed, but I was interested in what sculptures they had. Always interesting seeing creative projects.

Time for dinner: do you know there are many, many Mexican establishments in Nebraska? Of course, there is Runza, and all the fast food places, but I stopped for a gyro sandwich. I spoke with the owner who has lived in Lincoln for 42 years and he loves it. He was telling me it is a very safe city. 

Next day in Wahoo area:

A friend wanted photo of a Wahoo sign and I was heading west. I enjoy driving backroads and did a quick stop at Memphis Lake State Park. Did not stay since I was looking forward to an applesauce donut made at Wahoo Bakery. Nope, they were closed!

So I headed over to Mocha C’s and had a delicious breakfast. This was the place where everyone knows your name! Wahoo is a town of less than 5,000 people – definitely close-knit. I was welcomed back whenever in the area.

I walked to Dollar General, a couple of blocks away, to buy a step stool since mine collapsed. The store’s manager and I got talking and then she explained the history of the building. On my way out, she wished me she travel and said, stop in again.

I had been intrigued by very tall concrete buildings, looked like silos to me, and seen many places in the state. I decided to stop in a store named Wahoo Meat Locker (Home of the Famous Wahoo Wiener). The woman at the cash register could not answer my question so she asked the butcher. As I stood on the other side of his counter, the butcher and a meat customer explained they are grain elevators. Then the customer explained why Nebraska’s beef is the best … “the cows eat grain, not barley and other such stuff they feed them in California and Washington”. I will say, I bought the Wahoo beef jerky and it is the best I have ever had! Before the customer left, he came into my aisle and wished me a good trip. 

I walked back to my van and thought to myself, well what does today’s interaction with three different people/places tell you about this small community? I know what I think; what do you think?

This night’s Harvest Host location in North Platte, Nebraska: Pal’s Brewery. Great place for beer, to play corn hole, participate in trivia night and have a quiet place to sleep in their grassy area. I met a woman, Reba, who rode the historic 76 day, 3,000 mile “Bikecentennial ’76” or known as the “Bicycle Birthday Party”. My research indicates about 2,000 riders accomplished the entire length that year. She had also cycled from Maine to Florida in those days. Love meeting people … everyone has a story!