My readers probably know that I’m not much of a podcast listener, but that if I AM listening to a podcast, it’s probably On Being with Krista Tippett. I started this habit after the 2016 election and, three and a half years later, I need her show more than ever.
Today I want to provide a peek into an especially uplifting interview about…ready? The evolutionary aspects of human goodness. Evolutionary? Human Goodness? Yes please!
(What follows are shameless excerpts from the transcript of Krista Tippett’s show, which I’m assuming she won’t mind because I’m encouraging everyone to listen to her.)
Human goodness? Does that mean sunflower seeds?
Nicholas Christakis is Professor of Social and Natural Science at Yale. More specifically, he works at something called the Human Nature Lab—which sounds spooky until you hear what they’re studying. They’re studying goodness. (Oh my goodness. Literally.)
Kendi’s blurb tops all the praise on the back of Heather McGhee’s The Sum of Us. And if Kendi–Professor Antiracism himself–has been waiting for this book, this research, this analysis, how much more do the rest of us stand to gain from paying attention?
At the high school where I taught, one of my favorite principals used to say, “Tell the truth and point towards hope.” McGhee’s title does just that, and so does her book’s contents.
McGhee’s chief metaphor for the costs of racism, whose image graces her cover, is the destruction of public swimming pools all across America, following orders to desegregate them in the wake of the Supreme Court’s Brown v. Board decision. Cities and towns of all sizes literally poured concrete into their pools or bulldozed them rather than let Black people swim there. As a result, everyone lost:
“Over the next decade [1960s], millions of white Americans who once swam in public for free began to pay rather than swim for free with Black people…The classless utopia faded, replaced by clubs with two-hundred-dollar membership fees and annual dues. A once-public resource became a luxury amenity, and entire communities lost out on the benefits of public life and civic engagement once understood to be the key to making American democracy real.” (p. 28)
McGhee, an expert in economic and social policy, goes on to demonstrate this “close the pools” reaction–and its evenhandedly negative effects on communities–in more current policies such as the expansion of Medicaid (nearly all Republican-led states refuse it, even though the people who most stand to benefit are the poor whites calling it communism); the fight against raising the minimum wage; and the choice of southern white automobile workers to vote down a union.
From the beginning–Bacon’s Rebellion in 1675, when poor whites and Blacks joined forces and scared the pie out of the ruling class–McGhee shows how the ruling class has used race to keep poor whites attached to “zero-sum” thinking: Any gain of a racial minority means a loss for me. Through her narrative, it’s not hard to understand why generations have chosen racial identity over any other potential benefit, be it wages or cool water on a hot summer day.
But here’s something neither I, nor my Constitutional Law-professor Mate, knew. Take it away, Ms. McGhee:
But there was another path from Brown, one not taken, with profound consequences of our understanding of segregation’s harms. The nine white male justices ignored a part of the social scientists” appendix that also described in prescient detail the harm segregation inflicts on “majority” children. White children “who learn the prejudices of our society,” wrote the social scientists, were “being taught to gain personal status in an unrealistic and non-adaptive way.” They were “not required to evaluated themselves in terms of the more basic standards of actual personal ability and achievement.” What’s more, they “often develop patterns of guilt feelings, rationalizations and other mechanisms which they must use in an attempt to protect themselves from recognizing the essential injustice of their unrealistic fears and hatreds of minority groups.” The best research of the day concluded that “confusion, conflict, moral cynicism, and disrespect for authority may arise in [white] children as a consequence of being taught the moral, religious and democratic principals of justice and fair play by the same persons and institutions who seem to be acting in a prejudiced and discriminatory manner.” (p. 182-3)
When I read this, it knocked me breathless. Those quotes from the early 50’s sound like they’re describing white folks of 2021. And I’m not just talking about the “confused” folks who carried the Confederate flag into the capitol building. I’m talking about people like me, “nice white people,” who, in middle age, are just starting to acknowledge what we’ve lost by living whole lives without close friends of other races.
[photo “Hermandad” by Rufino, Wikimedia Commons]
But. I told you this book’s title promises hope, and the book delivers. McGhee constantly pivots to examples of what she calls the Solidarity Dividend: white and Black workers in Kansas City joining together to win a $15 minimum wage; conservative Connecticut passing “a raft of popular public-interest bills” like paid sick days and public financing of elections; the 95% white town of Lewiston, Maine, at death’s door economically, embracing African immigrants to bring itself back to life. McGhee ends with a clarion call:
Since this country’s founding, we have not allowed our diversity to be our superpower, and the result is that the United States is not more than the sum of its disparate parts. But it could be. And if it were, all of us would prosper. (p. 289)
God knows it’s hard to feel optimistic at this moment in our history. But these concrete examples show what is possible because they already exist. If we all keep pointing to them, divisive fear will stand less of a chance.
Question for y’all: have you seen this Solidarity Dividend in action? Please share.
This basic question comes weighted with all kinds of new meanings now. Unspoken components may include:
“Did you feel safe?”
“Should you really have been traveling?”
“Can I think about traveling?”
“Nice to be you.”
Acknowledging that weight, here’s all I want to say about my recent flight across the country to see my octo- and nonagenarian parents, whom I hadn’t seen in 14 months: I kept that trip as SIMPLE as I could.
S is for Spring–meaning fully-leafed, eye-poppingly green spring, a season I’ve not been able to enjoy in my home state for decades, due to work. (The Mate’s and my annual Road Trip pilgrimages bring us to NC in March, when leaves are still in their cute baby phases.) I soaked up May like a thirsty sponge.
I is for In-depth. As in, this trip was for FAMILY ONLY, but really in-depth. Days were for walking in Duke Forest, playing with doggies, feeding the various critters (horses, goat, donkey, chickens, guinea hens, barn cat…), cooking, eating, and sharing family stories.
M is for Martha, or Mom. She’s about to turn 86, and is very excited to try and set a new age-group record for the 1,500m at this summer’s Masters Nationals.
P is for Peter, or Pa–nah, let’s just say Peter. (He might accept “Pater”–the guy does like his Latin.) In his 91st year, he’s facing the first seriously debilitating physical challenges of his life, forcing him to give up running. But he still gets out every day to run his beloved dogs.
L is for ___ and ___, my sister and brother-in-law (whom I won’t name here), who made the drive down from Michigan to coincide with my visit. I hadn’t seen them for 2 years (sister) and 4 years (bro-in-law).
E is for…let’s just say EVERYTHING. Every aspect of travel that I no longer take for granted. Like: thoughtful flight attendants. Empty middle seats. Regional food you can only get by being there. Hugging on arrival and departure and any other time we felt like it. And E is also for EVERYTHING I love about where I live now, and the fact that–despite Delta’s excellent performance on this trip–I still have no desire to fly anywhere else now for a long, long time.
Home with The Mate and The Beast is where I am happiest now.
That said–would love to hear of others’ experiences as they venture “back out there.” Trip story, anyone?
You’ve heard of a square peg in a round hole? That’s not me. I’m more like the most boring bit of a Tinker Toy set, the little stick that connects to ANYTHING. Or–going literary–I’m Nick Bottom in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, trying to play all the roles: “Let me be the lion too!”
Or Raven & Chickadee, a dedicated travel blog by two folks on a years-long, slo-mo road trip, which regularly gathers dozens of comments.
Etc. I’m sure y’all know many more blogs on many of my favorite topic where the comment section is hopping.
But you know what? I am OK with my own lack of internet sizzle. Two of my favorite blogs, written by fellow Lopez Islanders, fill me up with ideas and inspiration every time I read them, and sometimes their comment section is as modest as my own. (But just in case you want to be filled with ideas & inspiration yourself and you don’t already follow these, check out:
The other day I heard someone howling, and…hey. Wait. It wasn’t me!
I hurried over to check and found my hooman giggling at ANOTHER DOG on her little tappity-tappity thing. “Hahaha,” she was saying, “can you believe this?”
Well, that dog just crunches my kibble. When I make that noise, my hoomans yell “HUSH!” at me. They certainly don’t turn me into a picture on the tappity-tappity thing for thousands of other hoomans to laugh at. That Zeus dog is FAMOUS. And me? I’m just in the dog house.
I mean seriously. My hoomans make me “heel” and “come” and “sit” everywhere I go. We practice in the house…
…out on walks…
…even on the one “Staycation” they’ve taken me on! (This is a thing where hoomans leave their house and go stay in a different house. Lots of cool new stuff to sniff. But I still had to heel and come and sit.)
No way would I EVER get away with the stuff that Zeus dog pulls. Every now and then my main-walky hooman lets the leash loose to take my picture, ’cause I’m so pretty…
…or because the trail is too rocky for us to go side-by-side…
…but once we’re past that part, it’s back to heel and come and…
I don’t even get to chase whatever little yummy crawly diggy thing made that hole! Bet Zeus would get to eat it for breakfast.
So I’d just like to say to Zeus’s hoomans–Can I come live with you? I wanna howl and dig and be a doggy diva too, and my hoomans just don’t UNDERSTAND.
My one consolation? That thing they call “college basketball season” is finally over, so I don’t have to wear this stoopid scarf every time their “Tarheels”–whatever they are, probably NOT edible–throw that round orange thing at each other.
As March draws to a close, this will be my last Road Trip Retro post for now–and hopefully, ever! This is the time of year when, in “normal” years, we’d have just gotten settled back into the home routine: me working at the bakery, The Mate clearing fallen branches around the property and getting the lawn mower in shape.
It’s not a “normal” year. But things are turning that way, even though I’ll never think of “normal” again. (The other day I went into a friend’s house for the first time in 14 months and felt like crying with joy.)
So let’s finish up with Road Trip VIII, shall we? That year, three years ago, I became aware that we had fallen into a pattern with our first couple of road weeks. So I determined to NOTICE stuff that I might have bypassed before. Starting with this amazing “We Can Do It!”” cloud in Tacoma.
Passing out of Oregon into California on Rt. 199 (a fave), I captured this sign which we’ve always enjoyed:
Visiting our favorite Prairie Creek redwoods, I decided to highlight the less obvious parts of the forest.
Visiting our wee cuzzies in Oakland, I tried to capture the sense of their neighborhood…
…and just up the road in Berkeley, this wonderful memorial to the Free Speech movement:
Next up, SoCal. With our sons long graduated from college and my grandmother long since passed away, we visited a more obscure bit of coast, just the two of us…
…before heading into LA for the usual family & friends visits. Then, the Big Left Turn, and off into Arizona, where, for once, we rented a cabin near our favorite park-nobody-seems-to-have-heard-of, the Chiricahua National Monument.
In Albuquerque, I captured a piece of a “ho-hum hike” at the base of the Sandia range, right there in town…
…and finally remembered to give their spectacular cuisine its photographic due:
Speaking of noticing: we also finally decided to let Oklahoma show us its best stuff. Frequently terrible weather (blizzards, tornadoes) keeps us from crossing OK, but in 2018 we stayed in TWO different state park cabins, at either end of the state.
Nothing breathtaking, but very pleasant (too cold for us to camp). And I got to see this porcupine asleep high in a cottonwood!
The eastern park, Lake o’ the Cherokees, featured 1930s-era cabins made by the WPA.
Passing through Missouri (another rarity on our eastbound journeys), we stopped to recreate in some federal scenic river land. The name escapes me–but this beaver didn’t!
Cutting down through Tennessee, we treated ourselves to a date in Nashville.
With our friends in the Blue Ridge of North Carolina, I tried to focus more on the background of the place–its rhododendron thickets…
…though who can resist a mountain sunrise?
At the apex of our journey–my home stompin’ grounds of Durham and Chapel Hill, NC–I focused my camera on some of my personal NC icons:
…and, of course, the culmination of every annual NC pilgrimage, the ACC Men’s Basketball feast:
Heading north this time, we made a straight shot to our other cousins, in southern Vermont, where all the little things I might have noticed were immediately blanketed by snow.
Heading home through Kentucky: isn’t this the best bike path bridge ever?
Stopping for a bike ride in Topeka, KS, we pretty much stumbled onto this historic site: the school where Brown v. Board of Education began.
Heading for the Rockies, we took advantage of some friends’ spending a sabbatical in Colorado Springs.
A hike at Mesa Verde, where we had the trail to ourselves…
Our annual get-together with Adventure Buddies (you know ’em well by now) Tom & Kate was near Page, AZ. Just noticing this piece of the map (so near to the Grand Canyon) was new to us.
One thing we did that I’m not real proud of: took a boat tour on Lake Powell to see Glen Canyon, or what’s left of it. What I mostly noticed? My conflicted feelings.
Finally back in Washington, going for a walk as we waited in the ferry line, I kept the theme going, capturing the beauty of our Salish Sea environment…
…every tiny bit of it.
Thanks for riding with me through most of the past ten years! Tune in next time for something a little more current, ok? And be well.
Anyone else getting tired of hearing about the end of the tunnel? Tunnels are concrete structures, figuratively and literally. They have beginnings, middles, and very distinct ends. Are we seriously trying to compare COVID times with a tunnel?
Right now, just as the graphs seem to be trending in the right direction, there suddenly seem to be even more unknowns. Can I get on an airplane now? Am I part of the problem for even wanting to? If everything’s getting better, why do I still feel dread? Why does optimism still get stuck somewhere between my throat and my stomach?
The other day I happened upon an “On Being” podcast about this EXACT frustration with the interminability of this time, and the effects of all that who-knows?ness on our mental state. I immediately thought about a bunch of different friends to send the link to.
But I don’t love it when people tell me I “should” listen to something nearly an hour long, even if I know I’d probably benefit. So instead, I’m excerpting that podcast for you here. I hope you can get something valuable from it, without having to spend a whole hour.
For starters, see if you can recognize something in this intro by host Krista Tippett:
“The light at the end of the COVID tunnel is tenuously appearing, yet we feel as exhausted as at any time in the past year. Memory problems, short fuses, sudden drops into what feels frighteningly to me like depression, and fractured productivity that alternately puzzles and shames us.”
Any of that sound familiar?
Krista then introduces her guest. Christine Runyan is a clinical psychologist and professor at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. She also runs a clinical consulting practice, Tend Health, to support the mental well-being of health care providers.
Runyan, Krista says,
“explains how the very first news of the threat of a new virus in the world instantaneously activated our stress responses, sent our nervous systems into an overdrive from which they’ve never retreated. To use other words, the pandemic has disrupted our mind-body connection, which is always as sensitive to what is imagined as to what is real.”
Don’t know about you, but my own mind and body don’t need much reality to go galloping off in different directions. And this is a GLOBAL PANDEMIC.
As Runyan dives in, describing the classic fight-or-flight response, I note the metaphor she chooses:
“And that’s a very predictable response. It’s our source code as humans…And when that goes off, it does a number of things. It releases glucose, so we have some energy. It increases our heart rate. It increases our blood pressure. It diverts blood to our major muscle groups. It temporarily gives our immune system a little boost. It stops our digestion. It does all these things specifically…so that we can fight or that we can flight, and that we have all the reserve necessary to be able to do that.”
“Source code”? So it’s built in. So it’s not just me? So it’s not my fault if I can’t shake this gut-level dread?
Describing us in our balanced state, Runyan notes,
“And this window of tolerance, which does get quite disrupted…for people who’ve had prior trauma, that window really shrinks, and so you can activate this nervous system at lower levels. And that’s one of the things that I think has been happening throughout this whole year, for various reasons, both related to the virus and related to our social circumstances in this country.”
Uh-huh. Yeah. Go on.
Then Krista really captures the point:
“…here we are, a year on, and we never got to — the threat never went away. But what I’ve also experienced as I look back on the year and its many chapters, including the death of George Floyd, the racial reckoning and rupture, the drama of the election — it feels to me…like there was a lot of adrenalin that got generated at different points in the last year…and that’s just quite apart, again, from people having incredible losses and stresses in their lives and losing people and illness and jobs and all of that. But just — you kept going. There was this energy source.
And then it has felt like winter set in, the election was over — I feel like all of the energy flowed out of my body. [laughs] …it’s not just that I have felt low in energy, I’ve felt disembodied and like I’ll never be the same again.”
And Runyan is on it, reassuring Krista (and the rest of us!):
“I think that’s also part of the nervous system, both assault and response. We talk about fight or flight, but there’s also a state of freeze, which can look very much like you’re describing — this state of apathy, of detachment, of even disembodied or dissociative, and numbing, a lot of numbing.”
Numbing. Yes. Think back to all those terms we used to describe our days: “Shelter in place.” “Blursday.” “Quarantini.” Day after week after month. Even when we spoke of “silver linings” (telecommuting! wildlife roaming streets!) we still knew they involved a big ol’ cloud.
Krista really speaks my mind when she focuses on the physicality of our restrictions:
“You talk about, also, symptoms of this stress on our nervous system that I think I recognize in myself, and we all recognize, as being more impulsive, moody, rigid in our thinking, irritable, lashing out, our frustration tolerance — and you could almost see that play itself out in our political life. And so, collectively, we were faced with this impossible choice — that the very thing that makes us human, which is our physical connection to other people, was the cost of keeping each other safe.“
Hugs! She’s talking about hugs! And smiles! Hell, even shaking hands has been taboo.
And she goes on,
“…naming this feels relieving, even though what we’re naming is a really just impossible and terrible situation we’ve all been placed in. So what do we know about…the effects on us as humans, as creatures, of what we’ve called social distancing…the lack of touch, the lack of seeing and being seen, in a world of masks?“
Ooh, ooh, me! I know that one! We feel CRAPPY.
Runyan responds with pretty much my favorite response to any problem: naming it.
“So this process of naming and “allowing,” I think is the term that I would say — seeing it as a human response to the conditions that are, rather than something wrong with me — so many of us humans are prone to even ask that question, “What’s wrong with me?”
She goes on to remind us that the naming is just the first step in a process of self-gentleness:
“…I think the self-awareness piece, even before the allowing — we have to have someinternal vision…and know that how it shows up for you is gonna be different than how it shows up for me; how it shows up for you, today, is gonna be different than how it may show up for you next week. So that awareness and the allowing…being curious. If we can be curious, just what’s going on inside of our own bodies — the neurotransmitter of curiosity is dopamine, so if we can be curious, we can give ourselves a little hit of dopamine. And then compassion, if I had to say the one thing that probably supersedes all of those, is compassion, including compassion for oneself.“
I LOVE that bit about the dopamine! Did you know that? I didn’t. The compassion part? That I already knew, but sometimes compassion is hard to get to. But…drumroll…curiosity is the gateway to compassion! And you get dopamine as a choice of sides!
In the latter part of the podcast, after naming the stressors, Runyan moves on to dealing with them. She mentions well-known techniques, like listening to music, or surrounding yourself with your favorite calming scent.
She mentions breath–not, to my surprise, deep in-breaths so much as–well, this.
“…There’s various techniques you can do with the breath, but if you’re gonna do one thing, a long exhale, because that’s part of our sympathetic nervous system, that dorsal part of our sympathetic nervous system that activates our calming — so, a long exhale.“
(Which I suppose involves in-breaths by necessity, right?) And then comes one of my favorite parts:
“…And then, one of my common go-to’s is…“tend-and-befriend,” and particularly if I don’t have people around me, is to just make contact with myself. I put my hand on my heart, on my chest —
Tippett: Oh, you mean literally.
Runyan: Literally. [laughs]
Yes! A little self-caress. (I actually don’t even care if others are around. Self-care is self-care.)
My last big takeaway from this fascinating conversation was the reminder of how our pesky imagination, which likes to occupy itself by creating extra worries, can also summon its own comfort. Runyan asks Krista to imagine cutting open a lemon and tasting it. Krista does. So do I. (So, now, perhaps, do you.)
Runyan:We can create a physiological response through our imagination, which is…a double edge. [laughs] It’s a gift and a curse, because that is worry.
Tippett: Right, but you’re saying we can also activate that to comfort ourselves, if we take it seriously enough.
Bingo. Although I’d really prefer imagining these.
Runyan then reminds us that part of healing that mind-body connection in times of stress is simply being kind to one’s body.
“I’ve had a lifelong struggle with my own body, and probably up until maybe about five years ago. And this reverence — now it is just a wonder and a source of curiosity, and I can appreciate it for all the ways it’s working on my behalf, even when I meet it with frustration.“
Have I thanked my knees lately?
“And this is why, when I think about what are the superpowers that we all hold in us that is also part of our source code, it’s that self-awareness — is there a pause point to be able to step out of that automatic pilot and then be able to make an intentional choice?”
I sure would like there to be.
“There’s a quote that’s attributed to Viktor Frankl, and he says, “Between stimulus and response, there is a space. And in that space lies our power to choose. And in our choice lies our growth and our freedom.” And it’s such a beautiful encapsulation, I think, of that self-awareness and that pause, which is so hard to do at this time, because we’re so activated. And so it’s just recognizing when we can pause and say, oh, that’s what that is.”
I think that’s going to be my new mantra–at least until the world is vaccinated. “Oh, so that’s what that is.”
But lest Dr. Runyan seem too saintly, she ends on a good reminder of why that self-gentleness comes in so handy:
“It’s really that power of the pause. It’s imperfect — there’s plenty of times where I have done that, paused, and then just went right back down the rabbit hole.” [laughs]
Yep. “Oh, so that’s what that is.”
In case you were wondering, the Non-Road Trip series will return next time, at least for one more installment. But I think I heard that end-of-the-tunnel phrase just once too often this week. So that’s what this is.
I know I make it seem like interrupting our Road Trips with airplane flights is an anomaly, but 2017 actually managed to involve a plane ride too. Just a short one, right at the start.
See, I’d pitched this new idea to my two older sisters: “Hey, as each of us turns 60, let’s have a Sisters Weekend Getaway, in a town that’s new to all of us!” Since that’s something we’ve never done in our lives–all 60 years of them, for some of us–they thought that was a pretty good idea. That early spring, the eldest of us was up, and she picked…
San Diego. So Road Trip VII began with me flying there to meet my Seesters. We rented a house, went for lots of walks, and ate a LOT. We weren’t full-on tourists, but we spent one full day at the famous zoo…
and another out on Point Loma.
The tide pools got an A+ in my book.
First Seesters Getaway under our belts, we went our separate ways–one to Michigan, one to Texas, and me back to LA where I met The Mate and Red Rover. We visited with all our LA dear ones, and then headed out across the desert, like most other years.
In Albuquerque, our friend Beth helped us indulge our craving for green chile at a very cool restaurant, The Range.
Armed with leftovers, plus the Sisterhood of the Traveling Avocado (from my cousins’ tree in LA), we beelined for our favorite part of North Texas, Palo Duro Canyon, where it was just barely warm enough to camp.
Next up, Dallas, where our friends treated us to a bike tour around the less-well-known parts of the city…
As often happens on our late-winter road trips, the route from TX to NC was a blur, which means the weather was probably lousy. We did manage one hike at the TN-NC border.
During these days, a new tradition was born: “Noodlebag.” How’s that work? 1. Cook noodles at friends’ house; add salt & olive oil. 2. Steal some of their leftovers. 3. Over the next three days, add whatever’s in your ice chest, and heat in the microwave of whatever cheap motel you’re staying in.
In North Carolina at last, along with my Amazing Parents, Son Two met us for basketball, BBQ, and Being a Good Son.
Basketball. Family. Critters. Family. Basketball. Mama Dip’s Fried Chicken. Basketball. Wild trout lilies. If you’ve been following this blog for even a couple of posts, you probably know the drill by now.
Snow in NC, in March? OK. So of course when we left, we drove North.
If happens sometimes. This was one of those times. We had a brand-new little baby cousin to visit!
But hey–at least New Englanders know how to deal with snow!
Also, I grooved on being able to help our cousins bottle-feed some of their new lambs, overseen by Ben the Shepherd Donkey.
Heading home through upper-middle of the continent, we had a couple of notable recreation stops. First, a bike trail that was once the tow path for the Illinois River barges, just like the song I learned from my friend Lance: “Every day I work on the Illinois River/Get a half a day off with pay/On the tow path hauling barges/On a long hot summer day...”
Second, we diverged into Colorado at the end of the Plains to meet our Intrepid Adventure Buddies (say it with me) Tom & Kate in Estes Park…
…on the edge of Rocky Mountain National Park. I got sick while in Colorado, and spent most of my time walking slowly and enjoying the scenery from the back of the car. Still worth it.
Finally, back in Montana, we stopped at this special spot where the mighty Missouri River is born from the confluence of three smaller rivers. Lewis & Clark camped here.
Onward! Homeward! Apparently quite a bit of snow had fallen while we were dallying in the Rockies, but we’d given Idaho time to clear its highways.
So, a road trip with extra sisters, a son & a new, wee cousin? All gravy. Yes please!
Tune in next time for RT2018. Gonna ride this retrospective right up till the last one. Maybe then I won’t notice the lack of RT2021.
I’m writing this on the anniversary of the cutting-short of last year’s Road Trip (X), when The Mate and I turned tail and fled home from NC in under a week, driven by our COVID fears.
Five years ago, RT6 also ended abruptly, but only for one of us. I flew back, leaving The Mate to follow in Red Rover at his own pace. No global pandemic fears that time, though. Just a bakery opening.
Holly B’s Bakery has been trading in Love & Butter since 1976, and I’d been working as a baker there since 2011. But in 2016 Holly retired, selling the bakery to my brand-new boss, Stephanie. After receiving her promise that I could make pie (something Holly wasn’t into), I agreed to be there to help out on Opening Day–March 17. Which meant flying home from NC.
So with that in mind, I enjoyed the Half-Trip as wholly as possible. Let’s revisit, shall we?
Starting with our friends the redwoods again…
After visiting with our Oakland cousins, we spent a couple nights camping in Pinnacles National Monument (now it’s officially a Park, I think).
That place is so cool. They have condors too, though we didn’t see any that trip.
Next up, SoCal. Again–I’m skipping over photos of some very dear folks we stayed with and saw down there, to include this photo from the San Bernardino Mts. Turns out Son One, on a rare stint not in the jungle, was working nearby, and met us for a day hike.
Once again we had a date with Intrepid Travel Buddies Tom & Kate, this time in a park new to all of us: Anza-Borrego National Park.
The sun felt good enough to make us appreciate the shade of the palm oases.
We sojourned in Albuquerque again, but only briefly, and my photos were only of friends. A day later, we were meeting more friends, from Dallas–not in Dallas for once, but in Caprock Canyon State Park, which we’d stumbled on the previous year.
Unfortunately our friends hit a deer on their way to join us, totaling their car and shredding their nerves. So we didn’t stay long. But it was a good reminder, once again, not to dump on North Texas for lack of scenery.
As usual we zipped across the lower South…not much in the photo record there. Except for one special place that we’d learned of from fellow road-trippers Eric & Laurel, aka Raven & Chickadee: Oak Mountain State Park outside of Birmingham, Alabama. We fell in love with this place.
When we got to Georgia, we treated ourselves to a special kind of camping trip: Cumberland Island, reachable only by ferry.
Cumberland Island has one of those classically conflicting Southern histories, but today at least, it belongs to the people.
Did I mention the feral horses?
Back at my folks’ farm in Durham, NC for the ACC Tournament once more, we threw ourselves into basketball, of course…
…and also farm life. Not only was Son Two visiting then, but so was my niece, all the way from Texas (I know: something else great about Texas!).
Knowing I was there for a shorter amount of time made me appreciate the visit all the more, I think.
I focused less on the clutter of my childhood home, and more on its distinctness, like the many sculptures made by my very talented German grandmother.
Going home so soon, while spring reins in the upper South?
Wait, why am I leaving again?
So, back in 2021…here’s to health, security, maybe even travel before too long–and don’t forget the love & butter.
If you read the previous post, you’ll know that RT 2014 came with extra drama. But the following year, as memory and these photos remind me, the sun SHONE on Red Rover and her occupants.
Our blessings started with a quick detour in southwestern Oregon’s Illinois River scenic area, which we’d driven past for years.
Sunny riverside or pitcher-plant-filled swamp, this place deserves the word “awesome.”
Next up: a precious visit with our now-toddling twin cuzzies in Oakland.
We then made our Big Left Turn a bit earlier than some years, skipping LA to head straight over the mountains and into Death Valley.
Winter did catch back up with us in Albuquerque, but we took advantage of the snow to go for an extra-beautiful hike with our friend Beth in the Tent Rocks National Monument (one of our favorite spots when we lived for half a year in Santa Fe twelve years before).
Not many photos follow, so we must have zipped across the lower half of the country again…but then found ourselves once more in the Asheville area, soaking up the Blue Ridge. Since I grew up in NC, these mountains were my earliest benchmark of beauty.
Next up–the perennial apex of our trip: Durham, NC, my hometown. There, as always, we hung out on my folks’ little farm, which is slowly being donated to the adjacent Carolina Friends School, which they helped to found.
Since the place is undergoing these changes, I took some photos to document the delightfully messy present that was also my childhood.
Remember those blessings I was talking about? In 2015, we were gifted with the opportunity not just to cheer for our beloved Tarheels on TV, but to attend a game in person.
Since I had published Book Two of my YA Flying Burgowski trilogy, Headwinds, at the end of 2014, this road trip featured another reading at Durham’s famous Regulator Bookshop. This time I enlisted my old middle school English teacher, Henry Walker, and a couple of current Friends School students, to do a dramatic reading with me!
Yet another blessing, as we headed home: discovering this amazing chunk of scenery in the Arkansas Ozarks.
So pretty–all that beautiful brown sandstone!
We stayed in a state-run lodge as nice as anything you’d find in a national park.
On the way home, latitude I-40, we stopped to recreate near our favorite chunk of North Texas–but this time, instead of Palo Duro, we discovered its cousin, Caprock Canyon.
As if all this scenery weren’t enough, we made time for a quick detour back to the Mother of All Gorge-ousness, the Grand Canyon. Only for a day hike–but I made the most of it.
Near Page, AZ, The Mate and I took a slot canyon tour–not the overly-famous Antelope Canyon, but a smaller one.
Blessing #…oh, I’ve lost track…was meeting Adventure Buddies Tom & Kate (by now you should remember them) outside of good ol’ Joshua Tree National Park for three days of desert togetherness.
We also drove down near Palm Desert to walk through a beautiful oasis there, traditional lands of the Agua Caliente Cahuilla Band of Indians.
Driving home on the eastern side of the Sierras, we found public campgrounds still closed, but managed to squeeze into a small private one.
Next along the way: Mono Lake. We only had a couple extra hours, but…it’s right there!
In northern California, near Susanville, we scored what is still one of our all-time favorite rail-trails. I mean–come on!
Next, a state park in middle Oregon, near Prineville, by the Deschutes River…
Final night, before entering Washington? We camped in Oregon’s famous Columbia Gorge. A fitting reminder of what gorge-ousness exists in our very backyard.
Final lesson from this retrospective of 6 years ago? All road trips are gifts. But some gifts have more facets than others. 2015 was extra special that way. Leaving me extra grateful.