Road Trip Retro, 2018: Giving Those Noticing Muscles a Good Workout

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.

Seemed like a good omen.

Passing out of Oregon into California on Rt. 199 (a fave), I captured this sign which we’ve always enjoyed:

Who doesn’t love some good sweet cron on a summer day?

Visiting our favorite Prairie Creek redwoods, I decided to highlight the less obvious parts of the forest.

“Don’t take my picture! I’m shy.”
Redwoods, shmedwoods. Look at me!

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:

Dora, my bike, enjoying a lil’ break

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…

Monaña de Oro State Park

…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.

2 years later, we came right back here and were treated to javelinas in our front yard!
I adore this place. Sunrise on sycamores is just frosting on the cake.
OK, I know- -I’m getting away from my “noticing the little things” theme…

In Albuquerque, I captured a piece of a “ho-hum hike” at the base of the Sandia range, right there in town…

New Mexicans are a little spoiled. But as a Washingtonian, I can relate.

…and finally remembered to give their spectacular cuisine its photographic due:

Green chile, blue corn…need I say more?

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.

Boiling Springs State Park

Nothing breathtaking, but very pleasant (too cold for us to camp). And I got to see this porcupine asleep high in a cottonwood!

Yay for noticing muscles.

The eastern park, Lake o’ the Cherokees, featured 1930s-era cabins made by the WPA.

The lake itself…bleah. But awesome cabins!

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!

Well, HEY, cutie!

Cutting down through Tennessee, we treated ourselves to a date in Nashville.

Pause for a moment here to send lots of love to poor ol’ 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…

(with Mate in foreground)

…though who can resist a mountain sunrise?

No muscles required here.

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:

Mom in her pickup (hauling horse trailer)
…my parents’ shoe collection (part of it)…
…Mom’s loom (the smaller one)–here w/ Son Two, aka Grandson Two…
Chapel Hill’s Tarheel fire truck (Go Heeeeeeeeeeeeels!)

…and, of course, the culmination of every annual NC pilgrimage, the ACC Men’s Basketball feast:

Allen & Sons BBQ, slaw, hushpuppies & fried okra. Again–no noticing muscles needed here. Dare you NOT to notice.

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.

Sorry, Red Rover! Be right there.
I felt OK sharing this photo because everyone’s so hidden under their hats. Whee!

Heading home through Kentucky: isn’t this the best bike path bridge ever?

Louisville Loop

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.

At least it’s a protected site, if not exactly promoted. Then again, we were there on a Sunday.

Heading for the Rockies, we took advantage of some friends’ spending a sabbatical in Colorado Springs.

Pike’s Peak sunrise from the kitchen window–are you kidding me? Gotta love the juxtaposition with the light pole.

A hike at Mesa Verde, where we had the trail to ourselves…

…the Mate couldn’t help but notice how much Gretchen likes standing at the edge of things.

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.

The Mate auditioning to be a mushroom rock
Jabba the Rocks–off the beaten path, just hangin’ out…

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.

Uff. Something so wrong here.

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…

No place like home.

…every tiny bit of it.

Ditto.

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.

Road Trip Retro, 2017: Now With Extra Family!

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…

Getting ready to ride the tram–whee!

and another out on Point Loma.

Ocean 1, Land 0.

The tide pools got an A+ in my book.

Right?!
Anemones rock.

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.

The weather did NOT encourage recreation. This is a dust storm swallowing the scenery on I-10 in Arizona.

In Albuquerque, our friend Beth helped us indulge our craving for green chile at a very cool restaurant, The Range.

SUCH cool decor! Food was great too.

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.

Yes, that’s the avocado. Can we see the canyon now?
Still…not…warm yet…

Next up, Dallas, where our friends treated us to a bike tour around the less-well-known parts of the city…

…including places once famous…
…and places that might be famous someday, like this free-range grafitti lot.

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.

Oh yeah. This’ll do.

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.

Deluxe Noodlebag!

In North Carolina at last, along with my Amazing Parents, Son Two met us for basketball, BBQ, and Being a Good Son.

Emphasis on the BBQ.

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.

Except for this part. Not planned.

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!

Not pictured: baby cousin. Pictured: the very deep snow that greeted us. In Vermont. In March. Duh.

But hey–at least New Englanders know how to deal with snow!

Snowshoeing on a perfect day up Mt. Bromley

Also, I grooved on being able to help our cousins bottle-feed some of their new lambs, overseen by Ben the Shepherd Donkey.

Not QUITE as cute as my parents’ donkey Stevie, but pretty close.

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...”

Not pictured: 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…

Aspens & Ponderosas! Ah, the Mountain West.

…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.

Zoomed-in view of Long’s Peak, before the clouds came in
Feeling much better now, thanks.

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.

No camping for us, but I did go for a run up the bluff.

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.

And rest areas.

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.

Road Trip Retro, 2016: Half a Ro Tr is Better than None

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.

The old counter. Still my Happy Place, but it’s had a nice face lift since then!

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…

Not pictured: dear friends in Eugene, lil’ cousins in Oakland…but you can never have enough redwood shots.

After visiting with our Oakland cousins, we spent a couple nights camping in Pinnacles National Monument (now it’s officially a Park, I think).

Pinnacles? What pinnacles?
Oh you mean THOSE pinnacles!
On the high ridge trail. It gets pretty gnarly up there–carved-in steps & handrails.

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.

Pretty good Joshua Tree imitation, right?

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 Pacific Crest Trail goes through not far from here.

The sun felt good enough to make us appreciate the shade of the palm oases.

Palm Springs it ain’t, however. Thank goodness.

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.

Remember the bison? They were kind of all around our campsite. Not nerve-wracking in the least…

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.

Cool rocks wherever you look. Even when all you’re looking for is a rest from hiking.

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.

Fifteen minutes from Birmingham! Way up on a mountain ridge! And cozy cabins down below.

When we got to Georgia, we treated ourselves to a special kind of camping trip: Cumberland Island, reachable only by ferry.

Not a car ferry. The park is federal, and provides convenient little carts to tote your camping gear from the dock to the campground.

Cumberland Island has one of those classically conflicting Southern histories, but today at least, it belongs to the people.

PERFECT for biking. Also flat as a pancake.
The cutest little armadillo woke us up at night, snuffling nearby.

Did I mention the feral horses?

Okay, okay, I’ll stop with the Cumberland Is. pics…
No wait–you gotta see the sunset one!

Back at my folks’ farm in Durham, NC for the ACC Tournament once more, we threw ourselves into basketball, of course…

Son Two met us there again. Hands up means someone’s shooting free throws.

…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!).

And by farm life I mean dogs. Lots of dogs.

Knowing I was there for a shorter amount of time made me appreciate the visit all the more, I think.

The Amazing Parents

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.

This one, The Three Martyrs, depicts the three young civil rights workers murdered in Mississippi in 1964. And that’s my mother’s weaving in the background. (Wish I’d inherited some of that visual artistry!)

Going home so soon, while spring reins in the upper South?

The sycamore and the creek where I spent a week camping for my Thoreau-inspired Senior project back in 1979
My parents’ death-defying driveway
Happy sunny turtles

Wait, why am I leaving again?

Oh yeah, that’s right!

So, back in 2021…here’s to health, security, maybe even travel before too long–and don’t forget the love & butter.

Road Trip Retro, 2015: An Extra Helping of Blessings

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.

Ok, wow. Our bad. Some of these rocks were emerald-green with serpentine.

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.

This lets our own kids off the hook, grandchildren-wise.

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.

And summer!
These tamarisk trees are invasive…but their shade still feels pretty good!

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).

Cool without snow. Even cooler with.
OK, maybe not THAT much snow.

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.

Feelin’ the love.

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.

Baseball, shmaseball–let’s play fetch!

Since the place is undergoing these changes, I took some photos to document the delightfully messy present that was also my childhood.

My folks’ basement speaks volumes about their commitment to the athletic, outdoor life.

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.

The Heels promptly lost. At home. To DUKE. Some of you know how horribly terrible that is. Kind of the opposite of a blessing, in fact. Moving on…

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!

Still going strong after 40+ years of teaching. Thanks, Henry. For everything.

Yet another blessing, as we headed home: discovering this amazing chunk of scenery in the Arkansas Ozarks.

I know, right? We’d never heard of it either.

So pretty–all that beautiful brown sandstone!

At least I think it’s sandstone. In my next life I wanna be a geologist.

We stayed in a state-run lodge as nice as anything you’d find in a national park.

I took the opportunity of the lodge’s high bluff to emulate my book’s flying-girl heroine.

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.

Every bit as cool, if a little smaller…
…but with its own bison herd!

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.

7 and a 1/2 miles down to the Inner Gorge view…then 7 and a 1/2 miles back up the Bright Angel Trail.
Luckily there was a little scenery along the way.
Looking back down…wishing I could still be down there.

Near Page, AZ, The Mate and I took a slot canyon tour–not the overly-famous Antelope Canyon, but a smaller one.

It did the job nicely.
Photos absolutely obligatory here, for couples.

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.

Cue pun about how this place rocks.

We also drove down near Palm Desert to walk through a beautiful oasis there, traditional lands of the Agua Caliente Cahuilla Band of Indians.

So much better than another frickin’ golf course.

Driving home on the eastern side of the Sierras, we found public campgrounds still closed, but managed to squeeze into a small private one.

It did the job too.
Sunrise was a special blessing all its own.

Next along the way: Mono Lake. We only had a couple extra hours, but…it’s right there!

After passing by so quickly last trip, we got a little more up close and personal this time.

In northern California, near Susanville, we scored what is still one of our all-time favorite rail-trails. I mean–come on!

A river canyon AND our own dedicated bike tunnel? Stop it!

Next, a state park in middle Oregon, near Prineville, by the Deschutes River…

The campground was closed, but they had these cool rustic cabins. When snow flurried that night, we were grateful for the extra insulation!

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.

OK, OK–next time we won’t just tack you on to the end of a multi-week road trip! You deserve your own.

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.

Road Trip Retro, 2013: Red Rover, Red Rover, Drive Us All Over

What with COVID and nearly 200,000 miles, Ol’ Red started her retirement this year, as a hand-me-down to Son One. But I thought she deserved top billing today, seeing as 2013 was her debut. (Also the debut of the Subaru Cross-trek. Who knew what trend-setters we were?)

Good girl, Red.

The only theme I can piece together from RT III is my own forgetfulness. Looking through the folder, all I notice is

a) I mistook, last post, in saying we’d explored the Everglades & the Keys in 2012. Nope–that was this trip, as you’ll see.

b) if I took any photos of our week in NC, they all seem to have disappeared

c) my memory gaps of that trip seem to equal the gaps in the photo history: go figure

But no point dwelling on my aging brain–let’s focus on what definitely DID happen, ok? Like kicking off the trip by meeting Adventure Buddies Tom & Kate in Sedona, AZ.

It snowed. But that just made everything more beautiful.

Sedona’s a bit “precious” from our point of view–too many art galleries, not enough federal park space. But what land is protected there is drop-dead gorgeous, and very (too?) accessible.

We’ll take it!

Further in the file, photos of friends in the Phoenix area prove we went through there, but next comes…Florida?! So maybe 2013 was another one of those years where we fled winter storms across the country as fast as possible, avoiding the temptations of scenery and recreation.

Not pictured: making mileage across (I’m guessing) I-20.

But in Florida we continued our exploration of its many, varied state parks, including this one boasting “Florida’s highest waterfall.”

Psych! Turns out the waterfall goes down into a sinkhole. So yes, technically, it’s 75 feet “high.”

Well played, Florida.

We did then visit the Everglades, biking a really cool, bird-and-gator-filled loop…

This picture was supposed to show Gretchen and the gator. Guess Ken was more interested in the gator.

I have kind of a thing for manatees, so we had to rent some kayaks and go find the big ol’ “sea cows.” Unfortunately the spot we chose was jammed with tour boats and snorkelers doing the same thing we were doing, while the poor manatees huddled in a roped-off area. I felt yucky about the whole thing.

Those dark blobs? Manatees. (Take my word for it. This ain’t NatGeo.)

After that, we visited friends on Key Largo. My favorite pic from that visit involved fish–stuffed with shrimp and baked en croute. One of our friends is an icthyologist, so he was in charge of making sure my dough depiction was accurate for grouper.

The “before” picture. After baking, it was less detailed but more delicious.

Another friend, in Northeast Florida, treated us to some wetland hikes that somewhat made up for degradation of the Everglades.

Gator AND turtle! Score!

Now comes the big gap: our week in NC. Maybe the Tarheels lost in the first round of the ACC that year and I was too bummed to take pictures?

But clearly it was another year of cold northern weather, ’cause we headed home at the fairly low latitude of I-40. First stop, the Blue Ridge, for some hikes in what my east-coast soul thinks of as a beautiful winter forest, and my west-coast Mate thinks of as “dead.”

Eastern mountains: Iiiiiiii….will always love yooooooo…

Remember Palo Duro from the last Road Trip? Crossing north Texas, we defaulted back there for a day hike.

Seriously, this place is way too pretty. I owe Texas all kinds of apologies.

Hints of spring.

One more stop along I-40, this time in Santa Rosa, NM: the Blue Hole. I was a bit skeptical, given the way it was pimped by billboards, but, well…

I mean…it’s an 80-foot deep jewel in the middle of the desert. But letting folks scuba dive in there kinda wrecks the magic.

Cutting up past Las Vegas, we totally skipped the city for the region’s best feature (for people like us): Red Rocks State Park.

Red. Rocks.

I’d say it’s one of America’s better-named parks.

Must. Climb!

We must have then headed north on the east side of the Sierras, ’cause this can’t be anywhere but Mono Lake.

Tufa: so weird, so wonderful.

Another recreational stop in CA–Burney Falls, near Mt. Lassen–yielded this wonderful waterfall. I love the way the water seems to sprout right out of the ferns.

Mesmerizing.

Finally, end of March: home to western Washington! The Skagit bulb fields make the perfect welcome-home bouquet.

Thanks, y’all. Good job, Red Rover.

Thanks for riding along. Here’s hoping that Road Trip IV doesn’t demonstrate further erosion of my memory channels!

Road Trip Retrospective: 2012 Was All About the Colors

Featured

Welcome back to NOT-Road Trip I, a wistful review of the past 10 years of criss-crossing this great continent in Feb-March. Looking back at photos from 2012 is like seeing broad stripes of color on a blanket.

BLUE and WHITE. We started in Yellowstone as a special Valentine’s Day gift to ourselves. Thanks to a kind of bus on skis, and our own snowshoes, we penetrated deep into a park otherwise closed to traffic…the human kind.

But plenty of the bison kind!

You can bet this has become one of our favorite photos of ourselves.

The Mate wondering where he put his hat & gloves.

BROWN and OLIVE. Needing some warmth, we headed straight down through Utah to Arizona.

Ahhhh….yes. We felt just like that flower.

One of the most accessible national parks is Petrified Forest–right off I-40. Since winter storms were threatening, we opted for the ease of a ride-through, and kept on our way.

What, you assumed “forest” meant vertical? Show some respect for your elders!

RED. After holing up in Albuquerque for a bit, we headed sadly for Texas, knowing that the Panhandle is one of the dullest parts of a state which guards its scenery pretty closely. But following our noses to a small green blob on our map, we discovered Palo Duro State Park–amazingly, the second-largest canyon in the US, and one that we nor anyone we knew had heard of.

We became huge fans.

WHITE and BLUE again (warm shades). Another brand-new discovery for us (though much better-known): Florida’s National Seashore, where we camped and rode our bikes, in awe of the ivory sand.

I used to think these kinds of photos were doctored.
This might even be whiter than ivory. More like snow, I think.

Having crossed the country at top speed, outrunning storms, we found ourselves with a full extra week in Florida, which we spent bopping from one gorgeous state park to another.

Can’t remember which one this is. We visited several springs, equally bewitching.

We did also ride our bikes through the Everglades and visited friends in the Keys, but frankly, I found the environmental degradation there more depressing than inspiring, so I won’t revisit those places here.

BROWN & GREEN (wet version). Okeefenokee! Need I say more?

We took a boat tour with a very knowledgable young park ranger.

Since Georgia’s wild places have such great names, we also joined some friends in paddling the Ogeechee River.

“And there’s something ’bout the Southland in the springtime…” –Indigo Girls

Back at my parents’ farm once more–don’t forget, dear readers, that NC in March is always the apex of our Road Trips–Son Two joined us again from college, for Tarheel basketball, great BBQ, and cuddles with Stevie, World’s Cutest Ass.

The goat’s pretty cute too, but she’s no Stevie.

SILVER. Unlike the previous year, winter weather precluded heading very far north, so we made the Big Left Turn and headed west through the middle of the country, taking one touristy, cultural stop–unusual for us.

…because the bike path through St. Louis SUCKED.
Up at the top of the Arch. The Mate refused to join me, and when the tiny elevator got briefly stuck, I understood his claustrophobia.

BROWN & BLACK. Astonishingly, while Flagstaff got a foot of snow, just north of there, we found Estes Park, Colorado, on the edge of Rocky Mountain N.P., nearly snow-free.

You would not believe how many rocks there look like Jabba the Hutt.

The “Black” comes from another new find (to us): Colorado’s Black Canyon of the Gunnison. It was too snowy to hike down, so we snowshoed along the rim.

Closest thing to Mordor I’ve seen in the States.

RED again. First, we camped in the lovely & accessible Colorado National Monument outside Grand Junction.

Another one of those, “Why haven’t we heard of this place?” places.

To this day, this remains our only sighting of desert bighorns–right across the road!

You guys aren’t even trying to act rare.

Of course the ultimate RED is found in Moab, UT, jumping-off spot for three major national parks.

This one names itself: Arches.

There, we began what has remained a tradition of joining our Adventure Buddies Tom & Kate for, well…

…adventure. (Canyonlands NP, where we actually took a jeep tour. The guide assured us this photo was a requirement.)

COLOR US HAPPY. Back home in Washington, we managed to meet both our sons on break from college, and celebrated with sushi at Fujiya, our favorite restaurant in the world.

So that’s Road Trip II–colorful, warm, and now folded in the closet of memory. Catch you next time for RT III–thanks for traveling with me!

NOT-Road Trip I: Let’s Get Ready To…Stay Right Here

Anyone who’s followed this blog for a calendar year will know that at this point in the calendar, Wing’s World morphs into a travel blog for 6-8 weeks. Since our kids left the nest, since I left teaching, since the Mate retired and we moved to Lopez Island, we have been leaving in mid-February to drive across the country to North Carolina, returning at the end of March in order for me to start a new season at Holly B’s Bakery.

[Why North Carolina in March? Read a quick primer here.]

This time last year, we were packing up Red Rover for Road Trip X. In any normal year, we’d be doing the same right now for RTXI. But you don’t need me to announce that this isn’t any normal year.

The Mate’s waiting for his second COVID shot. I’m waiting for my first. The country is waiting, period. And we’re not going anywhere. [Well, maybe a teensy, contact-free staycation. But our kind of Road Trip? Forget it.]

So I thought I’d take these next few blog posts to celebrate the joy of the past 10 years of road tripping–my way of keeping hope alive for the time when we can do this again. All of us–whatever our version of Road Trips may be.

Road Trip I: 2011

I hadn’t started blogging then, so this trip’s not recorded. Had it been, your reaction may have been, “Really? You’re trying to cram all THAT into one road trip?”

THAT = visiting out-of-the-way parks we’d never taken the time to explore, like Sunol, near the Bay Area…

This one oak pretty much sums up the place. Go and see for yourself!

…but also famous national parks we already knew and loved, like Joshua Tree

If you read the above explanation about North Carolina, you will know what team The Mate’s cheering for, listening to our satellite radio in our campsite!

THAT also = visiting family, like my grandmother in Santa Barbara–she turned 103 two months after this photo, and lived for another half a year

My Grandma Dede

Of course THAT includes daily doses of recreation, hiking or biking together. (In those days I was still running too, but The Mate had had to give up his beloved sport some years earlier). We quickly became aficionados of desert hiking, despite the need for frequent photography stops.

I mean–come on! (Saguaro National Park near Tucson)

Some of the special new corners of our country that we “discovered” became dear favorites, to which we’ve returned repeatedly, like the Chiricahua National Monument.

We’ll never EVER get tired of this place.

THAT also meant, of course, visiting our “far and dear,” folks who went and moved to places like Arizona & Texas. But, I reasoned, would they welcome us coming to stay with them in the middle of a work week? Shouldn’t we give ourselves some work while we visited, to keep us out of their hair?

And so, in two different cities, San Antonio and Dallas, I signed us up for 3-day stints with Habitat for Humanity.

San Antonio. We got to paint this one.

Our far & dear thought we were silly. “Next time, skip the volunteer work and spend more time with us!”

Midweek in February, there are no big group “builds,” we found–so we did a lot of this.

Turns out, for us, the idea of combining socializing with volunteering was cooler in concept than reality. Since then, we’ve kept the two separate.

We learned on Road Trip I to enjoy the incredible contrasts our big country has to offer–desert one week, swamps the next.

I love cypress knees.

We also folded some history into those off-the-beaten-track stops, like Birmingham.

Walking through this Civil Rights memorial in Birmingham was an extremely emotional experience.

In the Blue Ridge of North Carolina, more old friends. (You’ll notice I don’t include these photos because I don’t want to violate their privacy, but this one, at a distance, gives the idea.)

Still friends, for 40 years now

And when we finally got to Durham–my hometown, and Chapel Hill, where The Mate and I met–we celebrated what we had come for: family and Tarheel basketball. And Tarheel basketball family.

Son Two even skipped a few college classes that year to join us at his grandparents’ house.

I should clarify that. My parents are NOT Tarheel fans. They are nuts about other things, like animals and recreation, but NOT the Heels.

Dogs rule–and also horses, goats, chickens, and a llama–at my folks’ farm, Tierreich, which translates to “Kingdom of Animals.”

Here’s the basketball family–which I have come to think of as the Tribe.

Some of the faithful get too nervous during the games to sit down. (Not pictured: all the delicious Southern food that’s part of the ACC Tournament ritual.)

The one place both basketball and non-basketball family meet is the annual Wildflower Walk, a tradition The Mate started back when he used to fly back for the ACCs.

Trout lily!

After the tournament (The Mate surely remembers how the Heels did that year, but I don’t) Road Trip I took us north–way north: through DC, then up to Rhode Island. Why not? We’re not due home till end of March!

One of the best urban bike systems ever!

Then, Maine, where we spent half a sabbatical year in 2003.

Aw, Peaks we missed ya!

Finally, we made what I’ve come to think of as The Big Left Turn. Crossing the country at this latitude in March is no joke, so we traveled fast, sticking to interstates to beat the winter storms. This photo of a groundhog in upstate NY is the only one showing any kind of scenery; the rest was just “let’s try not to die when that semi going 85 hits that ice patch.”

No shadow! But still, sadly, winter.

So, to recap: Road Trip I established a bunch of patterns–new discoveries of small parks; pilgrimages to big ones; brief and longer reunions with family & friends; homage to history; bike paths & hiking trails as tools of exploration; deep infusion of family & basketball in NC; daring winter on our way home.

Patterns that never took: volunteer work. That had to find another place in our lives. (Don’t worry–it has.)

Next post: So this is how you Road Trip?

Road Trip X, Days 29-32, Kentucky to Missouri to Kansas to Colorado to Wyoming: Forget Scenery, Just Get Us Home, Please

We’ve never had a road trip where all we do is drive. But we’ve never had a road trip during a global pandemic either.

The day we left North Carolina, making Big Left Turn #2 to head for our island home on the opposite end of the continent, all things basketball died. We were shocked, but still spent that first night enjoying the scenic beauty of eastern Kentucky’s Carter Caves State Park…

Apparently they have caves there. But the natural bridges were enough for me!

Even cooler from below.

The limestone just weeps little waterfalls everywhere.

A magnificent beech…one of the trees I do miss, out west.

Next day, we started driving, listening to CNN, and to the sound of most of our road-trip joy being sucked away. We determined not to visit the friend we’d hoped to visit in Louisville. Ditto Milwaukee, the Twin Cities, Denver, and Yakima. We’ve probably already visited too many dear ones.

Just get us home. This isn’t fun any more. Too much is out of our control.

Which explains why I have NO pictures from Missouri, even though I did enjoy a pleasant walk-jog through a park in Columbia. Kansas? This is my only pic, shot out the car window to let Son Two know that it was still winter where we were.

What you see is what you get.

I wish I could say something encouraging about western Kansas, but…it’s an awful lot like eastern Colorado, which, guess what? I also took no pictures of as we zoomed through. Home, home, home. We exercised in the motel’s fitness room and passed up all of Denver’s bike paths. (Sour grapes: it was awfully windy anyway, though much warmer than we’d feared.)

I did celebrate the last of the Traveling Hollywood Oranges, though:

Like a month of travelin’ sunshine! Thanks, Cousin Susi!

In Wyoming, I snapped this shot just to let my mom know that Wyoming seemed to be about done with winter. But we didn’t stop.

Balmy!

And then the rocks got cool enough to want their pictures taken. From the car.

I’d hike in there. Just not now.

And now, here we are in Rock Springs, Wyoming, just 30 miles or so from Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area…and we’re not going. It’s out of our way, and we’re focused on mileage. Home, home, home.

Instead, I’ll leave you with a picture of one of my trademark Noodlebag Dinners*,

Even better than it looks.

*Noodlebag Dinner = pasta pre-cooked & put in bag w/ olive oil & salt, to which all kinds of yummy things can be added before microwaving in a motel room for a cheapo gourmet meal

How are all of y’all coping in this new reality? Any of you fellow travelers (literal ones) changing your traveling routines? Singing that alphabet song as you wash your hands after every truck-stop transaction? Avoiding dropping by friends? Stay healthy out there, everyone…

Road Trip X, Days 25-28, Durham/Chapel Hill NC: Tarheel Fever + Covid19 = Perspective

I’d planned this post to be the acme of wry grumpiness. I was going to muse, kvetchily, about my earlier assumption that having our beloved Tarheels suffer through such an epically SUCKY season (talking 40+ year-worst) would cause me to feel some much-lacking empathy for fans of teams who regularly suffer—both fans and teams, I mean. All those folks who wait desperately to get into the Big Dance as a 16th seed, only to lose at Game One.

But no, I was going to say. I am NOT empathetic at all. I hate this feeling and I just want it to go away and never ever come within my Tarheel sight.

But I was still gonna celebrate Mama Dip’s chicken and Allen & Sons BBQ.

That’s what I was GOING to say. And then  I was going to assuage my hurt soul by posting pictures of my parents’ animals, here on the little scruffy farm where I grew up. Meet Erda the Norwegian elkhound…

Treat?

…Hank the goat…

Hi!!!!!!

and the World’s Sweetest Ass, Stevie.

And as a bonus, meet my amazing mom! (Not pictured: amazing dad)

Hold up—can we get a little more Stevie, please?

Thank you.

I was also going to celebrate the fact that a dear former student from Tacoma is now living within an hour of my folks, and was up for a visit!

This is what’s known as “teacher pay.”

But mostly I was gonna be grumpy. 

Then: Covid19. And all its cascading effects. Still fresh, raw, scary, unknown, unfolding as I write this.

The day after our team’s ignominious end of season, all basketball ends. Suddenly the Mate and I, like everyone we know, are contemplating a very different world than the one we thought we were living in.

So, complain about sports? Nope. Inshallah, we can all go back to that in a year or so. But until then? Here’s another Stevie pic, for all of us.

Keep your chin up, folks.

 

 

 

Road Trip X, Days 21-24, Tallahassee to (sorta-)Savannah: Swamped by Unexpected Beauty 

I thought of titling this post “Sea to Shining Sea,” after touching the Atlantic the other day. I even thought about posing the Traveling Avocados, Oranges and Grapefruit on the beach, to celebrate their epic journey. But only a few oranges are left; all the rest of our gifted produce is eaten. And anyway, having already waded in Gulf of Mexico, it’d be more like sea to shining sea to other shining sea, right?

Still: Hello, North Atlantic!

But today’s theme waved me down as soon as we holed up in Tallahassee. That town isn’t a long drive from our previous night in Alabama; we had no business there, knew no one, didn’t check out Florida State or even ride our bikes along the terrific trail we’ve ridden before. All we were doing was making sure we didn’t die in a tornado waiting out some nasty weather. Doing laundry. And (one of us) making some headway on the novel.

And even with such meager expectations, Tallahassee offered us a good reminder of northern Florida’s lovely topography (NOT flat!) and relatively undeveloped landscape (hardly any billboards, even on I-10). And a wonderful bakery, and a  gorgeous sunset (not pictured) and this giant live oak in the motel parking lot.

Ooh, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet.

Next day, the storm having blown through without tornadoes (thank you!) we headed to a brand-new destination: Little Talbot Island State Park, just north of Jacksonville.

In the middle of a swamp. Yes.

There we discovered not only a long, pristine beach–for people who love long, pristine beaches…

Augh! must…count…all the different…varieties! Make it stop!

…but also a boneyard of silvery drift-stumps…

Just as satiny as it looks!

…and the COOLEST trail through the dunes…

With tortoise holes! (Not pictured–sadly: tortoises)

…into a mixed forest of gigantic pines, palms, and live oaks, the latter dripping with ferns and Spanish moss.

Ooooh…

Question: WHY are epiphytes so ridiculously compelling? Is it a) the way they humanize the trees, calling to mind beards and long tresses? b) the way they soften the harsher, sharper lines of the forest? Or c) the fact that I was clearly a swamp rat in a previous life?

Ahhh…

The campground was one of the nicest ever, in terms of space and light and vegetation. Its only downside: the road was too close, so traffic noise was very present until late at night.

Would just one nighttime armadillo be too much to ask?

And we didn’t get any armadillos. But hey.

“That’s too much Spanish Moss!” said no one ever.

One more glorious bike ride in the refreshingly cool morning, on a LONG bike trail.

Way to go, northern Florida!

Along the way we took a sideline to the beach, to visit with some crumbly-clay tidepools…

Different! No wee fishies, unfortunately.

…and one more gorgeous silver drift-log installation.

World’s coolest jungle gym.

Heading north, we passed this irresistible sign:

How can I have never run into this pun before?!

And then on to Savannah (sorta). Our friends live on the outskirts, which should really be called the outswamps. Question: Is that why they named the town after a sea-of-grass ecosystem? Anyone know?

Since our purpose was reuniting with old friends, we skipped the downtown Savannah tour. Instead, we were gifted with one over-the-top, unexpected cool thing after another. We got to watch the Carolina-Duke game with true fans, drowning our sorrows in bacon-wrapped scallops and homemade pizza (not pictured). We got to cuddle with the sweetest, silkiest Labrador.

Forrest loved the Mate.

We thought our friends’ backyard view was just fine–hey, nice swamp ya got here!–but then next the morning, THIS happened.

Okay then.

Finally, our friends served us a lil’ ol’ Georgia breakfast: eggs, cheese grits, sausage, bacon, fresh fruit salad, and fresh sweet rolls. Still full from the night before, I made a superwoman effort and ate everything.

Woman’s got to do what a woman’s got to do.

So…feeling a little swamped right now. Thinking that when we find beauty and goodness in unexpected places, it means even more. And feeling a bit grateful that Spanish Moss doesn’t grow in mountainous areas. Because if it did? I think my head would explode.

More, more!