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.

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 VIII, Days 19-23, Nashville to Asheville: Don’t You Westerners Start With Your “These Ain’t No Mountains”

We’ve made it to North Carolina, my home state. But not, as yet, to my hometown. For once we aren’t fleeing weather on this trip, which means we’ve been able to slow down and enjoy time with friends in the Blue Ridge.

That means lots of walks and hikes on steep, rocky pieces of earth which, to me, are most definitely mountains, thank you very much, but to my Californian Mate…not so much. Please ignore him. These mountains are old, they’re beautiful, and they’re full of old, beautiful music, songs full of references to valleys and hollers, songs I can’t get out of my head when I’m here. I love these mountains.

Sunrise from the front porch, up on Butler Mountain

But I’m not about to set up a head-to-head beauty contest between them and my beloved Cascades or Olympics. I mean, let’s be realistic, okay?

So on our hike yesterday, I went small, ignoring huge oaks and laurel thickets and waterfalls for something subtler…and also very welcome, after all the desert we just crossed: fungus.

The first I came across are what’s commonly known as a British Soldiers. Usually their heads are bright red; I’ve never seen pink ones!

Maybe they’re all wearing their Pussy Hats!

Then there were these beauties on a fallen tree:

Who knew decay could be so lovely?

And this little guy, doing a good impression of a tide pool creature:

Sea slug? Chiton? Nope—fungus.

Finally, on our way back, these fragile white fans:

I know, I know. We have pretty mushrooms in the northwest too. But let the east shine for now, ok?

Since I mentioned Nashville in the heading I should mention that, yes indeed, the Mate and I paid our respects to Music Row, and ate some kick-ass ribs at Acme Feed and Seed (which I did not take a picture of ’cause I already felt conspicuously touristy).  But neon and cowboy boots are not our thing. I’m happy for those who love Nashville and all it stands for, but we were just as glad to get back to our motel and watch the Tarheels play. 😊

And speaking of Tarheels…next up, Durham, Chapel Hill, and the ACC tournament! And…where will Traveling Avocados #5 and 6 find their destiny?

How Sweet (and Shameful) It Is To Be a Tarheel: The NCAA Finals And The Bathroom Law

We Southerners who leave the South are a conflicted bunch. I recently tried to capture my mixed feelings about my “sweet sunny South” homeland in a song. Here’s the chorus:

Yeah, it’s another song about the South, y’all–

Tryin’ to sort my feelings out once and for all.

How can someone feel so in and out of place?

That sweet, sunny South where I first saw the light,

If she’s my ol’ mama, I’m a teenager in flight.

Do I want to hug her neck…or slap her face?

That conflict has been raging stronger than ever this past couple of weeks, as these two feelings battle within me:

  1. I am SO DADGUM PROUD (as Coach Williams would say) of my Carolina Tarheels, playing their way into the National Championship game!
  2. I am so ashamed of the North Carolinian voters, who elected the representatives who passed HB2, a.k.a. the “Bathroom Law,” which requires people to use the bathroom assigned to whichever gender they were born with.

(courtesy cnn.com)

(courtesy cnn.com)

Luckily, the law is encountering an enormous backlash. I doubt something so discriminatory will stand for long. But just the fact that my fellow Tarheels thought it was a good idea to pass a law so mean-spirited and divisive makes me sad. So much for the “New South.”

(courtesy pinterest)

(courtesy pinterest)

I’m wearing my Carolina Blue as I write this–earrings and all. I’ll be cheering my head off tonight, and I’ll be almost as proud if our guys lose than if they win. But what would make me the proudest? If my former fellow citizens reject this law with all their physical might. I want to get back to feeling like hugging their necks instead of slapping their faces.