Boulder At Last!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Amarillo!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This road trip keeps getting more exciting!

Memorial Day

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

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

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

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

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

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

Details and Mindfulness

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Looking forward to being mindful in Boulder.

Priming, Preparing and Packing

Once upon a time I used to think that I knew how to pack a suitcase and prepare myself for a vacation. I have done it before. I have gone places and returned home quite successfully. Then I began planning a road trip to Boulder with Melanie.

Who can forget anything with a list like this?

One of the first documents that Melanie gave me while discussing our road trip was a simple piece of paper that said, “PACK THIS!” On this simple piece of paper were lists of things to take with you when packing for any conceivable travels. I glanced down at all of the 17 sub‐lists and immediately wondered how I ever made it anywhere by myself.

I can remember when I used to work full time in an office setting, there were days when I surprised both myself and my co‐workers with the ability to dress myself in the morning and have all articles of clothing land in the right places. However, I blamed this little quirk on the fact that I have never been a morning person and really cannot function without at least one cup of coffee.

Now I have a list that I can look at any time of the day or night fully caffeinated and wonder how many more suit cases I am going to need. It is truly daunting.

To begin with, do I really need a list to remind me to pack underwear? The list also specifies to pack a tuxedo. I’ve never owned a tuxedo. Great, now I have to go shopping before I leave town. Guess I’ll pick up some more underwear while I’m at the store.

There is also a line item for anxiety medications. Really? What does this list know about my road trip that I don’t? I am hoping for a couple of relaxing days while driving and seeing parts of the Southwest that I have not seen before. Yet, apparently now I have to worry about anxiety and what to do about it. That makes me feel quite anxious!

The good news is that I only have to prepare and pack for myself. Melanie is in charge of the automobile. Normally when traveling with others, I will ask if the tires have been checked, have all the fluids been topped off, etc. I did not have to do that this time. As you just read, Melanie is the official keeper of all particular detailed lists. I know she has this handled. Then, as if I had asked, she told me about some minor car repairs to make sure the air conditioning was working. Good. Air conditioning is good. Especially since day time temperatures are already reaching into the high 90’s. It’s not like we will be driving through deserts and mountains and such. I am glad Melanie is in charge of the automobile.

We are taking Melanie’s SUV because it is bigger than my Prius. With two of us traveling we need the extra space to pack all of the things on the “PACK THIS!” list. We may pick up a friend at the Denver airport on the way to the writing retreat. Friend may have to lie in the back on top of the luggage. What fun!

Now I am off for more priming, preparing and packing.

Boulder Bound: What Am I Doing?

I am now a full‐time writer. I have waited a long time to say that and it feels good. Right now, I am getting ready to head out on a long road trip to Boulder, Colorado with one friend, books, journals, lap top, and hopefully at least a little good sense. My friend, Melanie, is traveling with me. I am packing the books and journals. We will have to wait and see about the good sense. 

Hannah preps for her own road trip.
Hannah readies for the road trip…

The cat in the picture will try to go with me, but she will stay at home. Many thanks to Jim and my great team of house‐sitters and cat‐sitters who will look out for everything while I am gone.

Two months ago, I was a full‐time Social Services administrator for a local governmental organization. I was your “tax dollars at work”. During these last two months, I have had surgery (which restricted movement for six weeks), then I had to speak in front of a crowd at a cemetery for the placement of a historical marker, then I had a major water leak in my home thanks to my upstairs neighbor, then I retired from the governmental bureaucracy.

I had planned to spend my first week of retired life in my night gown, sleeping a great deal, reading and watching junky television. Instead, I was visited daily by contractors and maintenance personnel who repaired walls, ceilings and floors damaged by the water leak. Fortunately, within 2 weeks all home repairs were complete…all except for the dust. Thanks to a great team of professional housekeepers for helping me to clean up.

Needless to say, I still haven’t had my week of sleeping, reading and couch potatoing and now I don’t have time. I am Boulder Bound! Melanie and I are attending a writing retreat in Boulder. Enroute, we will stop and visit a few sites. It’s my first trip to Colorado and I want to see as much as possible.

What does it mean to be Boulder Bound? It means I no longer work in an office. I am a writer. I can write at home, at a coffee shop, or while gazing at whatever mountains I keep hearing everyone talk about in Boulder. Hopefully by the time I return home, I will know the names of the mountains.

Being Boulder Bound means I am hitting the road to see what there is to see. On the road. I almost feel like Jack Kerouac using the “essentials of spontaneous prose” to outline my journey. Before, during and after the retreat I will share my existence and experiences with a couple of talented writers exploring the depths of our visions and talents. Unlike Kerouac, I will probably skip the substance abuse and sexual experimentation.

Okay, for anyone who does not know about Jack Kerouac and his book On the Road which was published the year I was born, please Google now. I will wait.

I have several writing projects, but while in Colorado, I will be working on one in particular. This project involves my writing about growing up in Memphis, Tennessee during the 60’s and 70’s. Like now, it was a time of great change in both me as a person and in the society and culture that surrounds me.

Wish me luck with my journey! I will keep you posted on everything (or almost everything) that happens.