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Archive for the ‘road trip’ Category

“If at some point you don’t ask yourself, ‘What have I gotten myself into?’ then you’re not doing it right.” — Roland Gau

Wonder Lake with a reflection of Denali, a sight I didn't see because the mountain was covered in mist. -- Wikimedia photo

Wonder Lake with a reflection of Denali, a sight I didn’t see because the mountain was covered in mist. — Wikimedia photo

2001 Memories of a Non-Wandering Wanderer

            Tim Cahill, one of my favorite outdoor writers, said he didn’t like taking guided tours led by someone who actually knew what they were doing. You end up, he wrote, “with a dismal lack of adventure. The trip goes too smoothly. You never end up swimming for your life through savage seas,” Cahill said, adding that you also never wake up half-drowned in some village where there or no telephones, no electricity, no doctors, and you seldom find yourself being nursed back to health by a beautiful woman.

Wildlife, like this caribou, slowed traffic, but what a joy to see. I especially enjoyed it when a moose blocked our way. == Wikimedia photo

Wildlife, like this caribou, slowed traffic, but what a joy to see. I especially enjoyed it when a moose blocked our way.– Wikimedia photo

Well this day, I was taking a guided tour, and it didn’t lack adventure. It included two bus breakdowns, and other delays that turned a normal eight-hour sightseeing bus trip into a 15-hour one, and with only a small packed lunch.

But it was one of the most glorious vacation days I’ve ever enjoyed.

Wildlife in their natural habitat could be seen around every curve in the road, although usually at a respectful distance. Thankfully I had a great pair of binoculars.

I lost count of the number of grizzly bears, many females with young cubs especially, that I saw. We stopped at one viewing point where over a dozen were in sight heading down a steep hill.

In addition there were caribou, foxes, golden eagles, Dall sheep, gyrfalcon (still the only one this birder has ever seen in the wild), greater white-fronted geese, northern harriers, beavers, ptarmigan, northern pintails, yellowlegs and moose.

The one and only  road that cuts through Denali National Park -- and I was on it from beginning to end. -- Wikimedia photo

The one and only road that cuts through Denali National Park — and I was on it from beginning to end. — Wikimedia photo

My only disappointment, if you could have one on such a glorious day, was that I didn’t see a wolf. I had never seen one in the wild at this point in my life, but thankfully that happened a few years later when I observed one in Yellowstone National Park, where they had been reintroduced.

The first lag of the roundtrip ended at Wonder Lake, where so many magnificent photos have been taken of Denali Mountain’s reflection. At 20,310 feet, Denali (once known as McKinley) is the tallest peak in North America.

There was mist on the mountain this day, and I got only one earlier, brief glimpse of Denali’s peaks. The mountain was so far away, however, that I decided to wait for a closer view. That ended up being my only view — too bad I forgot to seize the moment.

Blog pick of the Day. Check it out.

Blog pick of the Day. Check it out.

Bean Pat Ralie Travels http://tinyurl.com/z2xnwqz Take an armchair tour of Edinburgh

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  There are grander and more sublime landscapes – to me. There are more compelling cultures. But what appeals to me about central Montana is that the combination of landscape and lifestyle is the most compelling I’ve seen on this earth. Small mountain ranges and open prairie, and different weather, different light, all within a 360-degree view. Sam Abell

Page 1 of my Alaska trip journal.

Page 1 of my Alaska trip journal.

Non-Wandering Wanderer Memories

Yesterday I came across the journal I kept during my 30-day journey from Ogden to Alaska, most of which was driven on the Alaskan Highway. I thought I would blog about the trip this November as my time is precious – I’ve signed up to do NANO – that is write a 50,000 word novel in 30 days. I’m writing a bird memoir, and when I did the Alaska trip, I was just beginning my late-blooming bird-watching passion.

A white-faced ibis was the first bird on my Alaska trip birding list.

A white-faced ibis was the first bird on my Alaska trip birding list.

On the first day of my 2001 Alaskan adventure, I drove from Ogden, Utah, to Dillon Montana. It was July 27.

Like Ogden, where my journey began, Dillon is a railroad town. It was founded in 1880 by Union Pacific Railroad President Sydney Dillon, hence its name. Its location was selected because of its close location to gold mines then in the area, the first of which was discovered in 1862. And because of its large sheep-ranching community, Dillon, which was incorporated in 1884 and has a current population of about 4,000, was once the largest exporter of sheep wool in Montana.

The odd fact I still recall, because of research I had done prior to my journey, is that a circus elephant named Old Pitt was struck by lightning in the town in 1943, and was buried at the fairgrounds.

While I don’t remember too much else about the town, where I slept that first day on the road, I still have memories of my excitement about the coming month. And of course the birds I was going to see along the way.

Blog pick of the Day. Check it out.

Blog pick of the Day. Check it out.

Bean Pat: Pit’s Fritztown News http://tinyurl.com/z64x46l One of my favorite bloggers, who writes from Fredericksburg, Texas. Today he’s talking about Day Zero of a road trip that appealed to me, and seemed to go with my Day 1 of my trip to Alaska, which of course started with my own Day Zero.

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The Seasons

  “Winter is an etching spring a watercolor, summer an oil painting, and autumn a mosaic of them all.” – Stanley Horowitz

The view of autumn painting a mosaic landscape on the far side of Lake Claiborne was a vivid image from the rear window of my RV at Isaac Creek Campground in Alabama. -- Photo by Pat Beean

This double-image view of an autumn landscape on the far side of Lake Claiborne was a vivid image from the rear window of my RV at Isaac Creek Campground in Alabama. — Photo by Pat Bean

Two Autumns

My yearly routine, when I was living in an RV and traveling across America’s landscapes of purple mountains, blue lakes, tall corn fields, golden waves of grain, saguaro deserts, sandy beaches and green forests beneath an ever-changing sky, found me heading toward Texas at the first sign of winter.

The red leaves of this tree at the Paul Bunyan Campground in Bangor Maine, that hung over Gypsy Lee were redder every morning during the week I stayed there. -- Photo by Pat Bean

The red leaves of this tree at the Paul Bunyan Campground in Bangor Maine, that hung over Gypsy Lee were redder every morning during the week I stayed there. — Photo by Pat Bean

Once there, I would spend the cold months bouncing between my children’s homes, all of which had hookup connections for my RV and me to sit until the danger of traveling icy roads had passed.

The year I traveled to Maine, autumn arrived early. And so did winter. I found cold winds and storms barking at my heels in early September, while at the same time, according to my children’s emails, summer still had a firm grip on Texas.

Maine’s fast approaching winter, and closed-down RV parks, had me joining the migration of birds and quickly heading south. But when I reached Delaware, I found that autumn hadn’t even begun to paint the first leaves. My travels turned leisurely again, and when I reached Alabama, in mid-November, I was treated to my second autumn. I watched it blossom into that mosaic Stanley Horowitz described as I sat beside Lake Claiborne at Isaac Creek Campground.

Since autumn is my favorite season, I considered myself a lucky old broad to have gotten two in one year.

Blog pick of the Day. Check it out.

Blog pick of the Day. Check it out.

Bean Pat: Screen Crud http://tinyurl.com/hh2hqdv This blog made me laugh because non-existent periods on my computer page happen to me a lot.

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Parry's Agave. It's not a great photo, especial given the background, but I only had this view from below it's high perch. I'm so glad I could finally identify it. -- Photo by Pat Bean

Parry’s Agave. It’s not a great photo, especial given the background, but I only had this view from below its high perch. I’m so glad I could finally identify it. — Photo by Pat Bean

   “There are more truths in a good book than its author meant to put in it.”-Marie von Ebner-Eschenbach

Reading Let Me Name a Plant

During my recent road trip to the top of Mount Lemmon, I snapped a photo of a tall plant high on a cliff. I couldn’t see its base, just a slender stalk whose top was bedecked in candelabra fashion with clusters of green nodules. I wondered if it was a plant or a tree.

And this is what the plant looks like before it shoots up a stalk. -- Wikimedia photo

And this is what the plant looks like before it shoots up a stalk. — Wikimedia photo

This morning, as I was reading Richard Shelton’s Going Back to Bisbee – a fascinating book that is educating me about the landscape of my new home in the Sonoran Desert of Southeastern Arizona – I came across a perfect description of the plant, and learned that it was a Parry’s agave, an amazing cactus.

The one I saw was probably between 10 and 25 years old, and was in its final year of life, otherwise I wouldn’t have seen it. The plant, for most of its life, is short and bowl-like. When it finally blooms, it sends all of its life forces into a stalk that quickly sprouts up to 20 feet tall, and sends out blossoms at the top. The one I saw hadn’t bloomed yet, but Shelton described the blossoms as “shallow bowls about half a foot across and filled with frothy pink ice cream.”

A few pages on in the book, Shelton wrote about the magic of names and naming, a skill which all good writers should possess. A tree is never just a tree it’s a live oak or a baobab, a dog is a Rottweiler or a poodle, and a bird is a robin or a golden eagle. Such naming provides better images in a reader’s mind. And being able to put a name to something, be it a tree, a mountain, or a plant, gives me joy. So thank you Richard Shelton for helping me learn the name of the plant that I photographed – and for writing such a fantastic book, which I’m slowly savoring.

Blog pick of the Day. Check it out.

Blog pick of the Day. Check it out.

Bean Pat: The Methuselah Grove   http://tinyurl.com/hskgrcj Great Basin National Park, one of my favorite places.

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“Traveling is a brutality. It forces you to trust strangers and to lose sight of all that familiar comfort of home and friends. You are constantly off balance. Nothing is yours except the essential things – air, sleep, dreams, the sea, the sky – all things tending towards the eternal or what we imagine of it.” –  Cesare Pavese 

I don't drive at night, but I do like to be on the road in time to catch the sunrise. I caught this one on my last road trip to Texas. = Photo by Pat Bean

I don’t drive at night, but I do like to be on the road in time to catch the sunrise. I caught this one on my last road trip to Texas. = Photo by Pat Bean

Upcoming Road Trip

            I just started reading A Way to See the World by Thomas Swick, who begins the book by explaining how he became addicted to travel while still a teenager. It’s kind of how I begin my just completed travel book, Travels with Maggie.  

Pepper and I didn't see any rattlesnakes at this rest stop on one of our trips to Texas to see family, but in an unmanicured area just beyond the building, she got into a nest of burrs that took me a good half hour to pick out before we could continue on our way. Photo by Pat Bean

Pepper and I didn’t see any rattlesnakes at this rest stop on one of our trips to Texas to see family, but in an unmanicured area just beyond the building, she got into a nest of burrs that took me a good half hour to pick out before we could continue on our way. Photo by Pat Bean

          While our stories are quite different, both of us clearly have a gene of wanderlust in our souls that made itself know at a young age.     As I’m reading Swick’s book, it gets my mind thinking about my upcoming road trip to Texas for a writer’s conference. It’s a 900-mile adventure over familiar territory, so I know I’m going to have to look at the roadside landscape with fresh eyes.

But then that’s one of the best things about travel, at least for me. I just can’t wait to get on the road again,” as Willie would say.

Or as Robert Louis Stevenson said: “For my part, I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel’s sake. The great affair is to move.”

And I’m going to follow the advice of Molsih Eddin Saadi, who believes we should use our eyes when we travel: “A traveler without observation is a bird without wings.”

Blog pick of the Day. Check it out.

Blog pick of the Day. Check it out.

Bean Pat: More Travel Quotes: http://tinyurl.com/3p8msma I love them all.

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The Great Dismal Swamp. -- photo by Pat Bean

The Great Dismal Swamp. — photo by Pat Bean

“Everything we do every thought we’ve ever had, is produced by the human brain. But exactly how it operates remains one of the biggest unsolved mysteries, and it seems the more we probe its secrets, the more surprises we find.” Neil deGrasse Tyson

It was a Surprise

            I have two traveling styles. The first is a mile-by-mile research of all the sights and attractions I will be seeing from Point A to Point B. I highly recommend it as it gives meaning to the seeing. The second is simply to choose a route to get me from Point A to Point B and be surprised along the way. I highly recommend this method of road trips, too.

Sailboats on the Great Dismal Swamp behind the North Carolina Welcome Center off Highway 17.  Photo by Pat Bean

Sailboats on the Great Dismal Swamp behind the North Carolina Welcome Center off Highway 17. Photo by Pat Bean

It’s not that one method is better, simply different, as are so many of life’s choices.

The Great Dismal Swamp was one of those surprises for me. I didn’t know it even existed before I came across it a few years back,. I was traveling westward from Virginia Beach, zig-zagging on back roads until I reached Highway 17.

It was a late October morning, sunny, but cool, when I came across this great marsh with its waterlogged trees, poisonous snakes and dark waters that hid what lurked below. Of course I had to explore it a bit. Just its name, Great Dismal Swamp, captured both my curiosity and my imagination.

My stopping place was a welcome center in North Carolina just across the border from Virginia. It had a picnic area for both motorists and boaters, with a parking lot entrance for vehicles off Highway 17 and a dock at the rear of the building to accommodate water traffic on the Great Dismal Swamp Canal.  Inside, I found a mountain of information on the swamp, which  until that day I hadn’t known existed.

The short hiking trail wasn't dismal at all. -- Photo by Pat Bean

The short hiking trail wasn’t dismal at all. — Photo by Pat Bean

. The creation of the canal through it was the idea of George Washington and his investor colleagues. They saw it as a means to accommodate trade between Virginia and an isolated region of North Carolina. Today, the 22-mile long canal provides boaters a shortcut between the Elizabeth River and Chesapeake Bay in Virginia and the Pasquotank River in North Carolina. In Washington’s time, it was the only easy passage through the mucky swamp.

Six large sailboats, quite nifty compared to the small 21-foot sloop I used to sail on the Great Salt Lake, were double-parked at the welcome center’s dock. After ogling the sailboats with an experienced eye, and exploring the visitor center and its manicured grounds, I found a path leading off into the forest. A sign identified it as “The Dismal Swamp Nature Trail,” with an added cautionary note to “Beware of Snakes.”

Actually it was a quite civilized trail, with markers identifying black cherry and mulberry trees, a cheerful squirrel dashing among the foliage, and a tufted titmouse whistling me along its fallen leaf carpet. The narrow path led along the canal for a while, then circled around into a more forested area before dumping me out, far too quickly, near the parking lot.

On the far side of the canal, the landscape was fiercer. There were no paths, only a mass of tangled vines and nature debris hiding and sheltering its wild occupants, like black bears and bobcats. The swamp also plays host to over 200 species of birds. Its tangled webs of vines, unsure footing and dangerous wildlife keep most people out, which is why it became a refuge for America’s former slaves.

The runaway slaves passed through it on their hopeful way to freedom, while others chose to live in the swamp as an alternative to slavery. Harriett Beecher Stow, whose book “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” sympathetically described the sad plight of slaves, wrote a second book, “Dred: A Tale of the Great Dismal Swamp,” whose title character was an escaped, angry slave who lived in it.

Back in my RV, still pondering facts I had learned, I continued following Highway 17 south until it intersected with Highway 158, a well-maintained but little traveled road that took me through the middle of the swamp. The 38-mile drive through the quagmire took me from the swamp’s eastern edge to its western edge — and because I stopped often to take photos, two hours to cover.

I rank that day’s Road Trip Surprise a solid 11, on a 1 to 10 ranking.

Blog pick of the Day. Check it out.

Blog pick of the Day. Check it out.

Bean Pat: Determination http://tinyurl.com/jj5zsg4 Some great quotes.

 

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“Fame is like a shaved pig with a greased tail, and it is only after it has slipped through the hands of thousands, that some fellow, by mere chance, holds on to it!” – Davy Crockett

Lake Jackson, where I lived for 15 years and where I still have family, is called the City of Enchantment. Being able to see great egrets -- this one was photographed at the city's Sea Center but you can also see them in drainage ditches all over town -- is enchanting. Don't you think?

Lake Jackson, where I lived for 15 years and where I still have family, is called the City of Enchantment. Being able to see great egrets — this one was photographed at the city’s Sea Center, but you can also see them in drainage ditches all over town — is enchanting. Don’t you think? — Photo by Pat Bean

Travel is so Enlightening

On road trips, when I’m driving the back roads that take me through the middle of small towns, I look for the one thing that makes one place stand out from another.

For instance, did you know that Venice, Florida, calls itself the Shark Tooth Capital of the World? People actually visit this quaint, snowbird town to find them, which isn’t hard to do as the tide and waves are constantly bringing shark’s teeth and other fossils up onto the city’s beaches.

Ypsilanti's Dick Brick, errrr Water Tower. -- Wikimedia photo

Ypsilanti’s Dick Brick. Oops,  I mean Water Tower. — Wikimedia photo

Sharks, which have an abundance of teeth to begin with, are continually replacing any that are lost – and a tiger shark, for instance, can produce as many as 24,000 teeth during its lifetime. That’s according to the web site of Sharky’s Shop, an online store where you can buy shark’s teeth if you don’t want to go beach surfing.

The small town of Woodstock, Vermont, which I passed through one rainy day, as were all the days I spent in this Green Mountain State, doubled up on its privileges to fame. It claimed: to be the only town in America with four Paul Revere bells, to be the site of the first ski tow, to be the birthplace of Hiram Powers, the sculptor of “Greek Slave” for which Elizabeth Barrett Browning created a sonnet, and to be the home of railroad empire builder Frederick Billings.

Perhaps the most outrageous claim to fame by a town I’ve visited, however, is the one made by Ypsilanti, where I spent a few days. This Michigan’s town’s brag is that it is home to the “World’s Most Phallic Structure.” That title was won by the city’s 147-foot limestone water tower during Cabinet magazine’s 2003 contest to find the building most resembling a human phallus.

One look at the tower – built in 1890 by someone either with a macho bent or a sense of humor – and I could see why it must have easily won the contest. Locals call it the “Dick Brick.” It’s said that if an Eastern Michigan University student graduates while still a virgin the tower will fall down. Travel is so enlightening.

Then there’s:

Hico, Texas: Where Everybody is Somebody.

Hico, Texas: Where Everybody is Somebody.

Hico, Texas: Where Everybody is Somebody.

Camden, Arkansas: Home of the Grapette.

Hatch, New Mexico: Chili Pepper Capital of the World.

Green River Utah: Watermelon Capital of the World.

Louisville, Kentucky: City of Beautiful Churches.

Aberdeen, Washington: Port of Missing Men

Rumney, New Hampshire: Crutch Capital of the World

Abbeville, Georgia: Wild Hog Capital of Georgia

Belle Glade, Florida: Muck City

St. John, North Dakota: City at the End of the Rainbow. I’ll stop here, but if you are interested in more town nickname trivia check out: http://tinyurl.com/z9odvg6

So what’s your town’s claim to fame?

Blog pick of the Day. Check it out.

Blog pick of the Day. Check it out.

Bean Pat: Have Bag, Will Travel http://tinyurl.com/zodt2r4  This blog appealed to me because I’m always visiting odd museums when I travel. This blog about a visit to one such museum made me laugh.

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