Pools

This series of posts is brought about by my attempt to relive what I did on my road trip which lasted from December 8, 2013 to May 3, 2014. I’m attempting to keep pace with myself last year. This post I wrote the other day and was reluctant to publish. But… I’ve edited it…

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Yeah BFD. I got in the car and drove through some snow and met an internet friend.
Why do I act like (think in my mind like) it was some momentous thing.
Like I broke some restraint.
Whose restraint?
No one was trying to hold me back.
I can’t actually think of too many times anyone has tried to hold me back.
Me. Me who sometimes does amazing projects. Who tries to stop me?
There have been friends who laughed at me and told me I’d not go anywhere.
Luckily I managed to let them go. Since that kind of attitude is completely counter productive to the kind of life I want to live.
What did I think I was accomplishing? That morning. It was my first morning. It was cold and snowy.

Getting our cars out of Kari’s driveway and going to her corporate employment place, getting me a guest ID. Going to a Toastmaster meeting. And then hitting the road again when she went to work. Such a grey day it was, driving across the north of Virginia.

Luray Caverns, closed when I drove by. Or rather I’d be too late for the last scheduled tour. That had been a big one on my starting itinerary.
I visited Luray Caverns once in the 80s. On a lark on the way to spring tour one year. It led to a bit of a cave obsession over the next few year’s worth of journeys. Anything! Anywhere. To get underground and see what the earth can do.
Such wondrous places. Caves. Eons of time piled up to see. Glistening, towering stalagmites. Dripping, growing stone hanging delicately from vaulted ceilings. Deep blue green waters. I once saw some blind fish in a cave in Tennessee. Swimming endlessly back and forth in the pale green water.
But this day it was only pale grey skies.
I was not going underground. I was heading for the mountains instead.

Isn’t that just like life? Plan one thing and another happens.
I had reservations at an Airbnb place near Virginia Tech. And if I was on time, a Toastmasters meeting in the same town – Blacksburg Virginia.

hours later…

Stream of consciousness takes over sometimes…

Little brass hummingbird drinks from a brass water dish thingy. Sitting in the utility sink with a softly glowing green pool in its dish. Reminds me of an underground cave pool. Caves. That’s the second time today.

The desire to see those types of pools again, often, is strong. Always.
Sigh, it’s just brass polish. Not a magic pool.
That’s why Luray was such an important destination as I set out. I need to see it. I knew it as one of the most commercialized caves even back in the 80s. But with good reason. I remember the formations as impressive and accessibility as a joyous walk through the world. I want to experience that majesty again.

Is that why I’m on this road trip?

Partially, yes. But I just had to pass it by.

This Road Trip is bigger than Luray.

In dreams I often see such a deeply colored pool in my front yard. It’s as large as the yard (different yards in different dreams) with comfortable looking craggy boulders splashled around. The water is the clearest thing I’ve ever seen. I see the depths – more boulders, like lava, artfully tumbled below. And the colors! All colors of the rainbow, so bright, electric even. Inviting. I’ve seen pictures of places with underwater scenes almost as vibrant as my dream but I’ve never seen one in person. Sometimes the photos I see of Yellowstone’s Old Faithful give me the same impression of the pool and colors in my dream. But not quite.

It’s my anniversary

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One year ago today my car sat parked up on the lawn outside my front door. It was cool and sunny in Connecticut but apparently there were some weather issues to the south. Rather attention grabbing weather issues.

I was preparing for a mad dash to Baltimore as the first leg of my journey. I had picked the date rather arbitrarily. It was a Sunday. I would leave at noon. But with reports of Baltimore having snow currently and, more of concern, by early evening it would turn to rain that would freeze on contact. Baltimore drivers were cautioned to avoid driving if possible. And I wanted to go there?

I wanted to visit my childhood friend Donna. Perfect yes? A little check in with my past as I stepped into what some friends called, lovingly, my mid-life crisis. Five and a half hours. A good first day’s drive.
Do I delay? Is it smart to drive into guaranteed frozen roads? Funny question. Is anything about this road trip “smart”?

The weather system, moving north, would be here in CT tomorrow. If I didn’t leave as planned I’d probably not leave tomorrow either. I asked the cat’s opinion and got nothing.
Okay. Well. Maybe I wouldn’t get as far as Baltimore but I could get somewhere. Drive as far as is safe then get a hotel. No procrastinating on this. I shall not be stopped by weather. Sheesh. Part of the whole point of this trip is to get away from the winter weather.

I threw some final, questionably necessary, items into the car, locked up the house for the house sitters arrival later in the day, said my goodbyes to the lovely seven pound elephant Miss Voodoo, and went to say goodbye to Vette and Rob at the Wadsworth Mansion Xmas craft fair thingy.
And that was it.
I was on my way. On the road again!

It was smooth sailing right onto and over the George Washington Bridge. Splendid day for the start of an adventure.
And then it started to snow. Pretty at first, I drove right into the thick of it. By the time I reached Elizabeth, NJ there was two inches on the ground. As I moved south the snow piled up quickly. Driving started to become treacherous in spots. Somewhere this side of Philly an 18-wheeler nearly ran me into a bridge abutment. That was a bit nerve wracking. It was kinda sleety. Traffic was slowing down.
What was I thinking? How many people are pulling over now to grab hotels and wait it out? Ugh.
How much farther to Baltimore? I can do this… Donna was on alert that I was attempting this. I texted and told her I was still on the way as far as I knew.
Traffic stopped.

I looked at the map again. I was hours behind schedule already. This little jaunt to Baltimore was becoming an ordeal. I looked at the map again and saw Newark Delaware not too far ahead of me. I had a friend there. A friend I’d known for years but had never met face to face. We were both in an online book group many many years ago.
The book-a-week group had always been a favorite of mine. Members read anything at all with the mere goal of trying to read 52 books each year. Then we’d write blurbs about what we’d read. I got many great unexpected reads from years spent reading with those ladies. The group kind fell apart when our beloved leader Donna got a nasty brain cancer and left this plain of existence. (Although I had never met Donna either, we were close. I still miss her.) She was our center and without her we drifted apart. I kept in touch with a few of the members, and facebook brought a few others back into my world. I always expected I’d meet Kari someday. We clicked right from our first emails. And she had extended an invitation to me to stop by. I figured I’d do so on my return. But. All this snow…
Wonder if she’s home? Wonder exactly how far it is? Wonder if she’ll let me crash there? I don’t have her number do I?
Traffic absolutely crawling. Snow and sleet and other icy particles collected everywhere.
I opened facebook to send Kari a message. It was the only way I had to contact her. I sent her my number and said “Text me, I’m stuck in snow traffic.”
She called right away!
Ha! She was stuck in snow traffic too. Had gone to a funeral today in Wilkes-Barre and was now trying to get home. Different highway. Same reality.
Sounded like we were both about the same distance from her house.
Of course I’d be welcome!
There was a big rest area just before her exit. We’d keep in touch and meet there.
Text message received – “I’m here.”
“What do you drive? Where are you parked? I’m two miles away.”
Cars are crawling into the rest stop and there’s no parking in sight.
But look! There! Through the slapping of the wipers, there’s a person standing outside a car widely waving arms! What a fantastic sight! Yay! Kari! You look like a crazy lady! Hello friend!
I have the biggest grin on my face reliving the moment.
Who would have ever thunk this is how we’d meet? Ten inches of snow on the ground. Sleet pelting our faces. A quick hug and a “follow me to my house” shouted over the general roar of the highway and the sleet.
Fifteen minutes later and we were warming and drying at her kitchen table.
A half hour after that we were out in the world again at a pub for some late night drinks, some warm food and to finally get to know each other.
The late night snow silence of the University of Delaware and the fire-warmth of The Deer Park Tavern were so far removed from the life I’d been living for years. I was elated to have launched. And to have landed, not just safely, but oh so enjoyably.
Thank you Kari!

(Alright here’s the deal folks. I’d like to think I’ll spend the time to relive my journey in a way I didn’t have time to write as I did it. Plus I should be writing and I haven’t been. I’m rusty. Bear with me.)
(Oh and hey. It’s not the first time I’ve written this story. Look there if you want to see pictures, or to see how I spent the next morning with Kari.)

Big Cats in Tampa

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I’ve always loved cats.

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I learned that from my mom. At one point, when I was a child, we had as many as nine cats. My Mother was simply incapable of turning away anyone or anything that was hungry or unloved or needed a place to crash for a while. So you can guess that every stray animal (or human) ended up at our house.
She gave me a good foundation in responsibility to animals.
I’ve always had a cat or two or four in my life. I’ve always helped turtles cross the road. I’ve always helped animal rescue organizations when I can. And I’ve always known it’s a bad idea to personally own a tiger or a lion. But at the same time I’ve always wanted to own a medium sized cat of my own.
I love cats. They are all gorgeous. And their personalities please me. All of them. Even the mean and crotchety. So the idea of owning an extra large house cat-well it can’t help but be appealing.

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The truth is that big cats, even the small big cats, are not meant for house living.

Last week, in Tampa, FL., I paid a visit to Big Cat Rescue.

What a fantastic organization!

They are one of the world’s only accredited big cat rescues. And they are very good at what they do.

A tour of the grounds consisted of a leisurely meander among the cat cages, heartfelt tellings of many of the cat’s individual stories, and a good dose of education about the plight of large and medium sized cats forced to live in quarters designed for humans.

I’m very glad an organization like this exists. They take great care of these majestic felines and it shows. The cats are happy and lolling about smiling and grunting and licking bloodsicles. (Bloodsicles are just what they sound like.)

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Many have access to lakes and ponds for swimming if they like. Animals who were rescued together continue to live together. Ah, the story of Cameron the lion and Zabu the white tiger, rescued from a zoo. Or the five servals saved from a NY basement after nearly 14 years!
The biggest cats have a sort of vacation land. They rotate time on multiple acres where they can run with enough room reach their top speeds.

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I hope you enjoy these photos as much as I enjoyed my visit to Big Cat Rescue.  (And just for the record, I’ve given up my desire to own a bobcat.)

If you have 10 or 20 or 100 bucks you’d like to toss their way, you can find their donation page here and their wishlist page here.

If you aren’t moved to do that then consider a donation to your local dog or cat shelter.
It’s good karma to help beings that cannot help themselves.

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I fell in love with Memphis

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I’ve been wanting to write about Memphis ever since I left, ever since I was there.

I was completely taken with the place.

The night before I’d been in Nashville. I expected to find some heart and soul there in Nashville but… I felt nothing. I know there was stuff to do. I found the cool part of town (or so I was told) – Five Points, and wandered around there, had a nice lunch at Marché Artisan Foods and wandered through some great little small business shops. But I was unimpressed. Inspiration level – flatline.

So I hit the road headed west. To Memphis. After spending the whole day in Nashville I arrived in Memphis in the dark. I grabbed a room online from a rest area because it looked pretty central to Museums and other things that looked interesting at first glance. When I arrived I asked if there was a room with a view and they hooked me up with a room that overlooked the trolley lines and Court Square. Court Square was decorated with a blue light fountain in the middle, and surrounding residential balconies dripped with colored lights. I was immediately charmed.

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Now it was time for food and so I took a walk out onto the trolley line. The place was deserted and looked enchanting all decorated with Christmas lights twirling up the street lamps and trolley stations adorned with glowing snowflakes. I wandered alone down the street. I felt completely safe and son found a restaurant that I’ll swear for months is my favorite place to eat in the entire US. It was called Flight and its entire concept was brilliant. Not only were the wines served in flights, but so were the apps, the salads, the soups, the entrees, the desserts and the after dinner cordials, and bourbons and gins and so on and so forth. Everything. And not only was the idea over the top, so was the food.

IMG_3654I strolled back to my hotel happy as a fried chicken on a waffle, smothered in mushroom maple sauce. I could love a place like this…

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It is believed that the Mississippian Culture tribes (Tribes known mostly for the Earth Mounds they built.) and later the Chickasaw tribes occupied the area for well over 10,000 years. The land Where Memphis sits is one of four natural bluffs that overlook the Mississippi River, making it ideal for settlement. The Spanish bought the land from the Chickasaw in 1795 in order to build a fort. When Spain agreed the leave the area, this bluff was decided to be the westernmost point of the newly admitted state of Tennessee.

Memphis wasn’t official founded until nearly 20 years later. It was named after the Ancient Egyptian city probably due to some similarity to its position on a major river. And later, this spiritual connection would lead a visionary builder to erect a huge pyramid right there in downtown Memphis, TN. (But that’s a whole ‘nother story.)

The history of Memphis fascinated me. In 1878 a yellow fever epidemic destroyed the city. So many people died or fled that the city’s population was reduced by 75%. Property tax revenues dried up and city infrastructures crumbled.

The march of history astounds me. Determined never to suffer such a disease induced population decrease, Memphis rebuilt with state of the art sanitation methods. And oddly enough, a few decades later, it was a Sanitation Worker’s Strike that put the spotlight on Memphis as a hotbed of Civil Rights issues.

And sadly, it was in Memphis that Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated on April 4th, 1968.

I awoke the next morning knowing I was not ready to leave Memphis.

I spent the next three days exploring and I did not even come close to seeing one quarter of all the things I wanted to do while here.

I almost forgot that I had an old friend who used to write for my magazine a decade ago, that lived in Memphis. We’d sort of lost touch because she doesn’t use social media. But I was able to find her working two blocks from my hotel. After work we jumped in her car and toured the city. I love seeing a place with a local!

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From Sun Studios to The Cotton Museum, from Otherlands, one of the coolest coffeehouses I’ve see since Klekolo, to The National Civil Rights Museum, from Trolleys that travel in loops past the pyramid and the South Main Art District to Beale Street, from The Arcade restaurant (where Elvis hung out as a teen) to myriad city parks, from visual beauty to music history, Memphis captured my heart.

I can’t wait to come back!

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Fun Fact – Memphis is thought to be the city with the most mentions in all recorded music and the Memphis Rock N Soul Museum keeps a running list of songs on their website.

 

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I Visited The Georgia Guidestones Today

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I drove through some gorgeous back highways of South Carolina and Georgia to reach Elberton, GA.

I pulled in and there was a stylish woman there with a camera and a tripod.

I walked over and said Hello.

She said “Hi, I’ve been waiting for you.”

Or waiting for someone… lol

Meredith is a University of Georgia student working on her senior thesis. She’s into exploring Georgia’s oddities. She’d been there an hour and I was the first person to appear.

I’m not going to say much about the Georgia Guidestones except that some people refer to them as America’s Stonehenge, and there’s a bit of controversy about it all. If you are intrigued – google it. There is much of interest to read and consider.

I enjoyed it very much. There’s something special and awesome about the place. I stayed for a few hours hanging out with Meredith, being interviewed, modeling, suggesting shots, watching her interview the few other folks who came by, and helping with her voiceover thoughts and clips.

Perhaps later I’ll have a link to the interview she did with me.

For now – here’s some photos from the day.

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Edit 12-30-2013

I got this link from Meredith and thought I’d share it here –

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U3nw6_a8ndk

Adventures in Messy Driving

I didn’t pack until pretty much the last minute. Which meant I was up late the night before I was to leave. Really late. Like 4:30AM.
So when I woke Sunday morning at 10 to the idea that it was going to snow all day along the eastern seaboard and by 5 pm it would be freezing solid in Baltimore, I questioned the idea of actually leaving.
Baltimore was my first planned stop.
I could wait a day and be a little more organized in my packing, but that would set me back a whole day and while I haven’t planned much of this journey more than a loose outline, I had planned the first three days.
I hemmed and hawed for a good hour before I finally started throwing everything in the car.
It was really hard to leave my cat.
Maybe it was just really hard to leave.
Does it make sense that it’s really hard to actually do what one really wants to do?
To which my best friend Vette replied, “If following your dreams were easy, everyone would be doing it”

The weather was fine and the weather was fine and the weather was fine all the way through NY and over the GWB. Then it started to snow.
I figured I’d go as far as I could, then stop and get a room. I didn’t expect I’d make it to Baltimore, and I was okay with that.
It got messy fast.

I thought about stopping when a truck almost ran me into a jersey barrier, but I soldiered on. How far will I push this?
Traffic stopped. I looked at the map.
Hmm.
I’d gotten an invite from Kari who lives in Newark Delaware. Maybe I could make it that far. I called her. No answer. Then I popped on to Facebook and shot her a message.
I kept going. The roads were definitely bad. but I’ve driven in worse, and I’ve got a Forester.

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I had no idea what I was going to do, or where I was going to stop, or where I would sleep.
I began to remember what life on the road is really like.
Then Kari called.
She’d had to go to a funeral in Wilkes-Barre and she was driving home in this mess. When I told her where I was, she determined we’d get to her house about the same time. There’s a rest area just before her exit. We’d meet there.
We arrived at the rest area within about 5 minutes of each other.
And here’s the fun part.
See Kari and I had never actually met in person before. About 15 years ago we joined the same online book group. We always said we’d meet for real. I suspect neither of us imagined that first meeting would take place on the side of the highway in 10 inches of snow.
I followed to her house. Parked my car and we went out for dinner and drinks.

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How perfect it all was! It couldn’t have been more so.
One would think.
Back at her house talking, late, and I’m planning my morning departure and she says “Oh and I’m Toastmaster at a meeting tomorrow at noon.”
What?!?!?
We’d never discussed Toastmasters. I’m a dedicated Toastmaster and I’ve planned to attend as many meetings as I can along my journey.
So yeah. It got even more perfect.
Kari kept talking about the serendipity of it all. I only smiled and didn’t tell her that I did a speech abut serendipity just a couple weeks ago.
That was a perfect start to my journey. Thanks Kari! Great meeting you!

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And here’s me tonight – in a hotel, trying to get a handle on managing my digital life from the road…

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