Road Trip: Austin   

‘Love is friendship that has caught fire. It is quiet understanding, mutual confidence, sharing and forgiving. It is loyalty through good and bad times. It settles for less than perfection and makes allowances for human weaknesses.” – Ann Landers

Photo from 2016 Stories from the Heart Conference with vivacious Debra Weingarten at the head of the table cheering us on. Sadly, she was missing this year.

My road trip to Texas, so far, had been a family thing, reconnecting with distant loved ones, and spending cherished time together with lots of hugs. My four-day stay in Austin to attend Story Circle Network’s Stories from the Heart Writing Conference was just as full of love and hugs.

Though not related by blood, I considered the other female participants – from  SCN  founder and award-winning author Susan Wittig Albert, whose published books are almost too many to count, to writers who were still hoping to be published – my sisters.

Without many of these women in attendance here in Austin, and other members scattered across the world, my own book, Travels with Maggie, would never have been published.

I first discovered Story Circle Network in 2010 when I saw an ad in Writer’s Digest for the Stories from the Heart Conference. I have not missed one of the conferences, which is held every other year, since.

I was on my second draft of Travels with Maggie when I first joined the organization for women writers, and was trying to give my book the voice which critiques said it lacked. In the first draft, I had tried to disguise that I was an old broad. Story Circle gave me the confidence to realize that being an old broad, and still having a zest for life, was the unique voice the book needed. And then when the book was finally finished to my satisfaction, and with the very generous help of SCN member Sherry Wachter, it was my SCN sisters who lent me their confidence to publish it.

To be among these women, my sisters, was every bit as heartfelt as being with my blood relatives.  The only thing missing was my marketing mentor, the vivacious Debra Weingarten, who sadly was in the hospital with terminal cancer. This award-winning author and publisher’s high energy, overwhelming love and always-upbeat attitude were missed by everyone at the conference who knew her.

It was important for me to hold Debra’s hand, and SCN’s beautiful new president, Jeanne Guy, made it happen. Together we skipped out of the conference to visit Debra, who was weak and soft-spoken as she lay in her hospital bed — but smiling through the pain.

Even as I write this, I can still feel Debra’s hand in mind, and her love and support for me, and for all of my other Story Circle sisters.

Thankfulness fills my heart for having found Story Circle Network, and such wonderful women as Susan, and Jeanne and Sherry and Debra, and all the many other wonderful women whom I now consider sisters.

I now serve on the board for the organization, and during a board meeting that had me staying over an extra day after the conference ended, I learned my worth.

According to Susan Albert, SCN had paid $450 for the Writer’s Digest ad that had caught my attention – and I was the only person who responded.

“It was a worthwhile investment,” Susan said. Of course, that made me feel good, but then that’s how I felt from the first to the last sisterly hug I got at the conference – and there were many.

Bean Pat: A Cat Story: https://windagainstcurrent.com/2018/08/18/the-cat-that-found-me/?wref=pil

Pat Bean is a Lonely Planet Community Pathfinder. Her book, Travels with Maggie, is now up on Amazon at http://tinyurl.com/y8z7553y  Currently, she is writing a book, tentatively titled Bird Droppings, which is about her late-bloomer birding adventures. You can contact her at patbean@msn.com

“Not all those who wander are lost.” — J. R. R. Tolkien

I wonder if this crow is heading the right way — or is as turned around as I was. — Photo by Pat Bean

Turned Around

            The 200-mile road trip from Dallas to Austin to attend my fifth Stories from the Heart writing conference — which was the reason for my making my annual trip to Texas in July instead of a more pleasant month, like April when the bluebonnets are in bloom – took me once again on a familiar route.

No bluebonnets in Texas in July. But if you go in April, you might be able to catch them. — Photo by Pat Bean

I picked up Interstate 35 on the outskirts of Dallas and followed it south all the way to Austin. It was a familiar drive with little chance for me to get off track, since even the Wyndham Garden Hotel that was my destination, was located beside I-35. But I put the address into my GPS anyway.

Using the GPS is a recently new habit since I didn’t own one when I traveled full-time exploring this country between 2004 and 2013. My youngest daughter, however, gave me one for Christmas in 2015. And I’ve grown addicted to it, although I do still study actual maps before taking off down the road.

On the far side of Waco, I needed to make a restroom stop, and when I saw a Buc-ee’s sign ahead, I took the next exit – and ended up in a tangle of construction that required a U-turn to get where I was going. Then I took the wrong exit and found myself repeating the U-turn maneuver to get to where I wanted to go.

Instead of Buc-ee’s however, it was another gas and convenience store where I stopped because it was closer – and the need to use the restroom, a bonus of being an old broad, was making me more and more uncomfortable.

Once my business was taken care of, I filled my little car up with gas and took off back down the road, which required about two miles of dodging construction before I finally got back on I-35. I had gone about a mile down the road when I passed a highway marker that read North 35.

Sh-ee-it!  I’m not sure how it happened but I was heading the wrong way. It was another four miles before there was an exit that allowed me to make yet another U-turn and get headed south again.

At times like this – and I have them often since my sense of direction ranks in the minus category even with a GPS – the only thing to do is to laugh at oneself, and be thankful for the bonus sight-seeing excursion.

Bean Pat: An artist’s eye https://playamart.wordpress.com/2018/08/16/timeout-for-art-about-that-feather/#more-19973 I liked this blog because I piddle around with watercolors, and because the live model for this simple painting delighted me.

Pat Bean is a Lonely Planet Community Pathfinder. Her book, Travels with Maggie, is now up on Amazon at http://tinyurl.com/y8z7553y  Currently, she is writing a book, tentatively titled Bird Droppings, which is about her late-bloomer birding adventures. You can contact h

er at patbean@msn.com

“There’s always failure. And there’s always disappointment. And there’s always loss. But the secret is learning from the loss, and realizing that none of those holes are vacuums.”  –Michael J. Fox

Me with my granddaughter Shanna and grandson David, who is my oldest grandchild, at Sue Ellen’s for my book signing party.

Sh-ee-it Happens Among the Good Times

After spending a few days with my two sons and their families in West Columbia and Lake Jackson, and having a delightful fish dinner on the beach, I was off again, this time to Dallas, to visit my daughter, Deborah, and other family members.

Three generations of women:: My daughter Deborah with her daughter Shanna and me.

Having lived on the coast for 15 years during the ’50s, ‘60s and “70s, with parents living in Dallas, I didn’t need a map for the 300-mile journey, which would take me straight through the middle of downtown Houston during the morning rush hour. Even after I had moved away, I ended up still having friends and family on the Gulf Coast and family in Dallas, so it’s a drive I’ve made almost yearly since I left home at the age of 16.

In earlier years, the trip was made on Highway 75, which was under constant construction, and which was eventually eaten up by Interstate 45, just as the old Route 66 was eaten up by Interstate 40, which now winds its way between California and North Carolina.

In recent years, getting through Houston has always given me a sense of satisfaction that I could still make the drive while remaining cool and calm in the midst of multiple lanes, which oft times were full of idiotic drivers out to get me – as it was this particular morning.

Once on the north side of the huge metroplex, I breathed a sigh of relief, and stopped at a Flying J and its Denny’s for breakfast. Although I had promised myself when I first started the trip that I would write in my journal daily, this was the first time I had pulled it out since I had left Tucson. I tried to recapture all the events that had happened while I waited for the eggs Benedict I had ordered.

The breakfast was excellent, but soon I was back on the road heading to Dallas.

I was going to stay at my daughter’s, but my son Michael made an unexpected trip to visit his sister, and so I ended up staying at my granddaughter’s so everyone could have a comfortable bed. It all worked out well, and I was delighted to get to spend a bit of time with my youngest son as well as my oldest daughter, her husband Neal, and their two children, my granddaughter, Shanna, and my grandson, David.  We played board games and laughed a lot.

Shanna and her wife, Dawn, and I played numerous games of Frustration in the evenings, and the two held a book signing party for me at Sue Ellen’s, where I sold a few copies of Travels with Maggie to their friends.

The day before I left, I finally found a few minutes again to catch up on my journal. Sadly, when I couldn’t find it, I realized I had left it at the Denny’s in Houston, 250 miles in the opposite direction from where I was next headed.

It was a sad loss, and a logistics problem that I have not yet been able to solve.  Sometimes, even in the best of times, sh-ee-it happens!

Now available on Amazon

Bean Pat: Theodore Roosevelt National Park https://naturehasnoboss.com/2018/08/13/room-to-roam-2/?wref=pil  Enjoy the views.

Pat Bean is a Lonely Planet Community Pathfinder. Her book, Travels with Maggie, is now up on Amazon at http://tinyurl.com/y8z7553y  Currently, she is writing a book, tentatively titled Bird Droppings, which is about her late-bloomer birding adventures. You can contact her at patbean@msn.com

             “The Early bird gets the worm. The early worm … gets eaten.” – Norman Ralph Augustine

It was peaceful and quiet at the Matagorda County Bird Nature Center, where rare time spent with a son was even more important than the lovely scenery and the birds. — Photo by Pat Bean


A Day for the Birds

The greatest number of bird species ever reported in one U.S. county in a single day is 250.  The day was December 19, 2005, and the place was Matagorda County, Texas, according to Wikipedia.

This yellow-crowned night heron patiently posed for his portrait. — Photo by Pat Bean,

Knowing this bit of trivia, it was an easy decision when my son asked me where I wanted to go birding, which is how he and I bond when we have a rare day to be together. I chose the Matagorda County Birding Nature Center located in Bay City for more reasons than that, however. It wasn’t December. It was going to be a hot 100-degree plus July day, and I knew this bird sanctuary had a golf cart that birders could use to get around its 37 acres. And while summer birding in Texas isn’t exactly great, I suspected the center would still have some birds in residence.

Lewis picked me up early, and we birded until 10:30 when the heat got to me and I had to yell uncle.  We then did a drive through nearby San Bernard National Wildlife Refuge, which is in both San Bernard and Brazoria counties.

Lewis posed for a photo to be texted to his wife, Karen, who wasn’t with us this day. She was in Niagara Falls, where Lewis plans to join her soon. — Photo by Pat Bean.

The day’s final bird total was well below the 100 birds Lewis and I got on an April birding day on the Texas Gulf Coast a few years back, which began on the beach in Quintana, and included a visit to the San Bernard refuges. But we still had a few extraordinary sightings,

There were a couple of green herons, always one my favorite birds; a close overhead flyover of a Cooper’s hawk; a brilliant summer tanager, which was one of the birds Lewis and I saw on our first bird outing together at Brazoria National Wildlife Refuge in 2002 when Lewis caught my birding addiction; and a great photo-op of a yellow-crowned night heron.

We ended our adventure by having lunch at Dido’s, where a couple of hummingbirds entertained us as they vied for nectar feeders that sat in front of the large windows that overlooked the San Bernard River.

It was a great day. But as much as I loved the birding, the best part of the it was simply getting to spend time with my son Lewis.

Bean Pat: Writing Soul Mates https://smpauthors.wordpress.com/2018/08/05/waiting-to-be-prospected/  Some good ideas for those times when we struggle with writer’s block.

Pat Bean is a Lonely Planet Community Pathfinder. Her book, Travels with Maggie, is now up on Amazon at http://tinyurl.com/y8z7553y  Currently, she is writing a book, tentatively titled Bird Droppings, which is about her late-bloomer birding adventures. You can contact her at patbean@msn.com

“Family means putting your arms around each other and being there.” — Barbara Bush

Nana, posing for a picture with Savannah and Charlotte. Life was good.

Making Connections

After too brief a visit with family in San Antonio, and a promise to stop again on my way out of Texas, I hit the road for Texas’s Gulf Coast south of Houston. It was an easy, and familiar, 210-mile drive: Interstate 10 to Highway 36 to West Columbia, the home of my son D.C., his wife Cindi, who acts as my guardian angel when I am on the road, and their autistic daughter, Susan, who holds a special place in my heart.

One of my favorite things when I visit the Texas Gulf Coast are the moss-laden trees. I lived down there during Hurricane Carla in the 1960s, and one of the sad results that all the moss was blown away. — Photo by Pat Bean

Nearby lives his son, David, and the second of my three sons, Lewis, and their children (my grandchildren and great-grandchildren). Making and keeping connections with all these family members is important to me, especially since I usually only get to see them once a year.

The connections come easier with the adults, especially since I’ve found things to share with them – from watching Survivor with D.C (we’re both addicted to this TV reality show) to playing Settlers of Cataan with Cindi, to birding with Lewis.

But I hadn’t yet truly bonded with my two great-granddaughters, four-year-old Savannah and two-year-old Charlotte. Charlotte wasn’t even a year old when I had seen her last, and Savannah was shy with strangers, a good thing in my mind, and I let her maintain her comfortable distance.

This visit, however, Charlotte broke the ice. She climbed up on the couch beside me and we played “This Little Piggy …” She laughed and giggled and was free with her hugs, and since Savannah didn’t want to be left out, I got hugs from her too.

Life is good.

Bean Pat: A relaxing drive through the country  https://travelsandtrifles.wordpress.com/2018/07/22/lens-artists-photo-challenge-time-to-relax/ A peaceful kind of road trip.

Pat Bean is a Lonely Planet Community Pathfinder. Her book, Travels with Maggie, is now up on Amazon at http://tinyurl.com/y8z7553y  Currently, she is writing a book, tentatively titled Bird Droppings, which is about her late-bloomer birding adventures. You can contact her at patbean@msn.com

“The reward for having children is grandchildren.” – Pat Bean

Me and Junior, taken nine years ago. — Photo by Barry Marsh


Grands and Greats

After the blowout day, the next day’s 430-mile drive into San Antonio was a breeze. I was passing through familiar territory, and so out came my audible book, Fallout by Sara Paretsky. But I didn’t listen much as I was still too excited about the road trip and the scenery to concentrate for long periods.

A recent picture of three-year-old Marshall with his dad. — Photo by Heidi Pease

I have two granddaughters in San Antonio: Heidi, who is the mother of my three-year-old great-grandson Marshall, and who was nine months pregnant with my great-granddaughter Cora; and her younger sister, Lindsey, who is mother of nine-year-old Junior, my oldest great-grandchild.

I arrived on July 6, and Junior’s birthday was July 5. He had chosen to wait to share his birthday dinner with me, which of course made me feel good. It turned out to be a delightful event with both sisters’ family in attendance, as well as one of Junior’s closest friends.

My daughter in Tucson had sent a bike and other presents with me for Junior, but I simply gave him books, which is what I almost always give my children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren.

Marshall, who had recently turned three, got a book, too. And for a special treat the next day, I got to go to Marshall’s swimming lesson.

And of Marshall waiting to become a big brother. Heidi was due any moment but didn’t pop while I was there.

While I enjoyed every minute of the two days, I had with this portion of my large scattered family, I came away with a favorite memory.

Nine-year-old Junior wanted to play Nerf guns with me, and I didn’t want to play. And after I had told him that for the fourth time, he walked over to a chair, and plonked down with a big sigh.

“I guess I’m not your favorite Nana anymore,” I said.

Junior, who had given me my name of Nana Bean almost as soon as he could talk, got quite indignant. Looking squarely at me, he said, “You will always be my favorite Nana Bean.”

I just about cried. He got a big hug for that. But I still didn’t play Nerf guns with him.

            Bean Pat:  Procrastination https://ryanlanz.com/2018/07/29/12-ways-to-manage-your-procrastination-problem-because-yes-you-definitely-have-one/    A good reminder to this procrastinator.

Pat Bean is a Lonely Planet Community Pathfinder. Her book, Travels with Maggie, is now up on Amazon at http://tinyurl.com/y8z7553y  Currently, she is writing a book, tentatively titled Bird Droppings, which is about her late-bloomer birding adventures. You can contact her at patbean@msn.com

“The greatest reward and luxury of travel is to be able to experience everyday things as if for the first time, to be in a position in which almost nothing is so familiar it is taken for granted.” — Bill Bryson

leaving at dawn

Nothing is better than setting out on a road trip at dawn. — Photo by Pat Bean

The Blow Out
When I posted my last blog, I said stay tuned for the details of my upcoming road trip to Texas. I had planned to post along the journey. But you know what they say about the best laid plans of mice and men.
I was distracted, too busy having too many wonderful moments, and too undisciplined to follow through. But I’m back now with lots to tell you over the next few posts. We’ll start with my first day on the road.


Rocks became the dominant landscape as I pass through Texas Canyon about 65 miles east of Tucson. — Photo by Pat Bean

While I love back roads, the only way to Texas from Tucson, without adding too many extra miles and time is Interstate 10. But since it had been a while since I had been alone on a road trip, I enjoyed even the passing scenery of cacti and mesquite trees.
I didn’t listen to music or even an audible book this first day, simply happy to think of Willie Nelson singing “Back on the Road Again,” and hearing Dr. Seuss say “Oh the things you will see…”, and stopping every 75 miles, to walk around a bit to untangle the kinks of sitting. The pattern worked as I stayed comfortable, well almost, the entire drive.
My destination was Van Horn, Texas, which was 438 miles from Tucson and the halfway point of my first stop in San Antonio. Since I had left early in the morning, I expected to arrive at my two-star –that’s all there is in Van Horn — hotel around 4 p.m., or 2 p.m. Tucson time, which would give me plenty of time to rest up and have a leisurely dinner.
All was going well until I was 10 miles east of Las Cruces and my left, rear tire blew out. I was going 70 mph but was easily able to get to the side of the busy highway, where I sat for a moment or two thinking “What in the hell do I do now?” Then my brain kicked in, and I called my insurance company, which gave me the number for roadside assistance, for which I generously pay them.
I got a quick response, but even quicker were a New Mexico Highway Patrol woman, a county sheriff’s deputy, and a Border Patrol guy, who all pulled up in separate cars around me. I told them I had roadside assistance, but they said they wanted to get me quickly back on the road.
Since the semis roaring past shook my car every time they went by, their kindness was greatly appreciated. They pulled off my shredded tire, put on the spare donut, then gave me directions to the nearest Discount Tire back in Las Cruces.
I called to cancel the roadside assistance, but 10 minutes later, as I was renearing Las Cruces, I got a call from the roadside assistance guy saying he couldn’t find my car. I apologized, and said I had left the scene of the incident.
It took a bit of time to get a new tire put on, but finally, my pockets $155 lighter, I was back on the road. I made it to Van Horn by 8 p.m. and had a fast food burger for dinner. Even so, it had been a wonderful day.
Bean Pat: In Diane’s Kitchen https://indianeskitchen.com/2018/07/27/old-fashion-blueberry-grunt/#like-26686 I’m getting ready to go to the store and I am going to buy blueberries.
Pat Bean is a Lonely Planet Community Pathfinder. Her book, Travels with Maggie, is now up on Amazon at http://tinyurl.com/y8z7553y Currently, she is writing a book, tentatively titled Bird Droppings, which is about her late-bloomer birding adventures. You can contact her at patbean@msn.com