Archive for the ‘road trip’ Category

The abandoned cement mixer that’s been turned into and abandoned space capsule by an artist. The oddity sits eats of Phoenix near the Casa Grade exit on the south side of the road.

“I see my path, but I don’t know where it leads. Not knowing where I’m going is what inspires me to travel it.: — Rosalia de Castro

Between Phoenix and Tucson

I was heading home to Tucson from Phoenix on Interstate 10 with my friend Jean when I saw a strange object in a barren farm field off the road to my right. It kind of looked like part of a rocket, was my immediate thought,

The cement tree that sits off Interstate 80 between Salt Lake City, Utah, and Wendover, Nevada.

“What’s that?” I asked Jean.

Truly a woman of the times, Jean said she didn’t know but she would find out.

“I doubt you’ll find that on your smartphone,” I said as she began tapping its keypad.

“Wanna bet?” she replied. Fortunately, I didn’t because a few minutes later she

Told me exactly what we had passed. It was an abandoned cement mixer from an old truck that artist Jack Milliard had painted to look like a downed space capsule. The abandoned mixer had sat in the field for 30 years before that.

Weird, I thought. Then my mind went to the cement tree that sits in the middle of the Bountiful Salt

The two-story outhouse in Gays, Illinois. — Photo by Pat Bean

Flats between Salt Lake City, Utah, and Wendover, Nevada. As a journalist, I had written about this 83-foot-tall structure that was built to withstand desert winds gusting at over 130 miles an hour, and earthquakes in the order of 7.5 on the Richter scale.

According to the local Highway Patrol, and Wikipedia, more than two million cars travel past the tree annually, and five to seven an hour of these cars stop for a more thorough look. When Utah pumped water out of Great Salt Lake onto the West Desert to avoid the lake from flooding in the 1980s, the joke was that the state was doing so to water the cement tree.

Then I remembered the Two-Story Outhouse in Gays, Illinois. I did a short travel blog for American Profile magazine on this roadside oddity.

Such surprising sights are what make road trips so delightful. Do you have a favorite roadside oddity?  I hope you do. I’d love to hear about it.

Bean Pat Frog Diva thoughts https://frogdivathoughts.com/2018/12/03/all-i-want-is-a-hippopotamus-for-christmas/#like-8863 Do you remember this? I do.

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

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“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

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Candy-striped rocks in Badlands National Park. — Photo by Pat Bean

“Landscape is a piece that is emotional and psychological.” – Jim Hodges


Remnants of an ancient jungle can be seen in the Badlands. — Photo by Pat Bean

Alone on a Windy Day

In the neighborhood of a million or more people from all over the world annually visit Badlands National Park, a rugged, colorful, wind scoured, sun-bleached, South Dakota landscape that took my mind back through endless eras of time. It felt magical, and the windy autumn day I drove, and hiked a bit, through it seemed as if I had the park’s entire quarter-million acres of rock and prairie to myself.

         I had spent the night at a small campground in Interior, a city of less than 100 residents that sits just outside the park. It is home to the Horseshoe Bar, whose sign out front said: “All Bikes Must Stop,” and a gas station, where I had to go inside to pay. The friendly clerk there old me to drop by for a hot meal later. I bypassed the bar, and did just that.

South Dakota is known as one of this country’s windiest states, and it was living up to the reputation when I awoke the next morning after a night of rocking and rolling in my over-the-cab bed. The smart thing to do was to stay put for the day. But the Badlands, which I had never visited before, was calling me.

My canine companion Maggie and I answered the invitation. We did get bounced around a bit in our undersized, 21-foot class C home on wheels. But, oh was it worth it! As more and more people seek relief from the world’s chaos in nature’s wild places, it is becoming rare to have time alone with Mother Nature. Well, unless you are a backpacker able to truly go into the backcountry, and age has put me at a point where that kind of adventure is behind me.

Besides the kaleidoscope of candy-striped boulders, remnants of an ancient jungle, and fossils of animals, like the saber-toothed tiger that no longer exist, I saw bison, prairie dogs, antelope, rock wrens and prairie falcons.

But the day’s furious winds, which calmed down for a bit every now and then, evidently kept other visitors away. I saw fewer than a dozen cars on the Badlands Highway 240 Loop Road, and only three other people during my several short hikes.

It rained shortly after I arrived back at the Interior campground, and I spent another night rocking and rolling as my RV danced with the wind. Then it was off for another day of exploring the “good” Badlands.

Bean Pat: An invitation https://natureontheedge.com/2018/01/27/ The adventure begins Feb. 16. Sounds like fun and a good cause.

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

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The ferry from Aransas Pass to Port Aransas on Mustang Island on the Texas Gulf Coast. — Wikimedia photo

“I can’t change the direction of the wind, but I can adjust my sails to always reach my destination.” — Jimmy Dean

And a Journey to Mustang Island

As one who loves road trips, and one who believes the journey is even more important than the destination, I was in high spirits as I drove Gypsy Lee, my 21-foot home on wheels, down Texas’ Highway 35 on a late February day. It was 2009, and my first sojourn after spending the nastier days of winter hanging out in my children’s driveways.

A great egret sat by a small pond near the entrance to Mustang Island State Park. — Photo by Pat Bean

The sun was shining brightly but the day was quite windy. Through my windshield, I could see turkey vultures wobbling in flight and kestrels swaying on roadside wires. Have you ever noticed that these high-wire-loving falcons always seem to face the road and not away from it?

The gray feathers of a mockingbird, the only other bird that seemed to be defying the wind this day, were blown up like a skirt, exposing white feathers as if they were a petticoat. As this Texas state bird winged its way inch by inch into the howling wind. I felt like I was watching a slow-motion vignette.

I sympathized, as I had to keep my hands tightly placed on Gypsy Lee’s steering wheel to keep sudden gusts of winds from blowing her sideways. I gave myself a break from driving by stopping for a bit at Aransas National Wildlife Refuge, where I got a distant look at a couple of whooping cranes. I would see these endangered birds up much closer later in the week when, I took a tour boat out of Port Aransas.

A brown pelican and a laughing gull near Port Aransas. Photo by Pat Bean

Back on the road, the wind was still singing loudly, but soon, although many mind musings later, I found myself in Aransas Pass, where I would catch a ferry to take me across to Mustang Island. The ferry docked in Port Aransas, which sits on the northern end of this narrow stretch of water-enclosed land. My destination for the day was Mustang Island State Park on the southern end of the island.

Once hooked up, I enjoyed the remains of the windy Texas day, ending it with a sunset stroll on the beach beneath cackling laughing gulls, and beside white-capped waves rolling up beneath my sandaled feet.

Bean Pat: A slice of life http://tinyurl.com/y9rq4uxv This blog makes me feel gratitude for still being able to enjoy the little things in life.

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The cover for Travels with Maggie, which I had designed back in 2014.

“It is always better when you give a damn.” – John D. MacDonald

Coming to the End of a Long Road

In May of 2006, I left my youngest daughter’s home in Camden, Arkansas. Six months later, in time for Thanksgiving dinner, I arrived at my oldest daughter’s home on the outskirts of Dallas.

In-between, my canine companion, Maggie, and I traveled 7,000 miles in a small RV, through 23 states and Canada, to Maine, where we stood on top of Cadillac Mountain in Acadia National Park one morning to get this country’s first ray of sunlight.

The Mark Twain Lighthouse in Hannibal, Missouri, which I climbed up to explore during my Travels with Maggie. — Photo by Pat Bean

The in-between miles are the topics of my book, Travels with Maggie, which soon will be available at Amazon. It’s part travelogue, part memoir, part bird book, part nature book, and part about one woman’s conversations with her dog. I think it would fit nicely on a book shelf between John Steinbeck’s Travels with Charley and Charles Kuralt’s On the Road, with Peter Cashwell’s The Verb to Bird nearby.

But this book is written with a feminine voice, that of an old-broad, wandering-wonderer.

This week I put the mechanics of putting Travels with Maggie up on Amazon into the hands of an angel who, unlike me, knows what she is doing. I spent three frustrated weeks trying before I finally gave up.

A view from Acadia National Park in Maine, which was the destination of my journey. — Photo by Pat Bean

Late yesterday evening, when I was having a Jack and Coke on my back balcony with my friend, Jean, who needed it after her high school teaching day, to celebrate the new stage of my book, I suddenly found myself crying.

I’m not exactly sure why.

My book, whose first draft was named one of the top 10 when it was entered in a Mayborn Non-Fiction Writing Workshop contest, has now been through five rewrites, edits and proofings.

The second rewrite was a major one to add voice, which I had omitted because I was trying to hide the fact I was an old-broad. The Mayborn critiques, all of them, said this was the book’s one major fault – and I knew immediately they were right.

The third rewrite was mostly a polishing of my writing, as was the fourth. The fifth was

Mostly a typo-catching read-through. And there will be a sixth proofing yet to come. This is a 75,000-word manuscript so each of these steps took some time.

My dream of writing just such a book is over a half-century old, during which time the whole world of publishing changed. I was reluctant to let go of the traditional world, but finally decided I didn’t have the time to wait around any longer. In the traditional world, the publisher would have done the marketing for the book. In today’s world, most writers are now having to accomplish this step themselves.

It’s what I am going to have to do – and telling my blog readers about my book is a first step toward that goal. Whew! I feel a weight lifted off my shoulders for writing this. I’ll now let you follow each step of getting Travels with Maggie out there with me. Maybe you’ll even buy my book when it’s finally out to the public.

Bean Pat: Citizen Sketcher http://tinyurl.com/k9xrpq4 I love the watercolors on this blog, and the artist’s celebration of them. Reminds me of my current celebration.

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“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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