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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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“…on a still night, when the campfire is low and the Pleiades have climbed over the rimrocks, sit quietly and listen for a wolf to howl, and think hard of everything you have seen and tried to understand. Then you may hear it – a vast pulsing harmony – its score inscribed on a thousand hills, its notes the lives and deaths of plants and animals, its rhythms spanning the seconds and the centuries.” – From Aldo Leopold’s Sand County Almanac.

There is something of magic in a wolf’s howl that speaks to my soul. — Wikimedia photo

A Moment to Remember

My fascination with wolves began at a young age, triggered when I read for the first time, but not the last, Jack London’s “Call of the Wild.” I discovered the book when I about eight years old among my late grandfather’s book collection.

Down through the years I read many more books that encouraged this love affair, including “Never Cry Wolf,” that details the summer the author spent observing wild wolves in the Arctic tundra. I longed see one of these wild creatures outside of a zoo. But given the way we humans had been eradicating these animals for decades, it was a miracle I doubted would ever happen. Then it did, in 2005.

I was traveling in Yellowstone with my youngest son. We had stopped at an overlook to check out an unkindness of ravens in some trees, as were other visitors to the park. Or so we thought. We finally noticed that humans and birds alike were focused on something moving on the far side of the small pond below. When I saw it was a wolf, I was almost afraid to breathe. Here was nature at its purest.

One of the wolves at Wolf Park in Battle Ground, Indiana.

The overlook placed the wolf center stage while the morning sun, just capping a ridge to our east, spotlighted it.  The wolf ignored our presence until a small dog, left in a vehicle by its owner, began yapping. Only then did the wolf tilt its head in our direction. It clearly knew we pitiful humans were watching.  The barking dog, as if feeling the heat from that glance, became silent, and the wolf again continued its ground-covering stride.  Through my birding telescope I could almost count the hairs on the wolf’s back.

In comparison to seeing a wolf in the wild, which I would rate 20-plus on a 10-point scale, Wolf Park in Battle Ground, Indiana, was a mere 10.

I arrived at the park just in time for an afternoon guided tour of the 75-acre grounds. While much more than a zoo, the wolves here were not free and only half wild. Wolf Park is a research facility, created to allow researchers to make closer observations of these animals than would be possible in the wild.

While the wolves are kept in large enclosures that encourage them to form, and live, in packs as they would in the wild, they have been conditioned to human contact to facilitate researchers. This begins when they are only a couple of weeks old, at which time they are removed from their wolf mothers and given to human mothers to continue raising. At about four months old, the cubs are returned to their packs.

A tour guide explained all this as he walked us around the park. His spiel included a genealogy of the pack affiliations, and stories about the personalities of each of the park’s 24 wolves. I was fascinated.

The pack I would late howl with was led by Tristan.  As wolves do in the wild, he had gained his position by asserting his dominance over higher-ranking wolves. This pack in-fighting, unless death of an animal seems imminent, is not interfered with by the park staff. Fights for the alpha female role, our guide said, tended to be more vicious than those of the male wolves, probably because the right to breed belongs only to the female alpha.        ,

I returned to the park later that night for the weekly Friday Night Howl, and found myself sitting on bleachers in front of a large fenced enclosure. A couple of staff members entered the compound and were greeted enthusiastically by the wolves, much as my daughter’s Great Dane, Tara, greets me. She is extremely loving, but if I’m not careful of my stance, she could easily bowl me over.

With the greeting between humans and animals completed, the staffers talked a bit about the work at the park, and then invited us to start howling to encourage the wolves’ response. I found the howling a bit weird at first. I didn’t sound at all like a wolf. Tristan seemed to agree – and looked at us humans as if we were missing our brains. But just then, somewhere in the background, one of the wolves from a different pack howled.  Tristan answered the wild night song. Other members of his pack quickly joined him. The chorus of human and wolf howls went on for a while, but at some point, I stopped howling and simply listened, feeling a freedom in my soul that I find hard to describe. It’s a writer’s block that actually gives me pleasure.

When I began my human, screechy imitation of a wolf’s howls again, Tristan gave me a disdainful stare. Then, never taking his eyes from mine, he decided to take pity on this mere human and howled with me. Shivers of delight rolled up my spine. It is a moment I will never forget.

Now available on Amazon

The above essay is a short piece from my book Travels with Maggie, which — to toot my own horn – would make a great Christmas gift for travel enthusiasts, especially RVers. You can get it on Amazon.

            Bean Pat: Window into the woods https://awindowintothewoods.com/2018/11/19/really/#like-11871 Brave little chickadee.

            Pat Bean is a Lonely Planet Community Pathfinder. 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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Evidently, as usual, I took a wrong turn somewhere. — Photo by Pat Bean

“I think what is interesting in life is all the cracks and all the flaws and all the moments that are not perfect.” — Clemence Poesy

My GPS Has It Too

I have no sense of direction. Without a familiar mountain that never moves within my sight, I will almost always turn in the opposite direction of my desired destination.

For 25 years, I got around Ogden, Utah quite well because the magnificent Wasatch Mountains never moved/ They always stood tall and proud to the east. — Photo by Pat Bean

My usual method for getting to where I want to go when I’m driving, and the one I used for the nine years in which I traveled this country full time in a small RV, is to study a map before I head out, and carefully create a written cheat sheet of where to turn right or left.

The last few years, however, I have learned to use a GPS that a thoughtful daughter gave me. But it and I don’t always communicate well.

For example, I took a friend to the airport last week at o-dark-hundred. I knew the way to the airport but used my GPS because my night vision is no longer great, and the device tells me the names of streets coming up.

As usual, because, as I said,  the GPS and I don’t communicate well, the device wanted to take me to the airport on a route different from the way I wanted to go. As a result, because I thought the street the GPS wanted me to turn on was before the street I wanted to turn on, but it was after, I passed it by. OK. I’ll just follow the darn GPS directions, I decided. That would have been just fine if the GPS hadn’t told me to turn right when it should have said turn left.

 

These days, I live in the shadow of the Catalina Mountains, which when I’m in Tucson never move from their northern position. Above is a sunrise view from my bedroom balcony. — Photo by Pat Bean

Thankfully, after a couple more wrong turns, I got my friend to the airport on time. That’s because I always give myself plenty of time to get lost when I’m going somewhere – even when I have a GPS.

And there’s even a silver lining behind my flawed sense of direction. I’ve gotten to see a lot more of this beautiful country because of my many unintentional detours.

Bean Pat:  Garden of Verse https://argumentativeoldgit.wordpress.com/2018/10/21/for-love-of-unforgotten-times-a-childs-garden-of-verses-by-robert-louis-stevenson/  I, too, read Robert Louis Stevenson as a child.

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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Great-Granddaughter Cora

Road Trip: Austin to San Antonio

“Perfect happiness is a beautiful sunset, the giggle of a grandchild, the first snowfall. It’s the little things that make happy moments, not the grand events. Joy comes in sips, not gulps.” — Sharon Draper

Cora is now a month old. And she still has adorable fat cheeks.

 

My great-granddaughter Cora was born in San Antonio while I was attending the Stories from the Heart writing conference in Austin. I got the news from my daughter and Cora’s grandmother T.C., and it came with the information that the baby had gotten stuck in the birth canal and was born with a broken shoulder, and perhaps some other problems.

Cora, Ben, Heidi and Marshall. One happy family, which warms this Nana’s heart. 

I was worried and heartbroken.

So, when I walked into my granddaughter Heidi’s home four days later and heard Cora crying as her dad, Ben, changed a poopy diaper, the sound was as grand as any musical concert I had ever attended.

It was a normal baby’s cry, and my heart was full to overflowing with joy when Cora was transferred to my arms, and curiously looked up into my face. Her shoulder, Heidi said, hadn’t been broken only dislocated, and everything else was fine.

I held her for most of the rest of the afternoon, constantly amazed at this tiny bit of new life with fat loveable cheeks.  Cora alternated between looking around at her new world, eating, and sleeping. I felt like the luckiest great-grandmother in the world.

While Cora will have to get reacquainted with me the next time I see her, which might be this Christmas, the afternoon I spent with her is a precious memory that pushed my happiness meter to the exploding point.

It was the perfect ending for my three-week road trip.

Bean Pat: Even if the umbrella is not big enough https://yadadarcyyada.com/2018/08/22/umbrella/?wref=pil An upbeat blog that put a big smile on my face.

Now available on Amazon

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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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

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“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

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“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.

IMG_4129

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

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