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Archive for the ‘Travel’ Category

Don’t Wait – Dive In

Passing scenery while floating down the Black River in Jamaica, just one of the many places my wanderlust has taken me. — Photo by Pat Bean

The older I get the more I realize that it’s not the big events in one’s life that give meaning to our lives, but the small ones. Hugs from a great-grandchild can be as precious as a pay raise at work, or getting down on one’s knees and closely observing draba blossoms that sparkle in the morning dew as delightful as floating unscathed through a Colorado River roaring rapid at the bottom of the Grand Canyon.

That’s not to say I would have wanted to miss a pay raise, or those Grand Canyon rapids, but those things are not everyday occurrences and their excitement wanes, especially when you’re 83, the milestone birthday I passed this year.

I came across a quote this morning that got me thinking. It was: “Don’t wait for your ship to come in, swim out to it.” With a bit of online research, I learned the quote could most likely be attributed to the prolific English author Kathy Hopkins, but then I also learned there is also a book by Gary Wood with the title Don’t Wait for Your Ship to Come In … Swim out to Meet it.”

When I went back in my own memory, the quote reminded me of what my grandmother would tell me when I expressed a want for something. “Well, I guess you’ll just have to wait for your ship to come in because we don’t have the money for that foolishness,” she would say.

Of course, that never sat well with me. Perhaps that is why, when I suddenly found myself in a new place where I knew nobody, and nobody knew me, I decided I wouldn’t wait for the world to come to my door.

What I truly wanted was to be doing exciting things in the outdoors. But activities like that, well at least the way I was brought up, were always associated with having a male partner by your side. That was also the way it was in one of my favorite books, I Married Adventure by Osa Johnson, which I read when I was only 10, and which was the start of my lifelong wanderlust.

One of the biggest steps in my life was buying a canoe –, something I considered a man toy — and then inviting others to go canoeing with me.

From that simple step, I then bought a raft, a sailboat and a few other man-toys, and there were always people excited to join me in my outings, especially women who admitted they would never have gotten out on their own.

I think swimming out to meet your ship is a very good idea.

Pat Bean is a retired award-winning journalist who lives in Tucson with her canine companion, Scamp. She is a wondering-wanderer, avid reader, enthusiastic birder, Lonely Planet Community Pathfinder, Story Circle Network board member, author of Travels with Maggie available on Amazon (Free on Kindle Unlimited), and is always searching for life’s silver lining

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The Possum Monument in Wausau, Florida, the Possum Capital of the world.

Quite Tasty

These days I often scratch the itch of my wanderlust soul from the comfort of my living room recliner, but it’s large enough so that my canine companion Scamp — who thinks 45 pounds is the perfect size to be a lap dog — can curl up with me.

 From this seat, books and the internet take me all over the world. This morning it was to Wausau, Florida, a small town of only 400 where possums supposedly outnumber humans, and which is home to the Possum Monument.

Erected in 1982, the monument’s inscription reads: “…in grateful recognition of the role the North American possum — to be technical correct possums only live in Australia, America has the opossum — played in furnishing both food and fur for early settlers and their successors.

 Possums were also a great source of protein for residents during the Great Depression, the article said.

On reading that, I remembered the time in the early 1940s when my dad went hunting and brought home a possum for dinner. My grandmother cooked it with sweet potatoes, and as I recall the meal was pretty tasty.

If you want to taste for yourself, you should visit Wausau on the first Saturday in August, which is the day the Florida Legislature designated as Florida Possum Day when possum and sweet potatoes will be on the menu.

Pat Bean is a retired award-winning journalist who lives in Tucson with her canine companion, Scamp. She is a wondering-wanderer, avid reader, enthusiastic birder, Lonely Planet Community Pathfinder, Story Circle Network board member, author of Travels with Maggie available on Amazon (Free on Kindle Unlimited), and is always searching for life’s silver lining.

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Ducklings Dressed for the Winter

Winter Fun

It’s cold this morning in Tucson, and colder elsewhere say the weather men. But Boston’s ducklings have been dressed for it, as you can see in the above photo, which I came across while reading my email.

I spent a couple of days at the ducklings’ home on the Boston Commons back in 2006 during my RVing days. I parked my RV in a small town an hour’s drive from the city, and took the commuter train into town for a week of sight-seeing of historical sites like The Old North Church and Paul Revere’s home. I wrote about all this in Travels with Maggie. 

I found everything quite educational and interesting, but nothing charmed me as much as the bronze Mallard Family statues, created in honor of the 1941 classic children’s book, Make Way for Ducklings.

Designed by Nancy Schön in honor of the book’s author, Robert McCloskey, the ducklings were installed in the gardens in 1987. The book tells the story of how Mr. and Mrs. Mallard came to Boston looking for a home, and eventually settled in the gardens.

 Daddy Mallard, however, is missing, for the statues only consist of Mother Mallard and her eight babies: Jack, Kack, Lack, Mack, Nack, Ouack, Pack and Quack.

The family is often dressed for holidays and the weather, but they were only in their birthday suits when I visited Boston. Because I was so charmed, I guess I’m still a child at heart – and thankful for it.

The ducklings were being enjoyed by kids like me when I visited them. — Photo by Pat Bean,

Pat Bean is a retired award-winning journalist who lives in Tucson with her canine companion, Scamp. She is a wondering-wanderer, avid reader, enthusiastic birder, Lonely Planet Community Pathfinder, Story Circle Network board member, author of Travels with Maggie available on Amazon (Free on Kindle Unlimited), and is always searching for life’s silver lining.

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The Gift of Books

Someone’s idea of the perfect library.

Paul Theroux and Dorothy Gilmore  

Travel writer Paul Theroux, in his book Deep South, said few people he met while traveling to such places as Greensboro – Catfish Capital of Alabama – knew his name. But the unlettered person, he added, “has other refined skills and is often more watchful, shrewd, and freer in discussion than the literate person.”

But when he met up with a reader like himself, he noted that “a reader meeting another reader is an encounter of kindred spirits.”

How true, I thought, remembering how delighted I always am when I meet someone who has read some of the same books as I have. We end up having what I call the best kinds of conversation. We talk about ideas, writing, characters, human traits and differences of opinions about what we read, among other things. The talk is almost always interesting and exciting.

I recently got my best friend reading the Mrs. Polifax books by Dorothy Gilmore, which I’m currently rereading, and that has resulted in interesting texts back and forth about her upbeat philosophy. I have many a quote from Mrs. Polifax, as written by Gilmore, in my journals.

As an old broad myself, I especially like these: “I have a flexible mind – I believe it’s one of the advantages of growing old. I find youth quite rigid at times,” and “It’s terribly important for everyone, at any age, to live to his full potential. Otherwise, a kind of dry rot sets in, a rust, a disintegration of personality,”

Meanwhile, when I first started reading Deep South, which is about Theroux’s travels on backroads through small towns, many of which were dying, I thought he was writing about a bygone area. But I began to see things different as he wrote about the gun shows and Black churches he visited — two extremes of Southern ongoings. I then realized the author was writing about the background of what’s going on in the world today. I’m being educated as I read.

I’ve been a reader all my life, having begun by reading everything in my late grandfather’s library, which was all stuffed into a chest at my grandmother’s home. He had had many classics, including the complete works of Robert Louis Stevenson, Edgar Allen Poe and Charles Dickens. I even read Forever Amber by Kathleen Winsor before I understood it was all about an unmarried woman having sex. It’s actually quite tame compared to what’s written in many non-erotic books today, in which the author forgot to close the bedroom door.

When I was in junior high school, I heard some girls talking about the “naughty” book, Forever Amber, and so I went back and reread it. I was still too naïve to understand what the fuss was all about.

But being a reader is one of the greatest gifts of my life.

Pat Bean is a retired award-winning journalist who lives in Tucson with her canine companion, Scamp. She is a wondering-wanderer, avid reader, enthusiastic birder, Lonely Planet Community Pathfinder, Story Circle Network board member, author of Travels with Maggie available on Amazon (Free on Kindle Unlimited), and is always searching for life’s silver lining.

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Jellyfish at the Monterey Bay Aquarium. — Photo by Pat Bean

Connections

I just learned that when the Arizona Sonora Desert Museum renovated its hummingbird aviary in 1992, the new hummingbird nests kept falling apart. Museum workers scratched their heads for a while, but finally realized why this was happening.

 During the renovation, all the old vegetation inside the aviary was   removed, and replaced by new plants. The removal took away any spiders that inhabited the vegetation and the hummingbirds needed the web spiders produced to hold their nest materials together. The problem was solved by workers gathering branches that held such webs, and placing them inside the aviary until the spiders could reestablish their presence.

While digesting this bit of information, I came across a mindfulness tip about how to stay calm during these chaos-filled days when the news is all about Covid, political shenanigans and tornado deaths. It came from TV writer Cord Jefferson, who said traditional meditation didn’t work for him. What did, he said, was to just get lost in the gentle pulses of jellyfish for a short mindfulness break during his workday,” Cord then noted that Monterey Bay Aquarium has a jellyfish cam that can be bookmarked on a phone or laptop browser.

I’ve watched hummingbirds at the desert museum and the jellyfish at the aquarium in person, and found both these things calming. I think it’s just letting ourselves get out of our heads a bit that does the trick.

But reading these two stories back-to-back, made me realize how interconnected we beings on this world are. And by beings, I don’t just mean we two-legged sapiens. It’s certainly something to think about. Meanwhile, if you’re in Tucson or Monterey, you might want to check out the desert museum and the aquarium. Both are great places to visit.

Pat Bean is a retired award-winning journalist who lives in Tucson with her canine companion, Scamp. She is a wondering-wanderer, avid reader, enthusiastic birder, Lonely Planet Community Pathfinder, Story Circle Network board member, author of Travels with Maggie available on Amazon (Free on Kindle Unlimited), and is always searching for life’s silver lining.

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Great Horned Owl — Art by Pat Bean

          The western sky was glowing orange and purple as I walked down the stairs from my third-story apartment to give my canine companion Scamp his last walk of the day. I stopped to watch — while Scamp watered a couple of trees — as the fiery scene slowly vanished below the horizon. Never have I lived where such a late evening sight happens most nights of the year.

          And just as the colors coalesced into the dark hues of night, our resident female Great Horned Owl silently swooped across the courtyard to land in the giant Ponderosa where she often sits for hours. She and her mate have raised chicks here in the apartment complex all but one year since I moved here in 2013. It’s easy to tell the genders of the pair because the female is about a third larger than the male, a common trait of raptors.

          The night felt magical, as if the Sun and the Owl had put on a special performance for my eyes only. Such moments seem to happen to me a lot, but I never tire of them. While I still have itchy feet that wants to explore all the places I’ve never been, I’m glad my own backyard can still thrill me.

          Richard Bode, author of First You Have to Row a Little Boat, said he once met once met a man who had visited every exotic place from the Grand Canyon to the Great Wall, but then admitted he hadn’t seen the songbirds in his own backyard.

          I met quite a few people like that when I was traveling this country in a small RV. People, like me, came from all over to visit some waterfall, cave, or other wonder of nature, and the person who lived just 10 miles away had never taken the time to view it. How sad.

          If ever there was a time that we needed to be given proof that beauty and wonder can exist amongst chaos, these days are it. I need sunsets and owls, and colorful flowers and fall leaves, and hummingbirds and coyotes to keep me sane.

And thankfully, they’re all just outside my apartment door.

          Pat Bean is a retired award-winning journalist who lives in Tucson with her canine companion, Scamp. She is a wondering-wanderer, avid reader, enthusiastic birder, Lonely Planet Community Pathfinder, Story Circle Network board member, author of Travels with Maggie available on Amazon (Free on Kindle Unlimited), and is always searching for life’s silver lining.

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A view of the Grand Canyon and the Colorado River below from one of the many view points. The canyon is too big, and awesome, to be captured from a single point. — Photo by Pat Bean

          My latest travel book read is To Timbuktu by Mark Jenkins, an author I came to love over 20 years ago because of his articles in Outside Magazine, of which I’m a great fan.  

 Mark has a great way with words, such as his description in To Timbuktu of an equatorial mountain range: “…rumpled geology smothered by the octopus of botany,” he wrote.

As usual when reading, having one thought often cycles me to a related thought. This morning, I wondered how writers would describe the Grand Canyon, which I revisited for about the dozenth time this past week. So, I went searching for just such descriptions.

Most quotes that I found about the Grand Canyon echoed, in one way or another, the phrase that the author didn’t have the words to describe it.

But as I kept searching, I came across what John Wesley Powell, the first man to go down the entire length of the Colorado River through the entire Grand Canyon in 1869, had to say about this Arizona hole that was carved out over six million years ago. He wrote:

“The glories and the beauties of form, color, and sound unite in the Grand Canyon – forms unrivaled even by the mountains, colors that vie with sunsets, and sounds that span the diapason from tempest to tinkling raindrop, from cataract to bubbling fountain … The elements that unite to make the Grand Canyon the most sublime spectacle in nature are multifarious and exceedingly diverse.”

Another of my favorite authors, Ann Zwinger, whose trip through the Grand Canyon is described in her book Downcanyon, had this to say: “The astonishing sense of connection with that river and canyon caught me completely unaware, and in a breath, I understood the intense, protective loyalty so many people feel for the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon. It has to do with truth and beauty and love of this earth, the artifacts of a lifetime and the descant of a canyon wren at dawn.”

Having paddled through the Grand Canyon on the Colorado River twice, I well understood Ann’s words, especially about the impact of hearing canyon wrens welcome the day.

If you haven’t visited the Grand Canyon, above or below, you might want to add it to your bucket list, or at least read about it in books such as Zwinger’s Downcanyon or Powell’s journals of his epic 1869 and 1871 adventures.

Meanwhile, I’m going to get back to Jenkins’ Timbuktu adventure.

Pat Bean is a retired award-winning journalist who lives in Tucson with her canine companion, Scamp. She is a wondering-wanderer, avid reader, enthusiastic birder, Lonely Planet Community Pathfinder, Story Circle Network board member, author of Travels with Maggie available on Amazon (Free on Kindle Unlimited), and is always searching for life’s silver lining.

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Actually, I made many wrong turns during my nine years of traveling this country full-time in a small RV. Above is where one of those wrong turns ended up. — Photo by Pat Bean

My good friend Kim and I were on our way to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon from St. George, Utah, last week.

“We go through Hurricane and Colorado City on the way to Highway 89A, then we turn off at Jacob’s Lake Junction,” I told her as we left her brother’s house. She was driving, but I knew the way because it’s the route I had followed, minus the Grand Canyon detour, to St. George from Tucson.

So, off we went, laughing and talking, and catching up on each other’s lives since last April, when she had flown down from Ogden, Utah, to help me celebrate my birthday.

This day we were beginning a three-day road trip to celebrate her birthday. And we made it a good five miles down Interstate 15 before we realized we were headed to Las Vegas in Nevada instead of the Grand Canyon in Arizona.

We both laughed about it, and she did a U-turn. That’s what I love about road trips with Kim. We laugh instead of rant and whine about mishaps and imperfections – which seem to happen often when the two of us are together.

 In fact, we had a second oops when we pulled up in front of our Flagstaff hotel late that afternoon after our visit to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. Seems we were at the wrong Days Inn, and had to drive all the way back across town, during rush hour, to get to the right one.          We laughed about that, too.

Both this day’s wrong turns, however, were minor compared to the misadventure we had some years back when we explored Utah’s Nine Mile Canyon on an unpaved road after a heavy rainstorm. We missed a turn and kept going and going — much farther than nine miles — before we finally decided we had to retrace our route.

As if my magic, although it hadn’t rained any more, the muddy puddles we had earlier driven through in Kim’s four-wheel drive vehicle, seemed to have grown larger and deeper. At one point, Kim had to get out and wipe mud off the headlights with a T-shirt she found in the car so she could see to drive on.

It was almost midnight when we got back to our camp. It took us a couple of days before we could laugh about that one.

Pat Bean is a retired award-winning journalist who lives in Tucson with her canine companion, Scamp. She is a wondering-wanderer, avid reader, enthusiastic birder, Lonely Planet Community Pathfinder, Story Circle Network board member, author of Travels with Maggie available on Amazon (Free on Kindle Unlimited), and is always searching for life’s silver lining.

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Goose Head Rock: One of my favorite Mount Lemmon hoodoos.

          Monday my granddaughter Shanna and her wife Dawn took me for a drive up to the top of Mount Lemmon. I’ve made the drive a dozen or more times since moving to Tucson in 2013, and always found it enjoyable. This day was no exception, except the passing landscape was greener than I had ever seen it, thanks to the fact that this year the Sonoran Desert got its summer monsoon season back.

          It was so dry last year that part of the mountain areas suffered wildfires, some of the worst in Arizona’s history. The three of us got to see some of the devastation caused by the blazes from one of the upper overlook pullouts.

          The 25-mile drive up the Sky Island Scenic Byway winds upward from mile zero at just about 3,000 feet elevation to more than 9,000 feet at its end. Six life zones are crossed along the way. We lost the saguaros at 4,000 feet and were into Douglas firs by the time we reached the top.

          As an avid birdwatcher, I took along my binoculars, but the only birds we saw were a raven and a turkey vulture, and one unidentified small black and white bird that flashed past us as we were driving.

          Partway up the mountain, we stopped at one of the pullouts where a short trail skims along a canyon ridge, below which flows a small mountain stream. The girls went right on an unpaved section of the trail and I went left, partly because the trail here was paved and I’ve reached a stage in my life where my legs aren’t always stable, but also partly because I simply wanted to be alone for a few minutes in Mother Nature’s company.

          The pavement ended quickly but I decided to venture a little farther, deciding I could handle the unevenness of the rocky path. I did quite well, and was proud of myself. On the walk back, however, I came to a spot where, while I had easily made it up the rocks, I now felt I would fall if I tried to step down them.

          I was frustrated but tried to take it in stride until my granddaughter came along and gave me a hand down. What goes up should be able to come down – or not, I laughed. That was good, not all that many years ago I had cried when my old broad’s body couldn’t handle a much harder spot on a trail without help.

          This day, having finally begun to accept the consequences of being 82 years old, I pushed the incident out of my brain and went on to enjoy a marvelous day on Mount Lemmon with two marvelous companions.

Now if I could just push the image of that unidentified black and white bird out of my brain … maybe it was a downy woodpecker – or not.

           Pat Bean is a retired award-winning journalist who lives in Tucson with her canine companion, Scamp. She is a wondering-wanderer, avid reader, enthusstic birder, Lonely Planet Community Pathfinder, Story Circle Network board member, author of Travels with Maggie available on Amazon (Free on Kindle Unlimited), and is always searching for life’s silver lining.

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During my traveling days, I did manage a few train trips, like the one to the top of Colorado's Royal Gorge. I took this photo as the train curved around a bend while on the train itself. -- Photo by Pat Bean

          “There is nothing permanent except change.” – Heraclitus, an ancient Greek philosopher who lived between 535-475 B.C.

          I’m currently reading Paul Theroux’s The Great Railway Bazaar by Train Through Asia, which was published in 1975. It recalls a four-month trip the author took in 1973.

          Almost half a century has passed since then, which makes the book as much about history as travel. At times, it’s a bit confusing because names of countries have changed, and the places Paul visited are not the same today as they were then. Some sites have died out, while others have grown into giant cities.

To keep track of everything, and because armchair travel has become the most comfortable way for this 82-year-old-broad to continually be exposed to new places, my reading is constantly being interrupted with questions. I’m continually chasing down the answers to my curiosity by checking up-to-date maps (I have a good atlas) and internet resources, the latter being one of the reasons why I don’t long for the “good old days.”

Having the time to do this is one of the upsides of aging to offset the downsides.

But the changes that happened in the world since Paul’s book was written, makes me wonder about the changes time has brought to the places I visited in my own rambling journeys in a small RV between 2004 and 2013. My book, Travels with Maggie, is about a slice of that traveling life that took place during six months of 2006, but the book wasn’t even published until 2017.

I wonder if someone will read my book with questions, and if they will take the time to find the answers as I do? No idea how to answer this question.

Meanwhile, I noted that Paul’s journey began with him taking the 1530 -London to Paris Train, and him writing: “Ever since childhood, when I lived within earshot of the Boston and Maine, I have seldom heard a train go by and not wished I were on it.”

Those words made me think of when I was a young child and the Texas Zephyr that blow its whistle each day as it roared behind my grandmother’s home in Dallas.

I always wondered where it had been and where it was going, and yearned to go along for the ride. Perhaps that’s why I’m enjoying my trip across Asia with Paul.

Photo: Train to the top of Colorado’s Royal Gorge, which I rode in 2007. I took the photo from the train as it curved around a bend.

Pat Bean is a retired journalist who lives in Tucson with her canine companion, Scamp. She is a wondering-wanderer, avid reader, enthusiastic birder, Lonely Planet Community Pathfinder, Story Circle Network board member, author of Travels with Maggie available on Amazon (Free on Kindle Unlimited), and is always searching for life’s silver lining

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