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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.

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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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Life is Good

Mountains are always calling to me. — Art by Pat Bean

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

Road Trip Ahead

One of the best parts of my days is sitting on my third-floor balcony with my morning cream-laced coffee and my thoughts. Often, they turn to gratefulness for the good life I have. Thus, it was this morning.

While I have to count the pennies carefully these days, at the still young (or so I would like to believe) age of 79, I have a nice place to live, children and grandchildren who love me, plenty of books to read, good friends, a dependable car, great horned owls in the giant ponderosa tree in view of my balcony, I’m not yet addle-brained (at least I think I’m not), a loving canine companion – and I’m beginning a road trip Thursday.

May I never take any of these fine things for granted.

Meanwhile, my plan is to tell you all about my road trip to visit family and attend a writer’s conference in Texas as it happens. Stay tuned.

Bean Pat: Frog Diva Thoughts https://frogdivathoughts.com/2018/07/04/scaffolding/#like-8189  Most, if not all of us, have survived some hard times in our life. This heartfelt blog reminded me of that, and made me even more grateful for the life I live now.

           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 patbean@msn.com

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In a region of Texas some call the last great habitat, thorn forest intermingles with freshwater wetlands, coastal prairies, mudflats and beaches. Dense patches of thorny brush rise among unique wind-blown clay dunes called lomas.”  — US Fish and Wildlife Service

Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge — US Fish and Wildlife photo

Birds Galore

            It was a warm November day in 2005 when I visited South Texas’ Laguna Atascosta National Wildlife Refuge, whose name loosely translates to boggy lake. My own description of the refuge, recorded in my journal, coincides somewhat with the official version. I wrote: “Laguna Atascosta is one big briar patch – a haven of thorns. It seemed as if every plant was armed.  Scattered purple and orange wildflowers sat among sage, yucca, and palm trees with shaggy trunks.”

A pair of aplomado falcons. — US Fish and Wildlife photo

Along with my descriptions of the landscape was a list of the birds I was seeing: osprey, white-fronted goose, great egret, great blue heron, white-tailed kite, long-billed curlew, loggerhead shrike, kestrel, sandhill crane, white-tailed hawk, Cooper’s hawk, white pelican, Harris hawk, red-shouldered hawk – just to name a few. Half of the birds found in North America rest, feed, migrate through or nest on this landscape, the leader of our small birding group told us as we watched lesser and greater yellowlegs feeding in some shallow water.

It was easy to tell which was which of the two, not an easy task when looking at only one of the species, I thought, as I added dunlin, marbled godwit, black-bellied plover, northern harrier, gull-billed tern, black-necked stilt and willet to my bird list, which kept getting longer – and kept looking for the No. 1 bird on my priority list.

But as the day wore on, I became more and more doubtful I would see an aplomado falcon, a globally abundant species but rare in North America. Once widespread throughout the American Southwest, only two remaining pairs of aplomado falcons were known to exist in the states in the 1940s and ‘50s, most likely because of over harvesting of eggs, according to US Fish and Wildlife.

Aplomado falcon. — Wikimedia photo

Today, the aplomado falcon has made a comeback in South Texas due to an aggressive recovery program involving captive breeding and re-introduction efforts. As of 2004, more than 900 falcons had been released in the Rio Grande Valley, with 25 nesting pairs documented in 2006.

Finally, thankfully, I got to see one of those pairs. Our group finally identified one sitting regally on a yucca. The aplomado falcon was a good distance away, but my long-lens telescope brought it up close for a detailed view. As I watched the falcon, which was a new life bird for me, I noted a second one sitting a bit lower on the plant. What a delightful day for us birders.

But it wasn’t over. Before we headed back to our Harlingen Hotel, which was the base for those attending the Rio Grande Valley Birding Festival, I added lesser scaup, crested caracara, belted kingfisher and a dozen or so more birds to my day’s list.

Laguna Atascosa may mostly be a briar patch, but I feel like Br’er Rabbit, who despite his words, would have been quite happy to be tossed back into that thorny thicket.

Bean Pat: Bay of Fundy https://portraitsofwildflowers.wordpress.com/2018/07/02/the-bay-of-fundy/#like-38633 One of my favorite blogs because I usually learn something new, especially how to identify wildflowers.

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 patbean@msn.com

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It is not so much for its beauty that the forest makes a claim upon men’s hearts, as for that subtle something, that quality of air that emanation from old trees, that so wonderfully changes and renews a weary spirit.” — Robert Louis Stevenson

An old bristlecone pine at Great Basin National Park, where stars light up the sky at night. — National Forest Service Photo

A Walk Among the Trees

I was sitting on my third-floor balcony drinking my cream-laced coffee this morning, with my binoculars aimed at our resident great horned owl. We have a pair here, and since this was the largest of the two I assumed it was the female.

All that’s left of what was once the world’s oldest living tree. — Wikimedia photo

The owl was restless and flew off after a couple of minutes, but I continued to stare, this time at the magnificent Ponderosa pine in which the owl perched, and which graces my balcony view. I saw the tree as a living thing, and knowing that it is a tiny cog in the ecosystem that is necessary to my daily breath, I was awed and thankful,

And that thought took me back to the trip I made to Great Basin National Park, where I stood near the summit of 13,063-foot Wheeler Peak, and learned of the murder of what was thought to be the world’s oldest living tree.

I was with a small group of hikers led by a ranger at this time, and one of the men in the group asked: “Did they kill the murderer.”  The ranger responded: “They should have.”

Stella Lake at Great Basin National Park. — Wikimedia photo

But the truth is that the murderer was given a permit to cut the bristlecone pine tree down for research purposes. It was found to be 5,200 years old, and the oldest known living tree.

The silver lining from this tragedy – and the Pollyanna side of me always looks for this ray of sunshine – is that the hue and cry from this 1964 murder eventually led to the creation of Great Basin National Park.

“If anything good can come from the cutting of the world’s oldest tree, then it was that,” the ranger said, as we walked among other bristlecones, some of which were thought to be as old as 3,000 years.

That recorded memory, recalled from my journals and a newspaper story I wrote when the park was celebrating its 10th birthday, dates back to 1996. I made the trip to the Nevada park after then Rep. Jim Hansen, protesting the creation of the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, which, I note, has recently been reduced in size, suggested that parks like the Great Basin didn’t deserve national protection.

I disagree one thousand percent.

Bean Pat: Old Plaid Camper https://oldplaidcamper.com/2018/06/22/hazy-lazy-low-tide-mornings/#like-10237  Life’s a marathon not a sprint.

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 patbean@msn.com

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Bar Harbor park at the pier. — Photo by Pat Bean

“A minute of thought is greater than an hour of talk.” — John C. Maxwell

A Lesson in a Watchful Moment

I spent a week on Desert Island, home of Acadia National Park, at a campground  just outside of Bar Harbor, Maine. It was an awesome week that included visits to the park, a boat tour around Frenchman Bay, a lobster lunch at the pier, lots of bird watching, and free shuttle rides that let me explore the entire island while my canine companion stayed behind in Gypsy Lee, my small RV.

View from Acadia National Park on Desert Island in Maine. — Photo by Pat Bean

But travel is more than just being a tourist. And while I have fond memories of all the sights and activities I saw and did, when I think of Bar Harbor, the first thing I remember is watching two women trimming hedges on the village green, where I was waiting at the shuttle stop.

After the pair had finished, they walked to the other side of the street for an overall look back at their efforts. Their actions struck me as what should be a life axiom. Sometimes we need to stand back from our current activities and potential decisions so we can see the whole picture.

There have been many times in my life that I’m sure I would have made better decisions if I had done just that.

Bean Pat: Your voice https://www.janefriedman.com/you-have-a-voice-and-it-means-something/ I follow several blogs on writing, and this is one of my favorites – and most useful/

Pat Bean is a Lonely Planet Community Pathfinder, who spent nine years traveling North America from coast to coast and border to border in a small RV. You can read more about her Maine adventures in her book, Travels with Maggie, now up on Amazon at http://tinyurl.com/y8z7553y  You can contact her at patbean@msn.com

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