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Posts Tagged ‘Travel’

“If in the last few years you haven’t discarded a major opinion or acquired a new one, check your pulse. You may be dead.” – Gelett Burgess

Royal terns and laughing gulls are common sights on the Texas Gulf Coast. -- Photo by Pat Bean

New Landscape, New Thoughts

My morning walks around here in the desert above Tucson the past few days have been exotic ones, full of new plants, new birds, new views and conversely new thoughts.

And the ocotillo cactus is in bloom in Arizona. -- Photo by Pat Bean

I love the variety my life is currently offering, although there was nothing wrong with waking up every morning  to a view of Utah’s Wasatch Mountains, which I did for 25 years, either. And one of these days, I know, I will once again have time to intimately get to know one particular landscape.

 It’s not that one lifestyle is better than the other, just that they’re different. Actually that can be said about all lifestyles, as long as they do no harm to others or to this beautiful planet we live on.   

Meanwhile, my current wandering/wondering life as a full-time RV-er is continually full of new sights and things to do.

When visiting my Texas Gulf Coast son, I have a beach to walk and a plethora of shorebirds to watch. Here in Arizona, where my youngest daughter recently moved, I have a desert landscape, particularly beautiful in the spring, and a whole different set of birds.

On this morning’s walk, I saw a pyrrhuloxia and a phainopepia, rare sights except in southeast Arizonia, plus doves, lots of Gambell’s quail, a raven, a black phoebe, a large flycatcher (not sure which one) and a curved-bill thrasher. While none were birds not on my life list, it’s been awhile since I’ve seen most of these species.

A visit to my oldest daughter in Dallas offers opportunities to take in a play and to watch northern cardinals hanging out in her backyard trees.

In Chicago, where I recently visited my youngest son, I got to take in an art museum and had a marvelous nighttime view of the city lights and Lake Michigan from the top of the Hancock Tower.

A visit to a granddaughter in San Antonio opens up an opportunity for me to take in this city’s fantastic river walk; In Austin, where another granddaughter lives, I get to play with a great-grandson and visit writer friends.

An hour north of Austin, where my oldest son lives, my daughter-in-law always makes the best cabbage, hamburger and rice meal for me that I’ve ever tasted. It’s one of my favorite dishes and I’ve never been able to duplicate her recipe. Sighting deer on my walks here is also a daily happening.

I’ve begun thinking about settling down, but in the eight years I’ve been on the road, no place has shouted loud enough to hold me. I’m beginning to look and listen a bit harder, however.

Meanwhile I’m just going to keep enjoying the ever-changing scenery that is my current life.

Bean’s Pat: Stopping the Wind http://tinyurl.com/772hswd Good advice for all of us, regardless of what age you are.

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The "Road" is calling. -- Photo by Pat Bean

“Not all those who wander are lost.” JRR Tolkien

Travels With Maggie

“Just can’t wait to get on the road again.”

If you’re a Willie Nelson fan and avid traveler like me, the above words should send a tune rolling through your head. The melody always begins rippling though mine when I start packing up my RV – which I’m doing this morning.

There’s few things that make me giddier than knowing I have “miles to go before I sleep.”

While I’ll just be traveling a short distance across the big state of Texas – from one child’s driveway to another child’s driveway – I ‘m going to take two days to do it.

A trio of web-footed friends -- Photo by Pat Bean

Better yet, I have a sight-seeing agenda of places I haven’t seen before planned for the drive. I could care less that I will be taking a 150-mile detour on what would have been just a 240-mile trip.

Maggie, familiar with the packing up routine, is already claiming her co-pilot’s seat.

So since she and I “just can’t wait to get on the road again,” today’s blog is going to end now. like the song I sang as a kid to the tune of Sousa’s “Stars and Stripes Forever.”

Remember?

“Be kind to your web-footed friends, for a duck may be somebody’s mother. Be kind to your friends in the swamp, where the weather is always damp. You may think that this is the end. Well it is.”

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  “Than indecision brings its own delays, and days are lost lamenting o’er lost days. Are you in earnest? Seize this very minute; What you can do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it.” – Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

 

My travel book would include details about my search for Mother Nature in places like the New Hampshire woods where I came across this peaceful creek. -- Photo by Pat Bean

Too Many Unfinished Projects

Writing a first draft of a 50,000 word novel in 30 days has given me confidence for the old-broad writing days that still remain to me. There’s no question that I will write, for doing so is for me the same as breathing. I was fortunate that I found a way as a journalist to do it almost daily and get paid for it for 37 years.

When I retired from the job, however, I never saw myself retiring as a writer. I thought I would continue as a free-lance writer of travel and birding articles.

The Internet changed all that, however. The sources I had, including writing for my own former newspaper, dried up after a couple of years.

Suddenly it was a whole new world out there, and I faced either changing or being satisfied with writing only for myself. But it’s never worked that way for me. I both want to be read and to be paid for my writing as a way of personal validation

 

The photo of this hippo I took while on my African safari appears in Fodor's recently released "African Safari Guidebook." -- Photo by Pat Bean

The other change in the world of writing has been that self-publication is no longer considered a vanity, as it was during earlier days. In fact, many writing guides and teachers are encouraging wanna-be authors to go this route.

I’m seriously considering the possibility.

My immediate problem, however, is which project should I tackle first. Until NaNo, I failed to complete any major projects that didn’t have a pay-off deadline. The reasons are many, beginning with my own self doubts about a project’s worth. As former NaNo winners predicted, this inner questioning hit during my second week of the novel challenge. Working past it felt great.

 

The bear at Lake Walcott State Park in Idaho -- Photo by Pat Bean

So, with this said, let me explain my options – at least as I see them. Actually, I think I’m writing this blog as a way to get my own head straight.

First, there is the NaNo novel, which my ego says has good possibilities. Ever since I was a teenager reading Nancy Drew, I’ve wanted to write a mystery. The NaNo one is my second. The first is one of those uncompleted projects that never went beyond the first draft.

Then there’s the travel book I’ve already written, which needs a bit of rewriting. It has been read by critics who gave it mostly thumbs up, although all said it needed my voice. I now think I’ve developed my voice.

It would be the quickest project to finish. It’s called “Travels With Maggie.” I said in an earlier hunt for an agent that I thought it would fit nicely on the book shelf between Steinbeck’s “Travels With Charley” and Kuralt’s “On the Road” with a little bit of Tim Cahill thrown in and written with a feminine voice. .

Then there is the African safari travel/picture book that I started and which now begs to be finished.

Then there is a commitment to put together a nature book about Lake Walcott State Park in Idaho, where I spent last summer as a campground host and where I will return again this coming summer.

And finally there is a the memoir that is beginning to demand I write. It would be a story of a high school honor roll student who dropped out of school at 16 to get married and who had four children by the time she was 21, and who went on to become a reporter, city editor and finally associate editor of a 66,000 circulation newspaper. There’s a lot of skeletons, heartache, joys and growing up in between.

I’m giving myself a break until Monday to come up with an answer, after which I’m counting on the discipline of NaNo to help keep me to whatever deadline I set for myself.

I’m leaning toward the travel book as my next project.. What do you think? I really want to know.

 

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NaNoWriMo Update: 35,353 words

Sadly this abandoned ship off Jamaica's coastline reminded me of the state of my NaNo goal the past two days. -- Photo by Pat Bean

I’ve been on sabbatical for two days. 

 I cut short my writing yesterday to spend the day with my granddaughter Jennifer. She’s 28 and a nurse. I spent the day at her house fulfilling her request for Nana’s chicken and rice. My grandkids usually want me to cook it whenever I visit. We visited and watched animated films while it cooked. it was a great day.
 
Here’s the recipe: From a writer’s perspective
 
Cook a whole, fat chicken in a pot full of water with salt added to taste until the meat falls off the bones. Cook it on low with a top on the pot. You’ll have about an hour and a half to write while it cooks.
Take the chicken out of the water and put it in a large bowl to cool. Don’t throw out the broth. Write for at least one more hour

Skin and debone the chicken, adding all of the meat (in bite size pieces) back into the pot of broth (make sure there is at least 8 cups of liquid}
Add two cups of uncooked rice, a generous amount of poultry seasoning and pepper to taste.

 Cook on low until rice is done. Here’s about another half hour in which to write. When done, eat and enjoy. 

Today my son bought me a smart  phone for an early Christmas present. He wants to be able to track my location as I travel the country in my RV.

So of course I spent too much time playing on it and not enough time NaNo-ing.

 But if I get in 2,000 words a day for the next eight days, I’ll still meet my goal. And I’ve come too far at this point not to finish.

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“A leaf fluttered in through the window this morning, as if supported by the rays of the sun, a bird settled on the fire escape, joy in the task of coffee, joy accompanied me as I walked.” Anais Nin

Snowy egret at the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge in Utah. -- Photo by Pat Bean

Travels With Maggie

The landscape around the Texas Gulf Coast home of my son, Lewis, is always full of birds. It is why my binoculars are always sitting beside me when my RV, Gypsy Lee, is parked in his driveway.

Wrens, woodpeckers, warblers, hawks and ducks all visit or pass through his yard.

This morning, Carolina wrens inspected the gutters over his garage, a pair of cardinals sat on the utility wires attached to his roof and a flock of black-bellied whistling ducks flew overhead, alerting me to their presence with their high-pitched chorus as they winged past in V-formation.

Is this a photographer taking picture of birds, or a birdwatcher photographing birds? -- Photo by Pat Bean

The park directly across the street from my son’s home offers even more entertainment for this passionate birder: Logger-head shrikes hang out in the trees, mockingbirds frequently chase away a red-tailed hawk when it comes around and goldfinches hang around the feeders in the yard next to the park.

I sometimes think I might be mistaken for a peeping Tom, or in my case a Jane, because I might appear to be looking in someone’s window when I’m simply watching a ruby-throated hummingbird flitting around the flowers.

If you really want to know how crazy we avid birders are, you should go see the movie, “The Big Year.” It’s about competitive bird watching. Or you can read the book, “The Big Year: A Tale of Man, Nature, and Fowl Obsession,” written by Mark Obmascik. It’s actually a true story and I couldn’t put it down once I started reading.

 

Great-tailed grackles near Surfside, Texas. -- Photo by Pat Bean

Recently, when I was down at the beach – to watch birds of course – I watched another bird watcher as he tried to take a picture of some skimmers. Watching him was almost as much fun as watching the skimmers myself. I wondered if he was more photographer than birder, or more birder than photographer, like me.

We birders are actually a funny, but much blessed lot. The day I realized I had joined the craziness was the day I took a 440-mile, one-day, round-trip drive just to see nesting ospreys.

In fact, many of the 122,000 miles I’ve put on Gypsy Lee the past seven years have been in pursuit of birds – from the elegant trogons in Southeast Arizona, to the marbled murrelets on the Oregon Coast, to the Atlantic puffins in Maine, and the Florida scrub jays in the Everglades.

It’s been one great feathered adventure after feathered adventure.

Perhaps that’s why, at least for a little while, I’m content to simply watch birds from the comfort of my RV that is parked in the driveway of my son.  

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“You may have a dog that won’t sit up, roll over or even cook breakfast, not because she’s too stupid to learn how but because she’s too smart to bother.” — Rick Horowitz

Travels With Maggie

Maggie lives a most comfortable life -- and she gives me comfort. And this was the most comforting think I could thing of to illustrate this week's photo challenge. -- Photo by Pat Bean

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 “A journey is a person in itself; no two are alike. And all plans, safeguards, policing, and coercion are fruitless. We find that after years of struggle that we do not take a trip; a trip takes us.” – John Steinbeck

My wandering mind waa on green jays as i drove Highway 36 toward Lake Jackson. -- Photo by Pat Bean

Travels With Maggie

With my canine traveling companion, Maggie, snoozing away in her co-pilot seat, I left Harker Heights, and my oldest son’s home, early for our drive to Lake Jackson, and my middle son’s home 250 miles away. It’s a very familiar drive for me, one I’ve made many times.

As I passed oil rigs, grazing cattle, cotton fields, mesquite trees and roadside sunflowers that let me know I was in Texas, I was glad to see the color green still existed. It had been missing on my drive two days earlier down Highway 190, clear evidence of the dastardly drought the state has been suffering. .

To all Texans living where heat and drought has scorched the landscape, I just wanted to show that green does still exist. This is the view from my RV window in Lake Jackson. -- Photo by Pat Bean

While admittedly things weren’t quite as lush as I remembered from past drives down Highway 36, the landscape was still a far cry from the brown and dying cedar trees, lack of grass and stunted and yellow cactus that had dominated my entry back into the Lone Star state on Tuesday.

The driving this day was easy with little traffic. As usual under such circumstances, my mind begins to wander. This day, it went south to the Rio Grande Valley, perhaps because I was thinking about when I would be able to go there and do some winter birding.

From Lake Jackson, where I was headed, it’s only a half day’s drive. I would have to see what bird festivals were going on down there in the coming months, I thought as I drove.

My mind must have still been with the fantastic green jays down there when I came to the Highway 35 turnoff, because I took it. I was looking for it in fact.

Oops!

I then realized that what I had actually been looking for was the Highway 36 turnoff that I always took when I returned from the valley. But then I had already been on Highway 36.
I guess I should have been paying more attention to where I was than where I wanted to go.

Anybody else out there have a mind that plays tricks on them like that?

If so, I hope you have a traveling companion like Maggie. She never yells at me when I take a wrong turn.

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