I powered through the last three hours of driving to Pittsburgh, and it was especially a slog after the sun went down. But I arrived in Pennsylvania and it felt familiar and comforting. I drove through the Fort Pitt Tunnel and arrived through the “front doors” of Pittsburgh, the city view laid out before me after bursting through the end of the tunnel. It’s always a most spectacular way to see the city for the first time and it never gets old. I wove my way purely by memory through downtown and found me some parking in one of my old downtown standbys where I used to hang out and then walked down to the Point to see the giant rubber duckie.
The Rubber Duck. I’ve been waiting to see this giant floating sculpture. The first duck was six years ago in France and over a dozen cities have hosted their own duck. I had seen photos of it online and was hoping that I would be able to make it into town before it left. They said it would be carted off at 11pm on the night that I arrived, so I tried to make sure I would get there a couple hours before that so I had time to see it.
I walked through the familiar arched tunnel under the highway and turned towards the Allegheny River side of the park, came around the corner and LO! there was a bright yellow duck head peeking from between the tree branches. I squealed and giggled like a schoolgirl, clapped my hands and picked up the pace down the giant stairs to where the duck was moored. It was enormous. Not as big as some of the other ducks; they had to make it smaller so it would fit under all of our bridges. It was the embodiment of everything happy and good to me. This giant yellow duck in the bathtub of my hometown rivers. The city shining off the rivers, it was perfectly picturesque with the waning gibbous moon. There were hundreds of people there, all of them sharing in the same happiness. It was wonderful.
Photo’s a little washed out, iPhone doesn’t take the best photos at night
I probably spent an hour and a half there, shooting photos, though it was a difficult range to try to get everything exposed properly. I walked over to the fountain and was amazed by the city, the fountain, the duck, the moon, the rivers…it was all the most perfect way to start my visit. It was brisk and windy but pure perfection standing at the very point of Point State Park, where the Monongahela River meets the Allegheny and forms the Ohio, looking back at the city that I spent so much of my life and having all these memories flood back in a wash.
There’s a better shot of the fountain!
The next few days was a flurry of seeing old favorite places and visiting friends. I went to my favorite apple orchard and we loaded up on almost 3 bushels of apples for me to take home for applesauce and apple butter. My sister and I went to sit and sip coffees at our favorite Starbucks, I went to dinners and lunches with friends, but mostly just hung out.
The city looked just like a painting, so perfectly reflected on the river
One of my oldest and closest friends took me to dinner between the two ‘new’ stadiums and we walked along the riverside watching swans light into the water and the sunset light up the sky and reflect off the water.
The geese like ghosts on the starry water…
After dinner, we walked to the Fred Rogers statue and I crawled up in his lap and couldn’t help but feel so overwhelmed with goodness. Fred Rogers is one of my heros and I love that he is so woven into this city. It makes me so proud to be from the same place as he and to have grown up on a steady diet of Sesame Street and Mister Roger’s Neighborhood. When I worked at the Pittsburgh Children’s Museum in high school, my favorite part was the floor that had Mister Roger’s Neighborhood and the giant UrRu Mystic puppet from the Dark Crystal. If I wasn’t eating my lunch in the courtyard and sharing my sandwich with the pigeons, I could be found up there, sitting by the Mystic or Henrietta Pussycat and X the Owl.
I drove around one of my favorite county parks where I spent so much of my childhood. I drove up the back road that leads to the lookout tower which has been closed for seemingly longer than it was ever open. I watched the sun streak orange across the sky, watching it reflect perfectly in the still lake by the island where we used to feed the geese and fish. I drove around to the grove where we used to have picnics every year when I was young. I spit many a watermelon seed across that grass. I drove past the grove where on a Girl Scout outing when I was 10, I had the bejeebies scared out of me when a bolt of lightning hit a giant oak tree about 50 feet from the shelter we were in and I saw it bounce off the tree and through the port-o-potty and go to ground. I passed the parking lot my boyfriend as well as my best friend sat in my little Bobcow on Thanksgiving one year.
Then I drove out of the park and past the house and neighborhood I grew up in. That was memory lane for sure. I remembered the neighborhood being bigger, but I suppose when you’re young, everything seems bigger. Driving through the neighborhood, I could remember when the big pine tree was on the corner where we had our bus stop. I remembered the bathtub the neighbor had in the front yard as a planter. I remembered watching the heat lightning from the window of my little back bedroom, falling asleep in the summer to the shimmers and the sound of my music playing on my little boombox. I remembered sitting in a chair on the front porch as the sun went down in the summers, listening to the cicadas and the dogs barking in the distance, and I remember feeling perfectly content with everything in the world. As I drove past the house this time, there were new children playing in the back yard, riding bicycles and happily laughing. Instead of being sad for what was, I was SO happy to see that the house had life in it again, that another generation of children would grow up having memories of that house as adults. I have so many happy memories of that place, of course there’s the not-so-happy ones too, but overall, I couldn’t have asked for a better place to have grown up. I had everything I needed and big tall trees to watch over me as I grew.
There was so much I wanted to see in town, so much fall to soak up, so many wonderful places I haven’t seen in many years. My sister went into labor a few days after I got there, a week and some change early, but she was quite ready already. Her water broke at 4am, but we were able to catch some naps when her contractions slowed down, then it was on by lunchtime, off to the midwife’s center. She gave birth naturally, no drugs, just sheer will and encouragement from her attendants. My little nephew was born cone-headed, covered in vernix and looking like an angry Winston Churchill around dinner time. It was a long, core-deep exhausting day, even though I wasn’t the one giving birth. There were lots of people in a small space and lots of pain (on the part of my sister which pained me, I don’t like seeing someone else in pain). I collapsed that evening in a complete mental meltdown so drained, mentally and physically. The next morning, I decided I needed to clear my head for a bit, so I just chose a direction (east) and drove. I had a general idea of what kinds of things I wanted to see and a vague idea of which way to go, but mostly I just drove to drive. The head-clearing, driving-until-you-see-mountains-and-then-keep-driving-some-more kind of driving. I took weird little back roads that bunny hopped over the hills, with pauses for picturesque bucolic wonderlands, tiny little towns tucked between mountain ridges, and found myself at a diner that I’ve passed hundreds of times while driving to central Pennsylvania. I bellied up to the lunch counter and found solace in a cup of hot cocoa (with whipped cream), a cup of corn chowder and a slice of pumpkin pie. I left there, weaving down more back roads and found myself at the italian market that I had been to almost 20 years ago on a cloudy, rainy spring day to get picnic items before climbing down into a hollow of a park with a tiny open meadow filled with flowers and a path punctuated by little wooden bridges over a creek that cut a wiggly path through the park. Funny the things that flow back in given geographical references, items I had almost forgotten about from seemingly lifetimes past.
However, I returned home refreshed and renewed by having some time to myself and prepared for a chilly evening with my neice at the amusement park for their haunted Halloween special event. I used to go to Kennywood every summer, at least once, usually as many times as I was able. It’s a small amusement park, but even though I’ve been to some pretty spectacular amusement parks in my time and travels, this is still the best in my opinion. It’s got some of the best wooden rollercoasters, and just the familiarity of it, it’s got so much history and character. They host Phantom Fright Nights during Halloween where they will open up most of the park’s rides and decorate areas with haunted houses and gruesome ghouls. They had the big carousel lit up and fogged with creepy backwards carousel music playing, creep factor 8 to be sure. We rode the Racer and our train won, we got bounced around on the Jackrabbit, plunging into the darkness at top speed, the cold wind biting at our noses and we ate Potato Patch cheese fries (with bacon). I got to, once again, ride my all-time favorite rollercoaster ever, the Thunderbolt, and we waited in line to get the very front seat. It was canon to get on the Logjammer or the Raging Rapids, get soaked to the bone, then ride the Thunderbolt to dry off and finish with the Wave Swinger to complete the dry. They didn’t have the Wave Swinger up, and the Enterprise has changed it’s name to the Volcano, but the Thunderbolt was there, and it was just as wonderful and epic as I remembered it.
We ended the night half frozen, stuffing cotton candy into our mouths and making a break for the exit by 11pm and I was gifted with seeing the sweet moon and my great hunter, Orion, shining down on me, even in the city. Even as lit as the city is, you can still see him clearly, it brings home to wherever I am.
- Fall and winter cold fronts and their abrupt entrances. It’ll be warm and humid one minute, then drop 10 degrees in five minutes and be blustery and chilled. I can *hear* the front blow in, as it makes its way through the trees towards me.
- Took a run at sunset and felt so overjoyed with everything, like I was on top of the world and everything was just as it should be. (It could have been both happy to be home from whirlwind trip and a bit of an exercise high…)
- My sweet fingernail moon shining down on me as I walk home.
- The sunrises and sunsets have been phenomenal this fall. Nature sure knows how to paint well.
- Quote of the day:
“I don’t want to go to Starbuck’s, the drive through is always busy full of people buying adjectives.”
- 11:11:11 on 11/11. It was particularly nice moment!
- Of all the states in the US, the only ones I have not been to or through are Alaska, Idaho, Oregon and Wisconsin.
- I have really be enjoying our Monday date nights. We’ve gotten to eat at some really great places and been able to really enjoy each other’s company. It’s made me very happy to have kept them going.
- The rain has made for impossibly green sections of grass so late in the year. It’s absolutely amazing, a second spring almost.
- I keep horse cookies in my running pack so that I can feed them to the donkeys and cows that I pass along my running route.
- One of my favorite spots in the county; I watched my great hunter rise over the hills while trying to suss myself out in the chilly evening’s breeze.
- As I sat meditating the one morning, the sun filtered through the rustling leaves and made the light dance on the bathroom door opposite me. I watched it with delight for a long time until it disappeared.
- I watched the CMAs (don’t judge) and I was absolutely floored by Taylor Swift, Alison Krauss and Vince Gill’s performance of “Red.” I must have watched it a dozen times.
- The first hard frost, right on time. I caught a feather nestled frozen in the grass.
- Curiosity ChickenChicken.
- A grapefruit drink that was out of this world.
- After a movie that broke my head, coming home to my Joe and a drink.
- Fried chicken and livers, rattlesnakes, and sweet tea.
- Amazing skies!
- Stolen photos from the top of the feed mill. (Thanks 510)
- Tiny and curious bull calves.
- First lemon of the year!
- I love the low light filtering through the trees!
- God Bless America: Free High Speed Internet
- Impromptu road trip for turkey pickup, junkin’, pie and pink and orange skies with a friend. It never gets old.
- I can appreciate the upshots of insomnia. Waking in the night is not necessarily fun, but realizing that you’re fine and there’s nothing wrong and applying some feel-good essential oils, having a cup of herbal tea and talking with my sister for an hour is quite pleasant. If nothing else, the time that I’ve been spending awake the past couple months has been nothing if not well spent. I get a lot done, and I am not stressing out about it too much.
- Big storms with lightning illuminating the cloud tops on the periphery of the horizon, but a perfectly cloudless and starry sky directly above me. Absolute magic!
- I made a HUGE change to my hair, and I adore it.
- From the warmth of my meditation cushion, I see the reflection of the window in the picture on the wall and I can watch the trees sway in the cold wind outside.
- My sweet ChickenChicken who loves warm snuggles on cold days.
- My annual Pot of Joy soup photo! (2011, 2012, and 2013)
- I discovered in conversation that there is a toaster that will toast the image of Sarah Palin into the toast. What popped into my head immediately was “MILFtoast!”
- Annual Empty Bowl Project, which while being bitterly cold and damp, was still, as always, a most pleasant way to spend the Sunday before Thanksgiving. It’s become a tradition now that I’m growing to love.
- Another sweet day date with the hubs to a craft brewery in the Hill Country on a blustery Sunday afternoon.
- I went to a fun painting event with my coworkers, and instead of taking it all so seriously, at the end I threw in a Godzilla and a UFO and managed to win “most creative.” I liked that it made it even more awesome in the process of not taking it so seriously.
- A warmup on a chilly day and a temporary workspace.
- I spent a Saturday a little hung over and spent, and the only thing I could bring myself to commit to that evening was gratuitous pretty of “Sacred Planet”, Ron Fricke’s “Chronos” and Andy Goldsworthy’s “Rivers and Time.” It was not a day of thinking, it was a day of appreciating art and just being. Laying on the couch covered in husband and rotations of cats watching pretty.
- Early mornings.
- Tiny little Dottie Lane mashed between Henri and SirPrise. Too cute!
- Silly horse faces.
- All you can eat persimmons from a friend’s beautiful fall tree (and his antlers that he hung on it)
- Cows, and Henri, a head bigger then everyone else and lowest on the pecking order.
- New cows!
- Being present for sunset over my pond.
- The kid’s table while the mamas are off at Booty Camp.
- Put up the Christmas tree. I love love love my color changing snowflake ball ornaments…they fill me such fantastic wonderment every single year.
- The sound of the dew falling from the trees when the breeze blows, a focused little shower pitter-pattering the grass.
- The yellowing leaves coasting down from the branches, the breezes making little eddies of the drifts, hearing the leaves crackle and schwush in the wind.
- Went to sit and write and these lovely little stragglers from my trip up north fell out into my lap. I love it when I tuck little memories into tiny object for me to rediscover later!
- Most of the photos of the cows and donkeys actually turn out like this. They are always so curious!
- At the brewery, a throwback to my youth.
Life has loveliness to sell, All beautiful and splendid things, Blue waves whitened on a cliff, Soaring fire that sways and sings And children’s faces looking up Holding wonder like a cup. Life has loveliness to sell, Music like a curve of gold, Scent of pine trees in the rain, Eyes that love you, arms that hold, And for your spirit’s still delight, Holy thoughts that star the night. Spend all you have for loveliness, Buy it and never count the cost; For one white singing hour of peace Count many a year of strife well lost, And for a breath of ecstasy Give all you have been, or could be.
- Breaking out of our most destructive habits. This was a particularly pointed read for me. They talk of a shift in focus from trying to understand, explain, and justify feelings (which amplifies and reinforces them) to changing them into what we want them to be; amplifying the desired emotional states, rather than the undesired ones. “Patrick wanted to feel closer to Mattie, be more loving, and create a safe and happy household. This desire, reflecting his core values, ran deeper than the ego-defense that made him lash out when he felt disrespected. It’d become the new reference point of our therapeutic work, replacing ghosts of the past.” That really struck a chord in me, instead of going over and over my kneejerk reactions, I could use the core value that I wished to eschew as a reference point, and make for far less arguments about little things that in the long run aren’t that important. I also liked the idea of journaling that placed heavy emphasis on healing, repair, and growth, practicing what they called binocular vision, the ability to see someone else’s perspective alongside mine. “The formula is simple: validate the initial feeling, empower the growth in perspective that changes the feeling (without confusing the former with the latter), and practice behaviors that will build prosocial habits.” Stepping back from upset and try to see the other’s perspective up front sooner, even if my assumptions about their perspectives aren’t correct, maybe it would help get a little bit wider view regardless, finding a quicker route to compassion for the other person. It’s about making smaller habit changes in life in order to bring about larger changes.
- Dealing with negative or difficult people
- On relationships
- This made me laugh a whole lot!
This video for Ben Howard’s “Oats in the Water” floored me. It’s not the actual video for the song, but it fits *SO* well that I sat completely agog through the whole thing.
- One day, I will get to Iceland:
- This podcast about recordings, algorithms and god sounds brought tears to my eyes it moved me so.
[soundcloud url="https://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/120192150" width="100%" height="166" iframe="true" /]
I started re-reading American Gods a week or so before I left on my Epic Road Trip 2013, though I didn’t quite make it all the way through before I left and got caught up in whirlwind driving, sightseeing, and collapsing brilliantly exhausted every night and didn’t have time to read. I finished it the week after I returned, which somehow made the Rock City portions of it all the more sweeter.
I left on Friday afternoon for Baton Rouge and though I got caught in rush hour traffic in Houston, I still enjoyed the amazing clouds, the sparse showers that had me chasing rainbows from Houston to the state line. Scrubby mesquites gave way to towering pine forests and then to swamp. I’ve never been through Louisiana, Mississippi or Alabama before, which was one of the main reasons I had decided to take that route. I stopped at the welcome center for Louisiana and was delighted to find a sweet trucker and very helpful visitor’s center lady to talk to for a spell. Then I went outside to the little lake they had behind the visitor’s center and was equally as delighted to see signs for “Beware of Snakes” and a No Swimming sign with a gator on it.
Louisiana was absolutely nothing like I imagined it to be, and it was glorious and stunning and a little bit out to kill me all wrapped into one soggy package. I drove over the Atchafalaya Swamp in the dark on the way there and so didn’t really get to see much of it until I drove it on my way home. The bald cypress trees and greenery, the flowers and the spanish moss, all so much more beautiful than I ever anticipated! I drove across the Mississippi in the pouring rain, but still there’s a sense of something important having happened, regardless if you can see it.
The next morning I decided to try to drive the long way around Lake Pontchartrain up to Slidell in the hopes to get a glimpse of New Orleans proper, but the rainy weather kept me from seeing much except the tail lights ahead of me. Still, a beautiful sight to behold, and yes, I sang “The Lakes Of Pontchartrain” the whole time. I struck out north from Slidell, feeling fortunate to drive through Webb Wilder’s hometown of Hattiesburg and amazed at the even taller trees and the beginnings of rolling hills. Trees so tall that they gave you only a strip of sky, instead of the wide horizon-to-horizon expanse that I’m used to.
The visitor’s center in Mississippi was magical, full of tall pine trees. The rain having just ended, everything was wet and the drops poised on the edge of the long pine needles were pure perfection. I slogged through the pine duff to a little bridge behind the building, picked me a couple pine cones to take home (including one that was positively spiky, little points to jab at me) and stood on the bridge for a long time soaking in the smells, the textures, the sounds, stretching my legs and running my hands over the cracked relief of pine bark.
I drove through Alabama, more tall trees that gave way to rolling hills. I nicked through a bit of Georgia and on into Tennessee heading straight for Ruby Falls before they closed for the evening. I took the Lookout Mountain Parkway for a bit but it was slow for all the locals and 35mph speed limit (and not much to look out at) and I was losing light. I drove up the side of Lookout Mountain, twisty and full of amazing trees hung over the road, driving through a living tunnel up the side of the hill and arrived at Ruby Falls in time for my amazing parking magic talent to work perfectly and for the second to last tour of the day.
Ruby Falls is interesting, some fun cave features, but the long walk with all the chatty stops on the way (but no time to stop and take photos properly) to the waterfall itself where you got exactly 3 minutes to take pictures and gawk and were hustled out was a bit of a letdown. Gorgeous and amazing? Sure! Claustrophobic, long-winded and too short at the actual feature? A bit. Still, I was glad for having done it, now I can say I have. Roadside attractions are always well received, no matter what. Ruby Falls was hosting a Haunted Cavern after hours, for which the line was already several hundred people long upon my exit. They had little food trucks selling Halloween themed cupcakes and drinks, it would have been a perfect pre-Halloween thing to do, had I not been bushed already. I set off in search of my hotel for the night, The Delta Queen.
The Delta Queen is an American stern-wheel steamboat docked in Chattanooga and now serves as a floating hotel. It was put into service in 1927 and was one of the most lavish passenger boats commissioned at the time. It started out in California, then in 1947 traveled the Panama Canal and up the Mississippi and Ohio rivers to be refurbished in Pittsburgh. She’s got a steam calliope that would play the ship in and out of berth. She is such a beauty, though I admit, I only saw her in the dark, but it was still so amazing that after I had dinner in the lounge (the most perfectly cooked southern fried chicken dinner), I spent much of the next several hours wandering the decks, taking photos and sipping my whiskey and didn’t even mind the cold. The moon was high and just past full and made everything shine in it’s cool light. Everything seemed otherworldly, the wooden banisters, the rocking chairs on deck, the river twinkling and shining. Inside everything was warm and inviting, wood panels, wrought iron, brass, perfectly appointed. I had one of the staterooms on the main floor, two little twin beds, two big windows, a little heater, a sink and a tiny bathroom. Every room had beautiful chandeliers, warm lights and beautiful carpets.
Joe and I slept soundly, if briefly before waking at 5:30 to refresh the meter. It’s a good thing I did, because I discovered my parking lot was just outside the start of the marathon in the city, and I wanted to be sure to be out of there before anyone started past the line and I was stuck for a while. So, a quick shower and tossing things together, grabbing a banana and some yogurt and I was heading up Lookout Mountain just as the sun started lighting up the sky. My windshield was foggy, which turned into comic gold as I drove randomly through the city, just trying to get out of the path of the impending marathon, only to happen onto the freeway going the wrong direction while peering through a tiny defrosted portion of my windshield. I stopped and bought windex and some newspapers from a gas station, the woman there thought I had lost my mind, but I’ve found newspapers to be THE best non-smearing, window cleaning device ever.
I stopped on the way up the mountain to see Chattanooga blanketed in delicate fog. I got to Rock City well before the gates opened, but I didn’t mind. I walked around and looked at their beautiful maple trees. It smelled amazingly like autumn up there. Fallen leaves, someone had a fire in a fireplace somewhere, it was crisp and cold and I was bundled up in my jacket and scarf with a cup of hot tea. It was just pure perfection, a breeze, the smells, the chill, on top of a mountain, surrounded by trees in magnificent color, a bit of decay, the sounds of leaves shushing underfoot. I waited until they opened and was the first one through the gate, through the gift shop and on the path of leaf-filtered light.
Rock City is one of my favorite places on earth. I had only heard of it in passing in my childhood, I don’t think I fully heard about it and was excited about it until about 5 or so years ago when I took a trip up to Pittsburgh and we drove down to stay near the Jack Daniel’s distillery and took some extra time to go see Rock City. I fell in love with it then, the place is pure magic in only a way that it can be. Just like in American Gods, it is a place that has more magic than it ought because of all the visitors that come to see the rock bridges, squeeze down the little goat paths, sway over the hanging bridge and gaze out over the countryside. As a side note, there is a really amazing blog here that is dedicated to barn art, including See Rock City barn signs.
“The most important place in the southeastern United States is advertised on hundreds of aging barn roofs across Georgia and Tennessee and up into Kentucky….Rock City begins as an ornamental garden on a mountainside: its visitors walk a path that takes them through rocks, over rocks, between rocks. They throw corn into the deer enclosure, cross a hanging bridge and peer out through a quarter-a-throw binoculars at a view that promises them seven states on the rare sunny days when the air is perfectly clear. And from there, like a drop into some strange hell, the path takes the visitors, millions upon millions of them every year, down into caverns, where they stare at black-lit dolls arranged into nursery rhyme and fairy-tale dioramas. Whey they leave, they leave bemused, uncertain of why they came, of what they have seen, of whether they had a good time or not.”
“See Seven States” (though not on this day). Can you see the Chattanooga corn maze off to the right?
I walked around slowly, I had several hours to kill and I was in no hurry. I stopped just about every few feet to photograph something: leaves on moss, rock bridges, pine trees in the filtered light, lichen on a rock. I was just soaking it all in, slowly sauntering through the early morning glow, charmed by it all. I took a video walking through the Needle’s Eye, it was a tight squeeze with my camera bag! The hanging bridge and Lover’s Leap are some of my favorites, though I love the Rainbow Hall and Observation Point are also close seconds.
I tried to take some selfies at the flag court overlooking the vast panorama, but ended up not being able to capture both, too much dynamic range, but settled for some absolutely epic selfies and lots of pictures of my hair blowing in the wind, making it look like my head was on fire. I was delighted to find that the Art-O-Mat had made it to the cafe in the flag court, though dismayed when I couldn’t figure out how to make it work and to find that it was mostly empty. It’s the perfect place for an Art-O-Mat though, kitsch central.
Me with the …uh…mascot? And the inimitable Art-o-Mat
Mother Goose Village both confuses and appalls me but still while at the same time providing some kind of macabre delight. The black light makes my eyes feel funny, foggy like, but checking out all the little dioramas is still kind of fun, if a little creepy. It is quite a challenge to take photos in there, I probably should have switched lenses out and just gone with shallow depth of field like this photographer, but I didn’t really think about it while I was in there.
In the gift shop I decided to upgrade my little Rock City birdhouse from 5 years ago with a bigger, bolder one. I spent a while gawking at all the things and finally settled on gifts for everyone and was on my way.
I started off through Tennessee and Virginia, through West Virginia and towards Pittsburgh. I was in a race against time as I wanted to get there before 11pm so that I could see the giant rubber duck (more on that later). I did make a stop to see the New River Gorge bridge, which was, in fact, just as spectacular as I imagined. It was impressive, a giant span, though you’d never really know it driving over it. The visitor’s center for it was a much more impressive view, and had I had time, I would have climbed down the 18 flights of steps to see it from a lower (and closer) vantage.
The last light on the mountains of West Virginia
I got into Pennsylvania and to Pittsburgh well after dark. Those last three hours of driving were brutal though. After two and a half days on the road, somewhere in the neighborhood of 30 hours of actual driving, I was ready to call it a night.
- Long, meandering, glorious road trips alone. It sounds crazy, but I *love* having the time to myself, to reconnect with myself, to explore and change my plans on a whim. It’s the ultimate way for me to fall back in love with myself. This was one of the most amazing vacations, and that reconnecting with myself was a thing that I have needed for a long time.
- This house. Our house. My house.
- Clean teefs!
- The wind blows the post oak on the back corner of the house causing it to rain acorns down on the tin roof above the bedroom window. It makes me giggle every time I hear it.
- Driving into a rainbow made rush hour traffic far more bearable. Then I chased those rainbows for 50 more miles.
- My first impression of the first time I’ve ever been to Louisiana is that it smells like wet cedar and pine, a little marshy and rotten and it’s so flat that I swear I could see the curvature of the earth. And perhaps just a little dangerous.
- I crossed a bridge and saws tugboat pushing a barge upriver with two big spotlight headlight beams glowing through the rain.
- Realizing I’d been driving on a super long bridge/raised highway through the swamp for damn near an hour, but it was too dark and rainy to figure that out until I was almost off of it.
- Driving over the St. Charles bridge, which later I discovered has crossed pistols in the metalworking.
- Crossing the mighty Mississippi River again.
- Asperatus undulatus clouds in Austin and Houston. Like waves on the ocean!
- I remember times of laying out on beds of long pine needle duff in North Park with friends and by myself, watching the clouds and dreaming. (I really love pine forests. Really really.)
- There is something entirely appropriate about driving through the towering trees of Mississippi, barreling down the highway listening to bluegrass and Johnny Cash so loud that it rattles the spoons in the side pockets.
- Cutest copilot ever.
- That refreshing breeze coming off of Ruby Falls.
- Paddlewheel riverboat hotel!
- There was a little cupcake place outside of Ruby Falls setup for the haunted caverns, *look* how ridiculously cute their cupcakes were! I bought a four pack, I couldn’t resist.
- My bear who drinks scotch on a boat.
- My hotel (and parking) was the start of a marathon the one Sunday morning, oops!
- Catching the pre-sunrise sky through the trees and seeing the city laid out below, blanketed in delicate wisps of fog.
- Glorious fall maple trees and being snuggled up in my scarf and jacket with a hot tea.
- Making wishes.
- All of Rock City. Honest to goodness, it’s one of my favorite places on earth. It’s cheesy and kitschy and full of gnomes and rocks and trees and moss and beautiful amazingness. I could go back there again and again and again and I would still be just as delighted as the first time.
- Squeezing between rocks
- Epic, early morning selfies on top of a mountain with the wind blowing, the sun peeking out from my shoulder and seven states laid out behind me as well as the insanity that is photos that turn into my hair being a halo of fire blowing in the wind around my head.
- Coming through the entrance to my hometown, the front doors, as it were. Always a stunning view:
- A giant rubber duckie. Walking around the corner in the point and seeing his perfect yellow head. I managed to score good parking and the walk through downtown was amazing.
- Klassy, with a K: I took my sister to the liquor store, we walked out and snapped a photo of her carrying three bags full of liquor, with the pregnant mama parking sign behind her. And where does the the booze go? In the car seat, of course!
- You look lovely!
- My favorite apple orchard, and buying four half bushels of apples. Time to restock the applesauce!
- Finding a bumblebee on the ground, sadly dead, but perfectly preserved. I picked it up and carried it around until I could find a little coffee creamer container to empty and put it in so it didn’t get mashed. The bumblebee (and bees) have been my reminder to “just be” and so I took it as a ‘sign’ that it was time to get myself my own little bee. (By the way, that bumblebee, despite traveling 2000 miles made it home like a champ and now sits on my happy shelf!)
- The house that built me. And I DID find myself again. I found the Joy that was underneath it all, that kernel of me that is always there. But that song made me cry like a baby, especially when it got to the part of “I bet you didn’t know under that live oak (pine tree for me) my favorite dog is buried in the yard.” I drove past and saw children playing in the big back yard – a new generation of kids that will grow up and have memories of that house as a child. The maple tree in the front yard that was little more than a sapling when we moved in over 30 years ago is now thick and tall and still just as beautiful. I remember sitting on the front porch in the summer sunsets and listening to the dogs bark, the cicada whine.
- A most wonderful evening spent with one of my bestest and oldest friends, who in some ways knows me best. Absolutely beautiful and perfect evening on the river and dinner and hanging out after. One of the best, spontaneous, perfect, most present nights and moments I’ve had in a long time.
- Driving down the familiar road, twisty, windy, leaf-covered, leaves blowing in little rushes in the wind. That place where the shale overhangs and makes ice waterfalls in the winter and where the trees hang over the road and make a canopy to drive through. The hillside blanketed in leaves, this year’s and years past, sunlight peeking through the yellowed leaves lighting everything up in glorious colors.
- Log Cabin Inn: Shepherds pie, prime rib dip, banana beer for the prego, applejack brandied cider and the giantest punkin pie evar.
- Being introduced to a rather surprising, but mindblowing gourmet hotdog shop.
- Visiting the Center For Creative Reuse, where you can make art from a bunch of weird random crap that people didn’t want. Like a goodwill for weird bits and baubles of things, scraps and things that you wouldn’t normally think of. Very cool.
- The beautiful park by the house where I grew up. I remembered so many little things while driving around it. The boy I used to chase around the skating rink trying to get his attention, the hill we climbed up to make out on the big rock at the top, laying in the pine duff, playing on the swings, collecting pinecones, yearly family picnics, that time my sister and I stripped to our skivvies and swam across the gap to the little island in the lake just to see what was on it, graduation parties, cruising around the park with the convertible top down going for ice cream, feeding the ducks and fish, that shelter where we hid in the back when lightning struck the tall oak and bounced off the port-o-john….all manner of happy memories.
- Making onesies for my sister’s new baby with sharpies and clever wit.
- Taking a drive to McConnell’s Mill to gawk, it was a wet, fall day but still stunningly beautiful.
- Fresh new bebe!
- After being fried from the birth (Lots of people and intensity for that long required some decompression) I got in the car and drove east until I found mountains and cows. No destination, just getting out and reconnecting with myself. And pie. And olives.
- Remembering good times with picnics in the park in the rain.
- Driving home I saw the moon rising and I saw my sweet hunter up in the night sky, huge and shining over the city. So beautiful!
- Kennywood! Riding the Jackrabbit, the Racer and my favorite coaster of all time, the Thunderbolt (and sitting in the front) all in the dark. Eating Potato Patch french fries, it’s still the best amusement park that I’ve ever been to.
- Corn maze awesomeness.
- My neice’s first mechanical bull ride. (*snerk* and the unceremonious falling off) To her credit, they had a plastic seat that they armor all-ed every evening.
- The pumpkin cannon, and shooting the zombies (which by the way, yes, I did hit them square in the target and won myself a t-shirt by doing so!)
- Jack! (that my cousin made)
- I must have been in Carnegie, there was mixed Ukranian and Pittsburghese and pierogies everywhere.
- A super sweet post from my cousin Sharon:
“I don’t get star-struck by celebrities . . . but by people who live their lives to the fullest . . . and this beautiful woman, my cousin, Joy, really knows how to live and experience life! She came up from Texas for a visit with her family and I was lucky enough to spend the afternoon with her and her sister, my other cousin and her 4-day old baby! Sad to see her go . . . but looking forward to this coming Spring when I can go and visit her at her farm in Texas!”
- Sharon does Halloween amazing. (her photo, not mine)
- My halloween costume and my inability to keep a straight face while taking photos because my sister was trying to photobomb me.
- Riding the Incline, slow, chunking, the bells, the gears the slide up the hill, silently gliding past the other car, the muted lighting.
- My beautiful hometown, it is the prettiest city that I’ve ever seen and I’ve seen many. Still, even after all this time, it holds the same mezmerizing magic for me.
- The Cathedral, where I spent so much time in classrooms amidst stone walls of gothic architecture, writing papers and doing homework under those groined ceilings.
- Meeting our cousin for lunch and mistakenly ending up under the West End bridge but discovering how amazing it looked with the water shining and reflecting underneath it.
- The gorgeous Bessemer furnace and machinery of steel-making in the square.
- Dinner with my grandparents, ever the stubborn ones, and still after 36 years, exactly the same. I enjoyed going out there to see them immensely, and amused that time has stood still in their house.
- Going to visit my step-dad, leaving him a piece of pizza. (At least some squirrel could appreciate it later maybe).
- Sitting on my cannon where I would do my homework after school.
- Me and my new, little nephew. (1, 2, 3…aaaaawwwwww)
- I stopped at an overlook and discovered that it was bombarded with thousands of ladybugs. They were everywhere, in my hair, my arms, my face, all over my pants, and cameras. Hilarious! I managed to snap a shot of one just taking off from my camera, lucky shot!
- Up early and on the road. Cloudy but for a small window break that revealed my sweet, smiling, earth shining, fingernail moon. That early I couldn’t rightly tell what was clouds and what was mountain.
- A wonderous rest stop with lots of hills and stairs, a perfect break up to sitting on my butt for five hours.
- Skyline Drive of the Shenandoah National Park and the Blue Ridge Parkway were so amazing that it requires a post all to themselves, because it was so magnificently stunning.
- Driving through the fog, while a bit nail-biting, was absolutely gorgeous. Then I’d cling to the side of the mountains and watch it stream up.
- I saw an otter cross the road. For reals! And a bear, in a tree.
- Being knee deep in leaves taking photos and loving the hell out of it.
- Slow drives, stopping every few miles to take a million photos. 300 miles of picturesquedness was a real slow travel day (which was fantastic!)
- It’s a good trip when twice I have to delete apps and clean up my phone to fit more pictures on it.
- Staying in a passenger style train car!
- “Who is John Alt”bier at the Terminal Brewery. Clever.
- The gas braziers in the courtyard at the train depot. Very cool to fall asleep watching. I opened the blinds to the window and fell asleep to their flickering glow.
- The Incline Railway. I was on the first train up of the day, absolutely beautiful! Perfect fall trees, brilliant view.
- I drove to Georgia for breakfast because I could. Couldn’t find the state line though…apparently it’s not obvious if it changes in the middle of a town. I found that very amusing.
- The amazing craziness and wonder of New Orleans. It was absolutely nothing like I had it in my head it was, which turned out to be a rather interestingly pleasant surprise. What it was though, was pretty damned amazing. I’m really glad that my friend was in town, because neither of us would have gone into the city without the other. As it was, I dragged him along with me on the adventure, and we walked all over that town soaking it in till the wee hours of the morning, as it should be.
- My collection of photos with Joe sitting in the middle of a hotel bed. It makes me giggle to collect them.
- The absolute hilarity: they had a stuffed armadillo with a holster next to cans of alligator, and my buddy put an alligator head on the armadillo. Pure perfection.
- Seen just north of Birmingham: “John’s Plumbing: We Repair What Your Husband Fixed”
- Saw a giant fireball shooting across the sky on our way back to the hotel.
- Catching up with old, good friends as if you saw each other just last week, as opposed to years ago.
- “Why yes, I do have three links of breakfast sausage in my pocket.”
- “Most di-rectly.”
- Because everyone needs to be sugared and caffeinated before driving long distances:
- You know, I never thought I’d ever say it, but driving through the swamp is really stunningly beautiful. There’s something eerie and haunting about the Spanish moss draped trees, the reflections off the water, the algae moss and a carpet of yellow blooms everywhere. I never would have expected it to be so beautiful.
- They nearly stack up the cane in rows and then light one end and it burns evenly all the way down the row staying in bounds (and smells dreamy.)
- Happening to drive right past the Tabasco factory and of course stopping for a tour and some holiday shopping.
- Yellow daisies and purple flowers in the central reservation. (And singing the song…)
- Rolling hills, curvy roads, scarlet and yellow trees.
- Good pit stop chit chat with old grizzly truckers.
- Trying, repeatedly, to say “Afatchalaya.”
- That smell of fall. Unmistakable, leafy, earthy, intoxicating, wonderful. I want to bottle it to pull it out and sniff at will!
- Making leaf pile angels (and then picking leaves out of my hair and my shirt for hours later.)
Aliveness is energy. It’s the juice,the vitality, and the passion that wakes up our cells every morning. It’s what makes us want to dance. It’s the energy that moves a relationship from the status quo to something grander and much more expansive, something that makes our hearts beat faster, our minds, and our eyes open wider than ever before. Everything is of interest to a person who is truly alive, whether it’s a challenge, a loving moment, a bucket of grief, or a glimpse of beauty.
- “Collect moments, not things.”
- After the auction, I drove to the dead end, turned the car off and laid on the hood watching the far off lightning, feeling the cool north breeze, and decompressing. There’s a few stars peeking through, mostly I just needed a place without people and significant noise.
- Then I went home and laid in my hammock in the dark. The cold front blew in and I’m shivering (after sweating all day). The breeze rustles the leaves in the trees and the wind chimes are soothing my frazzled, over-stimulated, over-caffienated brain.
- Morning cow face!
- Damsel in distress? Road tripping and laying on the rail road tracks in a teeny tiny Texas town.
- I love the neat bridges in small towns. I stopped the car and walked out onto the bridge to get a better look.
- Even better is unexpectedly running into someone you know in said small town, at the kolache shop (oh they were SO good…better than in West even!) and getting some hugs!
- I’m all about epic soundscapes, and listening to the signs clank in the breeze was just pure perfection.
- Also, there was this squeak that I adored. I almost bought the thing just for the squeak it made.
- Unintended (but amazing and intoxicating) detours. Sharing our cheese plate snack with Edsel the guardian dog, catching the breeze, enjoying the Sunday.
- Amazing views
- Cortado love.
- My favorite moon, Venus, and a full belly. A wonderfully perfect night. I watched the moon set from up high, a tiny little sliver with all earthshiney glow. Pure perfection.
- I dreamt one night that I was dating John Mayer and he was so sweet and lovey. Thanks brain, you’re a peach for that one!
- My perfect end to an evening post brush fire, me tucked into my corner, deep in bubbles and rubber duckies.
- My goodness! That moon! Those stars! That beautiful Milky Way draped across the sky! I jumped out of the tub still wet and walked half naked out into the night and walked to the end of the driveway to get a better view of the full western sky just to stand and stare at that sweet perfect little moon. I may be a sappy, romantic, quixotic sucker, but at least I know it.
- San Antonio and Austin, Texas from space.
- All of the clouds turned pink last night at sunset, it was like cotton candy stretched across the sky.
- I’ve taken to re-reading American Gods before I take the long road trip. It’s like a right-of-passage, a necessary reminder, especially before seeing it all again. I’m terribly excited for all the Americana and autumn, it’s going to be positively magical.
“So what is this place?” asked Shadow, as they walked through the parking lot toward a low, unimpressive wooden building.
“This is a roadside attraction,” said Wednesday. “One of the finest. Which means it’s a place of power.”
“It’s perfectly simple,” said Wednesday. “In other countries, over the years, people recognized the places of power. Sometimes it would be a natural formation, sometimes it would be a place that was, somehow, special. They knew that something important was happening there, that there was some focusing point, some channel, some window to the Immanent. And so they would build stone temples or cathedrals, or erect stone circles, or … well, you get the idea.”
“No, in the USA, people still get the call, or some of them, and they feel themselves being called to from the transcendent void, and they respond to it by building a model out of beer bottles of somewhere they’ve never visited, or by erecting a gigantic bat house in some part of the country that bats have traditionally declined to visit. Roadside attractions: people feel themselves being pulled to the places where, in other parts of the world they would recognize that part of themselves that is truly transcendent, and buy a hot dog and walk around, feeling satisfied on a level they cannot truly describe, and profoundly dissatisfied on a level beneath that.”
- ACL which I quite unexpectedly enjoyed the hell out of. The first day we got a ton of free stuff and pampered at the Samsung tents. I saw fun. play and they played my theme song “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” (but sometimes, you get what you need).
- Free popsicles on hot days are the BEST. Free cookies are pretty awesome too.
- Amazing sunsets at the festival, and fantastic moonlight. Deciding to walk the 3 miles to the car instead of taking the bus. Showering and collapsing into bed, sore but blissed out.
- Big hearty breakfasts in a small town, then stopping to get some roadside americana on – pictures with Ms. Pearl the Squirrel
- “When John Mayer sings, he’s singing directly to your vagina. That’s why dudes hate him.” (snicker…but I realized maybe it’s true. He does kinda sing to my vagina, it makes me melt into puddles)
- Listening to The Cure live reminds me of 10th grade, every crush I’ve ever had on a boy, every time I’ve ever fallen in love, and every single time I’ve been heartbroken all distilled into music filtered through the smoky, breezy, sticky air into my poor, sad, love-starved brain. And then the sky opened up and dropped twelve inches of rain and thunder and lightning, as if answering my pain and tears, trying to wash it away.
- Found my very first grey hair. I was very amused by it, it made me laugh out loud quite heartily!
- I donated two of my photographs and the lamp that my mother and I made out of an old out of service SCBA (airpack) bottle to my little fire department’s auction. I was so proud to have those items up there, even if they didn’t get as much money as I would have liked to have seen for them.
- Sunsets and cows never fail to please.
- Foggy mornings and racing out of bed to catch the first light.
- Gorgeous sunrises, cows to greet me first thing in the morning, and neverending skies.
- Stiff beach winds whipping, high surf, sitting in a hammock chair having a drank and relishing the stormy weather.
- Watching the little girl dance and squeal as the surf chased her up the beach.
- A wonderful dinner, full and happy walking out onto the wave-crashed jetty, tide going out, water lapping my toes. The lightning flashes far off in the Gulf and everything is hazy from the spray. My lips taste salty just from walking down the beach.
- Gaido’s pecan pie for breakfast. I don’t even like pecan pie and it’s the best pecan pie I’ve ever tasted. I was told to order a piece, then take it back and let it cool and eat it later and it was the best thing ever. (It’s true)
- Dreams of working through things, perhaps in ways that I don’t understand, but I know that’s what’s going on.
- Marble lunch counter and a flat top griddle. Hell yes.
- Soda fountain, free taffy, a mountain of goodies to take home and coffee in the rain. Perfection!
- Art Deco buildings, cobblestone streets, phone booths and a undercurrent of wet mustiness…pure character!
- The coolest looking alley I’ve seen in a long time. I should go photograph more alleyways!
- Warming, glorious showers.
- Neverending layers and layers and layers at sunrise.
- Taking the long way home and then detouring again to take the even longer way home, stopping for really great finds, amazing yarn and lunch.
- I bought a jellyfish paperweight at the gift shop at Jimmy’s on the Pier. It said it glowed in the dark but I didn’t test it until later and it was *SO* amazing.
- “You know you’re on the right track when you become uninterested in looking back.” I’m coming to understand this.
- Views from the highest spot in town, watching the lights, the cars, feeling the breeze.
- Driving with the windows down, feeling the heat islands and temperature changes in the coolness of the night.
- My lunch and office today was off the side of the brush truck while I worked on work and our airpacks at the station.
- One day…one day…I will make it here.
- Dinner at the Salt Lick. Beer, company, bbq sandwich, great weather…couldn’t ask for more!
- Driving into town, amazing sunsets:
- Sharing stories, being honest and opening up.
- I found the warm reflection off the transom windows again that only seems to happen in spring and fall. It’s my morning warm spot, I walk through it every sunny morning and I always stop and pause and soak it in.
- My baby cow; such a sweet thing:
- Hot tea on cool mornings and remembering other cool mornings with hot tea.
- Warm maple and brown sugar oatmeal for breakfast.
- Driving home, catching the orange light behind my favorite tree. I always sing the song in my head when I see the orange skies, but I’m coming to realize that it’s only in my own love that my salvation lies.
- A couple weeks ago after I had a particularly bad day, my good friend handed me a giant bucket of glow sticks to break and make me feel better (which it did). So I put out on Facebook to my friends that everyone should send me boxes filled with glow sticks, and low and behold, one of my friends took me up on the offer! I recieved in the mail a box full of glow sticks, a candle and a couple of bath bombs and a lovely postcard. I was *SO* excited! And I brought her back a giant box full of chocolates and candies from the confectionary in Galveston in return. Super fun!
- Toodling down my dirt roads with the sun sliding down the horizon, and the evening coolness draping over everything and cows, rabbits, owls, hawks, all the trappings of country life greeting me as I go.
- Epic trip planning!
- Epic fire training! We cut a car in half, because we could. I cut windshields, broke windows, hefted the “jaws of life,” cut roofs off, and generally was badass.
- It’s been so rainy that we’ve had mushroom fairy rings popping up everywhere like little umbrellas. The mornings have been cool and foggy and make for most excellent photography.
- I’ve gotten to the point where I can just hop up on Tex bareback with just a halter and lead rope and ride him around. He’s been really well behaved and I just love being able to scramble up and tool around without any need for extensive preparations.
- There was a donkey trying to eat my hair the other morning, it was absolutely adorable. It looked like I had an “asshat.”
- Hilarity is the cat watching (and chattering at) the turkey on the back porch railing and the turkey watching (and perking back at) him.
- My sweet little fingernail moon at 5:30am through my bedroom window. (I know I post it every month, but it really does make me so very happy to see it.)
- 20 amazing cloud formations
- Mud puppies!
- The giant rubber duckie came to Pittsburgh and I’m so excited about it!
- This is how I feel about fall too!
- The happiest Sesame Street dressing room with Jimmy Fallon singing of the Sesame Street song ever:
We’ve had some wonderful monsoon weather the previous month which has been a much appreciated change of pace from the usual desert-like summers we’ve had. For weeks, every day would start gloriously cloudy and once the fog burned off the small, pretty cumulus clouds would build and build and build all day until they swell and burst in the late afternoon.
Some mornings it would start out with huge clouds reaching to the sky already with high ceilings and whisping virga. But just about every day was full of amazing skies.
And every evening, the showers and thunderstorms would play out, the clouds would break and reveal the most stunning sunsets. Giant swaths of leftover thunderheads reflecting the setting sun, lighting up under the decking of high clouds in brilliant oranges, pinks, purples, golds in jawdropping succession.
There were several days where the sun dipping over the horizon lit up the lowest clouds like a fire. Far away explosion of light, with all the textures and colors more brilliant than I could ever dream up.
I found myself hunting for the highest vantage point to get the most of the sky, going for walks to find just the right view to soak it all in every day.
The weather broke late last week after a long, slow storm. We’ve had clear skies for days now, but no matter what the weather brings, Texas sunrises and sunsets are almost always downright amazing.
- My sweet tree with perfectly poofy endless clouds.
- Walking outside to sit and watch the lightning from the far off storms from the front porch.
- Turning off all the lights, laying in bed and watching the lightning light up the room until I fell asleep.
- Breakfast in ‘town’ with a friend.
- Hugs when sorely needed.
- Texas sunrises and sunsets:
- Cloudy-sky-cooled days and post-storm coolness.
- A warm bath to relax (when I haven’t had one in a long time)
- Getting things done, crossing things off my todo list.
- Pushing myself five extra minutes, then five more than that.
- Adventures to fantastical places! Standing out under the water letting it wash all over me, swimming out and staring at the ceiling and watching the water drip down onto me. Seeing the little drops splash in the water, little bubbles. Swimming all around, under the falls, relishing in it.
- Taking ol’ Tex out for a bareback ride.
- Rain on the tin roof.
- Making myself dinner, just me, a nice, healthy tasty dinner to myself. It was so wonderful!
- Waking up and feeling good.
- Sitting at home watching movies on a Friday night (something I haven’t done in a long time) and then getting up the next morning to see the third in the trilogy in the theatre.
- Being out somewhere, feeling lonely and looking up at the stars and instantly feeling soothed by them.
- There is nothing better then coming home when being away.
- Feeling sexy and wanted.
- Sleeping in, laying in bed late (decadence!)
- Breakfast with the family, talking over the day’s events.
- The tease and promise of autumn soon.
- Newness, and the excitement of doing something new!
- Stand up paddleboarding; feeling strong, stable and awesome and then lounging sitting and laying on the boards floating all morning catching up.
- Being really ok with your choices, especially the tough ones.
- The bliss of taking a shower and cleaning up after being all sweaty and sunscreeny and out getting our nature on all morning.
- Riding in the side car for the first time: holy crap awesome. Wind all over me, trucking along like a rollercoaster ride with no lines, having the car tipped up and the scary exhilaration of it all. Feeling the sun and the wind on me, amazed by the fantastic clouds and so much view, raising my hands into the air and squealing with delight.
- Feeling part of something and included and wanted.
- Having lunch cooked for me, then napping on the couch. Exactly what I needed.
- I have been addicted to Burt’s Bees chapstick, and now I can just save my tubes and make my own!
- When I was so angry and wanted to break things, having a good friend hand me a bucket of 150 glow sticks. I took half of them in a handful that I couldn’t even get my fingers around, and broke the shit out of them, bending and snapping the glass inside and it was *so* satisfying and absolutely the perfect thing to cure my upset.
- Sliding into the cast iron tub on the back porch in the 100 degree heat to shave my legs as the storm outflow gust front blows through, the thunder rolls, the rain starts in earnest and I just lay there, listening to it all with the turkeys keeping me company under the porch overhang.
- Keen Country Band played George Strait’s “Give It All We Got Tonight” and it made me weak in the knees and further galvanized my desire to learn to dance.
- The Auctioneer Song, especially when drunk.
- The skies lately have been amazing, it’s monsoon season! Little poofs building, sun streamers, virga, perfect highlights, then afternoon downpours. Simply glorious.
- Swans in the hotel lobby fountain.
- Teeny little spiderwebs blowing in the breeze of the morning.
- Gifted (and much happiness received from) teddy bears.
- Really good ramen and mochi lunch!
- Pho and sno cones in the beautiful afternoon. Sweet tea snow cone was seriously the.best.thing.evar.
- Attack of the Impluse Corn Dog II.
- My cow, who is so curious and mischievous and makes for the best photos.
- The tragedy and comedy of the raccoon coming in to steal my entire bag of chocolate covered pretzels in the night.
- As I worked on Tex’s feet, the skies opened up on me in a brilliant deluge. I stood hands up to the sky, soaked to the bone, relishing in the storm, slopping through the runoff.
- I almost look like I know what I’m doing:
- Old names on a map at the bank: Jasper, Gideon, Porter, Everett, Leland, Silas…
- Cotton time!
Each module is stored in the field before going to the gin. Each module contains about 13 bales, each bale can make:
215 Pairs of Jeans
249 Bed Sheets
409 Men’s Sport Shirts
690 Terry Bath Towels
765 Men’s Dress Shirts
1,217 Men’s T-Shirts
2,104 Boxer Shorts
2,419 Men’s Briefs
4,321 Mid-Calf Socks
6,436 Women’s Knit Briefs
21,960 Women’s Handkerchiefs
313,600 $100 Bills
A few weekends ago on a whim I drove to La Grange for the parade for the county fair and then the day after to go to the carnival for the county fair. I’m as much of a sucker for held-together-with-baling-wire-and-duct-tape carnivals as I am small-town rodeos, and it did not disappoint.
I met one of my new firefighter friends there and he showed me the La Grange fire station and we watched bands, rode rides and ate carny food.
Saturday morning, after the parade, fire station tour and lunch, I walked around town. It was much like the little town near me with a big courthouse in the square and really pretty small-town Texas square feel. I wandered through the little shops, chatted with shopkeepers and a woman with a giant, fancy, italian mastiff.
Later the next day, I drove back out taking the back roads around sunset and the Texas countryside lit up like magic. I drove on tiny roads through huge rolling fields full of hay bales and greening grass. I drove through tiny towns and stopped at one to amaze at the sunset glinting off of the rail road tracks.
Almost into La Grange, the sun streamed golden clouds and I had to stop to take photos of the bucolic grace.
I arrived for the carnival just after dark and first thing got a Texas classic chicken-fried steak sandwich and a Shiner Bock and then set to checking out the carnival.
My favorite ride (tied with the Round Up, which they did not have there)
I didn’t ride this one, but it looked deliciously frightening!
There were plenty of carnival games in all manner of bright colors, including skeeball, which is always my favorite and reminds me of boardwalks on the East Shore and Kennywood.
The view from the top of the ferris wheel was pretty fantastic, as always.
A few weeks ago we took a trip to DFW for my birthday. It was a sweet little trip, short, but really great.
I didn’t have to drive, a rare treat for me to just ride and watch the clouds and the scenery fly past. I love driving, but there was something so perfect about riding around, dozing in the sun, watching the clouds sail past and being able to observe everything that was absolutely what I needed.
We stayed at my favorite little boutique hotel, the NYLO near downtown. Despite the fact that I never feel fancy or hipster enough to be staying in the place, once I get back to the rooms, I stop caring. It’s got super high ceilings, exposed pipes and brick walls and sliding barn doors. It’s loft living; industrial mixed with upscale in a way that I enjoy. The beds are deliciously soft and comfy, the showers are divine and they have an in-room Keurig machine and an iPhone speaker dock.
We went to the fancy korean spa in Dallas, had a nice soak, and then I got a body scrub that was, as always, absolutely delicious. They scrub you with little mitts for almost an hour, every square inch of skin scrubbed in a rhythmically lulling way and rinsed by pouring warm bowls of water over top of you. Then, oiled and massaged and rubbed some more and then they wash your hair and send you on your way. It’s absolutely divine and a glorious special treat. We sat in the sauna rooms for a while, had some dinner and then headed back to the hotel.
Back at the hotel, we opted out of a drink on the roof, it having been stuffed full of very upscale young professionals and noisy, and settled into the bar in the lobby for charcuterie, a drink and a shared dessert before turning in for the night.
The next morning, we were up early and off to have breakfast at a well-reviewed local place and we sat with our cortados in the cooler morning. We decided to hit the Dallas World Aquarium, something I had never before heard of, but I am always up for aquariums and it turned out to be wonderfully layered and rather impressive. We spent several hours just wandering around, oohing and ahhing at all the wonders.
Anteaters? I’ve never seen an anteater before!
You wander through up top in the canopy of the trees and see all the birds and monkeys way up there, and then work your way down until you are looking under the waterfall, into the giant tank below with huge fish, rays and a manatee!
Oh, the huge manatee!
They had a huge shark tank with a tube you can walk through to view it (as well as from above it). It was surreal having saw fish laying right on top of the tube, right over top of you and then seeing the canopy above through the water. Simply amazing!
I was completely mesmerized watching the waterfall from underneath. I must have stood there for fifteen full minutes just watching it.
I loved watching the moon jellyfish. My first experience with the ocean was standing on a barrier island of the east coast at dusk and watching the waves crash and the comb jellies glow with biolumenescence.
The flamingos were fun to watch filter feeding upsidedown, back and forth.
In the gift shop they had this giant wooden frog that you ran a wood stick up the back and it sounded like a frog croaking. Pretty fun, so I got a smaller version that hubsand loves to play with now.
We stopped for some late lunch after the aquarium and stumbled upon this brunch place where they sent you to a bar next door to wait for your table. The bar had the most amazing thing I’ve ever seen! Freezee pops, but with booze! I had a pina colada type one, deliciously slushy and boozy in the late August afternoon Dallas heat.
After lunch, we motored home, chasing rain clouds, watching the far off clouds build and build til they burst in spotty little columns. We got home just as the sun was setting, a perfect way to end a great birthday weekend.