Where Does the Time Go?

south-padre-islandThe adventure of retiring from full-time employment began 145 days ago. Hard to believe it has been that long and yet the time has flown by. I’m not sure where I’ll be in another 145 days, but today I’m on South Padre Beach.

During this transition period, and I truly feel like it is a transition, I have had to come to appreciate having my time as my own. Well, most of the time. I have a husband that has also retired and we are traveling across the nation in an RV. I had hoped to do some serious writing but can’t find to update my blog. Oh well.

I have published my second book, Coyote Vengeance, since we hit the road and I’m well into editing the next book. There is also an unfinished story that keeps haunting my dreams.

We do have a blog to record our traveling adventures, Rambling Toad. So much of my writing time is spent working on that blog with my husband.

The days seem busy with things we didn’t have time to do before. Things like taking a tour of the King Ranch, or learning how to be part of hot air balloon crew, or walking in the surf. My writing hasn’t been forgotten and does get attention almost every day, just not as much as I had planned. But then again, I’ve decided retirement is a full-time job.

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New Life

road-small-sizeI have recently retired from a job I enjoyed. I now have time to travel and write. It’s a very exciting time in my life. Yes, I’m a little nervous about this big change but not scared.

Over the past years I have been planning for this day. The day I don’t work. It is now here and I am about to start traveling across the USA. No schedule to keep. No deadlines. Just the opportunity to enjoy the adventures of the day.

I have been waking up and expecting my vacation to be over and it’s time to return to work. Then I remember this is my new life without steady work. Pretty exciting.

What To Do First?

don_t_panic_buttonWhen facing a big project with many different facets, what do you do first? I’m big on making a general priorities list with very few details. I find the details become apparent as I go thru the project. (Same philosophy I have when writing a story.)

Soon I will start a yearlong adventure traveling across the country in an RV. As the plans for this adventure were first put together, there were many things to consider.  Then as the plans were being made a surprise was injected into the plans that made it possible to start a year earlier than planned.

So now we must hurry up and decide:

  • What to do with all the things we no longer need or have space for.
  • Getting the financial side of living set up.
  • What about the pets – can we take them with us?

And now, we wait for things to progress so we can leave. The biggest thing to be done is to sell our house. A house we truly love – it has been like living in a park for the last 8 years. As we wait for the buyer to find our house, the pressure builds to move on. But this waiting time has given us a chance to emotionally come to grips with moving from our house and selling off most of our possessions. And now we are looking forward to this adventure.

One of the questions that required a great deal of discussion was how can I continue to write while we travel. Details have been worked out and I’m seeing the future with a lot more time to write. Maybe I will be able to get busy on all the editing that is waiting for me. I hope to publish a couple more of my novels, pursue publishing some of my children stories, along with some freelance writing.

As I discussed my plans with my husband, partner in this adventure, he wondered aloud if I was allowing time for exploring our new surroundings. I laughed and said I was expecting to have more fodder for my stories.

So back to my original question, what to do first.

No Place Quite Like Palo Duro

centipedeOne of my favorite places to camp is Palo Duro Canyon. I have some fun memories of the park from the times my family would tent camp in the canyon. Once we were sitting at the campsite table talking and laughing when my husband hushed everyone. We sat listening and heard the rustling of leaves. We looked under the table and saw what was making the noise. It was a centipede taking a morning walk. It was longer than a clothespin and about the size of nickel around. It was the first time I ever heard an insect walking.

10 Things about Palo Duro Canyon:

  1. Second largest canyon in the US at over 120 miles long, the park is 70 miles long, average width 6 miles – up to 20 miles wide in places – depth is 800’.
  2. Palo Duro is Spanish for “hard stick.”
  3. Nickname Grand Canyon of Texas
  4. Prairie Dog Town Fork of the Red River is the river that carves the canyon.
  5. Some the geological formations in the canyon include mesas, caves, and hoodoos (rock balanced atop a smaller base).
  6. First human habitation 10,000-15,000 years ago with the Clovis and Folsom peoples and has been continuously inhabited since then. First Europeans to discover the canyon were part of the Coronado Expedition in 1541.
  7. The park was built utilizing the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) – took five years.
  8. Park covers 28,000 acres, second largest park in Texas.
  9. Using the canyon as a backdrop, the Texas Outdoor Musical has been running for 50 years.
  10. Painter Georgia O’Keeffe described the canyon as, “It is a burning, seething cauldron, filled with dramatic light and color.”

The inspiration for my story Canyon Riddle came from this place. If you get the opportunity to visit this amazing place, take it!

Frozen Fun

IMG_1694Recently went night tobogganing at a local park with lights on the run. I am convinced that getting onto the toboggan is an art form. I was bundled up in several layers of clothes and boots, so my mobility was less than it normally is. I sat on the small bench and tried to scoot up to the front of the toboggan as instructed.  It became an ordeal, similar to turning over a beached whale. I couldn’t get any traction, space to maneuver was limited, it was dark, and I couldn’t bend my legs very well thanks to all the warm clothes I was wearing.

Finally, tugging and squirming I was in position. My husband plopped in behind me and was told to put his feet on my lap to keep his legs and feet well inside the toboggan perimeter and not rub on the sides of the run. So he squirms almost pulling me out of my hard-earned front position, and then he plops his booted feet around my waist. The rope was handed to me like I was going to guide the silly thing.

Then I hear a clunk, and we drop. As we race down the hill, I can see the run and the landing zone ahead, but all around me is black. We laugh and scream the entire way down; it is much like riding down a long roller coaster hill.

As we near the end of the run, I get a face full of ice and snow that is being thrown up by the toboggan. It takes my breath but is refreshing in a freezing wet sort of way.

At the end of the run, is the landing zone which is substantially rougher than the run. Bouncing along at a very high rate of speed, watching the dark that is just on the other side of the lite zone growing closer, I drop my feet so that they rake the snow and ice. More cold stuff hits me in the face, but we are slowing down.

We come to a stop more than halfway across the landing zone. I now have to get off and out of the way of the next toboggan. Getting off is easier than getting on, but I am so excited about the ride, I take longer than I should and almost got ran over by the next toboggan. My husband pulls me out of the way. I am still holding onto the rope, so the toboggan follows me as we begin the slow walk up the hill to do it again!

On our last run, we challenge a much younger couple to see who could go the furthest. During our previous runs, we were getting pretty good at sliding across the landing zone. Our challenge is accepted, and they go first. We loaded up and scooted/squirmed as far forward as we could and then comes the drop.

We are going so much faster than before. The snow and ice are hitting me in the face, and breathing is difficult because the air is so cold. But screaming and laughing seems to be no problem. We come off the run and can see the other couple standing beside their toboggan barely a third of the way across the zone. We stay tucked inside the toboggan, waving to them as we pass. When we finally come to a stop, it is dark where we are crawling off the toboggan.

It was a good run that was so much fun. If you get the chance, go tobogganing. Word of caution, don’t let your feet hit the sides of the run, you will crash, and it isn’t pretty.

 

Growth is Not Comfortable

Schemeekly Path“A comfort zone is a beautiful place, but nothing ever grows there.” Unknown.

Be honest for a moment, you prefer to be in your comfort zone. We all do. Where is your comfort zone? It is the place, the activity, the time when you feel you can relax and handle whatever comes your way.

This zone is many things – security, reaffirming, peaceful, etc. – but what it isn’t is growth. When we accept (or are pushed) a new challenge, we grow. This growth is uncomfortable, it can challenge your perceptions and causes you to wonder if you are up to handling the task or wonder why you accepted it.

The growth process is scary; it is much easier to stay in the comfort zone where you know what is going to happen. But once you start the process it can be exhilarating. The thought you don’t know what is going to happen, that you are changing the way you think and act, trying new things, and the admiration others share with you for being so brave. Wow! It’s like a “Superman” high.

When you finally complete the task, you find several things. First, you aren’t the same.  Whether it was a good or bad experience, you are changed by it. Second, you have confidence that you can handle the task, and it can become part of your comfort zone.

A couple of times when I got out of my zone were entering the NaNoWriMo and publishing my book Canyon Riddle. The scary part of the NaNoWriMo was the question of whether or not I could write 50,000 words in 30 days. I found I can. Canyon Riddle is a novel for adults (or at least not a young child). I am comfortable writing children stories, Bible studies, and such but a novel for adults? That was scary. But since then I have written three more adult stories, and I know that I can do it again.

One of my latest growth opportunities is I am learning to knit. That may not sound scary to anyone but at my age (I remember when the Beach Boys were young) learning a new skill that you have spent most of your life avoiding, is not easy and certainly is not in my wheelhouse. But as I knit, purl, and unravel over and over, I see small glimpses that I can do this, and my comfort zone is expanding.

Every time I step into an unknown situation, I grow. Not all the experiences are pleasant, but I do learn from them. Where there is an unpleasant outcome, I try not to repeat it. That is also growth.

So the next time opportunity presents itself to take on something new, give it a whirl. Keep those brain cells active and grow your comfort zone.

Elusive Northern Lights

NighSkyWithMoon-ShutterstockI was looking forward to seeing the Northern Lights this past month.  They were going to be over my head after 11:00 p.m but it was recommended to get outside of the city for the best view. I drove outside the city, parked on a dark road and waited.  The weather was perfect, only a few clouds in the sky, and warm enough that only a light jacket was needed.  I waited.

The stars were shining, and I could pick out several constellations.  The breeze blew ever so gently. Staring at the sky, I waited.

Drove a little further north, avoiding all the cities, and busy roads.  All the while watching the sky for the start of the predicted show.

After an hour, I had to go home as I would have to be up in 5 hours to go to work.  I drove slowly with a vigilant eye to the sky.

This is the third time I have stayed up late, driven out of town and waited to be disappointed.  One time I drove almost a hundred miles and spent the night at a hotel with the expectations the Lights would be spectacular from this vantage point.

The next day I learned the Northern Lights had been visible at my house!

This adventure continues.

Could it really happen twice on the same trip?

I was camping in a very nice Wisconsin county park where there was a great view of a lake, quick entrance to a lake trail, and quiet but friendly fellow campers. The first day was just like you would have drawn it up in a dream. Lots of fun, warm, no bugs, and plenty of downtime for recharging the batteries. Went to bed tired and the first raindrops hit the top of my RV. It was going to be a great night for sleeping – rain!

It rained all night and it was expected to rain the entire day. Decided to pack up and head home. While cleaning up, I heard water running, went to investigate and found it was pouring from the A/C vent in the RV (yes, I rough it in style these days). Water was pouring onto my bed! I made efforts to protect the bed with a vinyl tablecloth and towels.

Finished the clean up and my hubby was ready to drive the leaking RV to the shop and I would follow in the car. I opened the car door to find the seat was soaked. The seal around the sunroof had given way during the rain. So now, I am covering the car seat with trash bags and towels for the drive home.

So in one trip we had 2 seals fail. I wouldn’t have thought it possible. But on the positive side, I now have fodder for a new story.

Ice Adventure

IceCave3-2015This winter I had the opportunity to walk across part of Lake Superior and explore some of the ice caves. There are preparations needed for this adventure. First, you have to wait until the conditions are favorable for the caves to be open, this includes Lake Superior having enough ice on it. Cold – zero or lower– weather for a prolonged period of time (like a month or more) to ensure that the frozen cascades of ice are not loose. Warm enough weather that you can be outside – bundled up of course. And light wind or it will knock you to the ground. This year these conditions presented themselves for 2 weeks. That’s it – 2 weeks. Some years the conditions never happen and the caves remain closed. You cannot schedule this adventure and expect it will happen on your schedule.

So the first week the caves were open, it made the news. I went the second week (and the last as it turned out). It is estimated 50,000 other people went that weekend also. So I had many companions on the ice; this was a comfort. If the ice broke or a giant icicle fell on me, there would be people around to report my death immediately, thus not having to wait for my body to be found with the spring thaw.

The lake is huge, so having that many people on the lake was nothing. We were like ants scuttling along our paths to and from the caves.

Everyone is dressed for the cold, most of us look like we are the size of a Sumo wrestler. It was about 30 degrees when I stepped onto the lake. Stepping onto the lake requires some equipment (besides lots of clothing layers), namely ice cleats. I had never worn ice cleats before but was impressed with how effective they were at keeping me upright on the ice.

It is also recommended that you carry and use ski pole(s). I didn’t have any ski poles but the park had a limited number of spiked walking sticks available, which I snatched with little regard to the needs of those younger or older than me. (No one else wanted one.) The sticks are broom handles that have a nail driven into them with the pointed end of the nail out. I am not sure how this was accomplished; nevertheless, I appreciate other people’s initiative and skills. The walking stick wasn’t really needed except when climbing over rough terrain. Yes, there was rough terrain on a frozen lake. There were large mounds of snow and ice that had to be climbed making footing difficult and the likelihood of falling even greater.

As I began the trek to the caves, which was about 2 miles across the ice, I was unprepared for the feeling I got walking on the ice. In places where the snow had been blown away, the ice was black – it reminded me of asphalt – and other places it was a deep blue or white. Walking across the black was the part that unnerved me the most. I had the image that I was stepping into a deep black hole. I was glad there were lots of other people around but the lake is so large and we were spread out from each other, I doubted if anyone other than those that were closest to me would have known I had been swallowed up and I suspected that they would have disappeared with me.

By the time I reached the caves, I was breathing hard. It isn’t so much the distance as it is the cold, the wind, uneven walking, and the beauty you see as you come near the first cave. The caves are part of the shore. Other than during the winter, you would only be able to see these caves via a canoe or kayak, if at all.

The eons of the lake’s tides and storms have hollowed out these caves. There is one very large cave that has a domed roof that must be 30 feet high and at least 30 feet across. It is a beautiful place.

As you wander from cave to cave you see cascades of frozen water that form stalactites and frozen waterfalls. In other places, the ice forms passageways the young and agile can crawl through. One cave has reddish ice that seems to gush down the sides of the cave walls.

At the mouth of another cave, there was a very large block of ice (over 4’ long and about 3’ high) sitting on top of the frozen lake. Looking up you can see where it fell from when the ice became slightly thawed. It would have been terrifying to have been there when it fell, but now it lays on the ice and makes a comfortable place to lean against to rest.

The walk back seemed shorter but maybe it was because I had become accustom to my surroundings and walking on ice isn’t so scary after all – it is an adventure.