Tag Archives: travel

Purple/Green Tie Guy

His name was Jim. “Is this seat taken?” he asked of me in the airport terminal waiting area.

“All yours.” I gestured for him to sit. “I love your tie.” It was a vibrant purple/green alternating diagonal stripe. It was excellent.purple green tie small

“Oh, this?” He seemed surprised, but pleasantly.

He settled in and seemed open to small talk. He didn’t pull out his phone, and mine was broken.

“Do you like fantasy adventure novels?” I showed him my last copy of Waterwight. I always travel with several copies to give away to people I think might enjoy them. I had already given away copies to 8, 10, and 13-year-old girls and one to a 60ish-year-old wheelchair bound man battling lung cancer.

“Not really.” He explained that he preferred novels with suspenseful political intrigue. “Why? Are you trying to get rid of that? Is it awful?”

Well, I was unprepared for that question, as if he should have known whom he was sitting next to.

“No! It’s really good! I wrote it!” There was no recrimination in my voice, and I laughed then at his flustered attempt at apology.

A young college-age girl sitting across from me caught my eye and seemed interested in the book, so I excused myself from Jim and plopped down next to the girl. She was delighted with her signed copy.

“See what you missed out on?” I teased purple/green tie guy, who seemed genuinely sorry he had said, “Not really.” So I gave him a bookmark and told him he might want to order one someday. He seemed impressed when I told him Kirkus had reviewed it favorably.

Perhaps he’ll even check out my blog. If you’re reading this now, Jim, let me know what you think of my novel! And watch what you say to strangers in airports . . .

I Write Short Stories Too!

Pearl at the Wheel

“You look cold, dear.” Pearl pushed her jacket onto Frank’s lap, keeping her eyes on the road. It was her turn to drive the ’58 Oldsmobile coupe, Frank’s pride and joy, second only to his wife.

Frank’s proposal nearly 65 years earlier had made her giggle.

“Please be my forever girl, my lovely Pearl! I’ll do my best never to irritate you!”

Pearl had cherished each day since becoming Mrs. Frank Newhart. Her husband had a way of making everything wonderful, even the childless years when she had questioned why he would keep her as a wife.

“ ‘Twasn’t meant for you to take care of anyone but me, my bumblebee! You know you’re my whole worl’, Pearl. Now, give me a hug.”

And with each hug she knew her place in his heart was safe.

She was uneasy behind the wheel of “Ol’ Brownie,” but Frank had already driven through the morning and she could tell he was weary. They drove only during daylight hours now that their vision wasn’t the best. Their last drive south had been hairy, and Frank’s frequent remarks about the “daredevil whippersnappers” on the road had made her reconsider this year’s trip.

“Oh, but the kids’ll miss us! We’ll just take it slow. What do you say? Shall we give it another whirl, my pretty Pearl? Just one more jaunt?”

Pearl could never say no to her Frank. Even when his plans involved doing things she’d never imagined, she trusted he would keep her from harm and expand the small world of her past. And he was patient. She never understood how he could be so patient with her fretful ways.

Frank was a good driver, too, and loved their road trips, but the journey to visit their favorite nephew’s family took days. There was no need to hurry in either direction, though, so she helped him pack the car.

“ ‘Twill be an adventure, my tweety-sweetie-pie,” he told her.

“It’s always an adventure with you, dear. But I think we’ll fly next time.”

They had just passed the “WELCOME TO OKLAHOMA: Discover the Excellence” sign when she stole a glance at her husband. How she loved his strong nose, his wispy silver hair, his bushy eyebrows, and the mischievous grin that always played around his lips.

“How can you tell if he’s happy or sad?” their friends would ask her because his expression never seemed to change, even when Pearl knew he was troubled. She wondered if it was his way of protecting her fragile emotions.

“Oh, I know,” was all she’d say.

Pearl grasped the wheel and briefly considered pulling over to the shoulder. “These double-long trucks scare the bejeebers out of me. Look at him! He’s taking up half our lane! They should be illegal. Hey, you, pick a lane! Should be illegal, don’t you think?”

Jittery chatter was how Pearl dealt with tense situations. She drove on more slowly, her knuckles white at ten and two. Another quick glance at Frank reminded her how patient he’d been over the years. When he learned she’d be fine once she finished her rant, he’d wait it out, the little furrows on either side of his mouth indicating an ever-present grin like the one he wore now.

“I sure will be glad to see that ‘Welcome to Colorful Colorado’ sign. Tomorrow, maybe. Isn’t it just the funniest? Cream letters on a brown sign. Colorful Colorado. Ha!” She squinted. “This is the worst time to drive, you know, with the sun setting. Maybe we’ll drive through the night tonight. Get home in time for Bridge with the girls tomorrow. Won’t they be jealous when I tell them about the show at The Grand Ole Opry?”

When the truck was out of sight, she took a deep breath but didn’t relax her grip on the wheel. She stared straight ahead, concentrating on keeping Ol’ Brownie between her lane markers. She let the silence sink in.

Miles later, Pearl placed her hand over Frank’s.

“Still cold, darlin’?” She pulled her hand away quickly and fumbled to adjust the heat knob.
Tears threatened the corners of her eyes, rolled over her sparse lashes and disappeared in the soft scarf Frank had purchased that morning to protect her from Colorado’s impending winter chill. She wiped the rest away brusquely. Wind buffeted the car and she grasped the wheel firmly again.

“I wish you’d say something, my love. Anything.”

But Frank had nothing more to say. He had stopped talking near the eastern edge of Oklahoma shortly after their last McDonald’s coffee when Pearl took over at the wheel. There were two more states to traverse before they’d be home. She’d have to be careful where she stopped. Maybe she’d close his eyes and lean him against the door.

It would look like he was just sleeping.

almost home

Home again, home again…

Week 2 of our road trip is even better than week 1. Our sleep schedule is increasingly more like Ranger’s and each waking moment is an opportunity to explore extraordinary new scenery. The simplicity of our routine is invigorating. I don’t miss home at all.

Our only frustrations are with the occasional drivers who slow down when the road is not hairpin straight, or truckies who won’t pull over with a mile of traffic behind them.

“What are you hauling? A black hole?” Mike asks one driver when we can finally pass safely. The driver doesn’t hear him.

“Panguitch,” I read on a sign. “I’m hungry. I’d like a peanut butter and jelly panguitch, please.”

But then we see an even better sign advertising “HO-MADE PIES.” As I’m fairly certain hothey’re not gluten free, we pass on the Ho-made pies. “I once was a tart, but now I make them,” I say, and the pin-up girl on the sign agrees with me.

Debris, my iPhone, takes us on a circuitous route to one of our destinations, adding close to an extra hour of driving, and at some point I tell her to “stop navigation.” As soon as I finish my command, Mike adds, “and stop being a such a douche.” He’s angry at Debris’ faulty directions.

My phone responds sweetly with, “Okay, Laurel, here’s what I’ve found for stop navigation and stop being a douche,” and Mike and I burst into laughter. We cannot believe what we’ve just heard. Mike wants me to click on the “How can I stop being a douche” link, but I’d rather look at the scenery.

“Well,” I say, “we’re seeing lots of things we wouldn’t see if we’d taken the direct way.”

“Yeah, sheep,” he says. “Lots and lots of sheep.”

stormy skyFor hours we pass open land for as far as we can see and laugh at people who talk about the threat of overpopulation. The contrast between what we are seeing on our travels and what we know about those who live on top of one another in big cities is nearly irreconcilable in our minds.

Along a particularly rough stretch of road there’s a sign warning of an upcoming bump and we figure if the bump is worth noting, it must be a doozie. We maneuver it just fine, and then there’s another.

“I wonder if they’re related,” says Mike.

“Who?” I ask.

“The bumps. Because that would make them bumpkins.”

This is how many of our conversations go.

We finally make it to our campground near the North Rim of the Grand Canyon and notice our slight stature amongst the other campers, something we observe everywhere we stop. We clearly have the smallest travel trailer in the whole place. We’re surrounded by Death Stars, and Mike—who is not a singer—never fails to hum the Star Wars tune whenever we pass one on the road.

I count over 45 different names on the various mobile homes, all promising something special. Attitude, Beaver, Freedom, Fury, Hideout, Independence, Jazz, Komfort, Puma Unleashed, Voltage, and Wildwood are some of my favorites.

“What! No Beaver Unleashed?” Mike asks. Beaver jokes are always funny.

“I could see trading up in a few years,” he says, checking out our neighbors’ rigs, and although our trailer feels palatial after years of trips in the truck camper, I can see a time when we might need just a little more space. Like when we’re on the road for months, or when we’re taking potential grandsnarfs on adventures.

Our neighbors at one campground, owners of a Death Star, tell us they call their trips fairy fort“Glamping.” The dad is a Marine, and like Mike, has decided he’s paid his dues roughing it for long enough. Their daughter, a serious 7-year-old, is engrossed in making a fairy fort out of pine needles and cones and sticks and stones. She is methodical in her creation, and I can tell she’s happy I’ve noticed her effort.

We decide to traverse one of the longer, steeper trails at the canyon and agree to do a timed out and back. I know Mike wants to cover as much ground as he can, and I want to stroll and take photos and chat with people, so we decide we’ll both turn around at the 90 minute mark.

“Don’t get lost,” I tell Mike, and he knows I’m joking about an experience on our previous hike—a simple half-mile round trip out and back to an overlook—when a group of Harley riders (I’m assuming they were Harley riders as they were all decked out in Harley leathers) asked us the way back to the lodge. We suppressed our urge to ask if they were joking and pointed to the only possible way they could walk.

So off we go down the steep Kaibab trail, which smells of mule dung punctuated by an occasional blast of fresh pine. But for the noisy swarms of metallic blue-green flies—why are they so beautiful?—on the freshest piles, they’re tolerable.

After I overcome my concern over several small children approaching an overlook with no fences and a rock slab slide into the void—they’re not my children and their parents seem to be watching them—I continue down the trail to a quiet piece of shade and sit in the cool silence, breathing in the canyon breath. A haiku presents itself:

Breathing canyon breath
No responsibilities
Peaceful cliff birds sing

During my turnaround hike back up the path a canyon-red butterfly outlined in white dips and turns and climbs over and over, a little dance just for me.

On our way to our next venue I watch Mike surreptitiously as he drives, this man who has made my life one huge adventure, and know I could travel the world this way with him. I notice for the first time the tin foil hairs interspersed with the brown ones on his forearms sparkling in the sun through the windshield and I think about the hairs on my own arms that now stick straight out as if trying to escape, and my eyebrow hairs that are growing willy-nilly like Einstein’s. I plucked one the other day that must have been an inch long, half brown, half gray, wholly twisted. blue steelI notice the gray stubble on Mike’s chin, something I rarely get to see, and it makes me wish I had my tweezers handy to pluck the persistent stray hairs that grow faster than a startle reflex on my own chin. Mike doesn’t like his facial hair, but he forgot to bring a new blade for his razor. I don’t tell him I’ve got extras. I like to see a little scruffle now and then.

We listen to a radio DJ who starts an excited expression with, “Holy …! Don’t worry, folks, I’ll never curse on the radio, so if you’re driving home with the kids now, you’ve got nothing to fear. This next song by 311, All Mixed Up, is one of my favorites. I mean, these guys work their asses off,” (emphasis on the asses).

“Wow,” is all Mike says.

Ranger profileWe’re a little quieter on our final drive from Mesa Verde to home, our last day of vacation. Sure, we laugh at the “Nothing Satisfies Like BEEF” sign and make the obvious pork references. It’s not like we’re somber or anything. And we’re truly pleased by Ranger’s response to our truck to trailer to truck routine these past two weeks. He’s always ready to jump into or out of whichever door we open, and after only a few minutes of whining in the truck, he settles down and does what he does best: sleeps.

We know we’ve seen only the tiniest fraction of what our country has to offer, and every place has been our favorite. Driving back into Colorado—after the mandatory donation to the Navajo Nation at 4-Corners where vendors of silver and turquoise surround you, entertained, no doubt, by the antics of tourists splaying themselves across the geographic marker—we are grateful once more to be living in one of the scenically most spectacular states.

Bouquet upon bouquet of orange, white, yellow and purple brighten the roadways, and over every rise there’s another castle or ship chiseled by an unseen sculptor’s hand from the cliffs of stony red earth. I imagine dinosaurs tromping alongside us and pterosaurs gliding from peak to castle peak. And then, the snow-capped mountains rise from flowered fields, and we are . . .

Home again, home again, jiggety-jig. almost home