Drifting through vacation

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Images captured while speeding down a highway.  Road signs proclaiming their welcome from one state to another.  One night’s stay in a hotel here, another night’s stay in a different hotel there.

Sounds kind of transient, doesn’t it? Drifting from place to place. Stopping only briefly.  Just passing through.

That describes our recent vacation pretty well and transient just happens to be this week’s photo challenge theme.

We traveled in our trusty vehicle northward along the Hudson River Valley, stopping at places that we listed on our itinerary and other spots that just beckoned to us to pause and enjoy the scenery.

One night’s stay in a New York (the Empire State) hotel. Then up early the next morning to drive into Massachusetts on our way to Boston for a couple of days sightseeing and nights of restful sleep in a blessedly cool air-conditioned room with a king-sized bed.

Passing through the Bay State (MA), we decided to detour from our intended path and drive the entire length of Cape Cod, just passing through, but stopping here and there to enjoy the seashore, capture some photos, hike to a lighthouse, and eat a picnic lunch.

Then continuing our transient journey, we headed for the Ocean State (Rhode Island) and into Connecticut (officially the Constitution State but also called the Nutmeg State). Again, another couple of nights in a cool and comfortable hotel room in between more sightseeing and adventures.

Back in our vehicle, we traveled around NYC, drove through the Garden State (New Jersey), and headed for home. But not before another stop. 

Another place to pass through. Another event to place in the memory bank of special moments.

We breezed into Papa’s old hometown, traveled up and down streets familiar yet now different to him, passed by his former homes, and visited his parents’ grave sites. Then we checked into yet another hotel.

But the best part of all was arranging to meet someone for lunch the next day. 

We had a wonderful visit with Papa’s oldest brother, his wife, and our grown up nephew. Brother is 17 years Papa’s senior, a Navy veteran, and someone my husband just doesn’t know all that well because time, distance, and both his and our being transient and moving often separated them.

It’s been almost 19 years since they have seen each other in person and we had a joyous sort of family reunion.

While just passing through. Catching a moment to remember like the fleeting glimpse of a road sign.

“Catch, then, O catch the transient hour; improve each moment as it flies!” ~ St. Jerome

©2017 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com
 

 

Some have it, some don’t

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Train trip from Silverton to Durango, CO – 1979

Sometimes I wish I had a bit more wanderlust. As defined by my trusty bookshelf dictionary (yes, I’m a dinosaur; I actually use a real book consisting of paper pages), when you have wanderlust, you have a strong impulse to travel.

“The impulse to travel is one of the hopeful symptoms of life.” ~ Agnes Repplier

This week’s photo challenge theme – wanderlust – invites me to share a photo that represents travel to me.  I do have many photos from Papa’s and my travels, so it was hard to choose just one.  

But the photo above from a trip we took together early in our marriage called to me. Papa is fond of trains, and we’ve been on quite a few, but this one winding through Colorado mountains was special.

Traveling is an adventure and encountering new sights and experiences is something I relish, but I wouldn’t describe myself as having wanderlust.

Ironically, this topic has been on my mind because just yesterday morning, I ran into my last living first cousin at the grocery store.  He’s a bit older than me and has had some heart health issues in the last few years.  Since he was the nearest cousin in age to me and our families were very close, he has always been my favorite.

Cousin’s grown children and grandchildren live far away from our hometown like some of mine do.  And we talked about traveling to see them and how cross country trips can be tiring as we age.

Then he proclaimed his own dinosaur status and admitted he just doesn’t like to journey far from home any longer.  He always assumed that when he retired, he and his wife would do a lot of traveling. But other than one trip to our ancestral home in England, he hasn’t traveled abroad or even ventured to other areas of our country very much.  And he has no desire to do so. 

Wanderlust? He doesn’t possess it. He’s more than content to stay right here in our little neck of the woods with a few trips here and there to visit his family.

Perhaps the apple didn’t fall far from the tree. I recall that my cousin’s father (my uncle and my father’s brother) never liked to trek far from home at all.  Matter of fact, my cousin and I shared a good laugh over a story about Uncle when he took his family to Canada for a visit.  The border guard asked him how long they were going to stay in that country and my nonplussed uncle replied quite seriously, “About 15 minutes.”

After we chuckled, my cousin told me the reason why uncle was without wanderlust.  He had served in World War II, yet never wanted to share much about his time in service. He did tell his family that he promised himself that if he made it out of the war in one piece and back home, he never wanted to leave again.

No wanderlust for my uncle. My dad was unlike him in that respect because Dad liked to travel away from home. He poured over his well-thumbed road atlas and enjoyed planning routes and sights to see along the way.  Mom was more of a homebody, but he did manage to convince her to take several cross country excursions with him.

I wonder what gives a person that sense of wanderlust? I enjoy taking journeys, but I wouldn’t classify myself as someone who has a strong impulse to travel. Papa likes trip-taking as well, but again I wouldn’t say he was bitten by the travel bug.

Now our daughter and son-in-law are birds of a different feather from us.  Wanderlust perfectly defines who they are. They live (and work) to travel! Daughter’s desire for adventure began with a high school trip to France. Then a three-week trek to Africa after she graduated from college.  Followed by short-term mission trips to Honduras, where she met her future husband.

From a honeymoon in Honduras to anniversary trips to Costa Rica and this year to Peru, those two are always on the go.  I’ve lost track of the places and countries they have visited. From climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro to their next desire of visiting every high point in the United States, their bucket list is loaded with travel plans around the world.

I haven’t really composed a bucket list but I would like to visit every one of our 50 American states. So far, I count 33 under my belt and soon Papa and I plan to add three more to that list, which will make 36, so 14 to go.  

As far as travels outside of my country, my only claim to fame for that one is a couple trips to Canada.  If I could go anywhere in the world though, I’d choose my dream trip to the British Isles, especially the home of my forefathers in England, and another jaunt to Australia, where we could visit friends. Papa agrees but would add some other European countries to the list as well. And — gasp! – he’d like to venture on a cruise (this traveler nixes that one).

Whether we ever take those excursions remains to be seen. But I can always enjoy journeys to other spots in the world vicariously through my daughter’s wanderlust.

Maybe it will rub off on me.

“The world is a great book, of which they that never stir from home read only a page.” ~ Thomas Fielding, Selected Proverbs of All Nations

©2017 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

 

 

Where liberty dwells

We celebrate the day feasting.  Bar-b-que grills fire up all over the country and plates are filled with picnic food galore – everything from hotdogs to watermelon.    Enthusiastic backyard games of softball, volleyball, and badminton continue throughout the day.

Marching parades wind through hometown streets, and there may be patriotic speeches or concerts in other areas.  Everyone’s attire includes red, white, and blue while Old Glory waves from the front porch flagpole.  Stars and stripes bedeck buildings and houses.

The sound of firecrackers pops through the air and as dusk commences its descent on the day’s activities, everyone jumps in the car in search of an awesome fireworks display to ooh and aah over in the summertime night sky.

It’s the way we Americans commemorate the fourth of July, our Independence Day.  It’s the way our family usually celebrates too.  But not this year.

Since the fourth landed on a mid-week day and almost everyone in our family only had that one day off, we couldn’t celebrate the holiday together due to work schedules and distance.

The newlyweds now live in the state south of us and son lives in the state next door.  Only oldest daughter lives close by, in the city.  She arrived at the homestead Tuesday night with a great idea for how the three of us – Mama, Papa, and Daughter – could spend the day on the fourth.

Flight 93 memorial then

She suggested a day trip.   A couple years after the 9-11 attacks, we visited Flight 93’s crash site in Shanksville, PA on our way to the Outer Banks, North Carolina for vacation.  Oldest daughter, who had just graduated from college and started her new job, was unable to accompany us on that trip.

At the time, only a makeshift memorial existed in honor of the Americans who lost their lives in the quiet Pennsylvania farmland that infamous day.  Now there is a permanent memorial at the site and our daughter wanted to see it, especially because she’d missed our previous visit there.

Since the area is an easy drive from our home, we decided to venture there and then meander around to see what other sights we might encounter.

Years ago when we visited the crash site, I wept when I stepped out of the car.  This time tears did not fall,  but the sense of solemnity in this peaceful, serene place where terror struck so vividly engulfed me.

Flight 93 memorial now

Gone was the makeshift chain link fence serving as a memorial wall with mementos lodged in  it,  including a local firefighter’s coat.   In its place a beautifully designed tribute exists.  Gazing out at the field of grass and wildflowers, it’s almost unfathomable to imagine the violence of that day.

We weren’t the only ones who decided to spend a few moments on Independence Day visiting the Flight 93 Memorial Park.   Vehicles filled the parking area,  yet there was hushed silence among those of us who walked the grounds.

On a hot, summer day, we read the informative placards, we viewed the area where the plane went down, we walked silently to the memorial where we read the names of those who lost their lives, we noted the mementos left in honor, and we sat on a bench quietly contemplating and remembering the day life changed for all of us Americans.  In the silence, it seemed our country’s flag provided a form of taps as it flapped in the gentle breeze.

It was a fitting way to celebrate Independence Day and the freedom we treasure in the United States of America, to remember that freedom isn’t free, and to understand that sometimes the cost of freedom is extremely high and painful.   But freedom is worth the cost.

“Where liberty dwells, there is my country.”  ~ attributed to Benjamin Franklin

Copyright ©2012 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

No flight plan, part 2

blogflyingThis wasn’t the flight plan we filed.

We arrived at the airport very early that morning and the departure screen screamed out our first problem of the day – our flight had been cancelled.

We scurried to the check-in counter to be told that there were no other flights on that airline to our destination, but we could be scheduled for a flight the next day!

That was not an option because daughter had just recently returned from a three-week trip to Africa and, with no vacation days left, had to report for work Monday morning. When asked why our flight was cancelled, we were told that our pilot didn’t show up.  What???

The solution was to book us on another airline because we had to get home.  Satisfied with two new tickets in hand and happy to get away from the long line of angry customers, we left the counter and started walking away.

Daughter said, “OK, now we’re flying to Charlotte and from there to our final destination.”  I looked at my ticket and said, “Huh?  No, we’re flying to Houston and then to our home airport!”

Yep, the two of us, who were traveling together, were booked on separate airlines, going in opposite directions and arriving at our final destination many hours apart.    Back to the counter we trotted, which by now was surrounded by throngs of angry would-be passengers.

After a long wait, I realized my flight was calling for final check-ins, so I ran over to encounter another long line there.   What to do?  Check in and fly to Houston?  Wait and see if we can get on another flight together?  Go…wait…go…wait??

Finally, daughter, who had been standing in line at the original airline counter, gets waited on and explains that we need to be on the same stinkin’ plane, for crying out loud! Suddenly, daughter yells above the din, “Wait, Mom!!!  Don’t go!!  They’re getting us on another flight together!”

Relieved, I rushed back to airline counter one and my daughter.   Again we walked away with fresh new tickets, comparing them to find success – we’re both flying to Atlanta on the same plane and then to our destination together.  Finally!  And that’s when we notice our departure time.  Twelve hours from now!

blogA flyingWhat do you do to entertain yourself when you’re stuck in a small city airport for 12 hours and you’ve already turned in your rental car?  And you’ve only brought small carry-on bags, so you don’t have a lot of entertainment fodder with you?  Let’s just say we learned every nook and cranny of that airport and then some.

The nightmare continued when we checked in for our flight all those hours later.  Standing in the long queue for security screening, we were shocked to get pulled out of the line.  Daughter was escorted one way, I was escorted another.

Apparently, the haggard, exhausted looks on our faces made us appear to be would-be terrorists!   I realize now that our names were probably red-flagged because we had been jostled around from flight to flight that day, but hey, that wasn’t our doing! Blame that on the airline!

Our carry-on bags and purses were taken from us, opened and searched thoroughly while we were instructed to sit facing each other.   And as I sat there, shoeless, without my ID, my purse or my carry-on, the screeners took their sweet time examining our belongings first and then us.

Yes, I was frisked and so was my daughter and this was years before the latest TSA security measures.   And still we sat and sat….and by this time, I fumed because I was certain the delay was going to make us miss our flight…which we waited 12 hours to board!

And that’s when it hit me.  We could have driven by car and been almost home by then.  Instead, we literally sprinted to our boarding gate, endured two flights, a layover, and finally arrived at our city airport after midnight.

There we waited another 45 minutes for a shuttle to transport us to the outer parking lot where daughter’s car sat.  We slumped into her car, totally exhausted, and braced for the hour’s drive home.

The trip that should have taken us just a few hours by plane took almost 19 hours!  By the time we actually arrived at our house, we realized that if we had traveled by car we would have been home by dinner time and soundly sleeping in our beds for several hours.

Hassle?  Absolutely.  Stressful?  Without a doubt!  Totally exhausting? Unbelievably.  And that’s why I fear flying.  I would much rather be master of my own trip than place myself at the mercy of airlines and security screeners.   So on this 13th page, Chapter 4, in my book of Opportunity and on any day, I’d much rather say, “Road trip!”

©2011 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

No flight plan, Part 1

blogDSCN7913Airline tickets for $39.  That ad attracted my attention for about a nano-second.

I used to love to travel by plane; now I’d rather pull out my own toenails.  In the past, I thought there was no better way to travel than flying.

Jump on an airplane on one coast of the country, be on the other coast in six hours, as opposed to driving for six days? No better way to go, I used to think.  I know because I’ve done both.

Flying used to be enjoyable, an adventure I willingly embarked upon even with three small children in tow.  I loved the sensation of lifting off into the air, peering out jet windows to catch glimpses of wispy, cotton candy clouds floating beside me, observing the patchwork of fields, mountain tops, or rambling threads of rivers and roads beneath us thousands of feet down.  Equally enthralling was catching the breath-taking view of a city all aglow in brilliant lights outlined in the dark of an inky black night sky.  Glorious.

Landing thrilled me even more!  I loved the sensation of gradually making the descent, feeling your ears pop, watching the ground get closer, closer, closer until you felt the bump of the plane’s tires touching down.  Then came the amazing part for me….flying on the ground, traveling at such a high rate of speed you wondered if the plane would ever be able to stop, but finally brakes grabbed hold and the plane came to a halt.  Exhilarating!

For certain, flying used to be fun.  Now I’d rather avoid it at all costs.  Unless there’s a dire emergency, you’d have to pay me to fly.  I’m not afraid of flying; instead I fear and loathe everything prior to and in between the actual flights.

“If God had really intended men to fly, he’d make it easier to get to the airport,” someone named George Winters apparently once said.  Well, Mr. Winters, times have changed.  Now I believe it’s actually easier getting to the airport than it is getting through the airport.

I understand the necessity for security; really in today’s unsafe world, I get that.  But given the choice, after my last flying experience, I’m done with that mode of transportation.

My last venture by airplane occurred before the rash of outrageously crazy TSA screening stories that you watch on internet videos or hear about from a neighbor.  You know, the ones about 3-year-olds getting stripped and frisked and people having to remove prosthetics or endure some humiliating ordeal.

Flying just isn’t in my plans; I don’t care how low air fares drop.  I’ve got my own crazy story which sealed the deal when it comes to my disdain for air travel, and I haven’t flown since then.   A few years ago, I flew south with oldest daughter for a weekend.  Her career necessitated a move there, and we embarked on an apartment finding quest.

Our flight departed late in the day, so we had no time for dinner.  The only sustenance we received on our short flight to our next lay-over was a glass of water.  No individual bottle of water.  The flight attendant rolled down the aisle with a large communal bottle from which she poured water into a plastic cup for those of us thirsty travelers.  No food, of course – not even a tiny little bag of peanuts.

We ran to our next flight at our layover.  Again no time for food; and again, no food on the plane.  Arriving at our destination close to midnight, we were starving when we checked into our downtown hotel, where the only hot meal we could find was a vending machine Hot Pocket warmed up in a microwave.

Our trip on the ground was successful – she found a great apartment, we explored the city a bit, enjoyed our meals and one delight for me was sipping Southern sweet tea.

Because of all the waiting in line necessary for security screening and because we needed to turn in our rental car, we arrived at the airport very early Sunday morning for the airline’s first flight out to our home destination.  That Sunday unfolded as one of the longest days of my life!

And that story will unfold on tomorrow’s blog.   I’m tired just thinking about it on this 12th page of Chapter 4 in my Opportunity book.

©2011 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

A non-foodie raves

I am not a foodie.  You know how people say they live to eat?  Well, I’m not one of them.

Instead I’m more of a “eat to live” kind of person.  But you certainly wouldn’t know it by looking at me.  I have more than my fair share of pounds packed on this little ol’ body.

Honestly, sometimes I really wonder why I’m so roundly shaped.  I’m really not that into food (okay, I do have an addiction to sugar, but I’ve even curbed that significantly) and as I’ve (ahem, shall we say) aged, my appetite has lessened considerably.

My sisters like to remind me that I am shaped like my paternal grandmother – short and stout.  Three fairly tall grandparents who were not overweight and one shaped like a butterball, and whose genes did I inherit?  Thanks, Grandma!

So I don’t believe that I’m (ahem) overweight because I overeat, since I actually don’t enjoy eating that much.  Food just doesn’t have the same appeal to me as it does for many people.  I could skip meals easily and sometimes I really just don’t feel like eating.

I’m not terribly fond of cooking either, so obviously I didn’t get the cooking/baking gene from my mother, who was amazing in the kitchen.   I’m more of a food assembler than cooking guru, although my family thinks I can present a pretty decent meal.   I don’t watch cooking shows either….can you say B-O-R-I-N-G?

But I can appreciate something tasty when it is placed before me.  And I experienced that pleasure on our trip down South.  You’re probably thinking I’m going to write about a great southern bar-be-que I ate or grits or some such Southern dish – pecan pie perhaps?  Nope.

I’m going to gush about chicken salad.  That’s right…chicken salad.  When we were visiting oldest daughter, hubby and I met her for lunch one day when she had to work.   We convened at a very small but very busy restaurant in the heart of an eclectic little area of town.

This modest nook served THE BEST chicken salad I’ve ever eaten in my life.  The restaurant is obviously well-known for this dish because I believe every person in the joint was eating chicken salad!

All three of us ordered it and we ate every last bite.  A mound of chicken salad was served on a plate with several gourmet style crackers inserted vertically in a fan-like manner.  It was not the slightly drippy, mayonnaise-laden salad that is usually served.  This was heavy on the chicken, with an oh, so delicious, slightly nutty flavor and juicy red grape slices added to it.

And then to complement the salad, an array of fresh fruit surrounded it decorating the plate with a feast for the eyes and taste buds.  There were 21 (I counted!) different kinds of fruit on my plate.  Everything from a slice of apple to a slice of mango to dried figs to pomegranate.

Pear, nectarine, plum, strawberry, kiwi, banana, grapefruit, orange, grapes, raisins to name a few….green fruit, yellow fruit, red fruit, purple fruit….I feel like a Dr. Seuss rhyme.

Truly it was enough to excite even a non-foodie like me.  I seriously want to find this restaurant’s recipe and recreate this dish.  I had a chicken salad sandwich today for lunch back here in a restaurant in my hometown and I’ll tell you, while it was good, it just didn’t compare at all.

Almost made me want to move south just to enjoy the chicken salad I ate there.  Don’t get excited, oldest daughter, I said “almost.”

©2010 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Snapshots of the South

So a picture is supposed to be worth a thousand words.  Although I’m usually full of words to write in my blog, today I don’t have time to spend trying to wrap my mind around my thoughts in a concise, coherent, and meaningful fashion.

So for today, instead of writing a thousand words, I’m posting some pictures I took on our trip down South,  simply giving you a little snapshot of our time well spent.

See if you can figure out where we ventured on our side adventures during our trip.

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©2010 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Have spouse, will travel

Picture the car loaded with these items: packed suitcases; snacks and water; books and crossword puzzles;  jackets (just in case); pillows; Mom and Dad…but no kids!

For the first time in over 28 years, my husband and I recently took a brief vacation together sans children.  Okay, I should amend that sentence; we traveled to the deep South to visit one of our grown children, so we weren’t alone for the entire trip.   But for a few days, it was just hubby and me traveling together.

When Mama’s Empty Nest was full, we always journeyed together with our children for vacations.  I can only recall a couple of times when my husband and I went away for a night without the kids.  During most of their growing up years, dear hubby traveled a lot for business.   So I always felt it important that we spend as much time as we could together as a family.  That meant always taking family vacations never taking couple vacations.

Those excursions were often trips back to our home state to visit our extended family where we would throw in some fun side expeditions for the children to enjoy.  Some times vacations were big trips like Disneyland, a week at the beach (both the Pacific Ocean and the Atlantic), historical places like Williamsburg, VA, or to cities across the country from Seattle to Saint Louis to Philadelphia.  Our kids lay claim to having visited a majority of states in this great country of ours.

So for this trek, it seemed a little odd to travel without our children along –  even though they are grown –  but we enjoyed our time together immensely.  A vacation should really be a time to relax, recharge your weary and waning batteries, and enjoy life away from the hustle and bustle.

Both hubby and I relate to the old saying, “A trip is what you take when you can’t take anymore of what you’ve been taking.”   In other words, we both needed a little rest and respite – he needed rest from the stress of his job, I needed respite away from the same old humdrum order of my life.

Roman philosopher and dramatist Seneca said, “Travel and change of place impart new vigor to the mind.”   That’s what we needed!  A change of place and new vigor!

So we decided to meander our way down south to visit oldest daughter, but take our time on the journey to and fro,  investigate sights that interested us,  or take some scenic routes away from the usual rat-race of interstate highways. And that’s exactly what we did.

I learned a few things on my restful trip with my husband.  First I learned that I love traveling in the fall.  The weather is perfect and the crowds are few.   The days were sunny, bright and warm without being too hot, and the evenings were cool and crisp.  My kind of weather.  We didn’t have to force our way through throngs of people at any of our stops.  Life seemed a little slower and less hectic than summer traveling was for us.

Secondly, I discovered that I don’t have to stick to an agenda.  Our trips in the past were always planned – arriving here and seeing this, this, and that, then traveling there to see this, do this, experience this all in non-stop motion.  For this trip, hubby and I decided to stop wherever we saw a place of interest, taking a few detours here and there because we weren’t in a big hurry to get anywhere.

We still had hotel room reservations for nightly destinations (and thanks to “frequent stayer” left over points from hubby’s traveling days, we had free accommodations at a great hotel), but in between we could meander wherever we wanted.

The third thing I realized was that if I had enough money, I would really relish being retired and doing the same kind of traveling we just experienced.  This trip gave me a little taste of something to look forward to and plan for, since we can’t retire yet.

Another thing I learned is that no matter how far from your abode you wander, you’ll see someone who reminds you of home, whether it is a retired couple from your home state who you exchange pleasantries with at a Chattanooga, TN Civil War battlefield or when you spot your children’s college alma mater license plate on a car in the Space and Rocket Center parking lot in Huntsville, AL.

And finally, I learned something about my relationship with my husband.  Before we left, I was curious about the outcome of our trip.  Would hubby and I get on each other’s nerves, disagree about what to do and see (he loves historical places especially Civil War battlefields, I grow weary of them after awhile), would we have anything to discuss during the long car rides, or would it just be strange and lonely without our kids along?

I’m happy to report that the trip was magnificent.  We actually enjoyed each other’s company and we had fun to boot!  When my husband informed me that he told a co-worker that he looked forward to this vacation, even though it was short, to just spend some time with his wife, I was so appreciative.

Doesn’t that just melt your heart?  It did mine.  After 33 years of marriage, raising three kids, the stresses of job losses and moving several times,  hubby still wants to spend time with me.

Famous American writer and wit Mark Twain said, “I have found out that there ain’t no surer way to find out whether you like people or hate them than to travel with them.”

For me, I found out I don’t just love my husband, I like him.  And yes, I even want to travel with him – even if it’s only to a Civil War battlefield!

©2010 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com