End of the Road: Home

The long road ahead. Saw lots of these.

Road trip, anyone?

Just a few days off the road, I missed the adventure.

These are a few of my favorite pictures, ending with my son being reunited with his wife and their dog.

Gusto “Houdini” Owens
“Ah” Moment

Another “Stop the car so I can take a picture!” moment…

The road to Grand Canyon. Several layers of beauty here.

We made it to the GC!

And now, the moment we’d all been waiting for.
Their little family is back together again. That’s the reason I flew to Seattle, so we could have a moment like this.

And now my big adventure is at an end.

Feeling a little sad. But not for long. There’ll be more great adventures ahead for me. I’m looking forward to them.

Thanks for stopping by,

From Newberg, Oregon to Paso Robles, California

I never expected to see some of the places I’ve seen these last couple of days. Has it only been a couple of days? The vistas along Highway 101 truly inspire. The rugged coast of Oregon gave way to the giant trees of Northern California. Our breath was suspended around nearly every turn. The batteries in my camera kept running out. Wish I was a better photographer!

Then we met Highway 1 and it almost stopped us in our tracks. If you ever choose to go that way, you’ll be rewarded with beautiful vistas and quaint little seaside towns, but be warned: take Dramamine or load up on ginger PRIOR to your trip. And bathrooms are few and far between.

Back on the 101, we stopped for the night in Healdsburg, California, in a lovely hotel that resembled a Tuscan villa. The next morning, after a pitstop at a French bakery, we headed to San Francisco, across the Golden Gate bridge to the marina. Once again, awe-inspiring views awaited. A regatta was underway in the bay. Yes, the America’s Cup! The sailboats were vividly colored and beautiful. Foreign voices sounded in the crowds around us, which is probably not all that unusual for San Francisco. Driving through the city will not soon be forgotten and not just because of the crazy traffic. All the places I’ve only seen on film danced before my eyes. I would love to return here and spend several days exploring.

After leaving San Francisco, we passed through San Jose and headed back to Highway 1 and Monterey Bay, which led us to Carmel-by-the-Sea. One of the loveliest places on earth. Very dog-friendly as well. A little shopping, a little walking on the beach, and we headed to wine country.

We passed through America’s salad bowl, Salinas, California, an expansive valley surrounded by mountains. It was interesting to see how these farmers grow in raised rows with ample irrigation. I noticed cole crops, artichokes, garlic, onions, and abundant lettuces being harvested by migrant workers.

The flat valley crops graduated to grapevines in the hills as we drew near our day’s destination: Paso Robles. Here, we spent a very comfortable night snug in the hillside vineyards.

Day seven of our journey awaits as we head out this morning for Bakersfield, California, then on to Flagstaff. Thanks so much for stopping by. May your day be richly blessed!

From the Bluegrass to the Pacific (There and Back Again)

Today, I’m flying to Seattle for a short visit with friends and family. I was born in Seattle and some of my mother’s family still live there. My son married a Seattle girl and that was a double blessing, because I’ve had an excuse to return to the region and visit one of the most beautiful areas in the continental U.S.

My son and his wife are relocating to Kentucky, thus the reason for this trip. I get to make the journey, too. We plan to take full advantage of this opportunity to see places we’ve never seen. And we’ll be looking for dog-friendly places, since Gusto will be with us. As you can see, he’s happy to be included.

After we leave Seattle, we’ll head to Oregon, where we’ll stay a couple of days then head down the Pacific Coast, hoping to visit some new places we’ve never seen. I plan to post pictures and thoughts here and on Facebook, documenting this trip so my friends and family can see these places with us. Not like being there, I know. But hopefully it won’t be as bad as sitting through a long slide show of vacay pics with the neighbors. After all, if it’s boring, you can leave. I’ll try not to be boring and in any case, it’ll be short. Usually.

So thanks for stopping by and I hope you’ll drop back in during this series of blogposts. You can follow this blog or friend me on Facebook or like my Facebook author page to keep up with what I hope will be an interesting trip. In any case, I’d love to hear from you regarding your favorite Western or Midwestern stops, especially if you know of any dog-friendly places along the way.

A Cherished Christmas Memory

Mike, Eddie & Me (Betty)
We all have a favorite Christmas memory. This is mine. The picture was taken on my first day of school in San Diego, California. The story takes place on Christmas Eve of the same year.

San Diego, California, 1959 -The house we lived in was just blocks away from the San Diego Zoo and the mission at Balboa, so our yard was often filled with exotic sounds like the roar of a lion, the call of the peacock, the trumpet of elephants.

We didn’t have much money, but my mother could always find a way to make Christmas special for us. She made many of our gifts and baked lots of cookies.
Dad had been looking for another place to live, further out from town, so we’d spend the weekend looking at houses. I liked one particular house very much because it had an upper story which fascinated me. There was even a life-sized cardboard cutout of Shirley Temple in one upstairs bedroom. 

The former owners had left a pile of trash in the yard. On that pile, I found a handmade doll cradle. It was broken and dirty, full of leaves and rainwater, but to me it was a treasure. Only rich kids had such things. I knelt down beside it as children often do, to get a better look. In my heart was a deep longing, too innocent to be described as covetous. I wanted a doll cradle like that one.
On Christmas Eve, my older brother and I were begging to stay up. “Just a little bit longer, please.” To no avail, for I’m sure my mother had a million things to do to get ready for the big day. She stubbornly resisted our pleas. Then she received a little unexpected help by way of a stiff breeze outside. The front door blew open about six inches or so. Mike and I stopped our pleading to gaze at the door, then at each other. His eyes were large and his mouth formed an “o”. Chills tickled my spine.
“See there?” Mom said, always quick on the uptake. “Santa is trying to come, but you two are still up. He can’t come in while you’re awake.” There was no more argument. We ran as fast as we could and jumped into our beds. 
Early on Christmas morning, we tiptoed out of our rooms to see what treasures Santa had left for us overnight. Oh, there seemed to be so much stuff beneath that tree. My brothers dived in at once, grabbing toys and showing them off to each other. I stood in awe, for there to my great surprise and joy, was the same little doll cradle I had seen on the trash pile. I knew it was the very same one, even though it had received a fresh coat of powder blue paint and was no longer broken.
Mom had made a small mattress and pillow, complete with embroidered sheet, pillowcase, and quilt. A brand new doll lay on top of it all. The doll could cry real tears and wet her diaper, but I barely noticed. I was enraptured with the refurbished cradle, even though I knew its last home had been a trash pile. 
Long after I outgrew playing with dolls, that cradle sat in my room. When I was finished with it, Mom (who seldom threw anything away) used it as a planter. Every time I saw it, I remembered that special Christmas. It became one of my most cherished memories. 
It’s not always necessary to spend a lot of money to make Christmas special. Sometimes a little imagination and a whole lot of love can bring the most joy to someone’s heart. Isn’t that what Christmas is all about? 

Originally posted December, 2009

I Speak the Language

“Ah can do south.” I drawled out the words, giving south two syllables, as it was meant to be spoken. I was responding to a comment that my accent was not so prevalent. (Sorry about the rhymes, it was an accident.)

Originally from West Tennessee, I spent the last…ah…few years in Louisville, Kentucky. My first day here, Bobby Kennedy was shot. You do the math.

I tend to match the speech of those I am with. My mother was a Northwesterner who married a Southern good ole boy and for a few years, our family bounced back and forth between Southern California and West Tennessee, so you could say I grew up “accent challenged.”

When I break out into Southern Drawl around my friends from Kentucky, it never fails to get at least a chuckle, but when I go home to West Tennessee, no one notices my speech. If you live in Louisville—pronounced Loo-uh-vul by the way—you hear it all. You can usually tell what part of Kentucky someone hails from, just by listening to them talk. Eastern Kentuckians, for instance, have a very distinctive accent.

I remember my first experience with the “native tongue” of Kentucky, when I overheard two neighbors talking about turning farty. Sounds like a bad word, but they were actually talking about the number that follows thirty-nine. It didn’t take long for me to settle in. Far miles down the road meant that something was 4 miles away. 1425 Elmwood Court was far-teen twenty-five Elmwood Cart. A small amount of translation was all it took.

When translating local colloquialisms to the written page, I tend to run into trouble. I like to know how a character pronounces words, but an editor usually doesn’t like to see it.

“Ah was comin’ acrost the Miz-sippy Rivah on a Sad-dy afternoon”, is a little difficult to read. It reads more easily as, “I was coming across the Mississippi River on a Saturday afternoon.” You still get the feel of the southern accent, but without all the interruptions.

Feelin’ fair t’ middlin’, Feeling fair to middling. Use colloquialisms with correct spelling and the reader doesn’t stumble, but they get the idea.

If it causes the tongue to stumble, or slows down the reader, it is usually unacceptable. A fellow writer and excellent teacher gave me very good advice. Limit the accent to the first time or two the character speaks and then let the reader take over. If you keep the same speech pattern, without supplying all those accents and broken words, the reader is aware of the difference and it makes for a smoother read.

There are definite exceptions to this rule. I can’t imagine reading the Grapes of Wrath any other way, but I guess if you are on par with Hemingway, you can get away with most anything.