Arizona, Road Trip, The World A to Z, Travel

Turning Ten Comes With a Trip

Sam

Meet Sam, our grandson. As the oldest, he is the first (and test case) to receive what we hope will be a new tradition – a gift on his tenth birthday of a trip with the grandparents.

The gift comes with a nice, but kid-friendly and appropriate, piece of luggage. For Sam we chose a canvas and leather bag about the size of a gym bag. The gift also comes with a couple of catches: First, while the recipient gets to choose the destination, it can be vetoed by us or his parents (hey, we’re not crazy); Second, they have to participate a little in the planning. There’s no specific timeline for when to take the trip. In Sam’s case, he turned ten in December, so we looked at spring break or the following summer to accommodate his school schedule.

Sam mulled over his options and asked if he could come spend some time with us in Arizona. Specifically, he wanted to know if he could ride a dirt bike in the desert. He’s an experienced rider, so I told him I’d find out. That started the ball rolling on a plan for a desert adventure week.

Hanging out in the airport waiting for our flight.

I flew out to Washington DC to pick Sam up and spend a day with his mom (my daughter) and his two sisters. It wasn’t his first time flying, so Sam knew the ropes when it came to packing and airport security. He’s pretty low key as “tweens” go, so he makes a great travel companion. We arrived in Arizona on a hot, sunny August afternoon. It was his first trip to the desert and I wondered how he would react to the heat and wide-open spaces and cacti. 

Zipping around the indoor track.

We kicked off the adventure at an indoor go-kart track. It was a first for Sam … and me! We raced each other, zipping around the track and trying to beat each other’s time. What fun! When we got home, Sam jumped on the phone and gushed about it to his mom. 

Sam is a natural.

I wasn’t able to find a way to ride dirt bikes in the desert, but we had tracked down a place that would allow Sam to drive his own four-wheeler through the Wickenburg Mountains. We arrived for our guided tour with Adventures of a Lifetime and the owner tested each of us to make sure we could handle the route. To be fair, I think everyone was a little more worried about my skills than Sam’s.

An incredible panoramic view above the Hassayampa River.

After four hours over dirt, sand, and rocks, through the Hassayampa River and up to the stunning views from a mesa, we headed back. Our guide revealed this was the first time he’d ever let a ten-year-old ride on his own and he was impressed with Sam’s abilities. Sam’s low key personality was cracking a bit with excitement.

Hamming it up in front of the Pink Jeep.

Next stop, Sedona. We figured Sam would enjoy the adventure of a Pink Jeep Tour. He had visited the website and chosen the tour he wanted to take. With reservations for one of the most daring and adventurous options made, we hopped aboard and explored the giant red rock spires on the Broken Arrow trail. 

The look of shock and awe at his first glimpse of the Grand Canyon.

From there it was off to the Grand Canyon. I covered his eyes as we approached so we could capture his reaction on video as he saw it for the first time. Needless to say, his “shock and awe” was priceless!

Sam is in four states at one time.

We drove through Monument Valley on our way to Four Corners. I was a little worried about Sam being bored with a lot of driving, but he played games on his tablet between ooohing and ahhing at the landscape

Ending the week with a splash.

Our weeklong adventure wrapped up with a fun, relaxing last day at home that included a refreshing dip in our neighbor’s pool. We were thrilled to have had the chance to spend some one-on-one time with Sam and he got to enjoy a vacation he dreamed up and helped plan. His sister, Lizzie, is up next. She knows about the “trip for your tenth birthday” tradition and is already thinking up ideas. We’re excited to keep the new tradition alive.

There’s a whole world out there waiting to be explored, encouraging a new generation to explore it can be loads of fun.

© The World A to Z, LLC 2020

Arizona, Road Trip, Travel

Relax and Explore Bisbee

Near the southern border of Arizona is the historic mining town of Bisbee. In researching what to see and do in the Grand Canyon State, Bisbee pops up on most lists, so Greg and I added it to ours. 

The Copper City Inn

I spent some time researching things to do and places to stay which paid off! We found the three-room Copper City Inn. This charming establishment is easy walking distance to shops and restaurants in the heart of old Bisbee. We stayed off the main roads and headed out in the morning to arrive mid- to late-afternoon and settle in for a long weekend exploring this part of our home state.

Walk softly … the guest book left us laughing.

The welcome book showed the owners’ hysterical sense of humor. The finishes featured a fun sense of style. The full balcony overlooked the community theater. It was the perfect spot and we spent a couple hours just relaxing and people-watching while we sipped the complimentary bottle of wine that came with our reservation. I’d placed an order at Cafe Roka before we left home for dinner take-out (most restaurants in Bisbee were still take-out only due to Covid), so we headed out for the two block stroll to collect our order and enjoy it in the full kitchen in our room. 

Passion Cellars wines earn well-deserved praise.

We passed a number of shops that were just closing up so we made a note of the ones we wanted to explore and laughed at the sign in the window of a bar as we wandered past. We knew it would be fun to check out the stores in the eclectic, bohemian feeling downtown. It turns out we were a good half hour early, so another block up the street we popped into the Passion Cellars tasting room and tried a few local wines. 

We’re big fans of reds and the ones we tasted were right up our alley. We bought two bottles of the Eidolon and a bottle of Bisbee Red to enjoy and timed our return to Cafe Roka perfectly.

Mussels from Cafe Roka
Duck with pomegranate reduction.

We knew dining would be a challenge, so we added an extra entree for the following night and popped it into the fridge while we dug into the positively scrumptious mussels before drooling our way through the duck with pomegranate reduction. I wrote a little note to myself to blog about how good the food was with the line, “How dare you make food this good?” 

We slept with a gentle breeze blowing in the window and woke to the sun beginning to burn its way into the crevices of the steep walls of this mountain town. 

Our day in Bisbee kicked off with a visit to The Bisbee Breakfast Club. This local favorite earned its reputation when our perfectly cooked, hearty-portioned breakfast tantalized our senses. The restaurant filled quickly and soon we were entertained by the laughs of fellow diners and clinking of forks and knives as others enjoyed their menu choices. 

Classic cars line the street in Lowell.
Flashback bus station.
Welcome sign … why are there UFOs on it?

The Bisbee Breakfast club is in what used to be Lowell, Arizona. There’s not much there, but the streets are lined with classic cars and a painted welcome sign on the side of a brick building that now houses a construction company. We cruised up and down the block-and-a-half, snapping shots of the cars and historical buildings before jumping back into our car and returning to explore old Bisbee.

This mountain town has a lot of steep staircases to explore.
Businesses show off their sense of humor.

Many of the shops were closed due to Covid, but windows offered websites for online shopping and were fun to peek in. A few open shops were filled with antiques and works from local artists. Several wineries, in addition to Passion Cellars, beckoned us in for tastings. This part of Arizona is making its mark as a wine-making region. 

Our intention was to take it easy and Bisbee proved to be a brilliant choice! We found our way back to our room, popped the cork on another bottle of wine, grabbed books we’d brought to read and plopped down on comfy balcony chairs to while away the rest of the day. The rack of ribs from the fridge heated nicely in the oven and we sucked the finger-licking flavors off the bones. Another win for Cafe Roka!

If you’re looking for a nice, quiet getaway with just enough to keep you from being bored, check out Bisbee, Arizona. 

There’s a whole world out there waiting to be explored … take the time to relax a little while you’re there!

© The World A to Z, LLC 2020

California, Musings, Travel

I Love L.A.

Santa Ana winds blowin’ hot from the north, we were born to ride.

Randy Newman

I grew up in Los Angeles. Okay, technically, I grew up in the San Fernando Valley, but was still in the confines of the City of Los Angeles. I spent most of my life there. It’s where I went to college — undergrad at USC (Fight On!) and Pepperdine for my MBA. It’s where I worked for a good chunk of my life at PR firms and corporations downtown, in the Fairfax District, and near LAX  and Westwood.  It’s where I lived … the Valley and the Santa Clarita Valley, Redondo Beach, San Pedro, and the Hollywood Hills for a short time. 

I take it all for granted. 

Having not lived there for nearly two decades, I find countless reasons to trash it.  We visit often (or at least we did until the COVID-19 pandemic arrived), as my mother still lives there. I find myself constantly complaining … the crowds, the smog, traffic, gas prices, taxes … all seem a bit too much. Oh, and did I mention the traffic?  

And yet …

And yet there remains a certain allure, an appeal to Los Angeles that transcends its faults. Every time Judy and I watch a movie that was filmed there, I constantly point out landmarks (to her considerable annoyment). I talk of the good times there, like when my buddies and I drove to Century City three times over a two week period in 1977 just so we could experience Star Wars in Dolby surround sound. The sailing trophy I won in Huntington Harbor in 1974 still adorns my display case. We proudly display vestiges of my Alma Mater and engage in serious trash talk with my Ohio State Buckeye and Oregon Duck-loving neighbors during football season. I taught Judy to sail in Marina Del Rey during one of our first visits there together.

And, during these difficult times, I tell the positive stories of communities coming together in the aftermath of the 1994 Northridge earthquake, just as the nation did in the wake of 9/11, and communities around the world do following natural disasters of various sorts.

Recently, our granddaughter proclaimed she wanted us to take her to Los Angeles next year for her 10th Birthday “Trip With the Grands” (her older brother opted for some Arizona desert adventures). Whether she’ll still want to do that a year from now remains to be seen, but it was a reminder that, despite my trash talk, L.A. is in my blood.

So for those who want to go there, I offer a tarnished Angeleno’s top 10 tips for “doing” L.A. They’re a bit irreverent perhaps, and the Chamber of Commerce might not approve, but they’ll give you a strong sense of the town I grew up in. (Note: Many places are currently closed due to the pandemic…but plan your trip around these for when things open up!)

Rent a convertible.
  • Rent a convertible. As Randy Newman’s anthem to the streets of L.A. attests, Los Angeles was built around the automobile. The Hollywood stars and L.A. elites may crow about their Priuses and Teslas, but L.A. is best experienced with the top down. Feel the Santa Ana winds on your face, taste the salty air when driving PCH, see the iconic billboards along Sunset Strip, and hear the panoply of voices along the way.
  • See a show. Get a taste of “Old Hollywood” by taking in a musical at the Pantages Theatre. Dress up and grab dinner at Musso & Frank Grill before walking the four blocks down Hollywood Blvd. to the theatre. Look for your favorite “star” along the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
Check out Southern California’s canals.
  • Visit California’s version of Mediterranean resorts. Hire a gondola or paddle boat for a cruise around Naples. Then take the high-speed catamarans from nearby Long Beach to the “island of romance” (as the Four Preps called Santa Catalina Island). Eat and drink your day away in Avalon’s many watering holes and feel like you’re in Cannes or Monte Carlo.
Catch a game.
  • Catch a game. Los Angeles is home to two truly legendary sports venues, the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum and Dodger Stadium. The Rose Bowl is pretty cool when the Trojans play there New Years Day, but otherwise it’s too tight and UCLA plays there. ‘Nuf said. The new SoFi stadium being built near LAX looks like it will be pretty cool. The L.A. Rams and the San Diego, er, Los Angeles Chargers will share it. L.A. has two basketball teams, too. Oh, and soccer!
  • Hit the beach. Frankie Avalon and Annette Funicello made Malibu famous, and for good reason. Sun, sand and surf define the SoCal lifestyle, so make sure you dip your tootsies in the Pacific.
Visit a pier … or two.
  • Hit the beach, Part 2. A visit to a California beach isn’t complete without a visit to a pier. Santa Monica Pier is the classic with carnival rides and midway games, and, importantly, a booth celebrating the end (or beginning) of Route 66. Redondo Beach Pier has plenty of food, drink and music … look for fresh dungeness crab. And, any visit to Malibu isn’t complete without a stroll down Malibu pier, or head a few minutes north up PCH to Paradise Cove to dine at the Paradise Cove Beach Cafe … don’t forget to check out the historic photos!
Ride to the Hollywood Sign.
  • Ride a Horse to the Hollywood Sign. Saddle up for a ride to the “best view in Los Angeles” at Sunset Ranch Hollywood. We did it in February a few years back and had truly spectacular views of the city and beyond along with a simply enjoyable ride. Never ridden? Don’t worry, they’ll match you with a horse friendly to novices. 
  • Discover L.A. History. When you grow up in L.A. you learn all about California history in the fourth grade. But you don’t have to go back to your childhood to learn a bit of L.A. history. Head downtown to Olvera Street where the original pueblo was located and stroll through the plaza and market to get a little taste of what old Los Angeles was like. Sure, it’s a bit kitschy with its souvenir shops, but with a bit of imagination, you can step back in time to when Pueblo de la Reina de Los Angeles was young.  
  • Eat! Fast! Food!  The L.A. area is home to some of the earliest fast food venues, including the first McDonald’s in nearby Downey, and certainly some of the most famous. I took many late-night college study breaks at the original Tommy’s at the corner of Rampart and Beverly near downtown … a double cheeseburger with extra chili would play havoc on my waistline today, but back then I had a healthy metabolism and an iron stomach. The oldest remaining Bob’s Big Boy is in Burbank. Pink’s Hot Dogs is an institution in the Fairfax District; Roscoe’s House of Chicken and Waffles earned the same appellation and has been around since 1945. Philippe’s, across from the iconic Union Station, is home to the original French Dip sandwich and retains its classic 1940s vibe. 
Drive somewhere.
  • Drive. Just, drive. Hop on the freeways, navigate the (mostly) logical street grid pattern, or meander the canyon roads over and through the hills. Forget the GPS and just go. There will be traffic. That’s a given. You might even get lost for awhile, but at some point, you’ll likely come to the ocean, another freeway, or a recognizable landmark. And here’s an insider secret … that street grid helps you gauge distance easily.  Main drags off the freeways are spaced a mile apart. The primary streets between them are a quarter-mile apart. Simple, eh?  

There’s a whole world out there just waiting to be explored. L.A. is a world unto its own … Go see it!

© The World A to Z, LLC 2020

Road Trip, Travel

Road Jams

I am a music lover. It’s rare to be in our home and not hear music playing. Greg and I have created music playlists for all kinds of moods. We’ve discovered channels on Amazon Music and Sirius XM that are go-tos for us. But there’s nothing quite like creating a playlist for a special occasion.

Creating your own soundtrack is fun and indulgent. When I learned how to drive not everyone even had a radio in the car. You turned the radio dial carefully to tune in your favorite station and when the signal faded, you searched for a new frequency to get the music you wanted to hear. It wasn’t long before “search” and “scan” buttons made finding the stations easier. If you were lucky you could pop in a cassette or maybe even a CD. I remember my parents even pushing the play button on 8-tracks!

Lucky for us, technology has made creating your own playlist a breeze. But what do you play for cruising down the highway? That depends on where you are going, who you are with, what music you love … there are as many ideas as there are kinds of music.

I love a good mix. Driving down the highway on my own, I’m tuning into songs I can sing along with. I belt out tunes I know, thankful no one can hear me screeching out the (sometimes wrong) lyrics to songs I love.

Greg and I can always sing along with songs from the 70s. We hit up 70s on 7 on SiriusXM regularly around town, but sometimes you want control of the playlist. You take those standards, add in a few one-hit-wonders, opt for a few “recorded live” versions and — VOILA — the perfect road trip soundtrack.

Whether you love classic rock or classical, country or rap, oldies or pop hits, there’s a great combination of tunes that will make that long drive more fun. What the heck, throw on an entire album you love if that’s the mood you’re in.

No matter where you’re headed — cross country or to Puerto Backyarda — create yourself a playlist that makes you happy! 

After all, there’s a whole world out there waiting to be explored. Why not sing along while you’re catching the sites? 

© The World A to Z, LLC 2020

Bucket List, Musings, Travel

Where Do You Find Inspiration?

Inspiration is the perennial wish of any writer. If you’ve ever written anything, even an essay for a high school teacher, you know that without inspiration, the words that end up on the paper are flat and boring. Travel is similar. Inspiration comes from images, movies, songs, friends’ vacations … all kinds of places. For those with wanderlust, there’s a seemingly never ending “bucket list” of places we are inspired to see.

As a writer with wanderlust, my list of ideas to write about is considerably shorter than my travel bucket list. That means I am constantly on the lookout for inspiration.

Yesterday, Greg opened a bottle of wine and poured a glass for each of us while I threw something together for dinner. It was good. In fact, it was surprisingly good. I picked it up at the store because of the label and the name, Storyteller. I had no idea if it would be any good at all. It was crisp and refreshing. I tasted tart apples and sweet summer peach. It was the perfect wine for a hot Arizona day.

I grabbed the bottle and read the little thought on the back: “Sonoma wine country is brimming with fables (of varying degrees of truth) passed down through the generations, usually aided by a celebrated local wine. Storyteller wines encourage your stories to unfold in ever more fantastic versions.”

The fact that I had already finished my first glass may have contributed to my reaction, but the voice in my head said, “That’s a great inspiration!”  I refilled our glasses, grabbed the bottle and set it on my desk with a little note about inspiration. I knew trying to write a blog after a glass (or two) of wine would mean a lot of editing later. 

I guess the answer to “Where do you find inspiration?” is “Everywhere!” Sometimes it’s a bagpipe-playing firefighter, sometimes it’s a casual comment about a memory, sometimes it’s the label on a bottle of wine. For travel-thirsty, quarantine-stir-crazed-cabin-fever-sufferers it seems like anywhere is the answer. 

The world is slowly reopening. We’re all chomping at the bit to get out there and do something – anything. Be careful. Be safe. Be curious. Be friendly.

After all, there’s a whole world out there waiting to be explored, and we all have a lifetime to keep seeing it.

© The World A to Z, LLC 2020

Travel

“S” is for Sabbatical

The World A to Z … it’s not only the name of this blog, it’s my plan to see the world. I started in 2002 with an uncomplicated plan.

I’m up to “S” this year and anyone who travels AT ALL knows that following rule “a” is pretty much out of the question. Sure, there are loads of people who say “some places” will be opened up by the end of the year, but those people also add the caveat, “as long as there’s no second wave.” 

Anyone who reads this blog has probably figured out I’m more of an optimist than not, but I am also something of a planner AND a bit of a realist. I often advise people who’ve never traveled outside the US to pack patience and a sense of humor. Those two items, to my mind, are more essential than toothpaste and soap. You can get toothpaste and soap anywhere, but patience and a sense of humor are priceless and will do a lot more to make your trip a success than anything else.

That said, I was not at all prepared for a pandemic that would essentially close the entire planet to vacation travelers and wreck my otherwise uninterrupted plan to see the world. I reached into the bottom of my suitcase and dug out the aforementioned patience and sense of humor. After all, the best way to deal with something completely outside your control is to roll with it. 

Welcome to Plan B. For now, 2020 is “S” is for Sabbatical. I will put my international quest to see the world on hold and turn my wanderlust to the backroads and towns of this great nation I call home. I’m doing my best to stick to the “never been there” rule. I’ve never seen most of the western US, so that’s where Greg and I plan to focus our attention for the rest of the year. 

“S” will hopefully include South Dakota and its Badlands and Mount Rushmore. “S” will likely include the stunning giant Sequoias of Central California. We’ve pulled out a US map, stuck a few colorful arrows on it and are looking at when to go and what route to take to get there. 

The world may not be open to tourism right now, but there’s SO much to see right here in the west. Besides, there’s still a whole world out there waiting to be explored, even if it’s not in the order I originally planned to explore it.

Here’s where I’ve been so far:

A is for Alps

B is for Belize

C is for Czech Republic

D is for Dublin

E is for Equestrian Adventure in Eastern Europe

F is for Fez

G is for Galapagos

H is for Hindustan (OK … India … but I had to go!)

I is for Italy (in this case, Florence)

J is for Jamaica

K is for Krakow (and Kurpark and Kandersteg)

L is for Lima

M is for Montreal

N is for Nurenburg

O is for Orseolo

P is for Puʻuhonua o Hōnaunau

Q is for “Queen” of European Rivers, a river cruise on the Danube, 

Q is for Queen, part 2

R is for Richmond (the most Asian city on the continent of North America)

S … well … S is for Sabbatical (for now)

© The World A to Z, LLC 2020

Flying, Road Trip, Travel

The Sky and Stars Beckon

Editor’s Note: This post was written May 5, 2020

Alan Shepard in Freedom 7 (NASA Photo)

On this date in 1961, astronaut Alan B. Shepard became the first American in space when his Redstone rocket-powered Mercury capsule Freedom 7 blasted off from Cape Canaveral. My mother has told me on numerous occasions that she took me outside our home near Orlando to watch the lone astronaut rise toward the heavens, as history was made. 

I was six-months old to the day … too young to have remembered that moment. But I’ve always wondered whether that solitary act sparked my life-long passion for aviation and space travel. I remember my first commercial airplane trip a few years later — an Eastern Airlines trip from Atlanta to Orlando in a Lockheed Electra. I also remember when my best friend’s grandfather took me on my first flight in a small general aviation airplane — a short trip in a Piper Tri-Pacer when I was about 8 or so. That flight forever planted the seed to learn to fly, which actually happened some 25 years later. A few years later, I was sweating the moment when I finished my FAA-mandated check ride that would determine whether I’d be certified to fly on instruments (I passed). I remember being glued to the TV when Neil Armstrong planted the first steps on the moon … and the moment I heard on the radio about the Challenger disaster. 

Just today, someone on Facebook posted a video of a place nearby where I could get my seaplane rating … sparking the urge to, once again, combine my love of flying with water. These moments are like signposts along a seemingly never-ending road of aviation and space travel experiences that I hope, one day, might ultimately involve the ability for me and you to actually travel in space.

Greg and Judy take off from Charlottesville, VA airport in Sept. 2017

Long-time readers know my love for road trips, but also appreciate my continued love of air travel. To me, the journey is just as important as the destination. Despite all the hassles with commercial air travel today (Pre-COVID) — the lines, security, crowds, etc. — it’s still worth it to look out the window at the world below. I’d rather follow our route on my laptop using an aviation app, trying to identify cities, lakes, rivers and other landmarks, than watch a movie or read a book. Get work done?  Fuggedaboudit. 

Always a window seat for me!

All of us feed our wanderlust in different ways.  Some like cruises, some can’t stand boats. Some like to hike and climb, some like to sit on a beach where the only exercise involves lifting a cocktail from table to mouth. Some are in it for the sights, some for the tastes of fine food and wine. And that’s really the point … focus on whatever drives YOUR passion for travel and feed off that. Do what YOU want to do, don’t be led by what others think you should enjoy.

Me, I keep looking at those lone contrails in the sky and dream of the next flight … to wherever it may lead. Because there’s a whole world out there, waiting to be explored. I’ll be the one with the window seat, nose pressed to the glass, looking at the ground below, and to the stars above.

© The World A to Z, LLC 2020

Distractions, Diversion, Travel

A Trip Into The Rearview Mirror

When you can hear your wanderlust ticking like a biological clock (think Marisa Tomei’s performance in My Cousin Vinny), you know you have to find something fun and different to do. I decided to dig into some old memories and take a trip through my past.

A little background: Growing up an Air Force brat, we moved often and we were not allowed to keep a lot of “stuff.” Typically, my parents limited me to one box for memories. When I got my first apartment, my grandmother gave me her old steamer trunk. It became my new memory box and I’ve tried (and often failed) to limit my memory stuff to that trunk.

Yesterday, I opened the lid and started pulling out my past. The last Air Force uniform I wore is in that box. I took off the name tag and ribbons and put them in a frame, but the uniform is there. I held it up and wondered how it shrunk so much just being tucked away in that trunk.

Next up: My high school letter jacket. I went to two high schools. The first was in Wiesbaden, Germany and I lettered in cross country. No more long distance running could have something to do with why that uniform shrunk so much. 

A dug into the pile of scrapbooks and bundles of letters from old boyfriends. Yeah … I kept those. I sat on the floor and read about a dozen of those letters. Happy memories of sweet, younger times came flooding back. I’m lucky to have stayed friends with a number of old boyfriends … oddly, none of those letters are from the guys I still call “friend.” I found a box of ticket stubs and souvenir postcards from travels in my 20s and 30s and made a mental note to spend some time organizing them into another scrapbook.

Then the photo album. When did my friends and I get so old? Were we ever really that young? Yep! I have photographic proof. Haha. I considered pulling some of them out, scanning them and posting them here, but some things are better as memories. 

Before I knew it, I checked the clock and realized I’d been digging through that old trunk for about four hours. I thought about how all that digging was like a long drive on a sunny spring day. I felt a little refreshed and found myself smiling often as I wandered through my memories. I snickered a few times – like when I found the souvenir grass skirt my mom brought home from a trip to see my dad in Hawaii in the late 60s. It was a great distraction from my ongoing planning for future vacations … and gave me a few ideas! 

… good thing there’s room for more memories in that trunk, cuz I have LOADS more memories to make.

After all, there’s a whole world out there waiting to be explored, some of it may be behind you. Think of it as taking a trip into the rearview mirror.

© The World A to Z, LLC 2020

Distractions, Flying, Travel

That One Afternoon Contrail

Blue skies always make me look up. I love to feel the warm sun on my face, scan the skies for a hint of a cloud or two, and look for contrails.

Blue skies, no clouds … and no contrails.

Before the pandemic, contrails were everywhere. There are all kinds of commercial jets that fly over the desert where we live. There are small, private planes constantly humming overhead, practicing turns and stalls. We’re close enough to Luke Air Force Base that we occasionally hear the incredible sounds of military jets “turning and burning” as they conduct training flights and exercises. I LOVE that sound.

Those screaming jets seem to be flying a little less often now. I miss the heart stopping, thundering wail. So I look up to plain, stunning, blue skies. No contrails anywhere — most of the time.

I say most of the time because every afternoon, somewhere around 1:30 – 2:00, we look up and see the tell-tale contrail of a BIG plane. Something with four engines is flying the same path everyday. It’s too high to tell what it is, but you can just make out the four lines of condensation leaving their vapor trail in the atmosphere.

We’ve speculated it’s a military cargo jet carrying something important from east to west. Maybe it’s a commercial jet, loaded with properly socially distanced passengers headed to San Francisco or Hawaii … or even further west. 

Is it an eye and eyebrow?

We aren’t flying anywhere, so it’s kind of fun to look up and imagine where that plane is headed, who’s on it and what their stories are. I used to do that as a kid – wonder the who, what and where of planes flying overhead. I guess until the pandemic restrictions are lifted I’ll continue dreaming about flying somewhere. What the heck, maybe I’ll even try to find shapes in the clouds while I’m looking for contrails.

There’s a whole world out there waiting to be explored even if you have to explore it in your imagination.

© The World A to Z, LLC 2020

Distractions, Flying, Musings, Road Trip, Trains, Travel

Wanderlust, Moving and A World of Change

A friend from high school recently moved to a new home. It was one of several she’s made in recent years. She and I are very alike that way. In the past eight years I have had six homes. That’s six full-scale, move-everything-you-own-to-a-new-place homes. 

In fact, we grew up that way … the two of us and thousands of other kids known as “military brats.” Vikki, who also an author, and I had Air Force dads, but others had dads and moms who were soldiers, sailors, Marines and Coast Guardsmen and women. We moved often and, from an early age, learned to expect and even embrace the change that comes with a new home, new friends, a new school and a new lifestyle.

I suspect that my childhood and the following time on active duty are big parts of the reason I have such strong wanderlust. I CRAVE new places and new things to see and do. I long to pack a few things into a bag and go somewhere I’ve never been. I strike up conversations with strangers … sometimes with strangers who don’t even speak English.

If you are a fellow traveler, you probably have many of the same feelings. When people ask, “where’s the best place you’ve ever been?” you simply have no way to answer. There are too many “best places” to pick one. 

My husband grew up in one town for the most part. But something in him is excited about travel, too. I’d like to believe I had something to do with that by taking him with me on several adventures early in our relationship. We’ve been on trips by road, air, rail, river, even horseback. We’ve hiked, biked, snorkeled, soared and sailed. And we’re not even close to done! 

It seems for every trip I take, I add two more to my bucket list. An insatiable desire to travel consumes me. I feed it and it grows like a weed. 

After all, there’s a whole world out there waiting to be explored … I just can’t seem to get enough.

PS … thanks for the inspiration, Vikki!

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