Day -298 – Just Add Water

IMG_20140729_204116515_HDRThere are few things that give me as much pleasure as water…it doesn’t really matter the form it takes.  Be it as a drink, used to clean up with, or my favorite…a natural flowing body of the wet stuff.

Last night we joined a friend on his boat on the Tennessee River outside of Chattanooga.  I had been uptight all day, not feeling 100% either mentally or physically.  Todd had the boat at the dock when we got there, all we had to do was hop in.  Within minutes, I felt my pulse slow, my blood pressure come down, a calm wash over me.  Water has that effect on me.

The night was beautiful, not too hot, no wind to speak of, and being a Tuesday night, it was quiet.  We launched from the Tennessee River Park and made our way down river to downtown.  They have created quite an expansive area near the museum that is designed for entertainment and activities.  The Hunter Museum grounds on the bluff provide the backdrop to an amphitheater under the bridge; there is a water play area and a huge water fountain.

IMG_20140729_203552373We tied up at the dock and walked up to Tony’s for an awesome Italian dinner, a brief stroll back to the water as the sun was setting, we cruised back to the River Park to load and leave.  But not before we got to enjoy our leisurely trip back up river.

I am reminded often of how much I love this life, the friends we have, the things we get to do.  Thanks to all of them who think to say, “hey, you’re in town…let’s get together.”  Now just add water, and we are set.

Day -294 – A little help from my friends?

friendsI’ve been reading and researching a lot lately, trying to get my mind right for the novel I want to write.  Of course, if you ask me what it’s about, I can’t rightly tell you.  I have three already started and one that is niggling around in my head, but it isn’t concrete enough to start to flow from my fingertips yet.

I just finished reading “How to Buy a Love of Reading” – it’s been on my Kindle for years, reading it made me realize how little I know about novel writing, hell, I don’t even recognize all the parts and their definitions.  I am not a “creative writer”, I am just a voice, I want to write with a true voice, a voice others can relate to.  What I need help with first is character development….that’s where you come in.

Would you tell me your story?  Everyone has one, whether you are 15 or 50 or 85…each of us has a story. My favorite question to ask when I talk to someone is not, what do you do? It’s What is Your Story?  I’m writing mine every day, but I think I have figured out the central theme.  My theme is change.  I can pinpoint at least four times in my life in which an action I took changed my life dramatically, in my case, it was always for the better.  So as I spend a little time crafting my story to tell, would you tell me yours?

Some of my friends are going to get tagged on Facebook – I particularly like strong, independent women, and I know a bunch of them.  I think of them as “Women who get S**T Done!”  This is a private lesson, not for public consumption or publication, I just need inside some of your heads to help me figure out how others think.  I hate looking at the world from only my limited experience.

A little history, a little backstory about who  you are, how you came to be that person, what decision or action in your life brought you to where you are?  Is there a fear that keeps you rooted to your origins, or a fear you have already faced and defeated? Don’t worry about how it is told, think of it as a conversation.

If you want, send it by email to shelleyontheroad@yahoo.com, or post in the comments.  Be true to yourself, I want to use these “characters” to fill my books with real, yet imagined people.  I want to combine your qualities with others so no one will recognize you, unless of course, you are fabulous – and then who wouldn’t want to be recognized!

 

 

Day -259 – Pikes Peak

pikes peakLooming over the top of Colorado Springs is Pikes Peak – one of Colorado’s famed Fourteeners, it is paved to the top.  A bit commercial, there is a railroad, famous donuts that aren’t supposed to be able to be made at that elevation and a race.  What you won’t find is ….me.  Elevations like that kick my ass.

Josh and Big made the trek up the mountain, not a surprise, they love anything to do with racecars.  Many of our friends and acquaintances race Pikes Peak, up the twisties to the top – it’s all paved now, but that is a recent development.

The record to the top is 8 minutes and 13 seconds.  From mm 1 to mm12, the elevation climb is 4720 feet.  The cars have to reach over 100 on some of the short straightaways to do that.  Big said he drove it in low gear, somewhere around 15 mph mostly.

On the way down, the National Forest Service rangers stop you at one point to review the temperature of your brakes – too hot and you get to sit awhile.  Makes sense to me, so many don’t know how to drive mountain roads.

Pikes Peak is named for the famous Zebulon Pike, explorer of many lands.  I would have loved to have gone on the trek up the mountain, but this is one limitation I have finally come to grips with.  Anything over 10,000 feet makes me feel icky – I start to feel it between 8,000 and 9,000 feet, but only if I exert myself, by 10, I only have to try to breathe to know I’m out of my element, sometimes it’s just best to stay home.

Day -258 – Rocky Mountain High Colorado

ROCKY_MOUNTAIN_HIGH_monitor_colorado_marijuana_2-1024x576It is a weird sensation to smell marijuana at an intersection.  Just sayin’.  We have been in Colorado Springs for a week or so, did laundry last week at a place right next to a weed store.  Yep, I think it overpowered the sweet smell of laundry soap and landed on my clothes.

At any given corner that passes a strip mall, you can smell pot.  Me, being the naïve girl that I am from Idaho, my California boys had to point it out to me, but they were right.

Honestly, I have had one experience with pot – ok, two, but the first one doesn’t count.

The first was when I was in high school, I was on a date with the brother of one of my best guy friends – he was older.  When we pulled up on the offramp, the sun was in our eyes – he dropped the visor and a baggie of weed dropped in my lap.  Freaked me out, I made him take me home.  Yes, I was that girl.

You see, when I was young – 5th grade or so – we lived in San Antonio, Texas.  For a school report, I read the San Antonio Light every day and cut out all articles that were related to drug use.  After a week, I had a binder full of stuff – scared me to death, I have never wanted to use drugs of any kind.  I can take ibuprofen, but that is the extent of my pill poppin’.

Move on to time two…after I retired from my job as a CPA, I agreed to a one time experience, part of my 50 new things project.  Several of us got together and lit a bowl –see, I’m probably not even using the right terminology.  This is what I learned.  Everyone reacts differently, one person ate everything in sight; another pointed and laughed, but couldn’t speak; another talked nonstop; me – I cleaned everything I could find.  That one time, it was enough for me.

I get that it has some uses for pain control, I understand it can help some with ADD focus better, I also understand the need to tax it – but I also know, I don’t want the work force to be smokin’ it, it’s hard enough to get a good days work out of most people.  So, Colorado, you can keep your stash, but could we try to clean up the air a bit? Our kids are out there.

Day -257 – Rocky Mountain National Park

rmnpA trip to Estes Park and Rocky Mountain National Park was on the agenda today – together with the Junior Ranger program.  Rocky Mountain National Park is located on the Continental Divide, the point in our country where the rivers split – they either travel east or west.  The Rocky Mountains in Colorado have some of the highest peaks, in fact, it is Never Summer all year on some of them.

As a Junior Ranger, the RMNP teaches you about the different ecosystems; the Montane at the lower elevations; the transition to the Sub-Alpine and the Alpine air.  Of course, this is because you are traveling up, up and up.  The Alpine Visitor’s Center is over 11,500 feet above sea-level.  For me, that is too much.

We saw lots of wildlife in the park, but my favorite part was visiting with the park ranger.  I love the experiences that they have and all they share with us.  It’s a great life experience.  Our park ranger has his Junior Ranger badge from 72 parks – personally, I’m jealous…I have a long way to go.

***Photo by Josh England at Rise Above Photo

Day -256 – Coors Brewery

IMAG0694I’m not a complainer – honest – I hate people that find the negative in everything, but there are some days that you know someone is just not doing their best.  In fact, it was way too obvious that our host didn’t want to be on the job.

We visited the Coors Brewery in Golden, Colorado, “Taste the Rockies” they say, and we did.  Coors is very generous with their beer on their tours.  Three glasses at the end, that’s a whole lot more than we got at the Yuengling Factory last month.  But what we didn’t get was fun.  Apparently, Kyle, our guide, had had enough fun that day.

I am always fascinated by how things are made, Coors is a huge plant – the largest single site brewery in the US.  They also are a zero waste facility, nothing goes in a landfill, that’s pretty cool.  It doesn’t matter if it the waste being shipped to the farms or the cans recycled for future use, nothing goes to the dump.  I like that.  And did you know that one of the Coors family invented the aluminum can and didn’t patent it, because he wanted all companies to use it, that also is pretty cool.

These fun facts I learned by reading the walls, because our guide was whining about what a long day it was.  Three times he said he was ready to go home.  When it was all done, I told everyone who worked there what a lousy job he did.  You see, this is how I look at it.  It doesn’t matter if I was first there today, or last, my time is as valuable as the next guy’s.  I deserve 100% of what he has to give.  But let me be honest, it wasn’t just Kyle.  For a company as big and profitable as Coors, they should be trying to create fans.  That means, maybe everyone shouldn’t have to wait so long for their tour; maybe everyone should be given more information; maybe they should be trying to win us over from the start.  As it is, they have a long way to go.  Sorry Coors, no fans created here, we’re going to drink something else.

Day -246 – Person Lift

photo (2)Got to do something new today….people should know better than to leave cool equipment out where we can play with it.

At the race yesterday in Sturgis, Kentucky, Big flagged from a manlift.  It was the only way to get him over the track and keep him out of harms’ way on the short course.  I got an elevated view as well, and had my own scoring tower.  That was fun.

So, it’s Sunday now, we are cleaning up – not too bad, considering it is a shortcourse and I can walk the whole thing easily.  Afternoon arrives and we are hanging out.  Josh offers me a lesson in man lifts.  Sure, why not!

I stepped on to the platform and he starts pushing buttons.  It goes up, it goes sideways, it tilts, it rolls – you can do a lot of stuff on a man lift.  Then it was my turn.

Let’s just say…I wasn’t as smooth as Josh on the controls, but I did all of those things – tilt, up, down, sideways – well, until he told me to watch out for the power lines I was about to crash in to.  Thank goodness for Josh watching out for me.  I guess the man lift is now a person lift too – it holds both men and women, if you gotta be politically correct.

Day -233 – Helicoptering

photo (1)Six minutes in a helicopter, that’s how many I got for my $45 this afternoon, and it was worth every penny.  I sat in front next to the pilot, my seatbelt holding me from carreening out the open door.  My arm flew out every twenty seconds to wave at someone below me.  The altimeter showed we were at about 1,000 feet most of the time, but our daring pilot liked to skim the tops of trees and dive to the river.

The tour of the mountain and the river included the cross on the side of the mountain, the competition areas, the full ten miles of river and up and over the top of the campground.  It was beautiful and peaceful to see all the people spread out enjoying the recreation available.  The wind buffeted the craft and created a peace all it’s own, there was nothing else to hear but the hard rock being pumped through the headphones, one more thing to get your adrenalin pumping.

All of us were wearing headphones and microphones, I could hear the couple in the back exclaiming regularly, “on my, God”  “  whoa, whoa”  and the giggles.  That’s my favorite go-to when I’m scared.  But I wasn’t, it seemed like the most natural thing, I have flown before, even piloted before, in my quest for a license I never finished.  But, the helicopter seemed a natural flight to me.  It gained speed quickly, dipped and dove, the only thing I looked for – and didn’t find – was an “oh, shit” handle.  Even the Jeep has one of those.

 

Day -232 – More food

photo (4)Memorial weekend, a fine time for hanging with friends in the woods.  We found ourselves in between Birmingham, Alabama and Fredericksburg, Texas – somewhere near the half way point on some map is Cass, Arkansas.  It’s a small town, population: a handful, and five and a half miles from the turnoff you will find Byrd’s Adventure Center.

Byrd’s is redneck heaven, not a lot of rules, there is a river, four wheel drive trails and this weekend, an event called Madness in May.  Our friends Duane and Cody from Come Get Ya Some Motorsports are the hosts.  They recruit their friends to help them put on a little competition through the woods.  It’s a competition that has been going on for 13 years.  Some of the best rock crawlers got their start here.

The highlight for many is the muddin’ for life competition, the highlight for me was the crawfish boil.  Eighty pounds of crawfish, still squirming in the ice chest succumbed to the boiling water and curled their tails.  That’s how you know they hit the water still alive.  The corn and potatoes were seasoned heavily with Old Bay, or something like it.  The shrimp and Andouille followed, all of it heavily spiced and delicious.  This is a finger food meal, everyone standing around the double picnic tables covered in plastic.  There are no serving platters, no worrying about insects, you just crowd around and get ready to eat.

Eating fresh crawfish is easier than you are made to believe, the tail snaps right off and you toss the rest of it.  If you want to suck the head, it is really just the body cavity, that’s where the spice tends to gather.  Of course, that’s also where the intestines are, so it looks like poop.  Really, just like baby poop.  The tail itself, you break the pins holding it together on the ends and then either peel it like a shrimp or pinch the other end and coax it out of the shell with your teeth.  I like to look at my food, so I tended to peel the shell all the way off.

Of the sixty people standing around eating, I didn’t see one raise their eyebrows at the little waterbugs, every kid who walked by me had a plateful.  It’s good to see young ones enjoying a great meal.

The biggest thing I noticed about the weekend was the kids, there isn’t a phone to be found out here on the mountain, everyone is talking to each other, enjoying the company and nature around them.  We watched three kids in the river yesterday go from swimming to fishing to skipping stones in ten minutes or less, then start all over again.  Ahhh, to be a kid again.

Day -226 – Public fixin’

photoOne of our favorite things is finding local restaurants, sounds easy, but it’s not always.  What you find in most cities is chain restaurants, and lots of them. Now, I know there is a place for chain restaurants, they provide comfort because there are no surprises, you can get the same cheeseburger in Pocatello, Idaho as you can find in Gardendale, Alabama and almost all points in between and beyond.  But, if you want innovation, if you want an experience, you have to find a local place for that.

One such place is Porky’s WagonWheel in Fultundale, Alabama.  It’s a little bit out of the way, just behind the Chevron station, in fact, if you didn’t know better, you might not recognize it.  The first time we went, we drove right past.  The locals had told us about the Wagon Wheel, they hadn’t mentioned Porky’s.  Porky’s is what we found first, it is a bbq place that has been around for awhile, they were closing in 15 minutes when we arrived the first time, “but the steakhouse is open for another hour,” the hostess pointed us through the swinging doors.

The steakhouse and Porky’s belong to Harry, the proprieter of this little gem.  Porky’s has been around for awhile, the steakhouse was added eight months ago, and it is going great.  The menu is simple, there are five kinds of steak…rib eye, tbone, New York, and two others that didn’t appeal to me.  You pick your meat, pick the way you want it cooked and sit back and relax.  Sounds familiar, right?  Maybe not quite when you hear the rest.  The salad bar and potato bar come with the steak, and the price is the same for each cut of beef.  No haggling, no worrying about which is priced better, the weights will be what differentiates the different steaks, that is all.

The boys chose to continue this path and let Harry take care of their steaks, I chose to cook my own.  You see, the grill is 8 foot by 6 foot and is right in the center of the room.  As the patron, you can season it just the way you want and lay it out on the grill and cook your own.  It was pretty awesome, I hung close to Harry, learning the tricks of the trade, obviously he had fixed more meat on that grill than I ever would, so I figured I could learn a thing or two.

Our ribeyes came out perfect, add a salad, an Idaho russet and some sweet-tea and it pretty much was the best meal I’ve had in a very long time.  Good luck finding that experience in a chain restaurant.