In Review

I think that title might describe my life…in review.  I am always looking in the rear view mirror to see if I’m measuring up to some ideal I have about who I am.  I spend a lot of time reviewing my actions, my travels, my words.  Those are but a memory, I should probably be focused on the future.  But it’s hard to leave behind the past…in so many ways.

I feel compelled to take a look at 2015 to see how it stacked up.  In the travel department, it was awesome.  We did our usual traipsing around the US throughout the year – from California to Florida to Maine, and a ton of states in between.  We ventured up to Nova Scotia and New Brunswick after a rousing 4th of July spent in Boston.  We saw our Nation’s Capital in the spring, we hit Disney World in January, and Australia in October.  I love the travel, it is one of my greatest joys, to experience other cultures and ways of life.

Our family is good, everyone seems to be making their way in the world without too much interference from us.  The grandchildren are awesome and growing like weeds, the boys think Grandpa is awesome, the girls are still deciding, but seem to be coming around.

We had a tragedy strike our business early in the season, and although we recovered to be able to continue, it still weighs heavy on our thoughts. Safety continues to be our primary concern.

Our friends were, once again, awesome, throughout the year.  So many that reached out to us on so many occasions to make us welcome in their worlds.  We are so fortunate.  The people we meet and spend time with provide context to all the travel, they are the reason we enjoy our time on the road so much.

Each year I work towards something new and different, I set aside things that aren’t working as I want to so that I can re-work them until they make sense.  Two years ago, I launched All Terrain Hero – the concept made sense to me, we already had a race track, why wouldn’t we put runners on the same course and give it double duty (on different days, of course).  Things I hadn’t considered were – how remote our tracks are; how exhausted my team is after a real race day; that I don’t know how to break in to the running community.  Some locations did ok, some not so much.  So, while we will continue to support The Gwendolyn Strong Foundation through other fundraising, I’m going to shelve All Terrain Hero for a bit.

This year, my launch is something online that I’ve been doing for a long time, but had been doing individually instead of to the masses.  I launched a new website on the 1st and will be sharing more of that as we move along.  If you want a sneak peek (it’s anything but perfect right now) – go ahead and take a look at It will improve with age, but the concepts are all there.

Thank you for a great and powerful year, it truly was awesome, 2016 is going to be even more so, more good things are coming our way.  We truly are living in a time of blessed abundance.

And now I'll doJoin me won’t you?


Trippin’ the Americas

Travel has always been a priority with me, fortunately I found someone who shares, not only my love of travel, but my travel style.  You see, we like to absorb a culture, not just pick up on what is being offered to us commercially.  We stroll the streets and neighborhoods, we seek out local flavor, we want to live in the green spaces.  Concrete is not our friend, and doing what everyone else is doing?  That is so not us.  We sometimes call it speed touring, we cover a lot of miles when we travel, in our quest to see it all, sometimes you have to keep moving.

quotescover-JPG-14Because we are observers of life, we pick up on things that most don’t.  We eavesdrop on conversations, not deliberately, but just to know where people’s heads are.  As we walked the streets of Boston last week, it would have been so much fun to have a tape recorder just to catch the snippets.  Things overheard included these types of words:

“So exactly where does the Underground Railroad come out?” heard outside the African American Meeting House.

“No, I have my phone off, that way when I turn it on and see some text messages, I can feel good about myself.  If it’s on all day and no one texts me, that will make me feel bad, so I only turn it on when I choose to.”  Heard on a walking path in a National Park.

People amaze me some days, some in their stupidity – yes, I said it; others in their lack of interest in what is around them.  Most in their self absorbance.  I’m not perfect by any means, if you ever hear my husband say with a sweet lilt, “I looove you,” and he’s laughing, it’s because I have let my inner blonde show again.  It happens often, my brain just doesn’t absorb a pattern around me, I am always lost, I read signs the way I want to read them, not necessarily how they are written. These kinds of things happen a lot.

But, I digress, my point is that travel is important.  Get off the beaten path, look at the neighborhoods, look at the lives being lived.  Talk to people, ask them why, show an interest.  Our favorite parts are when we get to hear someone’s story.  When I started writing in 2011, it was because we were travelling full time, that was the start of our real story.  That was when I realized we could share with others some of the cool things that we see.  My blog was Trippin’ the Americas, it is still active, and going to be more so.  We still see some amazing things, we still eat at some amazing places and take some great photos.  I will be featuring places to eat and things to see, roads to travel.  My goal is posting twice a week there and twice a week here, but I could use your help getting my readership up.  Stop over and see what we see, it will be undergoing a facelift soon, but the posts are still good and easy to find.

Random Thoughts on Travel in Japan

  • The people are incredibly polite and gracious and welcoming.
  • In order for me to dress like Japanese women, I would have needed to raid my mother’s closet in the late 50’s and early 60’s. I have never been that fashionable in all of my life.  The tailored dresses and heels and sweaters are beautiful, and expected on all.
  • Open toed shoes and bare legs are not the norm.
  • The weight loss industry that is so large in the US would fail in Japan.
  • If you ask someone for something, they will go out of their way to make it happen.  Please be careful what you ask for.
  • There is not a single word of Japanese you need to know in order to travel in Japan. A smile and open attitude will take you everywhere you need to go.
  • Travel is the most expensive part of being there; hotels and highways cost the most.
  • You MUST have cash to travel easily in Japan, credit/debit cards are not often used outside of the cities.
  • Use your resources, if you know someone who lives there, they have access to far more than you ever will as a tourist.
  • Visiting temples in Japan is a lot like visiting castles in Europe, once you have seen a couple, they all start to look alike.
  • Appreciate the ancientness of the country, in the US if something is 100 years old we start looking to replace it, recognize that some buildings are 700 to 1000 years old
  • Respect the roads, they are narrow and twisty outside of the cities and filled with people.
  • The food is odd, there will be flavors that your palate may never have tasted before, that’s ok, appreciate it in the spirit that it is offered, and eat ALL of it.
  • Personal space is mandatory in Japan, give it room.
  • Rock, paper, scissors is a national pastime and resolves all conflicts.
  • Anything can be purchased in a vending machine.
  • Above all, show respect. Loud and obnoxious behavior is not ok, arguing is not ok, being right all the time is not necessary, most Americans need to check that attitude at the door.
  • I want to go back!


Special Insert – Japan Travel Day 8

We interrupt this fabulous trip with a touch of the flu!  This is me sitting in a hotel room, not far from my Western (thank God) style toilet.  It sucks to be that girl, but thankful we didn’t have anything truly planned until the weekend.

I don’t normally dwell on the negatives, but with all the Ebola scare in the news, it made me start to think about how easily an epidemic can spread.  Let’s take my life for example.

On September 27, I was in Bridgeport, Texas (just outside of Dallas) with over 1000 people from 13 surrounding states.  While I didn’t have direct contact with all of them, I did personally handle items that were touched by at least 200 people, probably more.

From there, we went to Offroad Expo in Pomona, California.  62,000 people attended the expo.  Again, I didn’t have direct contact with all of them, but at least another 200 from several surrounding states.

Next stop, Seoul, Korea aboard an Asiana Air flight that held 400+ people.  From there to Osaka, Japan.  Within the next few days, we travelled by train within Osaka, by Shinkansen to Toyko, by train within Toyko.  Very crowded trains. In fact, we passed through the Shinjuku station no less than four times, Shinjuku has two Million travelers a day.  I realize that I am atypical of the general public, but what if there is an airborne disease that starts spreading before there are symptoms.  Can you imagine how many people could be infected?

I’m not a statistician, but if you took those numbers and extrapolated how many people could be affected over a three week period, it is astronomical.  No, I don’t have a life threatening disease, but just imagine if one of those who did was in my shoes right now.  Makes you think.

Special Insert – Japan Travel Day 3

Today is a travel day, we are taking the train to Toyko because we have a date tomorrow with family.  Rather than travel with all our luggage, we took out what we thought we needed and took the larger pieces back to Naozumi’s house and stashed it there.  With loaded backpacks, we checked out of our family hotel and headed down the tollway toward Osaka.  It was much different in the daylight, lots to see, a little bit easier too since now we know the system and have yen in hand.  The first challenge was returning the rental car, following the GPS only gets you so far, we went in circles trying to find the space, but figured it was good practice for when we have to get to the airport to go home.

Next stop, the train station, we bought tickets to get to Shin-Osaka and then to Toyko via the Shinkansen.  The Shinkansen is the famous bullet train, since 1964 it has been operating on a precise schedule.  We took the Nozomi line in to Toyko Station, then transferred to Shinjuku station and got off.  The mass of humanity in the train station was overwhelming, I just tucked in behind Rich and let him part the seas.  We stand so much taller and wider than the locals, they don’t hesitate to get out of the way.DWC_0828

From the Shinjuku station, we found our way to the street level and after consulting the map for a few minutes, Rich asked a young man if he spoke English, he politely said “no, no, no” but an older guy was walking by and stopped to help.  We told him the hotel we were looking for and he found it on the map and sent us on our way.  A fairly quick walk and we checked in to the Washington Main Hotel.

Our room is quaint, it has three single beds lined up in a row.  The toilet has all the same controls we’ve seen on the other ones, but this time they offer a description in English too.  The air conditioning only works when you are in the room, but there are night shirts on each of the beds.  Of course, they are built for smaller folk, Josh put his on and couldn’t move his arms, he looked like the TRex from Meet the Robinsons, Great big head, little bitty arms!

Day 274 – Wheelin’ Arizona

2013-01-04_10-59-49_92Sun shining, temps in the low 60’s, a dirt/rock road, it doesn’t get much better than this.  Ok, maybe a few more degrees on the thermometer, but it’s hard to beat the Northwest Arizona desert.  The rocks and boulders are huge, the Saguaro are stately, birds abound.  We spent the day doing a little off-roading and a little hiking, our goal today was to make sure we could put together a race course on some private property north of Congress, Arizona.  What we really got to do was spend time together doing what we love, being outside, adventuring.

Top off a day like today with cooking for good friends in their kitchen and I am one happy camper.  Thanks to Charlene and Matt for putting us up, or is that putting up with us?  They are watching our cat, Callie, while we go off on a little sea cruise this next week.  Have you met Callie?  She is our traveling cat.  A calico that has been in the family for years, when we moved out of our home in December 2011, she moved with us.  She had picked our family out of all the neighborhood families about 8 or 9 years ago, no one really remembers, we just know she moved in on her own accord.  She’s old and pretty passive, likes to do a little exploring, but doesn’t generally wander too far from the trailer.  She goes with us everywhere, when we are going to be away from the trailer for more than a couple of days, we find someone to come visit her.  While we were in Baja, a friends’ 16 year old daughter visited her daily; when we went to Montana, she went with us – she spent most of her days on the bed in the hotel watching the Travel Channel.  During the “season” she moves from place to place with us, she loves when the drivers start coming in for the weekend, you can tell she thinks they have come to see her.

The one thing Callie doesn’t really like is other animals.  She doesn’t have front claws so she doesn’t start a fight, but she does hiss and carry on when they get too close.  Most dogs ignore her, which she likes just fine, this week she is staying with another cat.  Piston has always been an off-road cat, he came out of Oroville, California a couple of years ago as a kitten, a little bit of a tweeker, he is playful, very playful.  We were a bit nervous getting the two together, apart from the age difference, the attitude difference is huge.  Piston likes to be in your face, Callie is more indifferent.  It’s been fun watching the two interact.  Piston has been great, he just wants to play and he succeeds in sneaking up on Callie over and over again.  Callie has taken to high ground, or at least defensible space, I think she’s hoping he will get tired of her.  We’ll see how the week progresses when we pick her back up in 10 days.  In the meantime, this is what life looked like this morning for the two of them.


Day 304 – Taking Stock II

goal1So when you set yourself up with goals, that’s a good thing, right?  And I know that measuring my progress is probably a good thing too, but it’s a little rough on me when I don’t make my goals.

We are up to one-sixth of my birthday year done =   16.67% = if 50 items on the list, then 8.33 need to be complete.  In 10 short months, I will be 50.   So where am I, as of today…

  1. Call 50 friends – 2 done; short by 6.16
  2. Make and send 50 cards – 10 done, goal met
  3. Fold 50*20 origami cranes – 0 done, short by 8.33*50
  4. Watch 50 classic movies – 5 done, short by 3.33
  5. Read 50 books – 8 done, goal met
  6. Take 50*7 pictures – 50*4 done, way up
  7. Write 50*7 blogs – 59 done, right on track
  8. Visit 50 new places – 5 done, short by 3.33
  9. Do 50 new things – 7 done, short by 1.33
  10. Write 50 chapters – 8+ done, right on track

It’s obvious I need to get rolling on a few of these.  The hardest one if you just look at the statistics is #3, but I’ll be able to catch that one up, no problem.  The two hardest, for me, are #8 and #9 – finding new places to go and new things to do.  I’ve been so lucky with my life, I’ve been able to go to so many places and to do so many things already, I really have to think outside of the box to come up with new things.

Now, there are plenty of places I could go, but most of them are outside my current budget. I have to think on the micro level here.  If you could go anywhere in the U.S., where would you go?  What would you want to see?  What would you do?  I need some help here.

My youngest daughter attends a performing arts school, The Young Americans.  Part of the program is to tour and present workshops in schools, teaching kids self-confidence through singing and dancing.  That is probably not their description, but it is how I see it.  I have seen Haley grow since her first workshop when she was in 8th grade, in fact, I believe that workshop changed her life.  The Young Americans present such a positive program, whether you have kids or not, the performances are always so positive and energetic.

I’m a little jealous, because Haley’s first tour experience will take her to some places I’ve never been.  In 5 weeks, Haley is leaving for the U.K. and then finishing the tour with two weeks in South Africa.  I am so excited for her.  I love seeing my kids spread their wings.



Day 361 – Change can come from the strangest places, if you let it

The books that changed my life

About ten years ago, when I was facing my true mid-life crisis, about to turn that dreaded 4-0 – I realized, I was a MOM – I’m still a mom, but at the time, it was all consuming.  I was Haley’s Mom at Girl Scouts; Kayla’s Mom at soccer, Josh’s Mom at the high school.  I was lost.  You know how they say there is no I in TEAM, well, there isn’t one in MOM either.  My whole identity was wrapped up in my kids.  I love them, but I had lost myself along the way.  In my late twenties and early thirties I still had myself, I was able to do some cool things, advance my career, live a little.  But by the time my mid-to-late thirties came along, I was gone, totally enveloped in their schedules, their needs, their lives. Looking back, I wouldn’t change a thing, but you have to know when to get out of that mode, when to find yourself again, because if you are doing it right, they are going to grow up and move out, then where will you be?

Enter an author who changed my life….Rita Golden Gelman.  I’ve not met Rita, I occasionally will read something about her, but she wrote a book that completely opened my eyes to the possibilities.  Tales of a Female Nomad was published in 2001, I try to read it about every five years to remind myself of the possibilities of living large in the world.  I followed it up with a number of other travel books, including everything by Tim Cahill – my personal favorite, and the one with the most impact was Road Fever – a hilarious narrative of a trip from Tierra del Fuego to Alaska. To top it off, I read Rolf Potts’ Vagabonding, a practical application of how to travel the world on the cheap.  While all of these books describe international travel, the same can be applied to the travel I do now.  Most importantly wasn’t the stories they told or the impact they made in their travels, most importantly to me was that adventure really was available.  It would take a change in the way I lived, but it was completely practical.   All I needed to do now was wait.  My kids had to grow up first so I could go back to being just a mom, a role I still cherish.

Day 365 – Create the Life You Imagine

When I woke this morning, I pictured in my mind how this next, great year would look.  I focused on my goals like any good visualization, I just forgot to look at the details, the how to get from here to there stuff, the stuff that fills each of our days.  Today was supposed to be an easy day – after all, it’s my Birthday – a celebration of a life still being lived or…a long day doing trivial travel things that take forever, apparently I have to hold off on the celebrating part.

Basic packing ensued in the morning, followed by a trip to DFW for a flight to LAX.  DFW is a big place and they appear to have decided not to use the same terminology or plans as every other major airport in the US.  Instead of long-term parking, they use “remote parking”; the airport isn’t built in a circle, you know, that works everywhere but in Texas, no it is built in a straight line, so if you enter in the North and drive straight through to the South, they get to pick up their dollar for driving on their road.  I’ve flown through DFW before, but never had to fly from there.  When we got to the pay station after having driven by all the terminals and found ourselves leaving again, Big asked the guy about long-term parking – he stared at him and said, “no, we don’t have long-term parking, you can park anywhere.”  We thought that was odd, until he went on to explain that parking at the terminals is fine, it cost $19/day, or we could use remote parking for $8/day.  I think I would call the remote parking long-term, but that’s just me.  Heaven forbid we should Mess with Texas – they’re going to do it their own way, that’s for sure.

After the standard long line in security which we all passed with flying colors – it feels like such an accomplishment, doesn’t it, when you get through the checkpoint without any problems, like getting a gold star on your homework.  Anyway, we flew Virgin this time, first time, I guess that made us Virgin virgins, and while the flight was delayed significantly, it was pretty cool.  They are certainly tech savvy on their airline.  Everything was available on your individual tv screen and your little remote.  Josh and I even chatted seat-to-seat.

Two guys sat behind us who obviously had a long history, they had been in each others wedding party, so they talked non-stop, and it was entertaining as hell.  They covered the basics first, family, mutual friends, jobs, then one started talking about some of the other things he does.  Guy 1 told Guy 2 that he had tickets to NASCAR at the Texas Motor Speedway, Guy 2 was beside himself – “You like NASCAR?” He couldn’t believe it, WHY would anyone go to that.  Then as the conversation continued and Guy 2 mentioned getting some hunting gear at Cabela’s, Guy 1 said, and I quote “What’s Cabela’s?”  I almost couldn’t stay in my seat anymore – What’s Cabela’s?  Really – what rock has he been under.  I personally have made the trek to the mother store in Sidney, Nebraska numerous times, of course it helps that they have awesome wild game food and a free RV dump and water on-site.  You know how it is, my needs are different than most.  Anyway, I thoroughly enjoyed Guy 1 and Guy 2 for all three hours of the flight.

Our next adventure after landing late was the rental car, I couldn’t remember where I had made our reservation, so we hopped the Avis bus and dove through the crowd of people to get to the front of the line and drive our shiny silver bus to one of my favorite hotels.  Josh kept everyone entertained and distracted while Big ran off the bus.  I just wasn’t ready for anymore delays tonight.  A quick stop at Inn-n-Out at two minutes to midnight completed a very long Birthday day.  I never managed to Create the Life I Imagined today, so I’ve opted for a re-do, a mulligan – so today is my Birthday too.  As a bright spot, Facebook has made birthdays very enjoyable.  How cool is it that no one has to actually remember your birthday anymore because Facebook will remind them.  I love that.  Oh and happy birthday to the other members of the 10-4 birthday club, Jon, Sheryl, Claudia and Chad – all of which I spoke to in one form or another yesterday.

Avis at midnight