Thursday, March 25, 2021

Where, Oh Where Will My Journey Take Me? (Road Trip, part 2)

Just as the framework — number of legs and length of each one — of my upcoming advanture evolved over the past few months (as I shared last Thursday), so has the the list of places I plan to visit. 

Initially, I had hoped to visit a national park or, in the 20 (or 21, if you don't count Idaho, which has just a small part of Yellowstone within its borders) states without one, a state park in each state. 

But after spending 95% of the past 12 months fairly isolated, the idea of spending 6 weeks camping alone didn’t appeal to me. I wanted to be around other people even though I would be traveling solo.

I googled “Most beautiful towns in each state” and found a list that looked promising.  As I read the descriptor for each town on the list, I noticed that the primary criteria for inclusion were number and beauty of city parks, architecture of homes and/or downtown area, and views such as mountains, the ocean, etc. 

While those are certainly nice things to enjoy on a vacation, they weren’t quite what I was looking for. I tried several other criteria and happened upon a list of the “best downtown shopping districts in every state”. Because I’m not a shopper per se, I almost passed on this one. But because I do enjoy meandering in and out of cute boutiques, mom-and-pop stores, etc., and because I want to support small businesses as much as possible, I clicked on the link. 

The opening paragraph mentioned cafes, indie bookstores, boutiques, and quaint attractions. I was intrigued and began working my way through the list. By the time I’d read the descriptor and looked at the accompanying images for state #10 (Georgia, by the way), I knew this was the list I was going to use for my trip. But I decided to hedge my bets a bit.

I posted in a (Facebook) solo-women’s travel group I belong to, asking other members to share the towns they would include on such a list. I asked that they only share a town they had personally visited and that they share no more than one town per state. 

I was amazed at the number of responses I received: suggestions for over 35 states and multiple suggestions for almost every one. I added each town to the original list I had downloaded and began researching the towns in the states I plan to visit this Spring. 

Eventually, I had one 1st-choice and one back-up town for each state. Using Roadtripper (a wonderful app that is a godsend when planning a trip), I was able to quickly create the itinerary for each of the 3 legs of my upcoming advanture.

Now it's time to plan what I'll be taking and count down the days until my tentative departure date of April 19.

To join me on my adventure  follow me on Facebook and/or Instagram (for brief updates) and subscribe to this blog. I’d love for you to come along!

What towns have you visited that had wonderful downtowns filled with mom-and-pop businesses, quaint cafes and coffee shops, and interesting attractions? Share your thoughts via a comment. Who knows? Maybe I’ll add your suggestion to my itinerary!

Thursday, March 18, 2021

The Best-Laid Plans (Road Trip, part 1)

In about five weeks, depending on the birth date of my 3rd grandchild/2nd granddaughter, I’ll embark on a trip that has been a dream of mine for several years. The journey from initial idea to the more-recent concrete steps take to make it happen has been circuitous, to say the least. 

I’ve always loved travel, road trips in particular; fortunately, my husband felt the same way. We went on quite a few trips as a family of four and were looking forward to even more travel after our our nest emptied. Although that dream of travel dimmed a bit after his death, the itch never quite went away. I traveled a bit during vacations, and the closer I came to retirement the more I dreamed of longer, more frequent trips.

Less than a year after I retired, though, my daughter asked if I would want to babysit the little girl she had learned she and her husband were expecting. I put my travel plans on hold, sold my house, and moved to a different town to live in a mother-in-law’s quarters in their house and babysit KG. 

One evening, while knitting a blanket for my as-yet-unborn granddaughter, I began making plans for short road trips on weekends and longer trips when my daughter & son-in-law were on vacation. 

Trial and error led me to purchase a Ford Transit Connect last summer; I removed the seats with the idea of slowly doing a “no-build build”. In early Fall, my daughter shared that she was pregnant, and I decided that while she was on maternity leave, I would head out on my first “advanture” (I thought the term was corny, too, when I first heard it, but it’s really grown on me). 

My handyman extraordinaire Alex installed a wooden floor (to even out the floor and cover the seat brackets) and a Murphy bed; I made reflectix window coverings for all of the windows and purchased a Jackery power station, solar panels, and other necessities. 

I also began plotting my trip. At the time, my daughter was working for “employer X”; between her maternity leave and accrued vacation time, she would be off work long enough for me to complete the 48-state loop I’d long been considering, using  Randal Olson's optimum road trip across the US as my starting point. In December, my daughter was offered a new, much better position with “employer Y”. Unfortunately, the job change meant that there was no accrued vacation time, and my travel time was reduced by four weeks. 

No problem, I thought. I’ll choose one large section of the loop for Spring 2021 and travel the remainder on vacations to come. Then Christmas arrived, and I opened my present from my children & their families — a week-long vacation whole-family vacation at the beach. Scheduled for mid-way through my US travels. 

I was so excited about the trip and more than happy to adjust my itinerary so that the family trip fell in the middle of my loop. Then I learned that my grandson’s 1st birthday party would be held two weeks before the whole-family vacation. And of course, there’s absolutely no way I’m willing to miss E’’s birthday party! Instead of one loop with a family vacation in the middle, my plan needed to include a weekend trip back to my starting point before I headed out again. 

In less than three months, my one long loop of the 48 contiguous states became a three-legged trip through three-four states per leg. The more I thought about it, three shorter trips connected by time with my family sounded much better than one extended trip.

But one slight hitch remains. Because I don’t know when my new granddaughter is going to make her appearance, I have no idea when I’ll be able to leave on my first trip or, in fact, the exact dates of any of my three legs! 

As a result, I can’t make reservations at campgrounds or specific plans for visiting friends along the way. What I have been able to do is plan three tentative routes. Other than that, everything is up in the air.

For someone who has for the vast majority of her life thrived on plans and schedules, my trip is shaping up to be quite the advanture. 

As I prepare over the next few weeks to hit the road, I’ll share more about my proposed journey with you every Thursday. Once I’m on the road, I hope — charged laptop and internet access  both willing — to post daily.

I hope you’ll ride along with me. We’ll turn up the radio and sing along to oldies as we travel the back roads, exploring our beautiful country!

Friday, March 5, 2021

Green Light (5MF)

I'm very excited to again this week join a talented group of women who connect each Friday in an online, unedited (so excuse all errors) flash mob free-write based on a one-word prompt from our fearless leader Kate Motaung. My timer is set for 5 minutes; let's see where the word "green" takes me.

I don't care for red lights. I don't want to stop on my journey, lose my momentum. 

I don't care much for yellow lights, either. There's always that question. Do I have time to go through before the light turns red? Because, you know, I really don't care for red lights.

My favorite traffic lights are the green ones. When
 I head out to go somewhere, I am hopeful that the string of traffic lights I will inevitably encounter as I go from our home into town will all be green. And when I'm driving in town, I'm thankful to approach a traffic light and see that it's glowing green. There's no question, nothing to consider -- I can continue on my journey.

I appreciate green lights in my daily life as well. Green lights from God, that is. Oh, He certainly gives me some green lights. His Word is crystal clear clear on the many things I should do -- tithe, cease from gossip, etc. etc.

But all too often, I face situations which the Bible doesn't specifically address. A few years ago, I was faced with the decision -- retire or continue teaching. Stop . . . or go.

In the past year or so, I've pondered another "should I stop or should I go" situation. And so far, despite lots of prayer and reading Scripture and considering those options, the answer still isn't clear. Heck, it isn't even murky. I don't have a clue whether I should stop or continue.

I've been on pause, sitting at a yellow light for a few months, but I decided this week to proceed as if the light is green and see what God's response is at the next intersection.

How do you feel about red and green and yellow lights in your life? Is there a situation in your own life where you're seeing nothing but a yellow light? How are you using that time to consider your next step?