Category Archives: Travel

The Little Bucket List

I was talking with my good friend Mike Sack the other day and he said he was making his “little bucket list.” I asked him to explain, and he said that after all the years he and John have been living in Seattle, there are so many things right there in the city and environs that they’ve always said they wanted to do but never done. Isn’t that the truth?

Usually, “bucket lists” are grand schemes. Sail around the horn. Fly cross country in a balloon. Raft the Colorado through the Grand Canyon… But what about the amazing little sights and events and natural wonders in our own back yards? Where I live, in Oregon, they are legion, and my eyes, thanks to Mike, have been newly reopened to them.

Al and I regularly take what we call “ExplOregon” days and weekends, where we visit a place we’ve not been before, but it’s been a while since we’ve done that. And there are so many other things that I’ve always meant to do that are right here, twenty minutes or an hour away that would take an hour or a day to do.

I don’t know about you, but long-distance travel isn’t much fun any more. I don’t mind sticking close to home for the next year or so, but now that I see the local, experiential riches that are on our little piece of note paper stuck to the refrigerator, I’m happy to be right here.

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Filed under connections, Friends, Fun, Possibilities, Travel, Vacation

Investing in friendships

I just got home from a long weekend trip to visit friends I don’t often get to see. We had a great time. I enjoyed the break from my work/school routine, the Oregon winter, and got to see sun, thrilling desert and important people.

On the complicated and frustrating way home (travel can be such a pain in the ass), I realized that investing in friends and family is the most rewarding effort possible. Spending time with each other, even if it’s just watching television side by side, lets our spirits commune. A cup of coffee (or ice water, as the case may be) for an hour at the kitchen breakfast bar is more important than a thousand emails.  I mean I know this. I’ve always known this.

But this trip, for some reason, turned my head around. None of us is getting any younger, and some time I’ll go to Arizona and find that I have one fewer friend to visit. That will be a sincerely bad day. But it will be much less horrible because of the trip I just had–the time I just invested–in wonderful friendships.

So I say this: If there’s someone you want to visit, get on with it. Time’s wasting. Your relationship is languishing. Forget the stock market and invest yourself in the most important, lasting, reality in the universe.

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Filed under Aging, connections, family, Friends, girlfriends, Personalities, Possibilities, relationships, Spirituality, time, Travel

Seward, Kenai and Dolly Varden

Part III

We trained from Talkeetna to Anchorage, rented a car and drove to Seward. This is September, and we were late in the season. We went late in order to miss the big tourist season, and we did, but things were turning toward winter. We got the fall colors inland, but the rain was coming in in the coastal areas. It poured rain most of the time we were in Seward.

But it’s a fun little community and in the river behind our hotel a family of river otters gorged themselves on fish every morning. Very fun to watch. We took a tour through Kenai Fjords National Park and saw dall porpoise, harbor porpoise, stellar sea lions, lots of bald eagles, enormous jelly fish (Al thought the first one we saw was a submerged buoy), blue glaciers — and even some crazy guys surfing right in front of one. Big blue ice bergs floated in the fjords. Again, the landscape was fantastic. Photos do not capture the amazing scope of this amazing land.

After two nights in Seward, we jumped in the car and drove through more astonishing wilderness to Kenai, where we stayed with our fishing guide, Gabe Linegar and his lovely wife and two beautiful daughters.  Gabe, of Drift Alaska Charters, is a great fishing guide. Al fished first while I explored the galleries of Homer (Homer was virtually closed for the season), and he caught a dozen rainbows, the best of which was a 10 pounder. (No photos, because I had the digital camera.) Then the two of us fished the next day, and Al got shut out, only snagging one after another of the millions of spawned-out, dying pink salmon, but I caught a little rainbow and a nice, 5 pound Dolly Varden. The Kenai River is certainly salmon-choked, and while we missed the big salmon run, the evidence of bears was everywhere, in the matted down foliage at the riverbanks and all the salmon carcases left there to rot. The third day Al fished, he caught a 17-pound steelhead on the Kasilof River, and his trip was truly complete.

Then we drove back to Anchorage. I miscued about how often I might find a gas station, and we drove fifty miles through wilderness on fumes and prayer. Al was busy scouting all the trucks that carried spare gas cans. But fortunately we found fuel at the last possible moment in Girdwood and were ready to get back to Anchorage.

We got back to the hotel to find a sign up on the door that warned guests of a black bear in the neighborhood. We took a walk around that quaint and unusual little town and could easily see how a black bear could live in downtown Anchorage without being caught.

It was good to get home again.

Bottom line: We’ll go back. We’ll certainly go back to the Kenai for salmon fishing, and from here, we could actually do that over a long weekend. Now that we’ve done the whole tourist thing, next time we’ll get off the beaten path and go to Kodiak, and perhaps fly into Ilianna for some wlderness adventure.

If you haven’t seen Alaska, I suggest you do. Put it on your bucket list and be amazed.

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Filed under Travel, Vacation

Bear, Moose, Wolf and Vistas

Part II

From Fairbanks, we took the train to Denali National Park. The rules for the park are very interesting, in that there is only one 92-mile road into the park, and private vehicles can only go so far in. The rest can be traversed only by park buses (hop on, hop off, hike your brains out in 6 million acres of wilderness) or tour buses. All of which is very interesting park management, and has kept the wildlife wild and the area pristine. I wonder if other parks ought to be so managed.

We took an 8-hour tour that went 62 miles up. Saw 13 grizzly bears, lots of moose, ptarmigan, Dall sheep, and three wolves, one of which trotted across the road right in front of the bus. At the end of the 92-mile road is a luxury resort on Wonder Lake. I’d love to go back and stay there for a week or so.

Mt. McKinley was only kind of visible at one point, but the rest of the views were incredible. The landscape is glacier-sculpted, so there are mountains, valleys, and “braided rivers in unfit river valleys” the likes I’m sure to never see elsewhere. Breathtaking, and I don’t use that term loosely.

We stayed two nights at Denali, and went for a nice hike across the river from our hotel, and then hopped the train for Talkeetna, traditionally a staging area for those who want to hike Mt. McKinley. And there, we found the real Alaskan color. Al made friends with a reindeer, we met a couple of true characters, ate breakfast–complete with reindeer sausage–at The Roadhouse, and saw the mountain out in all its glory from our room at the Alaska Talkeetna Lodge.

We took a little river trip and saw how the old trappers used to live, and we could have done without that particular tour. We stayed two nights in Talkeetna, and played lots of gin rummy. One night would have been perfect.  At least the mountain came out for us.

And then… on to the Kenai Peninsula. Stay tuned.

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Filed under Travel, Vacation

Ahhh. Vacation

What is it about me that resists a vacation?

I love my life, for one thing. I like my routines, my rituals, my work, my husband, my dog. I like cooking dinner and having lunch with my girlfriends. I like going to school, and seeing my kids and my grandkids.

My life is a vacation.

So when Al and I were invited to the Big Island to watch the Mastercard Invitational Golf Tournament, I was excited, because we would stay with dear friends, in Hawaii, and I’d never been to a golf tournament before. As usual, just before leaving, we had furnace troubles. Tensions.

We touched down into 83 fragrant degrees (coming from a high of 40 and a low of 23), and I immediately relaxed. Two days later I was a different person. Granted we stayed in the opulent lap of luxury, with a “meeting” in the spa every night at 5, but it was a break in my reality. I stood twenty feet from Lee Trevino as he sunk a twelve foot birdie putt. How cool is that? Four days later I could barely remember my old life. I still checked email and voicemail, but found a sublime freedom when nobody was looking for us.

I’ve been through some trials since my last vacation, and my daily routine, I now see, had become more of a rut than a routine. I needed this vacation. It was like a ray of Hawaiian sunshine warming my back. Literally.

We’ve got another trip, completely different, scheduled for September, and I hope I will not resist it. I need to remember how I felt after four days, and how good it felt to come home and resume the routine.

It took me a good four days, though, to really feel the effects, and after seven days I felt brand new. A weekend away is a nice break, but it is no vacation. It’s still part of life. I think we actually need to vacate in a real way to gain the benefits.

Even though my life is like a vacation, I still need a periodic break. We all do. I hope I’ll remember this come September and look forward to it with the amount of enthusiasm it deserves.


Filed under Stress, Travel, Vacation

Travel is good for the soul.

I just got home from three days visiting with Susan Wiggs, her husband, and their dog in their beautiful waterfront home. Jook (our dog) and Barkis (their dog) became fast friends and romped nonstop until they fell into their respective comas. Susan and I went to the spa while our husbands golfed. We ate, shopped, hit the yarn store, bought shoes, and did those things girls do when they get together, but the best part was sitting in lawn chairs and casually talking about work, writing, and all the possibilities in our futures.

There’s something magical about souls touching in person that email can never duplicate. I’ve known Susan and Jay for years, but after this trip, after this one-on-one time, I really feel as though I know them.

Al and I listened to The Life of Pi on the drive up and back. Masterful book, and the audio edition is superb.

I was also delighted to find out that Susan and I will both have short stories in Elizabeth George’s new anthology, Two of the Deadliest, coming soon from HarperCollins.

And speaking of said story, my final draft is due to Ms. Editor tomorrow, so I better get cracking on it. Enough of this sitting in the sun in lawn chairs–I have work to do.

This weekend is the Ghost Story Weekend at Siltcoos Station, and people are coming from three states to participate. I’ll give a report when it’s all over, the spirits have fled in terror, and we have wrestled at least fourteen of them to the page.

So welcome to my blog.


Filed under Friends, Possibilities, Short Stories, Travel, Writing