Ellen Barone had almost written off social media when a Facebook private message from a long lost Scottish friend flashed across her iPhone display in Medellin, Colombia. Seconds later the two were live chatting across continents, sparking powerful memories infused with laughter and music and a shared New Mexico road trip.
by Judith Fein
When I was a child, living in New York City, my family loaded themselves and their belongings into a car every August and headed for New Hampshire. There was never any question about going somewhere else; we had allergies and Bethlehem, New Hampshire had no pollen. In a fit of hopeless nostalgia, I decided to go back this past summer, to see if I could find the locus of the sneeze-free bungalow colony where we stayed. And, being a travel addict, I decided to check out what else there is to see in New Hampshire with 10 days, a car, and a desire for culture, charm, a foodie infusion, local attractions, art, nature, and quirk.
I discovered that New Hampshire is a year-round destination: Fall foliage viewing, skiing, and Presidential primary candidate viewing that starts in the Winter, and touring and hiking in the Summer.
Mageru pulls over to the side of the road, parks and idles the Land Cruiser. We are still a few hours away from arriving back in Addis Ababa. He looks over to me, pats the steering wheel and says “I am a little tired. You can drive.”
This does not strike me as a generosity I should accept. Although I am confident in Canada, Ethiopian driving doesn’t exactly rev my engines. “Oh…I don’t think so, honey. The driving here is very different from my experience back home.”
Nervously, I edged into traffic and was, within a few minutes of breath-holding, relieved by the minor miracle of finding a free parking space in front of a cafe. I sat down with my iPhone to map a plan for the week.
In search of sun and warmth, my idea was to head for the Mediterranean beaches but was told it would be very crowded in July, and the distance seemed too far – 8 hours on expensive autoroutes. So I convinced myself to keep it simple on the first day and headed to Beaune, the "wine capital of Burgundy," less than two hours away by toll road.
When I was 11 years old, my father took my 15-year-old-sister and me on a cross-country car trip from Tamaqua, Pennsylvania to Seattle, Washington to San Diego, California, and back in 30 days. What I remember about the trip was my father saying, “Here we are at the Space Needle (or Disneyland or the Grand Canyon or wherever), you have 10 minutes, take some pictures, I’m going to the souvenir shop to buy some pennants.” (For some reason, we got into collecting pennants that ended up on the walls of our basement.) My father drove 10,000 miles in 30 days, and I got to see the U.S.A. at 60 miles per hour.
by Connie Hand
Admittedly, the beaches in the Portuguese Algarve are famous for their beauty, but they are also very crowded.
Having been to the Algarve several times, I always wondered where the quiet, uncrowded beaches were. There had to be many since the coast was about 60 miles long. But how to find them?
My research always came to a dead end. I used a current Michelin map of Portugal. I went online. Not many beaches were noted except the usual—mostly eastern Algarve four and five star resorts.
I imagined beach after beach, cove after cove nestled under huge rocks and boulders. With so many coastal miles, especially on the Atlantic Coast, I was sure that the Portuguese and the German and British tourists or expats knew about dozens of these paradises, even if Americans hadn’t yet found them.
A couple of years ago, I decided to find some people to speak with on the subject during my visit. But about a week before my trip, while reading a Rick Steves’ Portugal guide, I came across a small paragraph that mentioned Castelejo Beach on the Atlantic Coast of Algarve, Portugal. In his guidebook under “The Algarve: Cape Sagres” section, he listed “Beaches”. He stated that there were many little beaches from Salema to Sagres. And then...he mentioned Praia do Castelejo which is north of Sagres past Vila do Bispo. Rick wrote “If you have a car and didn’t grow up in Fiji, this is really worth the drive”. He said it was “the best secluded beach in the region”.
At last, someone was as interested as I in the tucked away and little heard of western Algarve beaches!
So my husband and I decided to go for it.
When we arrived at Lagos, we checked into the Romantik Hotel Vivenda Miranda. This boutique hotel is situated up on a cliff overlooking the Praia do Mos. (The hotel is beautiful and lovingly cared for by owners Vera and Urs Wild, and their friendly, helpful staff. I highly recommend it).
After lunch, we made our plans to drive out to Castelejo beach the next day. We would follow Rick Steve’s directions.
The next morning, after a delicious buffet breakfast on the hotel patio with its ocean view, we left on our adventure.
Greyhound killed our college romance.
She was finishing her B.A. at UVM, I was beginning a Ph.D. at NYU, and the nine-hour bus trip between Vermont and New York slowly eroded love, commitment, and finally, even passion. She graduated, found a job, and got involved with an English literature student. I learned my clinical psychology, tasted the pleasures of New York, and struggled through a dissertation.
But when her literary affair ended badly, she called, and I invited her down to my Greenwich Village apartment for a weekend reunion.
Farmer's daughter that she was, she'd never seen a ship of any size, so we walked down Houston Street to the waterfront. Good fortune — a cruise ship was about to embark. On the decks stood a flock of blue-haired ladies in borrowed mink stoles and a clutch of grey-haired men in new camelhair overcoats, all throwing streamers to those below. Catching the streamers were grown-up sons and daughters, waving and calling to the departing vessel.
“Don't worry!” they shouted. “Don't worry!”
I started to worry.
I worried that I'd be grey-haired before I went anywhere. I worried that by the time I left I'd be too old to enjoy wherever I was going. I worried that when I finally embarked from the Houston Street dock, the last words I'd hear from loved ones would be, “Donnnnn't worrrrryyyyyyy...”
The bakkie went over a large pothole and I was jolted awake, the shock making me inhale deeply and sharply. The air was hot. My throat and eyes stung from all the dust. The unbending road ran like a dagger through the heart of the desert. There was nothing else. Just us, the road, the desert, the sky and the burning sun, and the great weight of my hangover forcing itself in on my shriveled, raisin-like brain and lungs. I wondered for a second if we were heading towards the end of the world.
It had all been a terrible accident really. I knew almost nothing about Namibia except that there were a lot of sand dunes, and without a few too many drinks to lubricate the imagination and fire the yearning for adventure, it probably never would have happened. The truth is though, I could probably say the same about a lot of my trips over the years, especially the most interesting ones.
It had all started in what might loosely be called the ‘town’ of Springbok, a little way back across the border. I was there on a job and had confessed my ignorance of Namibia to a local Afrikaans prospector’s son named Rico, who I had got talking to at the local bar. His head was similar in size and shininess to a watermelon, yet still looked disproportionately small for his enormous frame.
Now there I was in the back of his battered old vehicle hurtling northward away from the South African border like a bat out of hell, still not entirely sure where I was headed or why. And good old Watermelon Head was at the helm up in front of me, his equally large wife bumping along in the seat next to him and occasionally barking what I could only imagine were strong Afrikaans expletives at her husband. But still he went bravely on, potholes and abuse or no, taking me ever deeper into the burning heart of the unknown.
Sometimes you should really just go with your gut instinct when you’re on the road. Such was the case when we motored up to a rural Indiana motel late last fall. Granted it was only 3:45 P.M. and check-in wasn’t until 4 :00, but since there were only six rooms I figured it really wouldn’t be a problem. Well, I figured wrong.
To be honest, just walking into the motel office gave me the creeps. It was small and dingy and covered in dust; but to be fair, everything in that part of the country was covered in dust. And then there was the manager, who at first wouldn’t take her eyes off the mini television in front of her, or even acknowledge that another person had entered the room. I cleared my throat a few times. No response. I made some noise and shuffled my feet a bit. Still no response. Finally, I awkwardly blurted out, Hello, I’m here to check-in. That at least elicited a stony cold look.
words + photos by Jean Kepler Ross
They say one picture is worth a thousand words. I believe being there is worth a thousand pictures.
For several years, I edited a travel guide about New Mexico and saw many photos of the gorgeous white sand dunes in southern New Mexico known as White Sands. Each photo illustrated the beauty of the dunes - sensuous mounds of sand, blooming yuccas, delicate lavender wild flowers, kids jumping off the dunes into space...it all intrigued me. I traveled in that area a few times but never had a chance to actually visit White Sands until a few weeks ago.
I was visiting a good friend who lives just out of La Luz, near Alamogordo. We watched sunsets from the west-facing portal of her house and, through a notch between mountains, looked out at White Sands in the distance...it beckoned me. I remembered all the photos I had seen and I knew it was the right time to go.
We visited White Sands National Monument late one morning. The monument is part of the worldʼs largest gypsum dune field - 275 square miles in all; about 40% lies within the monument and the rest is home to White Sands Missile Range. Some of the dunes are active and move to the northeast about thirty feet each year, while others move very little. Gypsum is clear and translucent, but scratches on the grains cause light to reflect in a way that makes them appear white.
words + photos by Laurie Gilberg Vander Velde
“Maybe I will go to the car and get my tripod,” I said to my husband. We were at the edge of a mostly frozen pond, standing on snowpack, bundled up against the 19 degree cold in the pre-dawn dark. A glimmer of light was starting to show in the sky. We had staked out a spot in the line of tripod-wielding photographers with their mega-humongous lenses We were all waiting for the awakening snow geese and sandhill cranes to perform their morning “fly out.” We were at Bosque del Apache, a National Wildlife Refuge near San Antonio, New Mexico about an hour south of Albuquerque. It’s a place known to many serious bird watchers who throng to the area in the winter to watch thousands and thousands -- and thousands of snow geese and sandhill cranes come and go.
We are not avid birders, nor am I a zealous photographer. How could I be? I love taking pictures and dabble in PhotoShop, but I tote a point-and-shoot camera. It’s top of the line and somewhat flexible, but it’s still a point-and-shoot, and the SLR crowd look at me with some disdain. Much as I would love to use a digital SLR and be able to change lenses, my body just can’t schlepp that much weight. And my husband, despite my batting my eyelids at him, has turned me down flat. It was hard not to be intimidated by the very serious looking phalanx of expensive equipment lined up on tripods waiting for “the moment.”
Our home is now in Santa Fe, so we made the easy two plus hour drive to the Bosque (means “forest” in Spanish) the night before, aiming to get there in late afternoon in hopes of seeing the “fly in.” This is the time during the golden hour before the sun sets and the moments after sunset when tens of thousands of snow geese and sandhill cranes fly in. A foot of snow had closed the refuge a couple of days before, but the plows had sort of cleared the roads. The observation decks were still snow covered. The big problem was that there were limited areas of open, unfrozen water in the ponds, and the birds want to land on open water where they are safer from predators. The helpful folks at the visitors’ center can tell you where the birds landed the night before, but the birds don’t file a flight plan, so we can only guess where they might land tonight.
I grew up in the jungle of Maui, barefoot, climbing trees, keeping geckos as house pets. A trip to the busy west side of the island was an all day affair. After a two hour dance with the narrow, cliff-side Hana Highway we’d arrive in Kahului where I was fascinated by the fluorescent lights and honking car horns. I’d sing along to the Ka’ahumanu Center jingle on the radio and the grocery store might as well have been Disney World I was so eager for the cheese samples, flower displays and rows of sugary cereal I might possibly convince mom to splurge on.
When I was nine, my family relocated to Maine where grocery stores weren’t so special and civilization was easily accessed just a few minutes down the road. I spent my teenage years still titillated at the mere mention of a trip to the mall as it seemed Maine never got the overdevelopment memo the rest of the country took to heart in the 90s. The closest mall was still two hours away; I’m a country girl.
Though I still live in Maine today, I at least have made it to Portland, the “big city”. I have had the pleasure of getting my traveler’s feet wet as I’ve grown out of my rural roots but when I returned to Maui in 2005, I was caught off guard—the visit was nothing like I expected.
On our first trip together, we covered only a few blocks in a neighborhood of two-story white wooden houses in Columbus Ohio. I was pushing my sister Paula's stroller. (Ask her. She would no doubt say that I was always pushy.) At a few months old, she was oblivious to the great world around us--the bulbous cars parked along the street, the empty lot, dusty in the summer sun, or the brick store buildings up ahead on Cleveland Avenue. I, on the other hand, being ten years older, ten and a half when she was only six months old, I knew about everything.
As I walked, and she patted her chubby hands together, I daydreamed about how she would grow up with fond memories of her loving big sister and be eternally grateful for my attention and care. (Always about me, wasn't it, Paula?)
These little walks down the block were definitely not the only trips we took as children. Our parents loved to load up the car and go--most anywhere. Sometimes long car trips, sometimes just a drive down to the Scioto River for a picnic. On Sunday drives in the Ohio countryside, seeing the landscape between our father's salt and pepper crewcut hair and our mother's black bun, we would shout out “Go left” or “Go right” or “Go straight” at each interseciton--a kind of sibling Mapquest. It was a democratic route finding that our dad adventurously accepted. “Go” was the operative word.
by Edie Jarolim
Many years ago, I went to Spain with a man who turned out to be an Ugly American. The beer was never cold enough for him and he often mangled the language, but got annoyed at even my mildest attempts at correction. So I kept my mouth shut when, in a bar in Barcelona, he loudly insisted on a “servicio frio, muy frio” rather than a chilled cerveza. The bartender, not comprehending why anyone would demand a very cold bathroom, nevertheless pointed him towards the men’s room.
These days, I mostly travel with my small terrier mix, Frankie. He rarely embarrasses me and never by being arrogant. But Frankie presents the opposite problem to my Spain experience: that of the very hot bathroom.
Let me backtrack a bit.
It’s almost an annual tradition, my summer drive from Tucson to San Diego, started when I moved from Manhattan to Arizona nearly 20 years ago. I go to escape the triple digit desert heat and to visit friends I made when I was doing dissertation research at the University of California, San Diego.
Once you get on to I-8 from the soul destroying I-10, the drive, through pristine swathes of Sonoran Desert, is spectacular. Few people slow down to enjoy the view, however. Keeping up with the traffic flow means going about 85mph. I’d zip along until I reached Yuma -- at the Arizona/California border and about the halfway point in the seven-hour drive -- and get gas at one of the many convenience store/stations clustered near the turnoff and use the bathroom.
At least that’s what I did until I got Frankie, my first dog, a few years ago.
In addition to nearsightedness and a deep sense of curiosity, my Dad and I shared a love of good stories. After his death two years ago, I had the opportunity to travel in his tire tracks. My road trip became a lesson in discovery, geographically and emotionally, showing me aspects of my father I had never seen and beautiful places I’d never visited. Ghosts have a creepy reputation, but my father’s made the perfect traveling companion.
Let’s start at the beginning. My Dad was Tony Hillerman. During his 35 years of writing best-selling mysteries, millions of fans treasured his stories of Navajo detectives solving crimes on the panoramic Navajo Nation. He also inspired me to start The Tony Hillerman Writers’ Conference, where he served as our most popular faculty member for several years.
Before Dad died in late October of 2008, my photographer husband Don Strel and I had launched our own book project, “Tony Hillerman’s Landscape: On the Road with Chee and Leaphorn” to show readers who had never been to Indian Country the settings in which the fictional Tribal Officers solved crimes. I gathered quotes from Dad’s books that described places where his detectives pause to comment on the scenery in Arizona, New Mexico, Utah and Colorado. Then we hit the road for Baby Rocks, Teec Nos Pos, Toadlena, Church Rock, Kayenta, Tsaile, Tuba City and other breathtaking places Dad loved.
Don and I finished the book with both relief and regret a few months after Dad died. We decided to promote it and honor my father’s memory with talks and slideshows to support public libraries. Little did I know that I would be getting most of the benefit, priceless stories from people in the audience whom my Dad had touched: loyal readers, distant relatives, Indian consultants, long-lost friends, and former co-workers and students from his days at the University of New Mexico.
At the small Placitas, N.M. library, a woman came up to me after my talk. “I have to tell you how I stalked your father,” she said. I was all ears.
by Judith Fein
Photos and slideshow by Paul Ross
When I was a kid, studying American history was about as appealing as a trip to the dentist. In school, we had to memorize names and dates and to this day, I still have PTSD (post teacher stress disorder) when I rattle off monikers like Black Jack Pershing, Old Hickory, The Rail Splitter, The Rough Rider and Old Buck.
A few weeks ago, I went on the newly-established Journey Through Hallowed Ground-- that spans Pennsylvania, Virginia and Maryland, and extends roughly from Gettysburg to Monticello--and I learned more in 11 days and 180 miles than I did in all my schooling. Best of all, I have –for the first time in my life--retained what I learned. Ask me a question about Thomas Jefferson. Or James Madison. Or George C. Marshall. Go ahead. Ask me. (Disclosure: This is pretentious, authorial braggadocio.)
Photo Slide Show by Paul Ross
If you had told me that I, a pacifist, would be fascinated at Manassas (in the North, it’s known as Bull Run), where the first major battle of the Civil War took place, I would have keeled over in disbelief. But I was both horrified and fascinated. It was everything that textbook learning wasn’t: alive, vital and real. I learned that it took 6 horses to schlepp one canon onto the battlefield, and that the poor schleppers made inviting targets. Even more inviting were the soldiers themselves, who --in classic Napoleonic fashion-- lined up abreast in successive rows to advance, face-on, into close quarter cannon fire. Apparently, the guns weren’t very accurate, but still—marching towards the unforgiving maws of heavy artillery? There was a whole vocabulary around the weaponry—like “worm” (used for cleaning the bore and packing charges), “going into battery”(placing guns into firing position) and “sponge bucket” (which held water for wetting the sponge-rammer).
story and artwork by K. Michael Crawford
The warning signs along the dusty and tumbleweed Arizona road should have been my first clue that I was going to stumble into something magical. Sometimes, fear can precede wonder. “NO STOPPING OR PARKING. ALL TRESPASSERS WILL BE SHOT!” screamed one of the signs. As always, I questioned what I was doing on that small country road where it would take searchers weeks, maybe years, to find my lifeless body, but I have never been one who roamed the well-traveled roads. I am always off on my own quirky adventures ––never with a group. So what if I get put into mildly sticky situations sometimes. They always allow me to see magical places and whimsical people to use in my art and books. Besides, my vehicle was not going to be deterred by warning signs and neither was I.
So I headed down that small bumpy road, not knowing where I was going to wind up or what I was going to see, but hopeful it would be something great. From the Sun’s position, I knew I still was heading in the right direction, West. So all was good and if I kept my car moving there was less chance being shot. Then it happened after the road turned a corner and head downed a small hill. I had driven smack dab into a magical place out in the middle of nowhere.
I couldn’t believe it as I pulled into the small town. I had driven back in time, early 1900’s to be exact. I didn’t know a road could create time travel to the Past. I only knew it could take you to your Future. But here I was back in a Wild West town full of creatures, chickens and lots of ghosts. My kind of mystical town. Signs along Main Street told you to yield to wild burros that roamed freely through the streets. To be sure that my car stayed clear of the wild beasts, I had to pause while a few decided to cross in front of me. I found a parking spot off Main Street and decided the rest of my journey would be on foot. I have learned that it’s a difficult to get the full flavor of places traveling past them in the car. Sometimes you just have to get out and walk.
I wasn’t surprised when my plane landed at DFW airport in a blinding fog, so thick that I couldn’t even see across the street as I waited curbside for the rental car shuttle. I had just arrived in Texas to begin work on an assignment that I wasn’t sure would be a slam dunk with a new client that I wasn’t sure would be a good fit. It seemed somehow fitting that the weather would chime in with its opinion about this experiment: outlook unclear.
I agreed with the forecast but had chosen to trust my instincts, which were telling me to step outside my comfort zone where life was safe and predictable and…well, boring, really. New territory beckoned, and I was willing to be surprised. And fogged in.
Undaunted by the heavy mist, I congratulated myself for the keen intuitive sense that had prompted me to request a "Mr. NeverLost" when making my Hertz reservation two weeks earlier - something I had never before done in years of renting cars. Truth be told, it was also due to my spotty track record on Fort Worth's spaghetti freeways and one-way streets and the Texan tendency to use landmarks to give directions, but I wanted to chalk this one up to ESP, just for fun.
Anyway, I had no worries: "If you've ever been lost or worried about finding your way to an unfamiliar destination, let the remarkable Hertz NeverLost® system be your guide,” suggested the Hertz website. A little fog wouldn’t faze me, not with their GPS! Seventeen miles to my hotel should take twenty-five minutes, tops. I could be tucked in bed by midnight.
My celebratory jig was cut short upon arrival at the Rental Car Center, where I discovered my name was not on the board and there was no car waiting curbside (grrr). And stretched before me at the kiosk in the parking lot was a long line of disgruntled travelers shivering in the murky dampness whose cars were also MIA (GRRrrr). Another sign of a bumpy ride ahead? Instincts disagreed: perhaps it’s a perfect opportunity to channel my Sufi teacher and practice breathing mantras. And patience.
Just south of Big Sur on California Highway 1, we hit the brakes when something akin to a 15-foot long slug caught our attention. Born and raised not far from the Pacific Ocean, I never saw such a creature on any California beach. It was 1997, my husband and I had been living in Santa Fe for nine years, and we were on vacation in California.
There were few legal places to pull our rental car off the highway, so we broke some likely vehicle code and parked as close as possible to this giant slug sunning on the beach. As we neared the beast we heard from the crashing shoreline something that sounded like a Harley Davidson revving its motor inside an empty warehouse.
“Did we just enter the twilight zone?” I asked my husband. We paced through the ranchland grasses west toward the beach. Eerie noises seeped between the fog and sand, and more slug-like creatures appeared.
“What are they?” we simultaneously questioned each other.