Signs Along the Way

Signs can give you a feel for a place.

I just got home from an amazing trip to coastal and central Oregon, and brace yourself, it has inspired no fewer than 15 ideas for blog posts. But don’t worry, if you’re not a travel enthusiast, I’ll be spreading them out over the next month or so, so as not to drive you off. (I’d miss you guys!)

One of my favorite things about traveling is seeing the strange signs and t-shirts I encounter along the way. They can really give you the feel for a place better than anything else. (If you use your imagination, that is.)

The best sign I saw was across the road on a busy highway. There was no convenient place to pull over or turn around for a picture without risking life and limb, so, this blog never being far from my mind, I had to content myself with a note. The sign stretched the length of a long, rustic wood building, and it said, simply, “A large variety of wood!”

I couldn’t tell if the place was open or closed. There were no cars in the parking lot. The windows were small and dusty. Was the owner selling firewood? Driftwood art? Elaborate sculptures carved from logs? Furniture? Or something rated x? I have no idea. I’ve got to say that for some reason it makes me really happy that this place exists. But I’d suggest that the proprietor might want to expand upon his signage or his displays just a tiny bit so that passersby would know if they are a part of his target market, because I’d be afraid to stop without knowing. Just sayin’.

In no particular order, here are some of the signs that I found pic-worthy along the way.


This place will merit a blog post all its own. We saw a lot of evidence of how hard it was to travel around here back before there were paved roads and Starbucks every 500 yards, but this one pretty much says it all.


This one was taken at Crooked River Bridge. I will attest to the fact that 300 feet is a really long way down. I know, because I got a wicked sense of vertigo while checking for dog carcasses. I’m happy to report that I didn’t see any. A few thoughts on this sign: It seems like there’s more concern for the dogs than the children. And there was a high wall blocking you from the precipice. It would take some effort to get your dog to launch itself into that abyss. Hysterical sign maker? Or is there a dark side to Oregon that they aren’t telling us? Hmmm…


This one made me laugh. It was at the High Desert Museum in Bend, Oregon. That amazing place also merits its own post. But after the last sign, I thought I should show you that Oregonians have a sense of humor, too.


This one made us do a u-turn. So, you go to the state park, and then you recycle yourself, big time. Glad to hear that Oregon takes the environment so seriously!


Now this, at the Tillamook Creamery, (which will also get its own post) is my kind of sign.

And I’m leaving you with two t-shirts that I would have bought, because I have a twisted sense of humor. But I already have way too many t-shirts. Carrion, dear reader. Carrion.


Like the way my weird mind works? Then you’ll enjoy my book!


So Lucky to Miss You

A lifetime ago, I was traveling with a friend and having a wonderful time. But at one point I did mention to her that I missed my boyfriend. (I can’t even remember who the guy was, which tells you a lot about the passage of time.) To my shock, my friend got really, really angry with me.

Apparently, she was of the opinion that if you are busy missing someone, you can’t also be enjoying yourself, and I was therefore allowing myself to spoil the trip. To this day, I can’t relate to that mindset at all.

You see, when I am having a great experience, that’s when I tend to miss people the most, because I would dearly love to have the people I care most about with me to share in those joyful times. I can’t imagine thinking otherwise. It seems like a natural conclusion to draw.

I’m not going to start avoiding the good times, just so I won’t miss my loved ones. That would be absurd. And besides, I don’t think that yearning for someone’s company is necessarily a negative emotion.

I genuinely believe that I am lucky to have people that I miss. It means I’ve built up strong relationships over the years. It means that there are people who matter a great deal to me. It means that I know what it is to love.

Life will take you to many places. Sometimes the people most significant to you will be unwilling or unable to follow. They have their own journeys, after all. And sometimes their lives will be cut short, leaving you to forge a path on your own.

So cherish the missing. Revel in the fact that you have someone to miss. Be glad that love is a part of your life. What a gift! It doesn’t get any better than that.


An attitude of gratitude is what you need to get along. Read my book!

What Keeps Me Up at Night

Yeah, I’ve done that mind-grind thing where I keep worrying about something and try in vain to come up with a solution. I have done my fair share of stressing out over finances, jobs, relationships, and conversations that I’m dreading. I’ve even stayed up to care for sick people and pets.

But you know what really keeps me up at night? Excitement. I spend a lot of time tossing and turning and smiling at the possibilities. I can rarely sleep just before a trip to someplace I’ve never been, for example. I can just imagine what it will be like. I also thrill to new experiences, new connections, and the opportunity to learn.

Many is the night I’ve spent staring at the ceiling, knowing that I’m about to receive the gift of newness. That’s my favorite gift of all. It doesn’t take up space in your tool shed. You don’t have to dust it. It’s usually not tangible. But you’ll be able to revel in its memory for the rest of your life.

There is nothing quite like the first time you do something, see something or realize something. Beginnings are awesome. Change is wonderful just as often as it is dreadful. The anticipation of something can be every bit as amazing as the thing itself.

Anticipation is what robs me of my sleep!

Excitement (July 2011)

Check out my refreshingly positive book for these depressingly negative times.

Revisiting My Relocation

Back in August, 2014, I moved from Florida to Seattle. This was a huge leap for me as I didn’t know a soul out here, and had never even been to Washington state, let alone to this city. All I knew was that I desperately needed a do over, and the opportunity presented itself, so I took it.

Yesterday I had a chance to revisit my epic journey across the continent because I’m going back and reviewing my old blog entries to determine which ones would make good anthologies. I don’t know where I found the energy, but I blogged during the entire trip, from Florida to Georgia to Kentucky to Missouri to South Dakota to Montana to Washington. 3100 miles, just me and my dogs and a lot of time to think.

At the time I was both excited and scared to death. Now, looking back at it from the other side, I don’t think I realized how brave I was being, and how totally insane the whole situation was.

I also look at the things I worried about and have to smile. I was afraid I wouldn’t know how to dress for cold weather. I didn’t even own any long sleeved shirts. And I was in a panic about driving in snow, but I’ve only experienced one day of it in the two winters I’ve been here.

And it amazes me the things it didn’t even occur to me to worry about. I seem to have underestimated how hard it would be to make friends and find romance. I think on some level I just assumed I’d pick up my life where it had left off. I had no idea the amount of isolation I was about to subject myself to. Had I known I might not have had the guts to do it.

Do I regret my decision? Not at all. In fact, I wish the current me could go back and tell the 2014 me that all my obstacles would be surmounted (well, except for the romance one), and in fact, it would be the best thing I’ve ever done in my life.

I remember savoring every moment of that adventure, and I’m so glad I had the presence of mind to write about it, because that means I can take that voyage again any time I want. The trip remains the same. It’s the traveler who is constantly evolving.

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Road Tripping

I just got back from a trip to Vancouver. I’ll be writing quite a bit about that, I’m sure. But right now I’m writing about road trips in general.

I absolutely love to travel. It’s my reason for being. Seeing things I’ve never seen and doing things I’ve never done just seems to feed my spirit in a way that nothing else can. Just having an adventure to look forward to brightens my mood.

I love to read up on my destination and make plans and compile packing lists. I love to pore over maps and dive headlong into guidebooks. I’d hate to go to someplace unprepared, only to find out upon returning home that there was something amazing there that I had missed. The buildup to a vacation is almost as interesting as the trip itself.

And then you have the actual trip. The driving there. The worrying that your luggage will be lost, or you’ll leave something behind, or you’ll take a wrong turn, or maybe that you won’t understand the rules of the road in another country. It’s the anxiety of reservations misplaced, tickets lost, identification overly scrutinized. It’s agonizing to worry about being late or missing a connection. I hate to think of all my plans falling to ruin. I hate the travel part of travel.

I probably miss out on a lot of the beauty that is in the in-between places due to all that anxiety. It has been forever thus with me. There’s just too much to contemplate about the destination to focus on the journey. I really need to work on that.

Ah, but when I get there? Pure bliss. Let the adventure begin!

[Image credit:]
[Image credit:]


Recently a friend of mine posted some quotations by the author Anne Lamott on her Facebook page. One that really struck a chord with me was this one:

“Almost everything will work again if you unplug it for a few minutes, including you.”

Wise words indeed. I thought of them last night when my wifi went dead at a critical moment. I was really feeling frustrated as I unplugged the modem and slowly counted off a minute. And I decided that rather than stand there gritting my teeth as the seconds clicked slowly by, I’d do some stretching exercises based on a vague memory of the last yoga class I attended.

Why did I stop doing yoga? I have never felt physically better than when I did it regularly. I have no idea. Time. Money. Habit. Pure laziness. I need to get back into it. I need to give myself that gift.

I also thought about how wonderful my recent day trip to the tulip festival was. I could feel my blood pressure drop. I could feel myself relax and breathe. These things are important.

I need to be more gentle with myself. Take more baths. Take more breaks. Take more naps. Soak up the sun.

I need to be kinder to myself. I need to remember that no one can be as kind to me as I can be to myself. Deep down I know what I need. I also know that while it is necessary to do those things that will allow me to live my life (Damned job! Damned housework!) it is also vital that I not forget to do those things that make life worthwhile.

Then I did one last luxurious stretch, plugged my modem back in, and sure enough, both my laptop and I were good to go again.


Schooled by a Sacred Lion

I’m in a state of transition and that’s putting it mildly. New job, new (to me) car, new city where I have never been and know not a soul. An epic drive across the country, seeing places I’ve never seen. Hurtling toward the unknown. What an adventure. What a trip!

Most of the time I’m excited. Friends have told me I’m brave, and that they admire me for doing this. But I have to admit that sometimes I’m scared shitless. All this change all at once can crash over me like a tsunami, and I panic. I doubt. I basically freak out. What the hell am I doing?

The other day I said to a friend, “Please remind me I’m not crazy. I feel like I’m jumping off a cliff without knowing what’s at the bottom.”

His response to me was, “Well, seems to me like you already know what’s at the bottom. This is more like ascending a cliff than jumping off. So put on those rock slippers, woman, and get to climbing!”

And just like that, my view of the situation was reframed. At least until the next tsunami. This is a wise friend, indeed. His name means “Sacred Lion”. His mother named him well.



[Image credit:]

My Jacksonville to Seattle Odyssey—Part 1

My departure from Jacksonville was a strange one indeed. The night before, after having a lovely dinner with one of my dearest friends in the world, I came home and started loading a bunch of last minute stuff in the car. I thought I had closed the door to the house behind me. I really did. But when I looked up it was open and my dogs were nowhere to be found.

I spent the next hour walking the neighborhood in tears, hollering their names. Of course I went to the extreme. What if I couldn’t find them by morning and I had to drive away without them? But then just like that they wandered up to me, looking very perplexed that I was blubbering on the street.

We got back to the house and I guess about two months of accumulated stress and anxiety decided to come out all at once and I just fell to pieces, and finally went to bed utterly drained.

The next morning I packed all the last minute stuff and did all the last minute cleaning, and another dear friend stopped by bearing Krispy Kreme doughnuts. This used to be a strictly Southern thing, so I didn’t have the heart to tell him they have them in Seattle, too. But it was good to see him. He was sick as a dog, and had dragged his wretched self out of bed just to say goodbye one last time. That’s a true friend.

When he left I told him I loved him and he said he loved me too. He said, “You are going to have an amazing life.” I got tears in my eyes.

It’s funny. All my friends seem to fall into two extreme camps. Those who can say I love you back, and those who get uncomfortable by the whole concept and can only respond with a smart aleck retort. (You know who you are.) The thing is, I know they love me. They show me in so many ways. But it would be nice to be told. Ah well.

Anyway, after he left, me and the dogs hit the road. It felt kind of abrupt. After a month of long, drawn out preparations and hurdles and arrangements and stress and anxiety, suddenly, BAM! We were on our way. Just like that.

And as I drove out of Jacksonville, my home for 30 years, I felt oddly indifferent. First of all, there is no “You are now leaving Jacksonville, please come again” sign on the interstate, so I didn’t have a definite dividing line. Second, it’s the people who make the place, and I had been saying good bye to the people for weeks. So the geographical change didn’t have the impact I was expecting.

But I did observe a tradition I always observe when crossing my home state line. I take a deep breath and I blow all my worries and cares and problems over my shoulder. I leave them in Florida. And this time, I also symbolically blew away my bad habits and grudges and things I’d like to get past as well. (Floridians may want to wear a gas mask for about a week, because it could take a while for all that stuff to dissipate.) Crossing into Georgia, I felt rather cleansed. Lighter.

In Georgia I stopped for gas, and a rather rough looking motorcycle gang pulled in behind me. I’ve never had a problem with bikers. They don’t bother me, I don’t bother them. But this time I took my dogs out of the car and was walking them on a patch of grass, and one of the scariest looking guys comes up and says, “Oooh! Can I pet your puppies? Are they friendly?” And we had a nice long chat about his 10 Chihuahuas and about Seattle. As he walked away, awash in tattoos and leather, he wished me a safe journey. It’s funny the people you meet when you travel. (That’s also a reminder about not judging books by their covers.)

So the first leg of my journey was a short one. 245 miles. I’m now safely ensconced at my sister’s house. I wish all the legs were going to be this short. Next stop, Paducah, Kentucky!

Check out Part 2 here!


The clock tower near my sister’s house.

[Image credit:]


Pillar to Post Vacations

I have a European friend who absolutely hates the way I plan my vacations. I tend to cram as much into a holiday as I possibly can. I view them as a smorgasbord, where you only take little tastes of a wide variety of delicacies. I spend a lot of time rushing about, seeing as much as is humanly possible. Unfortunately that means that I rarely experience anything in depth. She, on the other hand, likes to go to one place and sort of settle in for a 5 course meal. She will savor a place, really know it, and come back all the more relaxed for the experience.

It’s not that I wouldn’t love to travel the way she does. Maybe if I were based in Europe, where different cultures are but a short train ride in any given direction, I would do so. But here in America, just getting to another culture takes a lot of time and money, neither of which I have in abundance. I never know if my current trip will be my last, so I have to make the most of it.

Neither travel style is superior to the other. It’s just different. I enjoy the random situations that crop up during my zipping from point A to point B. Often those are the most memorable moments of the trip. I’ve met some amazing people and have become stranded in some amazing places. I love having a million stories and even more memories. And I do have the scheduling challenges of crammed itinerary down to a science. I think I’d be an excellent candidate for the Amazing Race, because I may not have ever raced around the world, but I’ve definitely raced around several countries.

Maybe I’m commitment phobic. I don’t want to get too in-depth in a country. I don’t want to get to know people, meet families, become a regular at restaurants and learn the routines of a specific neighborhood, because if I do that, I’ll fall in love with them. There’s too much of the world to see, so I know that with every given trip I’m seeing a place to which I’ll never have a chance to return. What’s the point of falling in love if it means you’ll only pine away for something you can’t have for the rest of your life?

No. It’s better this way. I’ll be pleased to make your acquaintance, dear country, but I’d prefer that we don’t get on a first name basis. Kiss me if you will, but nothing below the waist, please. That way we can part as friends.


Packing for Your Trip

I live to travel. Over the years, as most people have, I have suffered the consequences of forgetting some crucial item, or forgetting to do something critical. This can put a damper on any vacation, so after years of holidays, I have compiled a master packing list.

Whenever I’m about to take a trip, I pull up this list on my computer, make a copy of it, and delete those items that don’t apply to this particular adventure. Then I can be sure I have everything I need.

So, without further ado, here’s my master packing list, for your future convenience.

Master Packing List


  • Note: Capital One credit cards are the only one as of 2009 that do not charge foreign exchange fees.
  • Always plan to arrive at the airport at least 2 hours ahead of flight.
  • Call overseas Immunization to find out what shots are needed, and get Diarrhea Prescription.
  • Call credit cards and notify them that you’ll be making charges out of town.
  • Give people info on how to contact us in an emergency.
  • Upon return, pack souvenirs separately for customs.
  • Get Gas for Vehicle, top off fluids, & Check air in tires.
  • Obtain a small amount of foreign currency, Int’l Drivers License, Int’l Student ID, and Visas.
  • Think of irreplaceable items (Medicine, Camera, Eyeglass Prescription, gum for plane, etc.) that you need to pack on your carry on, and pack accordingly.
  • Confirm PIN numbers for credit cards and bankcard.
  • Get books and books on tape from library.
  • Arrange for Dog Sitter.
  • Many international airports have a Cooks, where you can exchange money.
  • Put temporary hold on mail. Confirmation # _______________


  • Flip-flops
  • Walking shoes
  • Socks
  • Hats
  • Sweat pants
  • Sweatshirts
  • Eye mask for sleeping on plane
  • Shirts
  • Gloves
  • Coat/Jacket
  • Tank Top/Boxers
  • Undershirts
  • Underwear/Bras/Slips
  • Pants
  • Shorts
  • Sunglasses
  • Swim Suits
  • 1 Change of Clothingfor Carry On luggage
  • Skirts


  • Razors
  • Sleep Aids
  • Hair Brush
  • Cosmetics
  • Antibiotic Ointment
  • Band-Aids
  • Soap
  • Talcum Powder
  • Wash Cloth
  • TP
  • Sun Tan Lotion
  • Shampoo/Conditioner
  • Bubble Bath
  • Ear Plugs
  • Nail Clippers
  • Sawyer Controlled Release DEET Formula  (Best anti-malaria)
  • Prescriptions
  • Toothpaste
  • Tooth Brush
  • Floss
  • Diarrhea Meds
  • Sinus Meds
  • Eyeglass Prescription
  • Towel
  • Detergent


  • Blankets
  • Compass
  • Sleeping bags
  • Cheese cloth
  • Pillows
  • Tent
  • Portable Shower
  • Binoculars
  • Garbage Bags
  • Directions
  • House Key
  • Maps
  • Candles
  • Highlighter for Maps
  • Calculator
  • Sheets
  • Valuables Receipt from US Customs
  • Neck Pillow
  • Guidebook
  • Language Dictionary
  • Fanny Packs
  • Pens
  • Passport
  • Itinerary
  • Tickets
  • Reservations printouts
  • Cash in Small Denominations
  • Digital camera with cord, batteries and chargers.
  • Cell phone/Charger
  • AC Adapter
  • Photocopy of Passport
  • Credit Cards W/Pin
  • AAA Card
  • Small Notebook
  • Back Pack
  • Batteries
  • Flash light
  • Snacks
  • Gift List
  • Scissors
  • Health Insurance Cards
  • Bank Card & Pin
  • License
  • Wallet
  • International DriversLicense
  • Auto Insurance
  • Student ID’sI
  • n Case of EmergencyCards
  • Ledger:  (Write down things we saw, money spent and by whom, things charged and by whom.

Travel with Dogs

  • Dog food
  • Crate
  • Dog Bowls
  • Vet Records
  • Harnesses
  • Dog coats
  • Leashes
  • Water
  • Nail clipper
  • Meds and Peanut Butter
  • Brushes
  • Dental stuff
  • “No Chew”
  • Toys
  • Carpet Cleaner


  • Puzzles
  • Stamps
  • Bird book
  • Playing Cards
  • Books on Tape
  • Books
  • Tape Recorder
  • Crafts
  • Writing ideas & Paper
  • Friends Addresses, Phone Numbers, Email
  • Laptop/plug

 Kitchen Stuff when Cabin/Camping

  • Knives
  • Forks
  • Ziploc Bags
  • Spoons
  • Thermos for Car
  • Can Opener
  • Dish Washing Liquid
  • Plates
  • Bowls
  • Cups
  • Dutch Oven
  • Strainer
  • Fry Pan
  • Pots
  • Cooler
  • Spatula
  • Dish Scrubber
  • Aluminum Foil
  • Plastic Storage Container
  • Matches
  • Camp stove and fuel
  • Charcoal

Last Minute Stuff:

  •  Double check for Tickets, Passports, Credit Cards, ID, Cash, and License.
  • Pack Deodorant, Alarm Clock, Pillow, Blanket, Toothbrush, and Cell Phone with charger.
  • Make sure that there is nothing in your luggage that would disturb airport security.
  • Pill and feed dogs.
  • Put water in thermos, and water for dogs.
  • Remove perishables from fridge.
  • Get ice for cooler.
  • Change Phone Message.
  • Leave Money, Key, Vet Records, contact info, and Instructions for Dog Sitter.  Also change sheets and put out fresh towels. Leave lights on for dog sitter. Confirm receipt of key and arrival time.
  • Dispose of any trash or recycles.
  • Adjust Thermostat, and make sure burners are off and faucets aren’t dripping.  If no one is going to stay at the house, shut off as many breakers as possible. Unplug things.

luggage full and ready to travel

[Image credit:]