Living in the Moment: Trinidad, Santa Fe and the drive from Hell #MondayBlogs #travel

If you’re new to my blog and want to know how this road trip began, click here for the first post. For our time in Casper, Wyoming, click here. For our experience with the Total Solar Eclipse, click here.

We left Wyoming in good spirits. Interstate 25 was a pleasant drive, even if the speed limit was 80. I’m a speed limit driver for the most part so it irks me when drivers in the right lane try to push me (seemingly literally at times) to go faster. No such anxiety in Wyoming. Believe it or not, drivers on I25 were pretty laid back. So laid back that I actually did drive the speed limit in order to pass RVs that were chugging up hills. I was comfortable with the attitude of the drivers around me who didn’t seem to care how fast or slow anyone else was driving, as long as no one made a fuss about it. You see, deep down, I hate driving. If I could live my life, traveling included, without ever having to set foot on a gas pedal, I would happily do so.

But I digress. And that relaxing exit out of Wyoming wasn’t going to last anyway.

We turned south, our destination Trinidad, Colorado. Yes, there is a Trinidad in Colorado and the town has a pretty interesting history. It was once known as the “Sex Change Capital of the World.” You can read all about it on Wikipedia:,_Colorado.

My husband picked Trinidad because it was only a few hours from the border with New Mexico and we had business to attend to in Colorado. Anyway, traffic picked up once we left Wyoming. Makes sense, we thought. More people, less land. We stopped in Fort Collins to fill up our stomachs as well as the Prius and to have a look-see. It seemed like a nice town although pretty congested with cars and humanity.

Hell began as soon as we got back on the interstate. From Fort Collins to Colorado Springs, it was bumper-to-bumper traffic across all five lanes of the interstate. Sometimes we sat in traffic. Sometimes we crawled. Often other drivers would cut in front of us as if leap frogging in stop-and-go traffic was an intelligent design. Twice we almost had a fender bender.

Hell on wheels

The worst part was seeing time slip away from us. We wouldn’t get to Trinidad before dark. I made the most of it by taking pictures, of course.

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I had driven us to Fort Collins and then my husband manned the steering wheel, assuming he would take us all the way into Trinidad. He couldn’t do it. Sixty miles outside the town, the sun already set, he pulled over and we switched out. I’m not a fan of driving at night, especially when I don’t know where I am. It was very very dark along this part of I25 and all I could do was follow the red lights of the traffic in front of me. Finally, close to 9 pm, my husband woke from his much-needed nap and navigated me to the Holiday Inn. Once we were settled in our room, it was all I could do to take a shower and crawl into bed.

This particular Holiday Inn had a restaurant so the next morning we treated ourselves to a proper breakfast, our conversation peppered with promises to never drive I25 through Colorado ever again. We had a bit of time to spare before heading for Santa Fe, so we first took care of some personal business and then went on a drive through downtown. Yes, I wish I had taken pictures of what looked like 200-year-old buildings lining the main street. We were exploring but we were also on a mission. Greg wanted to wash the car. We found an old-time car wash … the kind where you plunk in change (only now you can use your credit car) and wield a hose and brush yourself. While he washed the car, I took the opportunity for a couple of photos.

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Finally we were on our way to Santa Fe. I drove so I couldn’t take pictures but trust me when I say that this section of I25, between Trinidad and Santa Fe, was just beautiful. Clouds, clouds, clouds. I joked to Greg that he could spend the rest of his life just taking time-lapses of the clouds, they were so many and so varied. You could see dark storm clouds off in the distance to your left, and fluffy snow-white clouds on your right. The landscape was fairly green and vast.

For Santa Fe, we had decided to stay at an Airbnb. This is only the fourth time we’ve used Airbnb but each time has been a great experience. What I like best is that we’re able to stay in a neighborhood, be around residents, not just other tourists. It gives us a better feeling for what it might be like to live in the city we’re visiting. Plus, you can dine at home and save $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$.

I had reserved the Sunny Adobe Casita for three nights. Within five minutes of looking around, Greg asked if we could possibly stay an extra night.

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Unfortunately at the time, the Sunny Adobe Casita was already booked for the next two months so we couldn’t stay an extra night. Just as well since by the time we left we were planning a route home that would keep us north of Hurricane Harvey.

Next week I’ll wrap up my travelogue with our trip to the Georgia O’Keefe Museum and Hyde Memorial State Park for more clouds.

Thanks for stopping by!




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Scars: A Portrait of Life

Here is a powerful essay by an extraordinary woman. For any woman who lives with a scarred body, this essay is a must-read.
I’ve been revisiting my issues around my own scars, what they mean to me, what they say about me, how can I see them as beautiful since I have no choice but to live with them because they will never fade away. After reading Dana’s essay, I think I can now embrace them.

DCTdesigns Creative Canvas

The first question on the intake questionnaire was, “Why have you decided to have boudoir portraits taken now?” My first thought was, Why has it taken me so long? After everything my body has been through, it is long overdue. I’m not getting any younger, after all. I’ve already begun to list the organs I have left that I am able to live without.

During my senior year in high school, I performed in a play of one-act monologues: Talking With, by Jane Martin. My monologue was called “Marks”. A woman, unmarked by life, is cut by a suitor in a parking lot. Surprisingly, her scar would bring confidence. So she began to wear her life upon her skin, tattoos for those who touched her. Little did I comprehend the prophetic nature of those words as I spoke them.

I want to celebrate the body I have today, battered and…

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Living in the Moment: Total Solar Eclipse #MondayBlogs #totalsolareclipse

If you’re new to my blog and want to know how this road trip began, click here for the first post. For our time in Casper, Wyoming, click here.

Now from where I left off last week, we still had a couple of days before the main event. Most of Sunday was spent doing a “dry” run. My husband set up the canopy and a couple of chairs. The eclipse takes a couple of hours from start to finish so you do need to have some shade and a place to set your bum.

The motel had a large gravel turnout for semi-trucks and that’s where my husband wanted to set up. In fact, he had scoped out the area on Google Earth weeks before we arrived. The primary concern was to make sure his Canon T3i and laptop were communicating. My husband is the “gear head” in the family. He brought his camera, laptop and solar telescope on this trip. Doesn’t sound like much until you factor in the tripods, lenses, and sundry other small and irreplaceable accessories. We had to attach a platform to our Prius, effectually extending our trunk, to accommodate his gear. In contrast: Just give me yarn and two wooden needles and I’m good 🙂

Making sure all the equipment is going to work … and that we’ll have shade.

The dry run was successful and the rest of the day was quiet. We were conserving our energy. After an early dinner at a local (and really, really good) BBQ, we walked around a bit, trying to wind down so we might sleep. It was a lovely evening.

Night sky. Evansville, WY

And then we saw that an RV had set up in the gravel turnout where my husband had been earlier that day. Dang! We were afraid of that and yet Greg hadn’t wanted to park the car out there too soon. Worried that other eclipse chasers might turn up in the wee hours of the morning and take all the good spots, Greg parked our car in the turnout, on the other side. At least it was still visible from our window.

The moon was scheduled to “kiss” the sun around 10:22 am and move across, with totality at about 11:43 am. We would have totality (the moon completely covering the sun) for about 2 minutes. Everyone at the motel was up early, in part because no one really slept, including us. We were all on pins and needles.

And then there were the newcomers. To our disappointment, a trio of young people from Colorado were parked right next to us. There was plenty of space still in the turnout, but, no, they had to park right next to us. They had only driven up to see the eclipse, to drink, smoke, whistle loudly, whoop and holler and make a general nuisance of themselves. The less said about them, the better.

Of course, I had to take a “before” picture.

The sun as it usually appears … big, bright and bold.

Once the partial eclipse began, nothing else matter. I spent the next hour viewing the movement of the moon through my eclipse shades, a pair of solar binoculars, or the solar telescope. Although I don’t consider myself a gear head, I spent a lot of time looking through the solar telescope and trying to take pictures. The following is my favorite.

A crescent sun. Taken with my iPhone through the eyepiece of Greg’s solar telescope.

Up until totality, there was little evidence that anything extraordinary was happening. The sun was blindingly bright right until the moon snapped shut over it.

The total solar eclipse taken with my iPhone.

For the photo above, you’ll have to use your imagination because what I saw with my naked eye was a black disk ringed with white fire. That’s the best description I can give. It was the most beautiful sight ever in my life. I did get choked up. My eyes were wet but I didn’t cry. I didn’t want to miss anything. I only had two minutes to sear this image on my brain.

But I did take the time to look behind me and see … twilight.

Twilight at 11:44 am.

Although the total eclipse lasted just over 2 minutes, it felt like 8 seconds. It was too soon when the first sliver of sun emerged and everything went back to normal. I can understand now why some people become eclipse chasers. Thankfully, because of Greg’s expertise, we will get to relive the experience over and over again. And this, dear friends, is what I saw with my naked eye …

One of still photos from my husband’s time lapse of the Total Solar Eclipse.

My husband is a perfectionist so it will be a long while before he’ll have the time lapse ready for viewing. But he is also playful …

The Total Solar Eclipse and the partials.

Next up: the drive from Hell and on into Santa Fe, New Mexico!

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Living in the Moment: Casper, WY #MondayBlogs #Wyoming

If you’re new to my blog and want to know how this road trip began, click here for the first post.

We arrived in Evansville, WY, just outside Casper, in the evening, early enough to take a walk around and become oriented to our new “home” for the next few days. To our surprise and delight, we found a “rail trail” that would take us all the way into Casper. Following are some photos of the trail, overpass and tunnel.

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Downtown Casper was pretty interesting. Well, this was just plain weird:

The Dick Cheney Federal Building. Seriously.

Although my husband doesn’t like to have his photo shared on social media, it was his idea to pose:

The convention that made this trip possible. And my husband doing his best cowboy impression.

The Chamber of Commerce was one place we stopped to pick up maps and to gawk at this “water feature”:

Since the trail is about 2.9 miles one way, the next day we elected to walk into town, assuming we could find a bus back to Evansville. (Spoiler alert: we assumed wrong and wound up walking all the way back. Over 20,000 steps went on my Fitbit that day.)

We spent some time at the convention and then went searching for Hell’s Half Acre, a 320-acre geologic wonder of ravines and rock formations. We had seen pictures. We were prepared to be awed. It was only a 40-mile drive from Casper. We had snacks and water with us. And long underwear.

Hell’s Half Acre wasn’t hard to find. As we approached, to our left stood tall chain-linked and barbed wire fencing. Yup, the geologic wonder was not just closed but sealed off.

I should have taken out my iPhone and started snapping the fences that obstructed our view, but I was too upset. And my husband … more so. We had researched Hell’s Half Acre. We already knew the original diner and motel were no longer there. We already knew there would be no amenities. An aerial view on Google maps suggested that we should be able to view the rock formations and ravines. All we had wanted to do was park and film.

My husband found an opening in the fencing and decided to investigate, see if it would be worth dragging his gear through. I sat on a splintery post and wondered if we would be both charged with trepassing, or just Greg. I mean, there were no “No Trespassing Signs” to be seen. And we had come all the way from Florida so we could put the “duh” into Flori-duh if needed.

Greg came back, still angry but now resigned (to my relief) to the fact that the county meant to keep people out. There was nothing to be done but find the nearest supermarket, buy some wine, and drown our disappointment.

Since he failed to achieve the Holy Grail of a time lapse of the Milky Way over Hell’s Half Acre, the next day Greg decided that we would drive up to a scenic outlook on Casper Mountain Road. There he would film a time lapse of Casper as the sun set and city lights came on. Following are my humble iPhone photos and video.

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Next week: the eclipse! Let’s hope I can show you more than just my humble iPhone renditions. (I keep telling my husband, the photos don’t have to be perfect … ).


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One of my favorite novels: Town Father by Kevin Brennan.

I’ve been dipping into my indie catalog lately, featuring an excerpt from the books I’ve published since 2013. This week it’s Town Father‘s turn. This might well be the only historical fiction I ever write, unless you consider a novel set in the early 1970s to be historical fiction. Maybe so. But I had never […]

via Revisiting Town Father — WHAT THE HELL

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Update: On Hold Yet Again #HurricaneIrma #TGIF

We are fine. Irma was still a bitch but in lowercase letters. We prepared for the worst and it didn’t happen, at least not to us. We have power and some minor debris to clean up, but that’s it. So, now, please turn your attention back to those are still suffering from Harvey and Irma, from the wildfires in the West, from the earthquake in Mexico, from the monsoons and floods across the globe. There is still plenty of suffering going on.


I had hoped to be more active on my blog since our return from our road trip. Unfortunately, Irma (no friend of mine) has other ideas. As many of you already know, Hurricane Irma has torn up islands in the Caribbean, leaving devastation in its wake. Its path is set on Florida but still we’re not exactly sure where in South Florida it will make landfall. Just that it will sometime late Saturday. The latest report (as of 10 AM, 9/7/2017) is Irma is expected to go straight up the center of Florida and then veer out west.
At this point, we can only hope that those who should evacuate heed those orders and take shelter. Irma is a B-I-T-C-H. This one hurricane is likely to be more devastating than the combined impact of the hurricanes that criss-crossed Florida in 2004 and 2005.

My heart is heavy with worry for my fellow Floridians. I live in north Florida, near the border with Georgia. At worst, we’ll have tropical storm conditions and power outages.

That’s why I’m posting this now and why I’m turning off scheduled posts for the time being. Why post when I might not have the power (literally and figuratively) to respond to comments?

In meantime, please enjoy what a few of my friends are up to.

There’s a delightful post on Jill Weatherholt’s blog featuring John Howell’s fur children:

Katie Sullivan is able to sleep now that she’s started the third book in her Changelings series: For a review of the first book of her series, Into the Mist, go here:

Finally, friend and fellow blogger/writer Phillip McCollum has been setting writing goals and keeping them, to the delight of his readers:

Okay, this should keep y’all busy for awhile. Cheers and stay safe wherever you are.


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On the Road: Joan Osborne and “Work on Me”

My husband has become so smitten with Joan Osborne (2 CDs on our trip) that I’m (almost) jealous:

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Living in the Moment: Carhenge and Clouds #MondayBlogs #Carhenge #clouds

Context: Two years ago my husband and I (well, mostly my husband) started planning a trip to see the Total Solar Eclipse. Not the Partial Solar Eclipse which would be and was visible in Tallahassee. No, the Total as in TOTAL. And the Solar Eclipse, not the car.

Originally we were going to go to Madras, Oregon, and because my husband would need to bring a lot of gear, we would have to drive. Ah, those were innocent days when we talked about driving all the way to Oregon, maybe staying at a B-and-B close by, taking time to visit friends in the state, maybe try to squeeze in a visit to the San Francisco Bay Area . . ..

Yeah, well, my husband and I always have big ideas when we don’t have to act on them.

About a year ago, my husband learned that the Astronomical League would hold its annual national convention in Casper, Wyoming, over a few days before the eclipse. Casper was in the path of totality. Why drive all the way to Madras when we could save time (and money) by going to Casper? This was probably one of the smartest decisions we (ever) made. My husband is a member of the Astronomical League and so he was able to obtain hotel accommodations at a discount. The main hotel was already booked solid, but we were able to get one of the last rooms in Evansville, just outside Casper.

I left my husband in charge of the remaining accommodations for our trip, along with the itinerary.

The first two days of driving were not much fun as it seemed to take forever to get out of the southeast. Two-lane interstates where semi-trucks played leapfrog with each other and automobile drivers with frayed nerves jockeyed to get around them. Our first stop was Olive Branch, Mississippi; the second was North Kansas City, Missouri. By the end of the second day, I was convinced that I was too old for this kind of traveling and that I would need a stockpile of anti-anxiety drugs if I was ever to do it again.

In an upside-down kind of good fortune, we woke to a thunderstorm on our third day. We still had to get through Kansas and a bit of Nebraska before we’d reach Wyoming. We watched the weather and studied our paper maps. In times like this, our map apps are essentially useless. We found a highway we could turn on to from the interstate. Highway 36 aka the Pony Express Highway. We would be driving right into the storm, but it was moving fast and with any luck, we wouldn’t be wet for long.

The good fortune was in us having a need to get off the interstate. Interstates are presumably designed for speed but often they are at best boring, at worst ugly as sin with miles of billboards blocking what little scenery there might be. And those are the well-maintained interstates.

By contrast highways have a slower speed limit and fewer amenities such as rest stops but you get to see the country, you drive through small towns that you wouldn’t otherwise know existed. In Kansas we saw rolling green hills, miles of cornfields, dairy farms, cows lazing in the grass: it looked just like north New York, where I spent my childhood. I had no idea that Kansas could be so lovely. And the sky . . . so much sky. The storm had left behind some amazing clouds in its wake. Another thing you can do on a highway that you can’t do on an interstate: pull over and take pictures.

Outside Fairview, Kansas:

A “roll cloud” … look it up.

During our drive, my husband reminisced about other cross-country trips he had taken and how unnerving it could be to see the Earth’s curvature. So when I turned around, away from the roll cloud and saw another cloud just barely visible at the horizon, I got a little queasy.

Cloud BELOW the horizon

Another advantage of driving highways is you can have side-trip adventures. Carhenge just happened to be on our way.

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Next stop North Platte, Nebraska and then on to Wyoming! And Happy Labor Day to all of you (including me) who are grateful to have the day off!

P.S. I’m back to writing an original once a week with occasional interludes. We’ll see how long this lasts.

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Kevin Brennan is giving away a FREE ebook in exchange for an honest review. Go to his blog for details. Check out his current reviews on Amazon to see what you’d be missing if you don’t take him up in this great deal. I’ve read each one of his books and loved each one too. And wrote reviews for each one … otherwise I’d be in line for a freebie 😉

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Meet Guest Author, Luanne Castle…

Here’s a little backstory on how Luanne came around to creating her wonderful chapbook, Kin Types.

Chris The Story Reading Ape's Blog

As a child, I loved reading about times past. Biographies of famous women like Lucrezia Borgia and Annie Oakley let me experience life in the periods in which they lived. Historical fiction lent a sense of adventure to realistic depictions of old England or the American colonial period. Time travel became my favorite fantasy.

But I never associated those times with my ancestors. The people who came before me were my three living grandparents, and the oldest person I knew, my grandfather’s aunt. I thought they had always been old.

As I became a teen, my grandfather began to tell me stories about our ancestors, and while they were interesting and I remembered them, I still didn’t put these relatives in my mind’s image of the Gilded Age and before. But then, when I was in college, my grandfather decided to show me his large collection of antique family portraits…

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