Thursday, October 21, 2010

The Epic Expedition: In The Middle

They say everything is bigger in Texas. I’m not sure if that’s true but I can tell you that we covered some serious mileage in that state. After spending a day and a half in the Dallas – Fort Worth area it was time to brave the desolation of west Texas. There’s not much to look at but miles of dry open space with a few cotton and hay fields for good measure. 

Amarillo was nice enough to welcome us by late afternoon. The famed Big Texan Steak Ranch was on our list of roadside stops. If you can eat the 72 oz. steak dinner in one hour, it’s free. As much as I like a free meal, that one just wasn’t worth the digestive cost.

After driving 712 miles through the state of Texas alone, we crossed into The Land of Enchantment as the sun was sinking. I do believe those are bullet holes in the welcome sign. New Mexico isn’t very enchanting to me but what do I know?   

Next up, Colorado - and a weeklong pause. Taking the southern route from Raton, NM, we stopped at the Great Sand Dunes National Park.

The wheels stopped rolling while we stayed at Leah’s parents home. The Parker ranch sits at the base of Grand Mesa, in Cedaredge Colorado. This sleepy town holds the paradox of being so far from my current life and yet it’s still so much a part of who I am. This valley and the surrounding mountains are branded on me.

Autumn in the Rockies is like the grand finale of fireworks on the 4th of July. The month of October is when the hills explode in 3-D color. The rugged peaks slide into winter with a dazzling display. Gold, red, orange, and brown are woven like ribbons among the evergreens.

Hiking the largest flat-topped mountain in the world was an afternoon delight.

360 degrees of breathtaking views filled each morning and evening.

With that, our stay in colorful Colorado has come to an end. The last leg of this journey is straight ahead. 

Thursday, October 14, 2010

The Epic Expedition: Week One

When a great adventure is offered, you don't refuse it. -Amelia Earhart

Day 1:

Virginia Beach waved farewell and the mid-Atlantic disappeared in the rearview mirror by late afternoon. A solid 8 hours later we rolled into Asheville, North Carolina. The one mission for the first day of this trip was to eat at “Salsa” in downtown Asheville. When we realized that our arrival was going to be past the restaurant’s closing time, we needed to act fast to make certain that this mission was a success. Leah called ahead and begged them to have our order ready, then we promised to be “just a few minutes past 10:00pm” to pick it up. The Mexican-Caribbean cuisine was well worth the effort. Grilled tortilla pockets filled with adobe steak, brie, grilled onions, roasted veggies, and annatto-coconut sauce created a flavor experience that hit the spot at the end of a long but successful opening day. 

Day 2:
Back on the road. The morning sun sparkled like a gold coin in the cloudless sky… until smoke billowed up from a ravine on the left side of the road. A few miles later it wafted across the highway and a bit further it enveloped the whole of the landscape. Without any flames there was no need for alarm. Coming out of the fog it was clear, there’s a reason why they’re called The Smoky Mountains.

Have you ever daydreamed about petting pink elephants and wished that a genie would come through on this one request? I thought so. I am here to tell you that wishes do come true so never give up on dreaming the impossible. 

The mission for day two was to sneak into Nashville, Tennessee. With the help of my brother in law, Sean, my sister, Kari was surprised and excited when she came home from the gym to see us sitting in her living room. I heart surprises. Spanning the diversity that is NashVegas, the early evening saw us at a luau in a horse pasture complete with a carriage ride on the historical property of The Hermitage. Then, the late night took us to the Coyote Ugly Saloon to make our own bit of history. I cannot confirm or deny that dancing on the bar occurred. 

Day 3:
If you find yourself in Nashville, let me recommend that you pump iron at the downtown YMCA. Three levels of state of the art workout equipment, including a cardio cinema, a rooftop pool as well as an indoor pool, and a spotless locker-room / lounge. If sweating is not your thing, you can still be a part of the action by gettin’ your groove on in the rocking chairs provided in the main workout area.

No visit to Nash would be complete without getting a dose of live music. Music City didn’t disappoint. We stopped by 3rd and Lindsley, a local dive bar, for an evening with Andy Hackbarth and Jessica Campbell. Live music is soothing to the soul. And with that, we wrapped up our stay in middle Tennessee. 

Day 4:
Crossing over the Mighty Mississippi River, Arkansas greeted us with cotton fields and sparse patches of changing leaves. Little Rock was the stop of the day. Leah’s aunt and uncle extended their hospitality to us in their beautiful home overlooking the Arkansas River. 

Day 5:
Downtown Little Rock may be known for the Clinton Presidential Library but Leah and I were there for something far more exciting. The Peabody Hotel duck parade. At precisely 11am, five Mallards came down the elevator to the lobby from their penthouse duck palace. The Duck Master directed them as they marched to John Phillips Sousa. They waddled down the red carpet to take their place in the fountain where they swim from 11a to 5p each day. 

Day 6:
Day of R & R in Arlington, Texas

Thursday, October 7, 2010

The Epic Expedition

"People grow through experience if they meet life honestly and courageously. This is how character is built."         - Eleanor Roosevelt
Today is the start of what has been termed The Epic Expedition.
For the next 3 weeks I will be joining a dear friend on the road as we traverse from sea to shining sea of these United States.
To set this up, I must tell you about the pioneer of this journey. Back when I was a youngin’ of 10 years old, my family moved from Florida to Colorado. Soon after, my parents put my 2 younger sisters and I in AWANA at the local Baptist church. It was there that we met Jenine and Leah, our first friends in the new town. My sister Kari and I became best friends with this pair of sisters. There was 4-H, camping, milking cows, irrigating pastures, riding horses, raising sheep, and of course the discovery of boys. All of these things led to outlandish shenanigans for which the stories are endless. Western Colorado was (and still is) the country way of life and we extracted all that we could from it as we grew up together.
Now we are all grown up.
Leah is a helicopter pilot in the Navy and has been based in Virginia Beach, VA for several years.  She has new orders in the Seattle, WA area and has asked me to join her as she moves her life from coast to coast. Leah is one of the most amazing people in my life and it is my pleasure to share this time of transition with her.
So, with 4,120 miles in front of us, we are setting out on the Epic Expedition.
Stay tuned for tales from the road…

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Anxiety Alighted

At 4:08am the switch in my brain flipped to the “on” position. Wide-awake. The last time I looked at the clock it was 1:32am, a few brief hours ago. Turning on my left side, I fluffed the pillow, pulled the covers up and folded my hands underneath my chin. After 4 minutes of lying there with my eyes closed but my head deep in the ocean of thoughts, I turned to the opposite side. Once again, I tried all the same things to get my brain to fall back asleep.

Like the white noise of the box fan in my window, anxiety has been filling the background lately. Some days I don’t want to eat anything. Other days I make up for it by eating everything. At times I don’t want to see or talk to anyone. Other times I can’t stand to be alone. I am tired during the day and can’t sleep at night. There are no tears, just a lot of nerves.

What is the next step? Will I move? How will I pay the bills? Who will be in my life? How will the landscape of my relationships change? What do I really want to be pursuing right now? What is my direction? WHERE IS MY PLAN?  The reasons to be anxious flood me.

I am learning that the unanswered questions aren’t the end of the world. The lack of direction, though completely unnerving, makes room for new possibilities and lends the place for a change of course. The uncertainty that my head wants to control and my heart wants to dispel is teaching me to trust.

Be still my anxious heart… and let my brain go back to sleep.