Travels Without Charley

April 2, 2011

A recent conversation with a friend caused me to reflect on my traveling experiences. I love to visit new places, and have been fortunate enough to have done a fair amount of traveling over the years.

The place I most want to visit is Italy. I still hope to get there someday. Back in the late seventies, I was drawn to England, most likely because of the “British Invasion.” Along with a few friends, I scraped up enough money to spend 10 days in London. I remember getting off the plane at Heathrow and marveling to myself, “I’m standing on another continent!” It was a dream come true. While we spent most of our time in London, we did get to a few other places, like Shakespeare’s home in Stratford-Upon-Avon.  Besides the usual attractions, we went to three plays in London, which was a great experience, as was exploring Westminster Abbey and the Tower of London.

I’ve always hoped for opportunities to do more overseas traveling, but, unfortunately, the only other country I’ve been to since then is Canada (not counting a very brief foray into Juarez, Mexico), and I didn’t have to cross any seas to get there. Canada is not without it’s appeal, though. I really like Toronto and Montreal, and Old Quebec City is quite charming. Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island have some of the most stunning scenery I’ve ever seen. I have a vivid memory of standing at the edge of a red cliff on P.E.I.,  gazing at the sea below, lost in my thoughts and in the majesty of my surroundings.

I’ve been to 43 of the 50 states. That is due in large part to a month long cross-country trip during the summer of 1996. One unforgettable experience was when we ventured across the El Paso pedestrian bridge that spans a sliver of the Rio Grande, and strolled into Juarez, Mexico.  The squalor we stepped into was an affront to the senses. On every block, we were assaulted by beggars (most of whom were women holding a baby in one hand and a cup in the other), shopkeepers promising to give us a “deal,” and taxi drivers volunteering their services rather aggressively. The girls were getting frightened, and that, combined with the oppressive poverty and the ugly manifestations of its resultant behaviors, persuaded us to bring our brief Mexican adventure to an end.

On to more pleasant experiences… Bourbon Street and the French Quarter in New Orleans. El Malpais National Monument in New Mexico.  In Arizona, The Painted Desert/Petrified Forest (ancient pueblo ruins and petroglyphs), Sunset Crater Volcano, Grand Canyon, and Wupatki Pueblo. Bryce Canyon in Utah (spectacular!). In California, the beach at Morro Rock, a peregrine falcon ecological preserve, where we collected sand dollars and admired the pelicans. (My favorite bird. I am also fascinated by cormorants and loons.) Carmel, Monterey, Big Sur, Sequoia National Park, Yosemite, Santa Barbara, San Francisco

I fell in love with the rocky coast of Oregon – Port Orford and Bandon by the-Sea, in particular. During a long, solitary walk along the shoreline, I discovered that two of the enormous rocks I encountered had natural arches. I passed through the first one and entered a tiny cove-like section of beach where I stood for quite a while, entranced, watching and listening as waves crashed against the rocks, admiring the indescribable beauty and wonder of it all.

Pike’s Market in Seattle. Lovely Lake Coeur d’Alene in Idaho. Glacier National Park in Montana. Yellowstone National Park and Devil’s Tower (where we did our only night of camping, and had the unexpected experience of witnessing one of nature’s most terrifying yet magnificent lightning shows) in Wyoming. Mount Rushmore and Badlands National Park in South Dakota.

I’ve also been to Hawaii. Besides Oahu, we visited the black sand beaches and volcanoes of the Big Island and the paradise that is Kauai, where we had a pretty thrilling ride in a helicopter (under a rainbow).

Another thing that speaks to my sense of adventure is sailing – something my ex introduced me to. One time, when we were sailing in Maine, we were lucky enough to witness a meteor shower.  Another unforgettable experience was gliding by the highlands of the Hudson River in the stillness of the night. That was truly awe-inspiring. Then there was the time we sailed from Ft. Lauderdale to the Bahamas, where I sampled turtle, and rode in a seaplane.  Yes, I’ve had adventures…

I’ve hiked and biked, swam and explored. I rolled down huge sand dunes in North Carolina with my daughters. I toured the Everglades in an airboat, and crossed paths with an alligator on the boardwalk of a marsh trail in Louisiana. I poked around cave dwellings at Mesa Verde in Colorado. In South Dakota, I had a wild donkey thrust its head into my car window (giving me quite a start, I must admit). I watched the “pony swim” in Chincoteague, Virginia and pet wild ponies in a beach parking lot on Assateague Island in Maryland.

I’ve done all those things and much more, yet it’s not enough, never enough. I crave changes of scenery. And for much of my life, I’ve been able to satisfy that craving. Sadly, that has not been the case more recently.  The thing that has been holding me back is lack of money. I haven’t been able to afford to take a vacation for the past few years, and that has definitely affected my spirit. A change of scenery is rejuvenating – it really does recharge my batteries. I was so hoping that I’d be able to get away this summer, but the tax situation (we owe over a thousand dollars) blasted that hope to smithereens.

Being stuck in this rut for yet another year is going to be an even more bitter pill to swallow now that my wanderlust has been aroused.

Song of the Day:  Wanderlust by Bjork

“Wanderlust, relentlessly craving
Wanderlust, peel off the layers
Until you get to the core.”

5 Responses to “Travels Without Charley”

  1. Jim said

    Yeah, I’m longing to do some vacation traveling but this will be the 3rd year in a row that we are spending money on our house rather than going on a vacation. I really should say 4th year in a row because in 2008 we gave up our long-planned 30th anniversary trip to England, but we did at least get to California for a week (visiting Nancy’s youngest brother who was living there). I figure I’m two years from retirement and I would like to think we would finally get to take those long-postponed trips, but I am terrified that those jerks in Washington are brewing up some runaway inflation that will make our retirement income melt away.

  2. Bex said

    I had all but given up thinking about world travel, and your entry was nice. Thanks. I have no realistic hope of ever traveling very far again, though, and not only because of the high price of travel these days but because of poor health preventing the actual trip. But we have good memories, as do you.

  3. Dee said

    Sorry to hear that, Stephanie. Hope you can design a stay-cation and have some short and cheap day trips or weekends away nearby that will help the situation.

  4. LA said

    ‘For somebody who don’t drive I’ve been all around the world. Some people say I’ve done all right for a girl…’

    Seriously though your trips were awesome. ~LA

  5. Terri T said

    Travel is wonderful when you can afford it and are healthy enough to enjoy it. I loved the Coastline ride from Oregon down California and the Grand Canyon and some of the other places you mentioned. We’ve never gone to Hawaii yet although that is a place I would love to see.

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