Archive for the 'Travel' Category

Amazing packing tip!

I was looking at two things on my bed. One, the “absolutely must to be taken, one way or the other” pile of stuff, and two, the open carry-on bag into which it all had to fit. I was overwhelmed. The volume of the former far exceeded the capacity of the latter. My bag has a zipper extension feature that lets me expand the bag, making it a couple inches deeper, and I had already unzipped it in anticipation of “The Great Cram,” but even with that, it was clear that the situation was impossible. None of my stuff was optional, and there was no way for that bag to hold it all. If only there were some way to compress it.

Then I had an absolutely brilliant idea. Or, more accurately, I remembered someone else’s brilliant idea. I never got the lady’s name, so I can’t credit her, but a number of months ago, when I was in Walmart looking for super-sized Zip-loc bags to store our washed and dried lettuce, a lady was putting a box of two-gallon Zip-locs in her cart. When she saw me picking up a box and considering them, she mentioned that they were great and that she used them for everything, especially when traveling. I was curious, she was enthusiastic, and now I know why. She said she put shoes in them, used them for dirty clothes, and especially loved the fact that she could use them to squeeze all the air out and compress things so they’d take up a lot less space.

Well! Who’da thunk?!? I happened to have some two-gallon Zip-locs downstairs, so I brought them up and proceeded to fill several of them with all my fabric items that could stand to be crushed – socks, undies, PJs’, a jacket, winter gear, etc.

I proceeded to lean heavily and/or lie down upon heavily on each loaded bag, carefully zipping and squeezing until each one was “vacuum-sealed.” I then stacked each rock-solid packet into the suitcase, and, lo and behold, it closed – with room to spare!!! There was so much room to spare that I zipped closed the extension, and it STILL closed easily!

How did I ever live this many years without learning such a wonderful tip?


Travelogue – part 1

Sunday 12/30/18 – Katie asks me to come visit her in February over the long President’s Day weekend. I gladly agree, and she generously books my flights! I will leave on Friday 2/15/19 and return on Tuesday 2/19/19. We’ll have three full days together.

Tuesday 2/12/19 – Katie informs me that a minor accumulation of SNOW is forecast for Saturday in Gordonsville!!! She has a pair of snow boots I could use if I wanted. Schedule-wise, I would be arriving Charlottseville at 9:36 PM, and we’d have a 30-minute drive home. We had previously planned to tour the Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden on Saturday, go to church and have lunch with her pastors on Sunday, and do whatever we wanted on Monday. I’d be flying back out of Charlottesville at 9:45 AM Tuesday. The snow might require alteration of our garden tour plan, but who could complain about snow?!? = )

Wednesday 2/13/19 – listening to a podcast, I hear a woman talking about her attitude in some unexpected circumstance, and her phrase, “I’m going on an adventure!” sticks with me. I tend to obsess (a nice word for worry) about the details of (pretty much anything and everything), and I had been umm… obsessing… about how I was going to pack regular clothes, church clothes, things for use in transit (phone, books, food, etc.), all my normal daily stuff for a total of five days away, plus winter gear, ALL in one carry-on and my laptop bag. So after hearing that woman’s phrase, I decided, “That’s how I’m going to approach everything about this trip: I’m going on an adventure!”

Thursday 2/14/19 – having finally gotten caught up on a number of work, ministry, and family/home-related responsibilities, I began to pack. It was a pretty detailed project, and as I packed, God said to me, “Remember, I’ve got you in this.” I thought that was odd, but thanked him, filed that statement away, and kept packing.

To be continued…

Postcard memories

For years, I collected postcards. As a homeschooling mom, I thought they would be a great way to expose our kids to geography; you know, interesting places, excellent photos, good conversation-starters. It was a nice idea in theory, and it would have been effective if I had actually executed my plan! However, as it turned out, I just ended up collecting and – as you might imagine if you know me very well – organizing postcards for well over twenty years.

Originally they lived in a shoe box, and when they outgrew that, I bought them a nice, roomy, lidded plastic storage box, within which I rubber-banded them together alphabetically by state and then by nation. That storage box has been unopened – well, very rarely opened – on a shelf in our office closet for a number of years that I am embarrassed to even try to calculate, but in my current declutter-my-life phase, I’m tackling the office closet. And therefore, I am, yes, sorting through postcards.

I’ve decided to keep only the ones that have real meaning to me – ones my mom or other special people have sent me, ones with photos of particularly meaningful places, or ones that bring back really neat memories. The rest, most of which were never mailed or even written on, are going to the thrift store. Well, I am keeping a few blank ones for personal use.  = )

Yesterday, I got through Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Arizona, California, and Colorado, and in the process, I learned or was reminded of these facts:

~ The world’s highest suspension bridge is over the Arkansas River at Royal Gorge near Canon City, CO, and the hanging railroad bridge built down along the river there in 1879 is still in use today!

~ The world’s largest hand-dug well is at Greensburg, KS. (I’m not sure how that card got in the A-C stack.)

~ When we were at Mesa Verde, CO, we evidently didn’t see the most interesting ruin.

~ The 14-mile road to the top of Mt. Evans (CO) is the highest paved road in North America.

~ El Capitan in Yosemite National Park is just amazing.

~ I remember very fondly our day trip to Muir Woods (CA) with Josiah in a stroller. Also cable cars and the Golden Gate bridge.

~ I still have the big pine cone I picked up on my solitary, snowy drive up around Lake Tahoe the day I went exploring while Becky, Milt, and Scott were skiing.

~ Nebo Steps (AR) is a killer trail, and watching hang gliders launch from the top of Mt. Nebo is thrilling.

~ As a kid, from time to time we’d take little day trips to Hot Springs, AR and walk around. I enjoyed that.

~ I liked Blanchard Springs (AR) Caverns as a kid and again as an adult with our own kids. That was one of our very first family camping trips, and we were using Scott’s parents’ massive, old, two-room canvas tent from Africa. That was the same trip where 18 month-old Jessica woke me up in the middle of the night with her ecstatic, piercingly shrill, “It’s a BIBLE, Mommy!!!!” She had found the Beginner’s Bible on the floor of the tent.

~ The Petrified Forest (AZ) is one of the strangest places I’ve seen.

~ Gulf Shores was clearly MUCH less developed when my first family was there in the early 1970s than when our current family was back there in 1998. 25 years makes a big difference!

~ In 1980, a first-class stamp cost $0.15.

~ No matter the time of day or lighting conditions, no matter your specific vantage point, and no matter how many times you pause to look, if you are walking on the south rim trail along the Grand Canyon while your husband and 16 yo son are spending parts of two days hiking to the bottom and back up, you will never be bored by the view.

Yellowstone by the numbers

3518 miles driven

318 (our Grant Village campground site #)

80 mph – speed limit in Wyoming and South Dakota (although the head wind made it hard to get up to 75 mph)

65 potty stops and/or bathroom runs for Patty, estimated

49 unique U.S. license plates recorded (all but Washington, D.C. and Hawaii)

30 buffalo (“bison”) seen grazing in Hayden Valley

27 mosquitoes on Katie’s sweatshirt while hiking the Pelican Creek trail

22 campground showers taken by 7 people (sixteen free, six at $4.51 each)

21 gas fill-ups

19 pieces of campfire wood scavenged

14 stops to re-tape the camper window (“Oh, no! The the tape is flapping!”)

12 glorious days of vacation

11 nights away (one in a hotel in Denver, CO; eight in a camper in Yellowstone! = ); one in a hotel in Keystone, SD; one-half in a hotel in Sioux Falls, SD

9.6 overall mpg

8 jaunts to wash dishes in cold water (carrying pots of hot water in addition to all the dishes and washing supplies)

7 large containers of food purchased, stored (three coolers + four flip-top boxes), prepared, and eaten; many wonderful meals (thank you, Jessica!), yummy snacks (Chex Mix), and tasty desserts (LaShell’s Awesome Bars, Peach Cobbler, Chocolate Gooey Butter Cake)

6 loads of laundry done

6 Canadian license plates recorded

5 adult kids (from Gordonsville, VA; Hong Kong; Palo Alto, CA; and Walnut Shade, MO) ALL TOGETHER in Yellowstone!!!!

4 mule deer (silently walking through our campsite, three of them only 25 feet from our picnic table)

4 gorgeous waterfalls (Lower Yellowstone Falls, Kepler Cascades, Virginia Cascades, Gibbon Falls)

3 amazing geysers (Beehive, Old Faithful, Lone Star)

2 and 1/2 mile hike to Mystic Falls = sunburned scalps

2 “real deal” boiling mud pots seen and smelled (Artist Paint Pots)

1 Old Faithful Buffalo, seen on three different occasions

1 memorable campsite (#241) and amphitheater, both in Canyon campground

1/2 roll of duct tape expended in camper repairs

innumerable games played (Bridge, Corn Hole, Harry Potter, Dominion Adventures, Bridge, Seven Wonders, Five Crowns, Cuppers, Bohnanza, Corn Hole, Bridge… )

lots and lots and lots of pictures taken

many, many special memories made  = )


Jeopardy question: What is three hundred twenty-six?

Answer: The number of emails that arrived in my inbox during the 12 days we were away on our amazing Yellowstone vacation.

I could also mention the (literal) seven-inch high stack of snail mail.

It took me several days, but I have now gone through all the print mail, and I’ve dealt with or deleted all but 80 of the emails. Re-entry progress is being made.


Déjà vu again

In traveling home from Waxhaw, to get to our lodgings in Townsend (“The Peaceful Side of the Smokies”), we had to first drive through Pigeon Forge and then 15 miles over the mountains. And although I had never before been to that town, and although it was 10:30 at night, Pigeon Forge was a very familiar place. As best I could tell, evidently someone just took Branson’s Highway 76 strip from the Ozarks and plunked it down in the Smokies.

Driving down the main drag in Pigeon Forge was really uncanny. Everything – and I do mean everything – was exactly the same as home, from the terrain (rolling, wooded hills and tumbling streams), to the restaurants (Outback, Cracker Barrel, Golden Corral), to the hotels (Hilton, Marriott, Comfort Inn & Suites), to the attractions (Titanic, Dolly Parton’s Stampede, The Track). I even saw two mountain coasters just like the ones recently constructed in Branson! As best I could tell, the only “Branson” thing Pigeon Forge lacks is Silver Dollar City. Well, it also seems to have fewer theaters than Branson, but then, I’m pretty sure that every town has fewer theaters than Branson!

[NOTE: I stand – or sit – corrected. Pigeon Forge has Dollywood to Branson’s Silver Dollar City and Splash Country to Branson’s White Water (where Andrew is life guarding today as I type, having had a save on his first shift of the season there two days ago!). All four of those theme parks are owned by Herschend Family Entertainment. Thank you Katie, for pointing that out.]

Jeopardy Question: What is 17 and-a-half?

Answer: The number of hours it takes to drive from Walnut Shade, MO to Waxhaw NC. Of course, Google says it takes 14 hours, 9 minutes, but Google doesn’t need a bathroom and leg stretch break every one and-a-half to two hours! We made better time coming home; we managed to do it in an even 17 hours, even with driving an hour out of our way to spend the night in Townsend, thus breaking the trip into two days of 5 hours and 12 hours, respectively.

I was actually OK to tackle the return trip in another (one) very long day, but on the way to Waxhaw, at about 16 hours in, when we knew we’d be doing again three days later, Scott said, “I really don’t think I can do this again.” So he researched all kinds of options for lodging on the way home, hoping to get a hotel on points in Nashville. That didn’t work out, and in fact, there was nothing available for any reasonable amount of points anywhere, but when he contacted the retreat center in Townsend we had stayed last fall for our WONDERFUL 30th anniversary, they graciously provided us a room in their lodge for only a donation toward their ministry. Since we knew we’d be arriving around 11:00 PM and leaving at 6:30 AM, they texted us directions to the room. When we got there, we found they had prepared one room with a sign on the door: “Scott and Patty Roberts,” AND another room directly across the hall with its sign: “Mr. Roberts.” What a blessing!