This Travel Works for Me

I’ve decided I really like taking a couple of weeks once a quarter or so and just going off and working somewhere else. It turns out I concentrate just as well, and it really refreshes my mindset, even though I miss the ranch a lot.

It was sort of a spooky morning.

I guess you’ll get to enjoy more travel updates from me in the future.

View up toward North Myrtle Beach. Many high-rises, not much nature.

Myrtle Beach, the tourism strip part, is pretty strange from a nature point of view. That’s because there just isn’t much to report. I’ve seen only four types of birds here (pelicans, seagulls, terns, and pigeons). I’ve seen no dolphins or fish, other than I think the gulls have caught some. And there is only a very narrow strip of dunes.

Looking down from my room, you can see there ain’t much of the dunes.
Thump thump thump

There isn’t much going on in the human-made flight or swimming, either. I’ve only seen two small planes, one towing a banner (of course, it’s a touristy place). And there has been ONE fishing boat. That is so weird, to only see one boat! No yachts, no tankers, no nothing. The one thing you can count on seeing, however, are red helicopters. At some times, they fly by every 30 seconds or so, giving people $20 rides. I am very glad Monday is a slow day, or maybe they are closed.

One plane.

There are occasional black or white helicopters from the “other” service, but the red ones must be raking in the income!

Other than the waves, the helicopters and the occasional screeching child, it’s pretty quiet here. Or, it was until someone decided to set fireworks off between 10-11 pm last night. That seemed to be a weird choice of Sunday night activity, and sure did shake the building.

Since I’m working today, that’s about all I will have for you until later this evening. At least I got a lot of good work done today!

A Well-Timed Garden Visit

Since we are all rested and wanting to see the eastern part of the USA, Lee and I decided to go to Pawley’s Island and Brookgreen Gardens today. I just had a hankering to see the island, since I’d read about it a lot, and you know, they make hammocks therethey make hammocks. Sure enough, it was small and cute, and consisted mostly of vacation homes that were quaint and nice. I enjoyed looking at the estuary and the marshes surrounding the island, but there weren’t really any places to get out and explore.

We instead found a nice little hamburger stand, and enjoyed a delicious burger and fries that were not fast food at all. That got us strengthened enough to head down the road to Brookgreen Gardens, where we hadn’t had a chance to go last year. Unfortunately, I’d forgotten to charge my watch, so I missed 6,700 or so steps. Dagnabbit.

I never saw so many different types of Japanese maple in my life!

That did not deter us from having a wonderful time, though. Just driving into the place we saw a cool black-headed squirrel and a brown thrasher. A real highlight though, was a brand-new exhibit in their galleries, which was devoted to American sculptures and other art featuring wildlife and domestic animals. You don’t see many sculptures of good ole dogs, so it was a real treat.

There were also beautiful sculptures of horses (they have LOTS of horses), birds, foxes, otters, and all sorts of animals, plus some great drawings and paintings. We enjoyed the small gallery of items from the people who had owned the land when it was three rice plantations. I was impressed to see a few depictions of where the enslaved people lived, and that they were labeled as such. And I give credit to the families who deeded the land to everyone to enjoy.

That’s a powerful horse

The outdoor part of this garden is immense. It’s certainly too big to see everything on the property in one day, so it’s good your tickets can be used for a week! We will come back later to see the zoo, labyrinth, and other areas we missed as we wandered from beautiful spot to beautiful spot, finding little hidden sculptures in niches, and grand sculptures in beautiful settings with ponds and fountains.

This is the 90th year of the gardens, and you can tell, because there are lots of imported and exotic specimen trees that have grown huge. There were many evergreen trees I’d never seen before, plus a couple of deciduous ones, like a very, very large swamp chestnut oak, festooned with gray Spanish moss. You could live under that thing.

I can see why this garden has won so many awards. It’s designed to provide new vistas everywhere you turn, and must be spectacular when azaleas and camellias are blooming. I found one camellia blossom.

Artistic camellia shot

It was funny how I kept flipping back and forth from wanting to take photos of some of the pretty cultivars of decorative plants to wanting to take photos of the views and native things. Thus, there are a lot of photos in this blog post.

There was wildlife, too! We found turtles, an alligator, geese, a very friendly cardinal, a black-and-white warbler, plus brown thrashers. We heard even more birds. This place sounds fantastic, so blind people could enjoy it (by the way, it is also very accessible for people using canes, walkers, or wheelchairs).

Of course, my favorite part is what they call “beyond the wall,” which is a creek and swamp where the rice fields used to be. I’m so fond of swamps, that my heart got racing as I found sedges, rushes, wild irises, and beautiful cypress knees. The path was just perfect for a swamp lover like me, but, I realized when I ran into a fellow using an electric wheelchair, that it was totally accessible to all (if you’re careful)!

After a quick trip to the gift shop, where I got a t-shirt and commemorative mugs, we headed to shop at Publix, which is kind of like a tourist attraction for people from the South. It’s just the nicest grocery store chain. I got some flowers for our room and the vitally important coffee filters for the condo. Whew. We’re all set now!

One lonely hydrangea flower.

Tomorrow I’ll be hitting the beach early, working, then probably relaxing in the evening, but we’ll find ways to enjoy being in a new location, even when working. Since Lee brought his giant iMac, he’s able to record his receipts instantly and keep track of Hearts Homes and Hands’ finances almost as well as he can at home. And I’m all set up, just with my laptop screen. We can do it!

I hope you enjoyed the photos. They sure were fun to take!

To Do Things, You Have to Plan

So, Catherine of the comments section wants me to write more about what I’m doing, but still, we aren’t doing anything. That’s the nice thing about having a long vacation: you can actually get some REST, just stare at waves, and watch little kids running around on the beach.

Lots of pelicans to watch!

Here are the things I am currently NOT doing:

  • Stressing about work
  • Two blog articles for the Master Naturalist blog (sorry to them)
  • My newsletter for Friends of LLL (sorry to them)
  • Reading things I “have” to read
  • Worrying about family members or ranch animals
  • Getting a sunburn
I got to watch the moon rise.

Whew, that gets me tired already, just not doing all that stuff. I suppose we should get doing things. I have found a bunch of parks, nature trails, and THREE boat tours, one of which I actually already booked, so never fear, we will be doing some stuff!

The sun behind the clouds this morning looked practically icy.

While the immediate area where we are staying is pretty touristy and gets seedy if you aren’t careful where you go, there’s lots to do just outside of Myrtle Beach, in places like Murrel’s Inlet and Pawley’s Island. We will go to those places, including the excellent state park we went to last year.

I think I got enough wine. Actually, there are four more bottles of red, not in fridge. I drank one. (These are small bottles, by the way, about two glasses each, in other words, perfect for Suna).

After a morning of figuring out what to do, blogging, and struggling to get the podcasts sounding right, we are getting ready to exit the condo. It’s such a nice condo, though, you hardly want to leave, and since we stocked up at Costco yesterday (including twelve half-sized bottles of wine for my drinking pleasure), we certainly don’t need to eat out much (though I do LOVE to do so).

Plenty to eat; some of it even healthy!

I’m sure we’ll find plenty to do next week, even though I’ll be working, so a lot of the time will be spent Zooming and writing things, with an ocean view! I’m hoping the weather stays as nice as it’s been so far, neither hot nor cold, neither too sunny or too cloudy. It’ll be fine no matter what. I like working from alternate locations!

Take care and keep the comments coming!

A Day of May Day Rest, Darn It!

We are happily back at the same condos we visited last year just as COVID was hitting. There sure was a lot between those two trips. It was such a nice drive, and Lee and I thoroughly enjoyed each other’s company. We’re really happy with our fancy room, with a spare bedroom just waiting for visitors.

The view from our bedroom is all ocean, all the time.

We took a few little detours on the way and got to see little towns, which we hope to do more of while we’re here. We almost got caught by the same GPS error that hit us last time, but that was okay, because it allowed us to see some really cool clouds with the sun peeking out from behind them.

Not bad for through a buggy windshield!

Last night we just relaxed and stared at the sunset for a long time, while enjoying some hard-earned adult beverages. It’s nice to see Lee relaxing. Since these condos have everything we need, including Lee’s portable sleeping chair, there’s little to complain or worry about!

So far today, all I’ve done is get Lee his breakfast and better coffee from Starbucks and take a walk down the boardwalk. After that, we are getting groceries and relaxing the rest of the day. Yes, a whole day of doing nothing, other than using the good Wi-Fi to update things, which we can’t do at home without using all our data. There are some advantages to being in a more urban location, after all!

They shut this thing down, but appear to be working to open it again.

Admittedly, I have a lot of podcasts to catch up on, as if people are just dying to know where I’ve been the past few days. It is a relief to have three non-working days, so I’ll be all geared up and ready to “work from beach” next week. The weather is so lovely I should be able to use the balcony a lot!

We are on the 18th floor of that tall building, in the part that sticks out.

I know this wasn’t an exciting or pithy update, but wow, it’s nice to NOT have anything major to say or worry about. We even got good news about our business, so we may start profiting enough to build up some reserves, now that more people are vaccinated and feeling more comfortable seeking help.

It’s not South Carolina without their palm trees!

And before I sign off, happy Beltane, May Day, or whatever you’re celebrating. It’s one of my favorite days, and by gosh, I’m gonna enjoy it!

Just Flowers

I was trying to do a photo post again, but twice it crashed. I’m too tired to write anything, probably because my watch thinks I exercised 40 minutes while riding in the car. Thanks, rough roads!

One of the beautiful smells I enjoyed today. Yes, it’s invasive Japanese honeysuckle, but it’s pretty.

So, I’m just going to show you flowers I saw today while driving from Tyler, Texas to Oxford, Alabama. Guess which is my favorite!

So, I was blown away by the beauty of the white clover blossom, second row right. It’s so lovely up close. Good thing I’m easily entertained. And that Lee likes to drive.

From the Pit to the Pinnacle

Whew. This has been a weird-ass week. I was really pessimistic about work over the weekend, and Monday I found out some changes were happening, right when I was supposed to be gearing up to contribute to an initiative.

But, I wrote myself that perky pushback post, read some of my other messages to myself, and by gosh, I pushed back. I figured out a way to empower one part of my team, make their work more visible, and engage other folks to share their value.

I only had three half days to do this, and I required help, but it happened. One of my colleagues really stepped up to help, and between the two of us, we went from feeling defeated to feeling renewed. We could have just sat there in Eyore mode and moped, but no, we did something.

I was a little worried about the amount of initiative I took, but after enduring me excitedly outline my plans, my boss was impressed, not upset. I felt supported and validated. All it took was leadershipping, as we call it.

Knowing that I’ve developed the skills to pick myself up and start again validates the hard work I’ve put into becoming the person I’d always hoped I could be. You really do have to slog through the pits if you want to reach the pinnacle of your personal growth goals.

On to the next challenge.

By the way, we stayed at a hotel near Tyler, Texas last night. It’s known for its roses, so I had to take some pictures for the blog readers. The white ones even smelled good.

Dangerous Memories of Middle of Nowhere, Oklahoma

I’m glad I kept looking for all those wedding photos, because next I found photographic evidence of MOST of a very memorable trip I had in the late 1990s. It’s one of my favorite stories, so those of you who know me in person probably have heard it. But I have PHOTOS to prove I’m not making it up! (I have way more photos, but didn’t want to break the Internet.)

Just Another La Leche League Conference

Back in the olden days, when La Leche League was a volunteer-staffed breastfeeding support organization headquartered in Schaumburg, Illinois, the US part was organized into Areas. Some Areas were one state, some a group of states, and some part of a state. But it had something to do with geographic location. How quaint.

I knew I was in Oklahoma by the themed clothing and the hay.

I lived in Texas, which was its own Area. Up north from us was AR/OK, which was Arkansas and Oklahoma combined, due to their lower population. Many of my friends lived there, and I was working on my online projects with them. Since I’d recently become the webmaster for the parent organization (making this probably be 1998), they invited me to give a talk, my first in that capacity where I was invited out of state…ooh. It sounded fun to me!

It Gets Interesting

I had a hard time finding the place, even though I think I followed my friends from Little Rock. It was in an old 4H camp (or something like that) either in or near a reservation.

Here is the place. I think that’s Sandy, followed by Barbara looking in her purse.
Kris, in a calmer moment.

The minute I got unpacked and hugged my friends who were sharing something like a dorm room with me, I got in touch with my artsy friend from Oklahoma, Kris, who I had yet to meet (I had a LOT of online friends back then). She had her own cabin off from the main building. We met, which involved much squealing and hugging (oh, how I miss squealing and hugging).

Immediately we decided we MUST go on a hike. There were trails! A lake! Rocks! Plants! There was a reason I liked Kris; she was also a nature gal. So, we went on a fabulous hike. The woods were beautiful.

That is soooo pretty.

We found all sorts of cool rocks, plants we didn’t recognize, and bugs. Kris also likes bugs.

Finding something fascinating

We even managed to see a deer, which made us so happy. We gabbed and gabbed about our children, our spouses (hers was way more annoying than mine and still is, as an ex), our LLL stuff, our friends, and so on.

A deer. Aww, we liked deer. At that moment.

We were happy and tired when we arrived back at her little cabin. Then, I felt an itch. And another. I pulled down my socks. Kris had no socks, so she just pulled up her pants. Oh, crap. There were tiny, tiny things on our legs. There were tiny, tiny things ALL OVER us. Almost at once we screeched, “Ticks!” and immediately began throwing our clothing off. Now, only a couple of hours ago, Kris and I had never laid eyes on each other. Here we were basically naked, picking ticks off each other. Tiny, tiny deer ticks.

No photos of this are available. Lucky for all.

At last, we got most of the ticks off, leaving an interesting pattern all over us. We de-ticked our clothing and headed to the main building. We found our friend Barbara. She had gone on a hike. Oops. Luckily hers was shorter and she wasn’t totally infested. Everyone else avoided those trails!

The rest of the conference, we had to keep showing people our bit-up extremities. Now you know why I do NOT get close to deer.

The Rest of the Conference

Things went uphill, and as far as I remember, the rest of the conference was fine. I met a lot of “high-ranking” LLL women, which was fun. I gave my talk, learned to dance the two-step with a very handsome actual cowboy (little did I know that would become nothing special to me eventually), and cemented life-long friendships.

I also did the limbo. It’s not my best skill. The children behind me were much better at it, and are all adults now.

We also got a lot of work done, which always amazed me. My team back then were so good at multi-tasking, since they all had young children, led lots of mother-to-mother support meetings, AND did extra things, like our new email lists, websites, and online communities. I’ve always been very proud of those women.

The other thing I remember about this weekend was that I made a lot of purchases at the sales area, where groups brought things they made, and such, to raise funds. I also bought a LOT of raffle tickets. I was trying to help out an Area that had less money than mine. Plus, they gave me a free trip.

I ended up with so much stuff that I had to take an extra suitcase home, but I had no idea how much I would treasure the things I brought. A lot of the stuff was made by Rudy, the husband of the woman in charge of the area (Wista). He was a talented Native American artist who did scrimshaw on mammoth bones (he was allowed to), did paintings and drawings, and a whole bunch of other art stuff. He was also fascinating to talk to and very patient with all my nature questions.

This is Rudy, Wista, me, and one of the two Ednas who I worked with in the Texas LLL.

Among many other wonderful items, I got a picture of a wolf by Rudy for my son that he probably still has. I also won dozens of wooden symbols of the West, like buffalo, cacti, howling coyotes, etc., which were I think made by Wista’s brother. My kids loved them. They sat in the windows in my house for years and years. They bring back such great memories (and yes, some are still around in boxes somewhere).

You just never knew who you’d meet at one of these conferences, but I soon learned that you would always come away with lifelong friends and lifelong stories to tell. Yep, it wasn’t all bad.

PS: If you were there, correct or add to my memories! I am not the best remember-er on earth.

Yesterday Was Rough

Whew, yesterday was not fun. In fact, I’m really sad today, because while I was having a hard travel day, two people drowned while fishing in a pond on the next property over from the Hermits’ Rest/Wild Type Ranch property. Here’s a better article. It hit really close to home, because while I didn’t know either of them personally, one was a friend of Mandi’s family and the other was one of the most amazing high school football players I ever saw. I have screamed the name “Traion” many, many times with my friend Cathy at games. He was only 22, and the other guy was only 30. I just feel so bad for their families. It’s hard enough right now.

So, that put my day in perspective.

A mourning dove, for mourning

It was just a series of the kinds of things that always happen when you travel.

Things were fine as long as I was at the resort. I packed up all the leftover food and took it to the staff, which made Q the concierge very happy. I was glad to not waste food, and even let Q hug me (I was so over-dressed that no germs could possibly have gotten through, I tell myself).

To start, there were no normal Ubers available, so I had to take a fancy one, which cost more than upgrading to first class did (that was only $80 and got my bags free, so it was a nice part of the day). The driver was nice, and his Suburban was so clean. He said he had over 250,000 miles on it! The secret was maintaining it, apparently. The only thing that had gone out on it was the air conditioning. Wow.

I’d had to check out at 11, which was fine, of course, but that meant I was at the airport REALLY early for my 3:45 flight.

The new Salt Lake City airport is really pretty, but not convenient if you have baggage. You have to go upstairs to check in, then back downstairs to go through security. My awkward collection of bags nearly threw me down an escalator, and by the time I checked in, I was covered in sweat, thanks to having to wear my heavy clothing and snow shoes (would not fit in luggage). I managed to break a nail under the gel polish, even. I know, first-world problems. I’ll live.

My favorite part of the airport is this sculpture, The Falls, by Gordon Huether.

The other thing about the airport is they do NOT have trams or any transportation, so you have to walk 20 minutes to get to the gates. That was a true joy carrying my heavy bag (computer and makeup weighed it down) and n the dang down coat. The good news is I got my steps in. I probably also lost a pound of sweat.

Once I finally got to a seat and took off many layers (including replacing my soaked face mask), I just worked on my knitting and watched football. I also watched many, many children. I was actually shocked so many people were flying with children. But, maybe they were like me and had no choice but to fly. I’ll assume the best. Still, some very charming children and some annoying ones were there.

The first flight to Dallas/Fort Worth was fine. They even gave us a sandwich. Considering it would have cost around $10 in the airport, I figure I just about broke even on the first-class upgrade. That made up for the fancy Uber.

In Dallas, the trams were my friends, and I easily made it to the gate, only to find the flight was delayed. Get this, a plane had blown a tire on the runway, and it took them FIVE HOURS to clear the plane and debris off. The people sitting near me had flown to Austin, circled for an hour or so, then gone back to Dallas. They’d all been traveling since the wee hours of the morning from LA. I sure felt bad for them! We all shared plane horror stories, and enjoyed hearing about the Amazon Prime series one of the guys we met is acting in (which I can’t find, but will look for later).

Poor Anita. I kept updating what time our flight was. She must have been so confused. In the end, we weren’t too late leaving, after all, but then the 30-minute flight took 20 extra minutes, because we had to go all the way around Austin to land on the only available runway. That flight was pretty annoying, because it was crowded, and the woman next to me ate and coughed. If I get sick, she’s to blame (perfectly nice woman, just germy). At least I got to meet lots of interesting people, but wow, I was sure tired by the time my luggage showed up.

Back to work today! I’ll be less than cheery while I isolate over in Austin, since I know Cameron is reeling today.

Why I’m Staying in My Room

It’s my last full day in Utah, and I don’t have to work. You’d think I’d be going around seeing the sights, shopping, eating, etc. The ski area finally opened, so all those nice shops I’ve only been able to look in the windows of are open (with their ski resort prices, no doubt). But nope, I’m not going out today.

It would have been smart of me to take a video, but here are moving ski lifts.

I did take a walk yesterday, fairly late in the day. I just wanted to see what the place looked like when things were running. I got to see the ski lifts in action, with people actually riding on them.

ski people
Well-spaced people with skis and snowboards preparing to board ski lifts. Only parties who are together can share a lift.

There were actual skiers in their ski clothing. They sure look well protected with the boots, pants, jackets, hoods, goggles, and masks. Yep, I didn’t see one skier who wasn’t also wearing a mask.

These folks do not appear to be as well spaced.

The ski lift lines have markers for keeping people distant, and I’ve read they are limiting access to the mountains. That’s all good, I think. All the restaurants are limiting seating, but I predict the same thing that was happening downtown will happen here: people will line up for the restaurants in normal lines. That sort of defeats the social distancing purpose, right?

Something cheerful. People sledding. Note the distinct lack of snow. It’s supposed to be clear for quite a while.

After thinking about it and talking to Lee, I agreed to stay at the condo today, since I have a feeling the first Saturday of ski season will be crowded. Good thing I have that knitting project (and a lot of packing to do).

Masked people were putting these decorations together on Thursday, so I was glad to see them finished. It’s all real greenery. Tasteful.

So, it’s good to have seen the decorations, the activity, and the finished fire pit I watched getting built. But, I’ll be in my room.

There are lots of these benches that look like lift chairs now. This is the finished seating area, where they carefully put the rocks 6 feet apart. A friend points out that this is a lot of wasted gas and heat.

The good news is that I’ve been reading more and more about how planes are pretty darned safe. My main worry is being in crowded airports. On my way here, they were pretty empty. But it’s Thanksgiving week. I hadn’t thought of that when booking my trip. Going home last week would have been a better idea from that perspective, but things in Cameron are a bit of a mess, so it’s perhaps better that I stayed here. Sorry, I’m thinking aloud in my blog. I guess it’s allowed.

I’m going to ask anyone who’s reading this to take care around your friends and family right now. You don’t know where people have been and who they’ve been around. I know for certain that not all COVID deaths have been reported as such, which makes me think things may well be worse than they really are. And with so many people convinced they have a right to NOT take precautions, it really seems like a good idea to be careful. Sorry to be preachy, but I care about MY family, and I assume you care about yours.

Tribute to Self Care

This morning, I woke up and didn’t feel awake. These days, whenever you feel the least bit off, you immediately think you have COVID. I ran through all my symptoms, tested my sense of smell (yep, the trash can still smells like a banana cemetery), and checked my temperature (97).

I realized I was mostly chilly. So I put on my extra cozy sweater, turned on the fireplace, and closed the blinds. That helped me get through all my meetings.

Warm and cozy and sorta dark.

After all the Zoom meetings were over, I dragged the laptop into the bedroom, where I could get under the covers. I worked some more, but felt so tired. So I slept for an hour! Oops!

Self care station.

So now I’m in my self care station, with knitting, a book, plenty of water and many pillows. I guess I won’t be checking out skiers today. The plan is to talk at least a short walk, then take a bath with the bath bomb Kathleen gave me.

My body said it was tired of all that work and crazed exercise. I listened. After all, I want to be in good shape to travel back to Texas on Sunday. I’m very glad Hilton has provided dozens of antiseptic wipes I can take and use at airports and planes.

Travel ready.

The Plan

When I get back, I’m going to hide out in Austin for a while, so we are not going to have a germy family Thanksgiving. That will be hard, but between quarantines in Cameron and me traveling in this pandemic, I’d rather postpone seeing Lee and the animals than bring in an illness. Anita and I can easily physically distance in Austin, so that’s the best thing I could come up with.

With love from me to you.

I must admit, though, that videos and pictures of the animals make me miss them so much. Let’s hope next time I leave town we can feel safer.