Sunday, October 23, 2016

Driving to Wichita, Day 9

Day 9, Thursday
Hampton Inn, Kansas City MCI

I am up at my regular time. As usual there isn’t anything appealing for breakfast, but I do get more coffee to bring back to my room where I spend the rest of the morning. The journaling takes longer than usual because I keep getting up to do odds and ends. Then I buckle down to start the week’s work. The calendar folder is cleaned out for the time being and I’m editing articles when Eric messages. They were able to get a direct flight and arrived earlier than planned. We make arrangements for lunch and I’m on my way to pick them up by 1 p.m.

It’s a beautiful day with bright sun, low humidity, temps in the mid 70s with a slight breeze. It is wonderful to see familiar faces. I’m excited to have company and although I’m driving, it’s nice to have someone else figure out the directions for awhile. We go to a nearby Ruby Tuesdays and enjoy steaks, salad bar, and great conversation. I drop them back at their hotel after a quick stop at a convenience store and I’m back at work by 3 p.m. 

The pool outside my window calls to me and at 4 p.m. I decide to take a break, change into my swim suit, and head to the pool. The water is cool, refreshing, and just what I need. I do my usual exercises and take 12 photographs before heading back to my room. 

Birds nest in a tree by the pool.
I import the pictures, delete eight, edit a couple, and post one to Facebook for our photo-a-day. Then I work until 6:30 before settling down for the night. This hotel may be nicer than Comfort Inn, but the TV reception is terrible it keeps going out. There are only two channels I care to watch - Food and History. I read during commercials.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

A Conscious Effort

Ever since reading “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire,” the words and demand “Constant Vigilance!” comes to mind. Although the character turned out to be a bad guy, those words often jump out at me – because we need to keep constant vigilance on how and what we think about. (I forgot that recently and needed to be reminded.)

Yes, we need to be reminded. When I forget to keep constant vigilance, I go through periods of sadness and depression. For instance, lately I’ve been too overwhelmed with work – in my mind. I feel I am constantly working and even though I enjoy and choose what I do, those feelings of always working weighed on the mind and brought me down. I think and think and think until I am tired all the time and flattened on the bottom of the well. 

Constant vigilance! Constant vigilance is needed to rein in too much thinking especially when the thoughts turn negative. Oh, dear, the ego part of me whines, something else to work on. But it’s important and can make a huge difference in how we get through the day. I find in keeping negativity out of my thoughts, I am less tired and more inspired throughout the day. The little things don’t get to me and thinking is actually clearer.

We don’t have to make constant vigilance feel like work. It’s like building a gate which, once in place, doesn’t need to be built again. We just have to make the conscious effort to close the gate when too much negativity is knocking. 

We can’t totally stop bad things from happening. Life isn’t all roses and happily-ever-after fairy tales. How we deal with situations is the difference from a wholehearted life and one of “woe is me.” I’ve been working on (yeah, the word “working” works its way into my conversations, but I don’t have to experience it as a bad thing) reducing the impact of negativity in my life. We can choose what we want to think about!

Here are some things that I am doing so that I spend more time “Walking in Beauty” and less time feeling like I’m drowning in all the awful things happening in the world:

1. STOP listening to news and what the media is spewing forth. 

I know some people actually find it entertaining, but remember: If we are allowing ourselves to be surrounded with this horror, nastiness, and negativity, then this is what our life is going to be filled with! Is this how we want to be in life? Is this what we want our children growing up into?

Or, at least, limit what we are listening to, limit the amount of negativity we allow ourselves to be bombarded with. Remember, the media’s job is to sensationalize, do anything they can to sell their story whether it is the truth or not. They take a small piece of the truth and manipulate it and easily change the context of what really happened. Then the public runs crazy on that manipulated information. They sell more stories when they can rile up the public. (I don’t know about you, but that makes me feel used and taken advantage of.)

2. Do not listen to commercials! 

Think about it. Think about what is being pounded into our brains day after day after day. Remember, repetition gets imprinted into our being. What are commercials telling us? They’re saying we are not good enough, pretty enough, handsome enough, skinny enough. They’re telling us we’re depressed and we need all kinds of drugs (but only the drugs run by Big Pharma). They’re saying that to be happy we have to have more gadgets, new cars and trucks, bigger and better what-evers. 

Is this what we want our souls to be filled with? Will all these things that don’t fulfill us as human beings and put us farther into debt make us truly happy? They may make us happy on the surface, but do they fill us with joy in our hearts? It’s all fluff, all surface immediate gratification and means nothing long-term. (Again, this makes me feel used and abused.)

3. Make the choice of what we want around us. 

Those of you who follow me on Facebook have seen the changes I am making on and in my home. My home is not the cookie-cutter, go-with-the-latest fashion ideals. I choose the colors that make ME feel good. I put pictures on the wall that I love. I make little affirmation signs to remind me to think positively using words and sayings that help me be a better person, that help me be ME.

Maybe part of this is because I never wanted or want to be just like the next guy. I want my own little quirks. And you know what? I don’t HAVE to be like others. That doesn’t mean I don’t like others or they don’t like me.

What do you want to surround yourself with? What truly makes you feel good? 

4. Simplify.

Opportunity is wonderful, but sometimes too many choices can be overwhelming. Life has become too complicated. Sometimes it is better for the soul when we can just sit back and do nothing. One of my favorite sayings is an old Spanish proverb that translates to: “How nice it is to do nothing then rest afterwards.”

That doesn’t mean we sit back all the time. Work is still important. It’s about finding balance between work and relaxation, connecting to nature, and letting ourselves see the beauty around us. It’s taking the time to spend precious moments with family and friends… and not to do anything but have good food and good conversation.

5. Finding words to inspire us.

I have a couple of mantras that I say over and over when negativity comes knocking (which I write on the affirmation cards I mentioned earlier). I’ve already mentioned “Walk in Beauty.”

“Think only thoughts of Love and Success and that’s what you’ll get.” I’ve shortened it to Love and Success. Every time I start thinking a negative thought, when going to bed at night, and getting up in the morning, I repeat Love and Success over and over. (And for me Love and Success is capitalized in this instance.)

Creating beauty for myself creates beauty for others.

My work is ignited by my passion and that’s exciting!

Breathe in…  Breathe out…

I feel the wonder and joy of life.

It takes a conscious effort to be positive. This doesn’t mean we have to take on the fake life-is-perfect persona. We need to tell our stories, the not-so-good along with the happy times. We can’t hide from it and we can’t pretend stuff doesn’t happen.

We need to be aware of the words we choose; in our heads and to others. We can heal from our down times by making the conscious effort to be happy. Yes, it’s sometimes difficult, but it can be done. When we fall down, we get back up.

We can do it!

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Snake Oil Salesmen and Charmers

I am strong, yet I am vulnerable. When I get hurt, I run and hide. I protect the who-I-am by keeping it safe from the world. I am strong inside, but is the who-I-am too thin-skinned to let out in public? 

Last night’s reading on living authentically and wholeheartedly triggered remembrances of years ago. Wait! I’d worked on this before. What happened between then and now? When did I fall off the spiritual/self-healing path I’d been on for 20 years? Let me think… there’s a huge gap in my spiritual work between living in Barrington and in Hillsborough where I live now – the Bradford years.

Something happened in Bradford that caused me to turn away from all that I’d worked towards. I spent time last night looking back and I found it. I can’t remember the exact details, but I remember the incident and what led up to it. I remember the pain, the betrayal, and the subsequent turning away. 

People today know me as a writer, editor, photographer, and artist, but how many know I was a healer; a darn good healer? And I was working at becoming even better. A few of us were developing a healers’ group. He was a charmer and talked the good talk, but ultimately, he was a full-of-himself snake. (He was so good he even had my mother duped and she didn’t go in for any of this healing stuff!) Friendships were destroyed and the Light that we had developed between us was snuffed out.

The end result was I walked away; never read another book on healing, never talked about it, stopped playing my flutes and drums, stopped doing Tai Chi, and only did one or two massages  afterwards, eventually even giving that up. My good-sized self-help/healing library got thrown in the dumpster along with the massage oils and I sold the massage table. I turned my focus totally to my other talents. I stopped learning, stopped wanting to learn, unless it was about work.

I loved living in Bradford, but for that one incidence. I gave up on my spirituality and locked it away, hiding it, and not acknowledging it. And perhaps that was one reason why the last few years with my mom was so hard. I didn’t use my spiritualness to help me when I needed it most, when she needed me to be strong. (I’m sorry, Mom.) 

It was very hard for me to move to Hillsborough, however I have become spiritual again thanks to Annette Vogel who gave me “Wishes Fulfilled” by Dr. Wayne Dyer. I’ve never been a Dyer fan, but had to read the book because she gave it to me. 

That book… I guess you could say, woke me up again. Not that I believe everything he said (I read a book or watch a TV program and can find something that will help me… like searching through the weeds to find a rose and I certainly found plenty of roses. Then, a guy told me about Brene Brown and I got three of her books: “I Thought It Was Just Me But It Wasn’t,” “The Gifts of Imperfection,” and “Greatly Daring.” (I haven’t read the latter yet.) And Annette told me about “The Courage to be Creative” by Doreen Virtue which is an awesome book!

So now, I am back on my path and that fills me with such joy. I feel I am learning something new every day and it’s exciting.

Oh, and about snake oil salesmen and charmers? Read the headlines. Listen to the news. Commercials and ads are all snake oil salesmen. Be careful who and what you listen to and support. Be vigilant! Don’t get caught up in someone’s charisma and charm and buy into their pretty words.

As a writer and word person, I know the power of words. Do NOT go by what you are being told, but check the real facts about everyone and everything they say (or what the media says they say). Look at your politicians as people, not what’s coming out of their mouths! Will they live up to their promises or are the just selling the public? Are they parroting what someone else wrote for them? Are they selling the public what whoever paid for their campaign dictates? 

They are all snake charmers weaving their charms to hypnotize and brainwash. Or they’re creating so much nastiness which is addictive to many people. Is this really what you want imprinted in your souls?

Think about it. I’ve learned my lessons with snake oil salesmen.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

The Spiritual Side of Sasha

Much of my writing comes from what I call The Muse of Divine Inspiration. Those times when the words pour into me, mixes with what’s already brewing inside, then spills out onto the page.
(This is funny because I meant to write The Muse OR Divine Inspiration, but now that I see OF Divine Inspiration, I like it.) 

Yesterday I got yet another flash of that inspiration: Write letters to The Divine.

Dear Divine, Today I get your message about living wholeheartedly and just attempting that concept brings about a deep sense of peace throughout my entire being. My mind quiets down and I feel more open. Thank you. 

Dear Divine, Thank you for reminding me I am a courageous woman, and not only about traveling alone. I am brave just for standing up to be me, for daring to be different and not follow the norm, or going against what I think others would have of me. 

Dear Divine, It’s OK if I only focus on one project at a time. For that hour or so, I can be fully and wholeheartedly on the job at hand and not be thinking of all the other things I want/need to be doing. After that time is done, I can move onto the next project with a clear mind. 

But I struggled with saying “Dear Divine.” Just saying “Divine” sounds like a human name (and too similar to Bette Midler’s “The Divine Miss M) and to me, the divine I am talking about is THE Divine. The Divine is god-like, all encompassing, spirit; something all-that-is and not to be confined to a human name. And to say Dear The Divine doesn’t sound right.

This subject was on my mind off and on throughout the day. I knew it would come eventually. I had to think it through. The Divine, like The Muse when she visits, is more than what we can put into words. And while The Muse always feels like a “she” to me, other angels and spirits can be genderless and while I understand some people will know their helping spirits’ names, I seldom, get a name. 

So, how do I start my letters? I don’t want to say, “Dear God” because: It’s been done before, God has a religious connotation and I am spiritual, not religious; and somehow my experiences feel different from God. 

Maybe I should not use the word dear. I could do “To The Divine” like we do “To the Editor” for the newspaper, but that feels too impersonal. The Divine, The Muse, God, Great Spirit, the Universe, Angels (whatever the name) are all very personal relationships. There is something all-encompassing – I’ve tried for years to describe what I experience for my own understanding. Sometimes there are no words in our language. 

Today, I’ve come up with: 

Dear Divine Presence, Today I realize that trying to come up with a name for you is like putting you in a box. How can or why should one possibly confine All-That-Is? And thank you for reminding me that we are all part of the All-That-Is. Love and Success, Sasha

Dear Divine Presence, Today I get your message about sharing these messages. Yesterday you reminded me of my courage and now I realize I have to be brave again. Thank you. Love and Success, Sasha

I am wondering if I can be brave enough to share these on FB. It would be a break from all the politics and woes of the country and world.

But I don’t know if Divine Presence is quite right either. Maybe I could do:

Dear Sasha, Thank you for reminding me that I am one with All-That-Is. I am one with The Divine Presence. Love and Success, Sasha.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Driving to Wichita – Day 8

At Powell Gardens 
Day 8, Wednesday

A great detour

I wake up sick of crappy hotels. I’m tired of the ugly floors, the lack of cleanliness in corners, the questionable bathrooms, the chipped corners, peeling wallpaper, etc. Thankfully, the beds have been clean, but everything else about the room stinks!

I need to make a decision whether to continue with Comfort Inns or switch to the more expensive Hampton Inn. I check Comfort Inn website in Kansas City where I have my reservation. Today they are offering a rate of $71 per night. My reservation is for $88 for Thursday night and $106 for Friday. I call the hotel to ask for a price break and he tells me that the $71 is for online booking only and he won’t give me a discount because I already have a reservation. What? Needless to say, this is the last straw, I cancel my reservation.

I am so done with Comfort Inn! I’m sad because I really liked the ones I stayed in while traveling south, but between the fluctuating prices and the awful conditions of the rooms, I’ve had it. 

I go to the Hampton Inn website and sign up for HHonors, then call the Hampton Inn at KC MCI (airport) and book a room for three nights; one at $107 and two at $89 plus all the taxes: sales, Platte County, and an arena fee (whatever an arena fee is). There, I did it!

It’s getting on to 10 a.m. by the time I haul the luggage out to the car. I am so upset with this place I won’t even look at the desk clerk or anyone on the way by. I’m afraid if anyone speaks, or if the guy behind the desk should ask how my night was, he might not like what I’d say… or I’d start crying and feel like a fool. (I already feel like a fool for putting up with these places for seven nights.)

I stop for gas before getting on the interstate. It was raining lightly earlier and now it’s coming down hard. I still can’t believe people don’t slow down. How can they see? All I can do is concentrate on staying between the two white lines on either side of my lane. The rain passes and the driving is enjoyable. 

Missouri is beautiful. The landscape reminds me of New York and New Hampshire. I am at a loss for words in trying to compare them. They’re kinda (I like the word kinda as opposed to kind of) like back home, but there are subtle differences. Maybe it’s because New York has more wide-open farmland and rolling hills than New Hampshire, and Missouri is even more open with less trees. 

I love driving through places like this.
There are not a lot of advertised attractions. It’s too early in the day for winery tours, but a sign for Powell Gardens sounds interesting and I take Exit 31. A sign at the end of the ramp says 12 miles to Powell Gardens. Here we go again with another long drive to the middle of nowhere. I pass through Bates, Mo., make a left somewhere and travel for what feels like a long time on Route Z. Surprisingly I come out onto another major route, U.S. 50. The sign for Powell Gardens points left. Uh, oh, this is crossing multiple lanes of traffic. Thankfully, traffic is light and I easily cross the west-bound lanes to head east, and a short distance farther is the entrance to the gardens on the left and crossing back over the west-bound lanes.

Powell Gardens

Powell Gardens in Kingsville, Mo., is Kansas City’s 970-acre botanical garden. The land was purchased in 1948 by George E. Powell Sr., who later donated 640 acres to the Boy Scouts who used it until 1984. (Even today Scouts can earn badges through educational programs offered). The property was further developed into the horticultural and natural resource center it is today. The facility has year-round programs and events, miles of walking trails and gardens, ponds, fountains, and even a beautiful, nondenominational wedding chapel. Each spring the visitor education center becomes a tropical rainforest to house butterfly exhibits and special exhibits are on display every summer. 

The 12-acre Heartland Harvest Garden is known at the largest edible landscape in the U.S. and at the “farm,” visitors can climb the observation silo for fantastic views and stroll more gardens. A trolley is available to take visitors to various sections of the property.

For more information, visit

I love old farms, but why no roof on the silo?
I pass an unmanned ticket booth and find a couple of parking lots. I’m not sure which is closer to the visitors’ education center and choose Lot B. It’s 11:40 a.m., the sky is till overcast and the temperature only reads 75 degrees, but it’s quite humid. The surrounding landscape is pretty with rolling hills, fields, and trees, but nothing to wow me. I can see barns and a silo over the tops of the trees and take a couple of photos. 

I limp across wide-expanse of cement to the entrance of a huge, modern, contemporary building. There are no welcome or entrance signs. I’m not sure which door to go to, but when I see people exiting one with shopping bags, I figure that’s a good place. 

Inside is a huge, cavernous building, but pleasant. A young woman at a desk near the door says admission is $10 with $1 for the trolley. The theme of the current exhibit is Jurassic Park with sculptures in areas of the park. She directs me to a back door onto a terrace where I will catch the trolley and after exploring the inside exhibits, I go outside.

I chase butterflies
The gardens around the building are beautiful. I chase a butterfly while waiting and wonder what kind of a trolley will fit up this path. I picture something small like a golf cart. I look over a chest-high wall and see the trolley waiting below. Uh, oh, how do I get down there?

The path meanders like a maze and the driver is still waiting by the time I get there. I’m his only passenger. He says he rides around all day picking up people at the various stops. First stop is at the Marjorie Powell Allen Chapel and before I say I’m not interested, he moves on. 

I love the chance to get a tour

He points out the first dinosaur sculpture. It’s nice, but more of an attraction for kids. He stops near a little pergola and tells me to take this trail, staying to the left. It’s an easy walk, circles around through some woods and over bridges, and he will pick me up over on the other side. If I need to rest, I can sit on benches along the way. 

Rest stop
He drives off and I take a couple of photographs of two Adirondack chairs covered with lichen. No, I don’t think I’ll sit in anything like this. I head off down the trail stopping often to photograph mushrooms, leaves, and vegetation. This is the kind of walking I like. There’s shade and I can hear running water. 

The mulched path comes out onto a pave trail. I take the left strolling slowly to explore the surroundings. I start to cross a wood-decked, metal-railed bridge and see two strange-looking wading birds over the side on the left. Ah, two of those dinosaur sculptures. 

About the artist: Guy Darrough, a self-taught fossil expert, created these amazing life-like sculptures for Powell Gardens’ 2016 summer exhibit. Visit for more information.

Quetzalcoatlus juveniles 

Beautiful walk -- two arrows on left pointing up

I turn to look over the other rail and two signs point up. I look up. On a tree are two stranger-looking birds. What the heck are those? Wait, they’re not moving. Oh, they’re sculptures, too. 

A nearby storyboard explains these are both pterosaur (Tare-uh-sars), flying reptiles that did not evolve into modern birds. The first two are juvenile Quetzalcoatlus (Ket-sal-koh-Aht-lus), believed to be the largest flying animal ever of the late Cretaceous period. The two on the tree are Sordes, of the late Jurassic period.

I continue on my way thoroughly relishing the peacefulness of this trail as it meanders over streams, around trees, and through lush greenery. Most the plants that flower have passed, but some hostas are still waving their bell-like blossoms atop tall spikes.

A place for peaceful contemplation

Hypsibema Missouriense, Missouri's state dino
The woodland trail gives way to a more open perennial garden. The path here is brick with a beautiful cut stone wall on one side. Ornamental grasses are mixed in with black-eyed Susans, coneflowers, and others with the names that elude me. Many flowers are past blooming, but late summer bloomers are vibrant. There’s such a variety of plants, shrubs, and trees. I love this! 

Flowers mixed with ornamental grass

Copper King hibiscus with a bug

Do I continue on the pond trail or go to the trolley stop?
The path continues to a pond. I consider going around to the other side, but I see the trolley coming from the other direction and turn back to make my way to the stop where two ladies are waiting. Barb is from Portland, Ore., and her friend, Deb, lives a few towns away here in Missouri. They tell the driver they want to go to the farm. I decide to tag along. On the way, he tells us they make their own frozen pops here with flavors like chocolate blackberry, mango peach, and more. We’ll have to try them.

Looking up inside the silo
This is the farm the top of which I could see from the parking lot. It’s not an old farm and is only a couple of barnlike structures built specifically for educational purposes. The bigger barn also offers a snack area with a covered pavilion. They experiment with different produce and grow everything on the property. Currently they are trying to grown pomegranate and plantains. 

I had to lean over to see down from topside.

The silo isn’t a real silo, but an observation tower. Deb takes the spiral staircase to the top and Barb and I opt for the elevator. What gorgeous views! We can see far out over the property and look down at the gardens close by. There are many themed gardens: vineyard, fruit trees, four quilt gardens, an authors’ garden, and a garden designed for kids. 

Quilt garden

 We descend to the ground and wander the gardens after sampling the pops. Barb and I have the peach mango and Deb has blackberry chocolate. Many plants are familiar, but some are not. I am intrigued by okra as I’ve never seen it as a plant (I don’t like okra), but it’s a pretty plant. These gardens are amazing and the array of vegetables and herbs has us oohing and ahhing. Rain begins to fall and we make our way back to the barn just in time to catch the trolley back to the visitors’ center where we say goodbyes. There are still miles of trails to be covered and I never make it to the other side of the pond.

I stop at the information desk to get the easiest directions to Kansas City. After being here for two and a half hours, there isn’t any way I can remember how to get back to I-70. As it turns out, I don’t have to go that way. The woman gets out a map and says to stay on Route 50W to I-470 to I-435 to I-70 to I-35 to I-29 and take Exit 12 for the hotel. I’m on my way by 2:10 p.m.  

Route 50 is a pleasant drive. Traffic picks up on the interstates and there are a few confusing left exit ramps. I’m never sure which lane to be in. I do not enjoy city driving and even though I was in Kansas City in 2003, it doesn’t relieve the anxiety. (Maybe the older I get, the less I am able to cope with crowded conditions.) I turn the wrong way off Exit 12 and have to back track. Then I go past the Hampton Inn because vegetation is growing up around the sign and have to turn around again.

I pull up to the hotel’s entrance. Right off the bat, it’s welcoming and looks and smells clean. The clerk gives a warm greeting, assigns Room 230, and hands me a bunch of delivery menus. The elevators are around the back and I can park there. He’ll send someone down with a luggage trolley and by the time I drive around the building, that gentleman is waiting. He even loads the trolley, wheels it to my room, and unloads it for me. Wow, what great service! He says this is one of the first Hampton Inns ever built, if not the first.

My room overlooks the outdoor pool. Ah, pretty, maybe I’ll check it out tomorrow. I settle in, call Pizza Hut for delivery, and set up the laptop to do a little work before relaxing for the night. 

End of day overview: 
Average weather: humid, heavy rain, overcast, light rain; 75/81 degrees
Places visited: Powell Gardens, Kingsville, Mo.; Sasha rating: 5
Miles driven today: 150
Trip total: 1,580
Hours driven: 5 
Hotel:  Hampton Inn-KC, MCI, Mo.; Sasha Rating: 4 – big improvement!
Meal: Pizza Hut; Rating: 3
Expenses: Gas, $19.96; meals, $35.27 (counting $3 pop at Powell Gardens), hotel: see day 11 for the three-day total

Lessons learned: Speak up when a room isn’t up to my standards. Take more time exploring beautiful areas.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Writing although my Brain is on Overload

I’ve been feeling so overwhelmed lately with all I have/want to do that my brain is on overload. I’m all over the place (in my head) and I struggle with decision-making. I plug away at putting together the latest (at the moment I’m just blogging the story) book writing which will be put it together in a “real” book later. 

Thoughts in my head go ‘round and ‘round until they spiral downward and I crash. There are so many projects and I keep switching the pots from burner to burner, but nothing is getting done… or so it feels. People talk about multi-tasking, I multi-brain task. That just causes frustration because it doesn’t get work done. Sometimes it feels my head is going to explode with everything going on.

Last night I read something interesting. Unfortunately, I was bouncing back and forth between a couple of books and I can’t find where it is I read this. It was something about listening to God and making room in your thoughts to hear the messages. I wish I could remember what she said, but how I interpreted it was: How can I hear what God (angels, spirits, Muse… whatever) is telling me if my head is too full of all that spiraling chatter that is constantly going on inside me? And even if I could hear it, how could I tell it was a “message” when it’s jumbled in with all the other stuff?

This morning as I was journaling, I realized that it is here that I usually get those flashes of what I call Muse-inspired ideas. (Not so much lately as my mind has been so overwhelmed). I think this is because when I’m journaling, my mind is more focused in recording yesterday (less full of crap at that moment) and I’m open to the flow of words. (And also why I work better in the early mornings before my head gets full of everything else in life.) (I know, this doesn’t make exact sense; it’s not quite “it.”)

Hmmm, let me see if I can take this further. I pride myself for being an in-the-moment person, but sometimes, the spontaneity backfires. There’s too much going on, too much I want to do. Decision-making gets harder as thoughts in my brain tumble over one another. I get caught up in the spiral and can’t get out. I crash and burn. The work I do isn’t satisfying. I feel I’m hurrying through it and that leaves room for mistakes or forgetting things. And the spiraling goes down as my thinking gets all tangled and piles up like a clogged drain. I lose the flow.

So, how can I resolve this? Make more to-do lists? I love lists, but the list grows long, quicker than I can cross off items accomplished. Hmmm, the lists, too, are jumbled; a little of this, some of that. It all has me bouncing around.

This almost makes me envy my friends who are more linear-thinking and focus on one task at a time until their projects are done. I am not like that. There has to be a way for me to straighten myself out and continue doing work I love. I’ve come up with a couple of ideas this morning. One has to do with making project lists with each project on its own sheet of paper. This may help me keep my mind (and physically see) the accomplishments I make with each project without other projects getting in the way. It’s a small step.

And another thing I have to stop is letting myself THINK about all the stuff I have to do. Whatever project I’m working on at the moment is the only one I should be thinking about. That doesn’t mean I can’t work on that then go off on another project later. But when I go on to the next project, I need to only focus on that one.

I still have to be me!

Monday, October 10, 2016

On Writing – About the Recent Trip

Once again I’m torn with my writing. My goal is to not only tell of my experiences, but to bring readers on the journey with me. And yes, I’ve said this before, but sometimes, things need repeating to bring out further nuances – not just for the reader, but for myself. It helps my understanding and self-growth.

I don’t want to sugar-coat my stories. Life isn’t like that no matter how positive I try to stay and that’s how I write. I write about life situations, the not-so-good along with the good. I want to give readers the total experience with the hopes that somehow the way I deal with a situation may later help them with something of their own (whether they agree with what I did or not). 

A journey is not just about the excitement of seeing new sites and experiencing different situations. It’s also dealing with disappointments, frustrations, and fears. It’s putting up with hours of tedious, boring driving. It’s coping with weather situations and traffic and construction. It’s being in unknown places, surrounded by strangers and conditions that may awkward. It’s getting lost and not knowing where exactly to go. It’s being out on the road alone without family and friends; in other words, no support. It’s being lonely and homesick.

I had some amazing experiences on the Wichita trip and while it might seem like the not-so-good outweighed the good, the overall experience was wonderful and I would do it again and again. The joy at finding unusual places or even experience well-known places lifts the spirit. Seeing the beautiful countryside and noticing differences in terrain that’s unlike the everyday normal routines of back home is inspiring. Going through a scary, stressful situation and coming out safe is a reason to celebrate.

I not only learned about another section of our wonderful country, but I learned more about myself. Sometimes I can’t believe that I dared to do it… especially in those situations where I was so scared. Yes, I do want to travel more and I want to take readers with me.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Driving to Wichita, Day 7

Day 7, Tuesday

Still early for Kansas City

I’m up my usual time and thinking about the day ahead. I don’t have to be in Kansas City, Mo., until Thursday and I’m booked there for two days. I don’t know if I want to spend much more nights than that, so I can take my time again today and do some sightseeing. 

At breakfast a nice young man tells me the biscuit of the biscuits and gravy will taste better if I warm it up in the microwave first and the kitchen lady agrees. She says there’s not much to see between here and KC. My biscuit heated, I add a little gravy over the top, and put a spoonful of berry compote on the side. Wow, it is good! The heated biscuit makes it softer, tastier, and not so dry and chewy. I’ll have to remember this.

I check out of the hotel around 10 a.m. The temperature is already at 93 degrees and it’s hazy, hot, and humid. Ugh, not my favorite kind of weather. Still, after yesterday’s success, I’m on a high and eager to see what I can find today. 

However, as I drive along I-70W, also U.S. 40, the only attraction signs I see are for antique malls, cowboy boots, and wineries. I don’t consider antique stores an attraction, what would I do with cowboy boots, and it’s too early for winery tours. Letters on signs instead of road names catch my eye: F, J, H, M – I have no idea what these all mean. Sometimes U.S. Route 40 takes a slight detour and parallels the interstate as Old U.S. Route 40. I’m tempted to go that route to be able to drive at a slower pace and perhaps have more opportunity to stop for photographs. That would take much longer to get from here to there, though, and it doesn’t make sense as it’s mostly right beside I-70, so I stay on the interstate.

The attractions sign coming up to Exit 170 in Danville, Mo., advertises Graham Cave State Park. Hmmm, I wonder what’s there, and as nothing else has caught my attention, I decide it’s time for a break. A sign off the ramp directs me onto TT road which seems like a narrow service road. It amazes me how two miles can feel so far. This is a lot of farmland and trees which I enjoy. I pass a huge campground and keep going as the road becomes narrower.

I reach an area with a couple of dark brown, wooden buildings and one has a visitors’ sign. It’s small inside. I chat with a woman behind the desk while I meander around looking at the displays of artifacts found in the area and read the story of Graham Cave. It’s interesting, but what I’m seeing is leading me to believe the cave won’t be that impressive. She tells me it’s a short drive farther and the trail is 0.3 miles uphill. My spirits drop as I think, uphill and in this heat? However, I’ve come this far, I may as well check it out.

I follow her directions driving down the hill passing trail crossings. There is a parking and picnic area off to the right at the bottom of the hill. I turn left and go to the end where there is a large parking lot. It’s a little cooler down here, but the humidity is stifling. I grab the camera and walking stick and head off toward the trail. The incline is quite steep, but at least it’s paved and tree-lined providing some shade.

I begin the trek and within minutes, sweat is dripping. I push on, one tiny step at a time, stopping often to take a photo of a leaf or a plant. I hope I’m not wasting my time and that this is not just some little hole in a rock.

Then I round a corner and look up. The pavement ends at an open area in the trees and I get my first sight of the cave. Oh, my, maybe this is going to be interesting after all. 

It looked like some monster ready to swallow unsuspecting visitors.
The hill burst up a section of ground like a monster jumping out of a quiet, woodland ready to eat unsuspecting victims. Immediate attention is on its giant, dark, mouth, gaping open in an odd, menacing sneer. Two rock layers form the top lip in its wide, snake-shaped head and above, prairie-type grass forms a hairy crew cut. This section of hill is definitely head-shaped and at the back of the head, tall trees resume just as if some creature did push up out of the ground. A grassy area forms the bottom lip and a huge floor-to-ceiling chain-link fence fills the cavernous mouth, its fence posts long thin teeth. 

Not so menacing from this angle.
I slowly climb the last few yards where the pavement gives way to the large, grassy lawn. This is spooky being here alone, but as I get closer, I see someone near one of the walls. Ah, yes, the lady at the visitors’ center had said a park ranger might be here. 

Storyboards are at the edge of the grass area. One explains the formation of the cave and the types of rock: dolomite or limestone and sandstone. Another storyboard tells of the archeological efforts at the site and the importance of archeology and the recording of the information. I take photos which I will read later and I will also peruse websites for even more details when I write the story.

Graham Cave State Park

The park is 386 (websites differ in the actual figure) acres which offers camping, hiking trails, and boating and fishing on the Loutre River. Native Americans once inhabited the cave and when settlers came, they used the cave to shelter livestock. Artifacts were collected throughout the years and eventually family descendants allowed archeologists to excavate. Artifacts discovered date back to pre-Columbian times, 10,000 years. The site was designated as a National Historic landmark in 1961 and in 1964 the property was donated to the state for use as a state park.

The sandstone cave’s entrance is 120 feet wide and 60 feet high. Information storyboards are in front of the cave at a distance so as not to be in the way of anyone taking photos. 

(I am disappointed there’s not a lot more information on websites, but you can type in the park’s name to read more. It is an interesting place to visit and I didn’t explore any of the other trails which would be worth hiking. It is a beautiful area.)

I cross the grass trying to peer ahead into the darkness beyond the fence which allows visitors to get about 20 feet under the overhang. The man is scrubbing the wall on one side and he waves. I walk over.

Park Ranger, Peter Hayes, explains the problems with removing
modern-day graffiti. 
Peter Hayes, the park ranger (I forget to write down his real title), is a most interesting 25-year-old who loves history and geology. He works for the Missouri State Parks, but also liaisons with the archeological people. He also has a tie to New Hampshire. His first required internship was as a camp counselor and hike leader for fourth graders at Lake Winnipesaukee. His hikes often included trips up Mount Washington.

The fence is to preserve the archeological dig and prevent current visitors from causing more damage. His current project is removing recent graffiti (done by today’s vandals as compared to ancient drawings which need to be preserved). It’s a painstaking effort taking days to carefully remove it by layers. “The goal is to do the least amount of damage while restoring and preserving the cave’s cultural resource during the restoration project,” Hayes explains. 

I’d so like a closer look at the back of the cave. I try getting photos through the chain link. It doesn’t work, but still, this place is fascinating. I look at the different textures in the rock as Hayes explains the types of stones of the area: dolomite, limestone, sandstone, and shale. I’m a lover of rocks, too, and find what he has to say very interesting. I point out patterns on the walls. He says the divots were caused by water and that humidity and lichen turn sections of the rock green. He speculates the river ran through this area a million years ago and its swirling currents carved out this cave. I try to picture that as we are on a high hillside, but I also can see, in looking at the cave that it does look like it was carved out by water… and not just water seeping through the limestone. 

He calls this area a glade, but there’s a difference to how I always understood the term: A grassy opening within a forest. He explains how the glades were formed here. I now wish I paid more attention to what I was reading at the visitors’ center earlier. There was a whole write-up describing glades, but I thought I knew what a glade was and didn’t read it.


The term “glade” in the Midwest has more meaning: It’s usually a southwest-facing, prairie-like, rocky slope within a forest. The type of bedrock under the shallow soil creates unique vegetation and wildlife habitat due to harsh, dry conditions. 

Other visitors are now waiting to ask questions, so I move off to take pictures of the striations and patterns in the stone and the textures between the walls and floor of the cave. Hayes points out holes made by groundhogs.

Dolomite/limestone above and sandstone floor.

I love patterns and textures and colors
I make my way back to the parking lot down the steep incline of the trail. Sometimes going down is harder on my legs than going up. Another ranger is making his way up and we stop to chat. He says storms in this area come up suddenly causing flooding -- including the parking lot. I had noticed deep trenches on either side of the paved trail and wondered how hard it rained to create them. I thank him and as I make my way to the parking lot, I can hear thunder. The sky, which had been sunny and blue with puffy white clouds up top is now dark gray in overcast. Guess I’d better get on my way before the parking area floods.

It’s 12:40 p.m. and I leave Graham Caves in high spirits. This is a fascinating place to visit and I am always excited when I have good conversations. I appreciate it when people take time to talk to me. I want to know things about the areas – I can’t always remember much even when I try to write things down, but I want to know.

The sky is falling!
I’m eager to get to a hotel so I can write about the day’s adventure. The sky gets darker and darker. It’s fascinating and spooky at the same time and being in the Midwest, tornado comes to mind. There’s one section across the landscape where it looks like the sky is actually falling to the ground in a dark blue-gray sheet. A few seconds later the sky does fall – hard. 

Visibility drops to a few feet. In seconds, I go from feeling joy to being scared to death. I can just barely make out the taillights of the car in front of me. I don’t dare stop, but slow from 70 mph to 60. Others don’t even slow down! I’m in the left lane with vehicles passing on the right. I don’t dare move over. This storm passes, but another immediately follows and I get behind a semi, but he’s driving faster than I dare. The temperature drops from 86 degrees to 72.

I see a sign for Olive Garden in Columbia, Mo. I need something familiar to calm me down after the frightening rain storms. I take the exit and drive for over five blocks. I never see an Olive Garden or any place I care to stop, so I turn around and go back to the interstate. 

A couple exits later there is a sign for Applebees. This might work even though it’s still Columbia. Traffic is heavy and the ramp comes off onto a roundabout at least two-three lanes. I can’t tell because it looks like vehicles are coming at me in every direction and I have to watch everything. Rotaries scare me. I try not to panic. Part of me wants to just stop and scream. But I can’t and just stick close to the car in front of me. We cross over the interstate to… another roundabout. Arrgghhh! I have never seen anything like this in my life and nor do I want to again!

I’m really ready to have a meltdown. I keep close to another car. I can see Applebees on the left. I have to come to almost a complete stop (thankfully the cars behind me are polite) to get into the turn lane at a set of lights and a couple minutes later, I’m parked. My adrenaline is racing and the first thing I blurt to the hostess is, “What the heck is with those two rotaries one after the next?” 

Both the hostess and waitress say the roundabouts are a horror. They get complaints from customers all the time. They have to explain a couple of times how to get back onto I-70W. The thought of having to deal with those two roundabouts and the traffic have me at my wits’ end. I order a Bahama Mama. I need a drink! 

“Those are on special today; $5.95 for 25 ounces,” she tells me. “Do you want that?”

Hell, yes! I can’t say no to that. I also order my usual 4-cheese mac ‘n’ cheese with bacon. Ohhh, this is so good! I need it and totally enjoy lunch. I dread having to get back on the road, but at least I feel better. I write down some notes and try to concentrate on the good of the day. One thing enjoyable about the driving is the sunflowers along the sides of the road. Sunflowers are such happy flowers.

I leave the restaurant feeling satisfied with the meal and a lot calmer than when I arrive. It’s 2 p.m., so perhaps I won’t go on to Kansas City. I carefully make my way around the roundaboust following the waitress’ directions and soon I’m heading west on I-70. It’s good to get out of the city and into farmlands and greenery again. 

I pull off the highway when I see a Comfort Inn sign. This is Boonville. I have to listen hard to understand the desk clerk. She assigns Room 109 and I buy quarters as I need to do laundry. I drag all my luggage inside. The room is dark, dingy, and doesn’t look the cleanest. Eww, not again.

The laundry facilities are just outside the pool area. I decide to go for a swim while my clothes are in the washer. The washer and dryer are in a closet behind bi-fold doors. There’s rust on both machines. Ewww. I fill the washer, put in the detergent and the required amount of quarters then go into the pool room.

I swim to the deep end and begin the exercises. Wait, what’s that floating? It’s a bug. I look around the rim and see more dead bugs floating on the water’s surface; lots of bugs. Nooo! I look around further and notice dirt and neglect. This place is gross! I’m not staying in here. Bugs get in places, it’s understandable, but there’s a difference to a place not being cleaned or well maintained. This place has to be one of the worst I’ve ever stayed in!

I drip back to my room after toweling off quickly. Even the hallway is dingy and smells musty. All my clothes are in the washer, so I roll up towels to sit on and set up the laptop. I go back to the washer and put the clothes in the dryer (have to get more quarters and put the machine through three cycles before my clothes were dry... and they do not smell the cleanest.) 

I am homesick and depressed and not liking this trip at all. Most of the hotel rooms have not been up to my standards… I don’t expect elegance, but I want nice and clean. The price certainly costs enough. Just get me through the next few days and I can go home. I don’t want to be crying every day. Gosh, how could I have loved the traveling to Florida so much? What makes this trip so different (besides crappy hotel rooms)?

This place appalls me so much I can’t even write about it!  

End of day overview: 
Average weather: hot and humid, heavy rains
Places visited: Graham Caves; Sasha rating: 5
Miles driven today: 129
Trip total: 1,430
Hours driven: 4 ½ 
Hotel:  Comfort Inn, Boonville, Mo.; Sasha Rating: 1 – disgusting!
Meal: Applebees, Columbia, Mo.; Rating: 5

Meals: $31.21   Hotel: $96.80 

Friday, October 7, 2016

On Writing

My morning journaling is being interrupted with a writing issue. To be more exact, the writing about my latest trip. After the first couple of traveling days, I had decided I wouldn’t take the time to blog and journal as I had on the previous trips because I thought it was too redundant. I chose to rely mostly on my journal and the photographs.

Now I am realizing that wasn’t such a good idea. I find myself getting confused and having to waste time deciphering particulars. One problem is that mornings, when I journal, my mind is bubbling over with all kinds of thoughts. Those immediate thoughts intermingle with my recording of what went on the previous day. And now, a month later, I feel I’m wasting time trying to sort it all out and it’s taking my focus off of the day I want to be writing about. As an example, when I wrote in my journal about breakfast, was it about breakfast this particular morning or yesterday morning?

Another problem is that I am not totally descriptive in the journaling. That means I am trying to “remember” as I’m writing the story and my memory isn’t what it once was. The previous trips I took photographs of everything including hotel rooms to help in recollection and I did not do that this time. So, for instance, here I am trying to write about a crappy hotel room and I can’t recall the details. 

Also, I’m missing those exact-moment descriptions; the kind of descriptions that are filled with emotions of that moment. And, as many pictures as I do take, for some reason, I am even lacking here. I visited a huge 14,000 square foot Lewis and Clark museum in Hartford, Ill., and what do I have for photos? One; and that is of one of me taken by someone else, and the next museum I stopped, I only have a couple photos taken outside. Both of these places were amazing and I have no pictures to show that.

I don’t know if I want to say I took a backwards step in my writing travelling stories with this trip, but I don’t feel improved. This third major trip feels I missed out on something about the journey – I missed out on a lot. 

OK, maybe I can change that to say: This trip is showing me what/how I want to be writing. I let anxiety get too much in the way. It’s not that I didn’t have stress and sadness on the other journeys, but I let it really get to me this time and it affected my enjoyment of the trip. Of course, looking back and seeing all I did do, it was a very successful trip, but during the actual driving, I was often miserable and unhappy. 

I want to be able to do this again. Oh, not the exact same trip, but I do want to travel and drive. It’s all about the attitude, my attitude. And it’s all about ME, ha ha. I’m my own worst enemy. I have the choice to be happy or not.

I wrote yesterday about over-thinking – which I do a lot. But sometimes, like at this moment, it does help me understand myself more. One of my goals in writing is to be better with descriptions. I wonder what it would be like if, instead of just writing about how I was horribly scared, I described about the why and how I was so frightened (even if it was only about city driving, traffic, and rain – ha, this almost sounds like it should be a song, ha ha). 

Anyway, the biggest thing I am understanding about this latest trip is that it is a huge learning experience! Not just learning about different areas or our wonderful country, but learning about myself as a writer/photographer. I am excited about finishing the story of this trip and then finding another. I don’t know if and when I can go on another major trip, but I so, so hope so! And I so want to be able to convey my discoveries to my readers. I always want to take you with me!

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Driving to Wichita, Day 6, Part 3

Day 6, Part 3, Monday

Energized for more adventure

Usually I’m only good for one adventure per day and the Chain of Rocks Bridge was a biggie. However, I am so pumped up over the success of walking the distance in the heat and humidity that I’m eager for more. Interstate 270, seen from the fishing area, shows bumper to bumper traffic stopped on that bridge. I don’t feel like dealing with that, so the decision to stay on Route 3 North on the Illinois side (as the woman I met on the bridge advised) is an easy choice. Besides, it’s refreshing to not be driving the interstate for awhile. 

I head north on the state road and fifteen minutes later I see a sign for the Lewis and Clark State Historic Site in Hartford, Ill., and decide to check it out. I am impressed by the biking trails intersecting the side roads and realize these trails, the Madison County Transit Confluence Trail, are part of the system of trails I saw at the Chain of Rocks Bridge. What fun it must be to bike these paths. A biking vacation would be an awesome way to learn and experience an area.

This historic site near the confluence of the Missouri and Mississippi rivers is where Lewis and Clark built their 1803-04 winter camp while preparing for their exploration west. The visitors’ center touts their facility as focusing on “the often un-told Illinois story of Lewis and Clark.” The site includes a huge 14,000-square-foot interpretive center and an outside full-scale replica Lewis and Clark’s Camp River Dubois. This is Trail Site #1 on the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail.

A part of me wants to wander the grounds and explore, but it’s so hot. I had enough sun for the day earlier and make my way to the building. It’s huge inside! I chat with a woman at the info desk. She gives me an area visitor’s map with better directions to Pere Marquette Lodge agreeing with the woman I spoke with earlier that I should go there. (Here, again, I am on a trip and I don’t ask people’s names.)

I turn to explore. The place is humongous; it’s hard to know where to start, which direction to take. There are various galleries and I weave in and around the exhibits. Huge story boards tell the story – from conception, with copies of actual letters and information from President Thomas Jefferson and others, through plans and preparation for the journey – and more. I move from story to life-size displays and some bigger-than-life. 

I am soon totally immersed in the story. It’s hard to imagine what it must have been like at that time with the struggles, hardships and the… primitiveness of it all: clearing land for a camp, building cabins, meeting with Native Americans (who might be friendly or not), planning what supplies to bring and what can be obtained from the land or through trading along the way. There are replicas of cabins, tools, and anything that would have had to do with life at that time. There are interactive features and even a theater to give visitors a more personal experience. Copies of letters, journals, and field notes from some of those involved with the expedition can be read… (when I can get through the handwritten script which is often not easy to decipher).

Cut-away replica of a 55 foot keelboat
that was used by Lewis and Clark
I spend time looking at the displays of tools. (I’m fascinated by tools, especially old surveying and mapmaking paraphernalia.) There’s so much, it’s almost too much to take in and I know I’m missing a lot. I explore an old cabin (which gives visitors the feel of the size) and look at replicas of the types of medicinals that were available at the time. I walk around the full-size replica of a 55-foot keelboat cut-away which shows how and what items would have been stored. A nice gentleman offers to take my picture next to the outside of the boat. He says he was a photographer at the front in WWII. It feels odd. I’m usually the one taking the pictures, not the one being photographed. 

Another man asks if I want to go on a guided tour to the outside exhibits. I’m tempted, but my legs are aching and the thought of the humidity outside... I shake my head with regret. It's getting on to noon and there’s still exploring to do before finding a hotel for the night… in Missouri. It’s time to leave. 

I could easily spend more time here. It’s almost like the entire story of the Lewis and Clark expedition is told in this one building. It’s really amazing. A part of me regrets not taking the time to explore the area as it deserves to be explored. There is so much. Anyone planning to visit should take a few hours to see this site. Visit for more information. 

I drive farther north along Route 3 (also called Lewis and Clark Blvd.) where a levee runs between the highway and the river. I can’t see anything looking left, but the tall grassed mound paralleling the road. Every so often a road with a short tunnel passes through the dike. One such road is the entrance for the 150 foot high Confluence Tower which at the time I didn’t know what it was. (It would definitely be worth a visit for the views of the confluence of the Mississippi and Missouri rivers.) 

I turn left onto Route 143 (also called the Great River Road and Berm Highway) following the directions I’d been given. This route is right along the Mississippi although I can’t see the river. I decide it’s time for another stop when I see a sign for Melvin Price Locks and Dam. The access road passes through the levee and under the bike trail. The trail connects this lock, Locks and Dam No. 26, to Locks and Dam No. 27 which is near the end of the Chain of Rocks Canal. I can’t help but be amazed at the miles of biking trails.

For those, like me who have little knowledge of
locks and dams
The first area I reach is a large parking and picnic area with views of the river. I pull in and around for a quick look, then continue on down to the end where there is not only the locks and dam (just south of the original Locks and Dam No. 26 which was demolished in 1990 after this new one was finished), but The National Great Rivers Museum. (I didn’t realize in this moment that the locks and dam were separate entities from the museum although both are operated by the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers. The museum is a collaborative between the CoE and the nonprofit Meeting of the Great Rivers Foundation.)

The outside temperature is 90 degrees. I enter the museum, opened in 2003, and similar to the site visited earlier, it’s a huge 12,000 square foot facility. The displays and exhibits, many of which are interactive and life-size with story boards, teach visitors many aspects of the Mississippi River and life in, on, and around it. These include replicas of terrain, wildlife, plants, trees, and more. There are working model displays of locks and dams. I weave around the many exhibits getting a greater understanding of water flow, what happens during floods, and the changes in the river over hundreds of years. I even stood in the replica of a towboat pilothouse and tried my hand at “steering a barge.” There is also a display to show how the locks and dam works and a sign says tours available of the locks, but I’m here at the wrong time. 

What was I thinking to turn down a personal tour?
I make my way around the facility again knowing I’m not seeing everything. A man asks if I want a free tour of the locks. Well, yes! The tour is approximately a half a mile walk and will take about an hour. Then he says I can’t bring my camera with the telephoto lens; camera phones are OK, but no telephoto lenses. We can lock up my camera.

Not take my camera? That’s like saying I can’t bring my left arm. I get kind of freaky when someone tells me I can’t bring my camera – not that it’s a big deal, but my camera is such a part of me. I also have to consider if my legs will hold up to much more, plus the sun and humidity. I decline the offer and seconds later regret that decision. What was I thinking? When will I ever have this opportunity again?

But the decision is made and I make my way back to the car through the hot sun stopping to take a couple of photos. I wonder what I could possibly photograph that would be a security concern. It is what it is, though, and a couple minutes later, I am back on the road heading for Pere Marquette Lodge questioning why the weight of time plays so much of a part in my decisions. Why am I always in such a hurry to get to the next place (or find a hotel) that I don’t take the time to thoroughly explore where I am?

The engineering and building of something like this boggles my mind.
Erie was tiny compared to this.
Type in the Great Rivers Museum and/or Melvin Price Locks and Dam to read more about this awesome place or visit

A glimpse of the dike that runs between the highway and the river.
And look, there's a cable-stayed bridge! 
The green side of the levee is on my left and trees on the right. My sight is tunneled ahead and I see the tops of a cable-stayed bridge in the distance. Oooh, I love cable-stayed bridges and this is the first one I’ve seen on this trip. As I near, I see signs saying Route 67 and another pointing that way to I-270. Maybe I can cross that bridge to get around St. Louis when I come back from the lodge. I stay straight and Great River Road becomes Route 100, also known as McAdams Parkway and I continue on my way to Pere Marquette.

I want to go over this bridge!

Route 100 is not barred from the sights of the Mississippi River by a dike and I see wide, quiet expanses of river on my left. This is very nice. The lady at the Lewis and Clark Museum had said to keep the river on the left and cliffs on my right and I see what she means. There are places I could stop, however the ones with good cliff views have obstructions in the way which is not good for photos. 

Passing through Alton, Ill. What was/is this place?

The lady at the museum said to keep the cliffs on the right and river to the left.
What a beautiful drive along Route 100.

On the way back towards St. Louis.
I’m tired by this time and although I love the views of the river, enthusiasm wanes. I’ve come this far, so I keep driving. I make one stop when I see some fascinating, colorful wind ornaments for sale. The place is closed. How disappointing, when for once, I would have spent money like a tourist. I continue north to Pere Marquette Lodge which is on the Illinois River (I didn’t realize I’d left the Mississippi) and by the time I get here, all energy has dissipated. I drive up to the lodge and the place just doesn’t call for me to get out. I turn around and head back south.

Crossing the Mississippi River on Route 67.

The sights along the river are beautiful and I periodically pick up the camera and snap a few photos. Back in Alton, I take a right onto Route 67 and pass over the beautiful, cable-stayed Clark Bridge.

A quick glance up while crossing the Clark Bridge
 Clark Bridge

The cable-stayed, 108-foot-wide Clark Bridge, named after William Clark, of Lewis and Clark fame, connects Alton, Ill., to West Alton, Mo., taking Route 67 over the Mississippi River. It opened in 1994 replacing an old 20-foot truss bridge that had been built in 1928. It’s also called the Clark Super Bridge and has two 250-foot-tall towers.

Not too far past the bridge is a Phillips 66 gas station sign and one for Riverlands Audubon Center. A chance to see birds and I’m in! I pass the gas station and pull into a parking area on the right where I get a couple of photos of birds in flight across an expanse of water. They’re really too far away. But it’s getting close to 2 p.m. and I don’t want to spend a lot of time here. Instead of going on the center, I park on the main road near another photographer. This guy has two tripods set up and both cameras have large telephoto lenses.

Flight and reflections
We chat for 20 minutes as he’s eager to point out a couple of rare birds in the flocks of herons and pelicans. I can’t see the ones he’s pointing out, though. My lens doesn’t give that close a view. However, I get some nice pictures of my own and we have a great conversation about birds and travel. I love how nice people are and I’m amazed when they have a connection to New Hampshire. 

Bellefontaine Bridge and the Lewis Bridge, W.Alton, Mo.
He tells me not to take I-270 to I-70, but to take the I-370 off of I-270 which swings farther out around St. Louis and is not so heavy with traffic. He gives points of reference which I appreciate. I’m on the highway at 2 p.m. and cross the Lewis Bridge over the Missouri River.

Lewis Bridge

There’s not much information on this bridge except that it is a deck girder bridge carrying four lanes which opened in 1979. It runs parallel to the Bellefontaine Bridge, a four-span railroad bridge opened in 1893.

I take the guy’s advice and find I-370 is a much quieter route. It doesn’t take too long to get on I-70W and when I see a sign for a Comfort Inn at Exit 219 in O’Fallon, Mo., I stop for the night.
It’s 91 degrees. I’m checked in just before 3 p.m. and after settling in, swim in the indoor pool. Later I order pizza for supper. It was Chicago-style, very thinned crust and it had onions. I hate onions! Ewwww. Well, that was money wasted.