It’s Wednesday (actually now it’s Thursday). On Sunday this big trip begins. Big trips are good except except that once you’ve gone big it’s hard to go back down to a week or two. Just does not seem travel worthy.
So my granddaughter are coming over shortly to get ‘watering the plants’ instructions. Yes. I said plants. After years of being responsible for nary plant, animal or mineral (does the lava I snuck out from Hawaii many years ago count as a mineral?) other then my living breathing self…I have plants. I love having them. I worry about them. Too much water. Too little water. Not enough sun…well that’s how it goes with plants isn’t it?
I’m really panicked just a little tonight about this trip. Just the Greenland part. Which is a cash guzzling/REI dependent mystery at the moment. There are questions of weather and unknown guides and are-we-tourists-or-trekkers? and how will raw whale really taste? and will there be an actual giant ice bergs all about? and can I sleep on a floor with just a mat in a sleeping bag. Thank god for good drugs.
When I return I’m just going to dig up my tiny new apartment-dwelling-size back yard and grow green things and watch every Netflix/Amazon series I’m behind on and spend NO money and eat more vegetables.
For now I’ll finish my New Belgium Heavy Melon beer and eat some dinner spinach with a nice dab, big chunk actually, of butter.
BIG isn’t really easy to take a picture of if it’s an ordinary day and you don’t have very much time and there are NO BIG buildings or sculptures around. Oh sure, there are the Sandia and Manzano Mountains just east of town but they’re not BIG mountains and this is BIG Sky Country but mountain and sky shots are best taken someplace other than my parking lot at work.
Maybe the perfect photo op will come to mind if I make a list of a few of the words we’ve turned into iconic phrases by putting the word BIG in front of them: deal, man, picture, time, Apple, Gulp, Mac and two of my favorites, freakin’ deal, wide world.
I can see there still might be a problem. I am not going out for a Big Gulp or a Big Mac just for today’s photo. Nope, no way. BIG? Hmmm….
I know! My Big 2015 Trip. BIG2015TRIP. B15T. From Bergen, Norway on the Atlantic Ocean across the Eurasian Continent to Beijing, China on the Pacific Ocean. By land and sea. Just me.
Beyond BIG, today’s assignment/challenge is to consider point-of-view. So here it is. Something Big—as in the world. Shot from the POV of me gazing at its whole or various parts with longing, excitement and maybe a little fear!
It is cold. Not back-east or up-north cold but cold. It’s dry brown boring cold. That time in the middle; ‘the time of no paid holidays’ it’s called, between New Year’s Day and Memorial Day.
Let’s review the big events that get us through this long five months. Possible snowstorms, Downton Abbey season, Oscars, new House of Cards, my birthday, warm walking mornings arrive, San Diego visit, and finally to Memorial Day and Minnesota. Since I don’t have a Valentine and I’m not a Christian I have left Valentine’s Day and Easter off My Calendar.
My Big 2015 Trip is still expanding and contracting, with the Russian/Mongolian middle practically cast in concrete and the beginning (Norway) and ending (South Korea) still malleable.
So far I have my calendared plans, a new medium-size REI backpack and a vest I intend to wear every single day with pockets for passport, cards, and Smartphone. I have a new Costco raincoat and a gift card for travel shoes from Benders in Grand Rapids, Minnesota.
My whole family is getting through February with flying colors: Robert and Marsha are not depressed because they’re in Florida and their dog is healthy. Scott and Sandra are biking and hiking and zumba-ing, young Steven is job hunting and Teresa is selecting her grad school—eliminating Virginia Tech due to its location in a rural land of ice and snow, moving on to Chicago this weekend. Steven and Michele are working working exercising exercising, Patricia is hostessing and studying in West Texas and Sara is now driving her own car to non-stop cheering activities.
Didn’t really start this post to do a family report but it’s happened. So I should have some family pics to put with it—but I don’t.
How about February in Albuquerque at North Fourth Art Center?
Plans for B15T are almost finalized. From Norway’s Atlantic coast to Beijing, almost on the Pacific, by land. Trains, buses and ferries. It’s a long way and I’m a little nervous. But then why would I travel if it were just an ordinary humdrum activity.
I know this has been a day of images, of photography but how about if I sneak in just one travel reference.
A week ago Wednesday night, I returned from The Big Trip. (All posted in Blog ‘Time and Place’) It was…a trip…from near-perfect to awesome to troubling to eye-opening (personally and geographically) to psychologically traumatic to warm and fuzzy to tasty and pretty to exhausting. As travel should be.
Many things to write about in each of those categories: near or even entirely perfect—experiencing a country (Rwanda) I love and fear (because of what it says about each and every one of us) through the eyes of my grandchildren; awesome—as safaris to my surprise are and with family and in slightly rough conditions (but not too) especially awesome; and, yeah…well…it is troubling to not be able to quite keep up a physical pace that seems reasonable—is this something more time at the gym could fix?; and then there’s eye-opening—how geographical, social, family dynamics play out in ways you maybe hadn’t quite expected, being in two African countries (Rwanda and Botswana) that are safer, cleaner and apparently better managed than the U.S. or U.K. or many other of us ‘developed’ places; psychologically traumatic—my problem—to be explored more fully elsewhere AND you’ve already seen lots of warm, fuzzy, tasty, pretty in previous blog posts (Time and Place).
So the pattern of my days (and nights) since returning is up at 1:30/2am, pretty alert most of day, falling asleep (literally) at 7pm. Since we were roughly halfway around the world for much of the trip, it could be worse. It is however getting annoying.
Back to the books then. A glass of wine. My first since the Barefoot Gallery & Shop in Colombo. Hmmm…tastes very good. By 5 or 6 I hope to sleep a little more.
The morning walk is to make me like New Mexico because at dawn it is the loveliest place imaginable. The morning walk is to clear my head of night fears/worries/restlessness. The morning walk is to make me strong and healthy for The Big Trip.
In an hour or so I’ll go to the Gym—abs class and a few machines. To make me strong and healthy for The Big Trip.
I’ve almost completed my collection of doctors (since all docs are now specialists) I like and trust so that any health concerns have a place to be voiced. And I’ll have the right meds in case of sneaky bronchial attacks or the once-in-every-five-years RA flare-up to keep me strong and healthy for The Big Trip!.
This morning I walked straight down 14th to the edge of the Zoo and the bike path. I guess it rained a little last night because the smells were fresh, sluggish river and ditch fresh and wild zoo animals fresh, nice anyway.
Photos ops were few. Just one flower.
Gloria Steinem just turned 80 yes? So if Gloria is ‘a woman of a certain age’ then that is a desirable state in which to be…. And besides I’m way younger than that. Sort of. As in 75. This is one of those milestone birthdays I think. At least my sons think so and are getting me extra presents and taking me out to fancy dinners so I’m going with the concept.
Let’s see if I can think important thoughts this morning or at least work slowly up to profound as my caffeine level rises. I am realizing how important the long-distance gaze is to writing; I get up here, turn on coffee and computer, sit down at this high table, and gaze out over the Bay, and immediately feel like writing. This is a conundrum in that my perfect little downtown Albuquerque apartment is quite cave-like with such limited gazing possibilities. I mostly love that feeling of entering a warm or cool safe and colorful little cavern when I get home from work but it may also be a barrier between me and literary greatness. What to do? I’ll make posters from photos of my favorite views—San Diego Harbor at its busiest; fields and woods out at the old Minnesota place; Sandias at their maximum rosiest; a really interesting city skyline (well not just any…should be NYC, Paris up toward the church or down toward the tower, Hong Kong, LA, San Francisco), how about a cozy view of Neset/Byglandsfiord where my dad came from or maybe just a beach, maybe up at Oceanside. There, the writing issue is taken care of for this coming year. Turns out it’s all about pretend location, pretend location, pretend location.
I do not want to write about how lucky I am—but of course it is true—I am healthy, have great family/job/friends/home (except for the view thing). Some time to write/blog, play with photography, even turn my back porch into an art studio (with the double advantage of a washer/dryer on which to place one’s masterworks to dry).
So now that gratitude has been acknowledged, what to say. My planning list-making OCD kicks in whenever there is the faintest excuse to start all over again, birthdays are like New Year’s Day…I will do this and this and this in the coming year.… There are the biggies of course beyond the ‘I will eat better, exercise more’ stuff. So my way of being utterly and totally self-indulgent today goes like this.
Today in the morning I will drink coffee and plan how-to-get-to-every-country-in-the-world-before-I-die. Then Scott, who is being extraordinarily kind and considerate this week (next time he is this nice he says is when I’m 80), will take me back to REI to exchange my birthday backpack for an even better one with wheels. I am keeping the smart new messenger bag we got the other day however for that one last job as a bicycle messenger delivery person around Albuquerque. Then I’ll plan another year of countries. Then we will get ready for dinner at Juniper and Ivey about which I am so excited. Closest I will get to Noma. And then we will come home so I can finish travel planning and move on to more worthwhile pursuits tomorrow. Like climbing Black Mountain!
So. One more stab at going to every country in the world! I know it’s a little (a lot) silly and very likely impossible (like Saudi Arabia’s not going to let me touch their land unless I marry one of Saudi Princes and they are so hard to meet in Albuquerque—although I think I saw one bowing down before a Breaking Bad totem the other day). Let’s see where I am five years from now and if I’m even close to 195 maybe AARP will finance the last 25 passport stamps. Right now I am still at 90, having taken a year and a half off. Jordan Peimer and Hillary Clinton are ahead of me and I feel rather desperate about catching up.
Here is the plan. 2014 only six new countries: Oman, UAE, Qatar, Bahrain, Kuwait and Ethiopia. Which leaves 104 to cover/enter in six years or 17+ countries per year. Now, before you get all self-righteous about how you would rather know a few places in depth than only graze the surface of a bunch, my philosophy is this. Yes, in the best of all possible worlds I would be Hillary Clinton (or Jordan). The next best thing is to get to know the neighborhood. Meaning if I spend ten days on the Arab Peninsula I will know something about the kingdom of oil (and have had time to purchase my new fall wardrobe at the Dubai Mall). A week or two or five in a region is enough time to feel familiar with that particular territory, especially if you are fairly diligent with some pre-travel reading. And besides I’m 75 today and I don’t have time for up close and personal with every single country in the world okay?
2015. I will be traveling entirely alone this year, which I sometimes prefer and sometimes not. So how can I get to about 25 less-intense places, not too expensive, in no way scary, in two month-long journeys? Of course this means I must work a lot of overtime to accrue the necessary comp time but why not since otherwise I’ll wind up never kicking my NCIS habit. Let’s begin with Southeast Asia. How about Bangladesh, Myanmar, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, Brunei, East Timor, Papua New Guinea. Too much long distance air travel, especially between Brunei, Papua and East Timor. Very expensive travel, relatively inexpensive on the ground. But that’s only eight countries and a month of travel. And I need to save the easy rest-of-Europe and less-desirable Latin American countries until last. When I am authentically irredeemably old.
My second 2015 trip can be to Africa. I have only been to 27 of the 54 African countries. Maybe North and North Central Africa before the whole Muslim world hates us so badly we can’t go there at all. Countries I haven’t been to in that region include Western Sahara, Mauritania, Algeria, Libya, Niger, Chad, Sudan, South Sudan, Eritrea, Djibouti, Somaliland, and Somalia. Well that is certainly a challenging group. But it would cover 12 countries that no one wants to go to besides me. People won’t say ‘oh you are so lucky to be able to travel like that, wish I could (but I have to pay for my new car, house, jewelry, cruise…whatEVer).’
I think, just for the hell of it, I’ll do a little research on travel into all of the above and see where I can even get visas. The disadvantage of being a little old lady is that I’m poor and tired; the advantage is that overall people are relatively kind to us, at least in some parts of the world. And I enjoy the attention from youngish people who approach me rather directly, “How old are you?” they say. I tell them and they respond in disbelief, “But my grandmother is younger than that and she never goes anywhere!” I find it quite flattering. There are those darn Somali pirates but if I stay off ships carrying the world’s luxury loot I’ll probably be fine. Yes. I think a bit of research is in order.
In 2016 and 2017 various members of my family are going with me to a few places: Son Steven to India, Nepal, Bhutan; Teresa to Greenland, Norway, Lapland, Russia; Scott to the Stan countries (Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan—we have to wait and see about Pakistan and Afghanistan) and Mongolia.
The END of the Epic 24-day Summer Road Trip of 2013.
Happy to be home…in relentlessly sunny New Mexico. Sad to have left the cool green beauty of the north.
In Fort Collins last night a visit with Val and John and their gorgeous lively babies.
All day driving driving driving through the tedious chaos of Denver traffic; by the same Rockies we started the trip with only on the other side now.
Through the dreary stretches of I-25 in southern Colorado.
Into New Mexico which looked pretty good considering it is not green, rainy, cloudy, even misty. Oh well, it is home.
The pretty scenery in Fort Collins:
Thank god…we can leave on our trip instead of hanging around here with bankers and lawyers counting our Powerball loot. I was so dreading reregistering as a Republican too. So it’s all good.
The dread ‘bad-cold-as-you’re-leaving-on-a-holiday’ has struck. I am practically mainlining zicam and orange juice. And Asian cracker/nut mix seems to help.
I was going to write about the last leg of the first of the four M-series legs of this Big Road Trip. We start #1 tomorrow—to Manitoba (Winnipeg); #2 is all-Minnesota all of the time; #3 takes us to and from Montana and #4 brings me back to Mexico (the Nuevo part).
Since I do not feel at all well I need one more pass before getting serious with travel writing tomorrow night. Thank you.