Portland: maybe I’ll relocate?

Would you believe it? I’m already in Portland…and loving it! So much time as past and all of it has been spectacular.

It’s hard to explain what I experienced at Red Rock Canyon. It was…mystical. There’s just something about the way the sun feels as it burns through my clothing. And I simply cannot explain the effect of the strong sun’s rays inexplicably tearing the clouds apart. But mostly, it’s the colors: the reds and browns against the blue of the sky is breathtaking and magical. I will definitely return to Red Rock Canyon. (And all this is coming from someone who lives just a few hours from Red Rock State Park in Sedona.)

My drive up to Oregon was beautiful and uneventful (just the way I like it). A few days ago I went museum hopping, to the Portland Museum of Art to the Portland Art Museum (both great) and then to the Portland Japanese Garden. Tomorrow I’ll be meeting Robert at his house for coffee and breakfast before his grand tour of Smith Rock State Park, where he promises I’ll be impressed.

Today I’m just hanging around my hotel and the neighborhood. I’ve treated myself to a stay in Avalon Hotel & Spa which is lovely. And I spent all afternoon in Washington Park, where I will certainly return between now and the end of the week.

I love it here. I feel relaxed and independent and happy. Check, check, check—goals reached!
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Maybe Vegas isn’t for everyone…

Well, I’m not so sure Las Vegas is for me. I played some slot machines and even tried my luck at Texas Holdem. And you know what? I came out ahead! I wasn’t interested in spending too much money gambling, so I set aside $200, and walked out with $230! While that was fun, and while it does seem like I’ve got a knack for getting down and dirty in the game rooms…I just felt a little out of place. First of all, I don’t drink (at least not more than the occasional glass of wine), and there were so many young people there drinking and drinking and just throwing away their money—I got a little uncomfortable. My mother instinct came through full blown and I had to hold myself back from taking drinks out of hands and putting money back into pockets. The other thing that saddened me was the fact that you can tell who has the serious gambling problems. There are some older folks (my age and older) who look like they haven’t showered in weeks and you just have to wonder how much in their lives they’ve thrown away that got them to this point, where they spend night and day and night and day in a casino. And then I was standing at a Roulette table and some guy got a lucky spin and turned around and kissed me flat on the mouth before I had a chance to protest! Is that what people do in real life? I found it offensive and strange.

I’ve spent most of my time walking up and down The Strip, and that really has been the highlight of Las Vegas. I enjoy peace and quiet and national parks, but I’m a city girl at heart; I always have been. And the lights and the bustle and the diversity of people thrill me to no end. Vegas is so different from anywhere I’ve ever been, and that was exciting. But I kept thinking of the streaked limestone at Valley of Fire State Park, and now I’m aching for more of a natural setting. Maybe even though I love cities, I feel as though this trip is intended to relax me and center me after my divorce. Perhaps deep down I believe that the natural balance around me will kick in and force-balance me, though I suppose that’s probably not the right attitude.

And do I’m ready for the next phase of my trip, for the quiet and the solitude. I’m looking forward to Red Rock Canyon and then the long drive through Nevada and then California and then Oregon, up to Portland. I don’t have specific plans at this point. Will take my time driving up there, will stay at some cheap motels along the way.

Oh, by the way, is it possible to become addicted to massages?? I’m already ready for my next one!

Martha


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Old Lady to visit Vegas…

I leave tomorrow for my solo-woman-on-the-road-roadtrip. I’m all packed, I’ve said my goodbyes at work, I’ve stocked up on maps that cover any route I may decide to take between here and Portland, Oregon. Slightly nervous about the long drives by myself, but I’ve got healthy snacks to munch on, lots of Beatles CDs to listen to, and eight audiobooks that’ll keep me entertained when I need some new voices around me. I’ve got an extra battery for my cell phone, a first aid kit, and a list of emergency contacts and doctors’ numbers.

I just have to take some deep breaths—I don’t believe that I’m going to do this! One month of driving, hiking, and seeing states I’ve never been to. Mostly I’ll be visiting national parks, gardens, and museums, but first…

First stop: Las Vegas! Do you believe that I’m going to do that? Is that not a place for a 60 year old newly divorced woman?—that’s my question. But I guess I’ll find out. It’s about a five hour drive from Phoenix and I’ve already booked a spot at the Venetian Resort, located on The Strip, and I’ve already got tickets to Cirque de Soliel and a spa treatment at The Spa at the Mirage Las Vegas which I think is where Siegfried and Roy have their Secret Garden and Dolphin Habitat. Do you know that I haven’t ever had a professional massage in my whole life? I think I deserve one by now, don’t you?

Basically, I plan on giving myself the real “Vegas Experience” as I’ve always imagined it (plus or minus a few things that I’m just too….too old for, really). I’m going to indulge and relax and spend money, go to shows, and see the lights. For me, indulgences like that are as sinful as I get, so that’ll be my version of Sin City.

A young man at work even taught me how to play Texas Holdem!

There are some beautiful scenic drives in the area through the Mojave Desert and Red Rock Canyon, so after a few days in Vegas, I’ll head that way for a drive and then continue going north.

Wish me luck! We’ll definitely be in touch!
Martha


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Evolving into a nomad chick…

My friend Robert told me that the Portland Japanese Garden is not to be missed, so I’ll add that to my itinerary. He’s offered to take me through Smith Rock State Park since he lives nearby.

Also, I’m thinking that I should rent a car to drive up to Oregon and then fly back to Phoenix, otherwise it’s just too many hours driving by myself. Speaking of which, I’ve been doing some research on women traveling alone. First of all, I’m reading Women’s Travel Writing 2008, which seriously makes me laugh and cry on every page—I’m so easily moved it’s ridiculous.

Found a great site with advice for solo women travelers — maybe i just like the ring of it, nomad chick—could that be me?

Martha’s ready to get away again! (just need a little advice…)

I happen to have accrued a lot of vacation days from work. I haven’t taken full vacations for the last 4 years and since we have a cumulative vacation day policy, I’ve got about a month left that I can still take this year. I get a little crazy about it actually. As I was writing that I was thinking, wow, if I don’t take them this year, then next year I’ll have SIX weeks. But I’ve got to break that habit, otherwise I will NEVER GO ANYWHERE, and I’m done living like that!

So I think starting on the Thursday before Memorial Day I’m going to drive up to Oregon for a 2-3 week roadtrip. Why Oregon, you ask? Well, why not? I’ve been reading up on things to do/see in Oregon, so I’m starting to get some ideas for us there and there are also a few places along the way that I’ll check out (like Red Rock Canyon in Nevada). Most of all, I’m going to bring my journal (which is really my laptop) and I’m going to get some writing done. I have drafts of poems and short stories that I’ve written in the past (some as far back as 20 or 30 years ago!) and I’d like to devote some serious time to getting them in better shape to share with the world, in one way or another.

I guess I just want to throw out some of my ideas and see if anyone has suggestions. I’ve heard amazing things about Mt. Hood National Forest and Golden-Silver Falls State Park (is it wrong to choose a place based on it’s name?), so I’d like to make sure that I at least get to these. Other than that, I’m open to suggestions. Maybe also Crater Lake National Park.

Browsing through other people’s trip itineraries online, I’ve come across this trip which looks like a good few days trip around Portland, which is something I’d also like to do. Any other “must do’s” in the area?

I figure that if I do stop at Red Rock Canyon, I’ll go in Vegas while I’m in the area, even though it doesn’t quite fit into the theme of my outdoors traveling itinerary…Though I just checked mapquest and it’s a 20 hour drive from Phoenix to Portland, but that’s going up the California Coast, not going through Nevada as I had wanted and I don’t want to go TOO far out of my way. Has anyone done this trip before?

Clearing my head in Maine

I had just been through a horrible divorce that left me feeling broken, distant, and confused. I thought that I had had life all sorted out, until this bombshell landed on me leaving me unsure of what to do next. After some months of sitting in my new apartment all alone, my friends forced me out to some neighborhood bars and restaurants. I started feeling myself reawaken from my deep despair, but somehow felt like I needed to get out and do some exploring on my own in order to completely regain independence and realize that I could in fact live on my own once again. And that’s when I decided it was time for me to plan that trip I never took, to Maine, a place that had always seemed like a beautiful place to visit, but that no one ever wanted to go to with me.

I flew there (from my hometown of Phoenix, Arizona) and rented a car at the airport. I had decided that I would split my time between woodsy nature and beaches. It was June, so I knew I’d be able to appreciate both of these two magical worlds. The first stop I made was at Moosehead Lake. I had rented a little cabin on the lake where I stayed for 2 nights. I spent my days swimming and jogging through the area (I was so out of shape—it felt great to get some energy back!) and my evenings bundled up in my cabin reading one of the many books that I brought at South Portland’s The Maine Mall (my real first stop after I landed in Maine!). Next I went to Baxter State Park where I spent the day hiking with a crowd that I had met in the visitor’s center. From there I went to Acadia National Park in Bar Harbor. Acadia National Park really was the ideal place for me, nestled amongst mountains and lakes with hiking and bike trails, but also included the beautiful Sand Beach which provided the coastal relaxing that I had only read in my books.

That was just the beginning of my beach run. I was feeling life coursing through my veins once again and I couldn’t wait to hit the beaches. I had been meeting such interesting people along my way and knew that the crowd would change as my surroundings changed, and I couldn’t wait to see who I would meet next. The beaches in Maine are perfect. I drove up and down the coast, stopping for a few hours or a few days (whatever I was in the mood for!) at Old Orchard Beach, Hills Beach, Ferry Beach State Park, and Popham Beach. I wish you could hear the tone of my thoughts as I type those beaches out. I suppose you could call it wistful? Relaxed? Maybe even happy. I ended the last day of my 12 day trip at Lake St. George State Park where I island hopped and celebrated the nature that was around me.

I think I’m going to do this every year. Maybe not Maine, but somewhere. I’ve always wanted to travel on my own, and I finally did!

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