Christmas in Albuquerque

I have a daughter, Janet, with whom I’ve been mostly out of touch for the last five or six years. It is a long and painful story, which is now in the past and I feel as though a huge weight has been lifted. Feelings of guilt and inadequacy have plagued me (and her too, it turns out), and this holiday season, we made our amends and spent some time together. It was intense, emotional, and very special, to say the least. The best part of it all, is that I saw my six year old grandson, Shane, who I had only met once.

Janet lives in Albuquerque, so it was fun to travel around a new city, take Shane to some parks and museums, and do a little roadtripping on the way there and back, while I was at it.

Shane’s favorite place by far was the American International Rattlesnake Museum. It wasn’t his first time there either. Apparently it’s a popular spot among the six year old boys… though, I must say, less so with the 60 year old women…eek! I also took him to the Explora! Science Center and Children’s Museum, which was much more my speed.

Probably the highlight of our trip was riding the Galaxi Roller Coaster at Cliff’s Amusement Park. I’ve never been so scared in all my life, but seeing Shane’s excitement made it all worth it.

Janet is a historian, so found a babysitter one day for Shane and took me to some of her favorite sites, including the Pueblo Cultural Center and the Turquoise Museum (which I LOVED), and had lunch at a nearby reservation where she’s got a few friends.

It all went by so fast, like a dream. There were certain moments, like when Janet and I stayed up late talking over a cup of tea, one single woman to the other, where I literally had to pinch myself. We’ve all made mistakes in the past, and this Christmas we each gave each other the gift of forgiveness and family.

I wish the same to all of you and a wonderful holiday season,
Martha
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Ghost Towns, USA

I’m baaaaack! And I appreciate all of your emails of concern. I did not get eaten by mountain lions, as one of my very humorous readers asked. In fact, I am, sadly, back in New Paltz, the land of the living dead as I like to think. Back to the cubicle, back to grind. Gotta build up the cash stacks before my next adventure…I’m thinking somewhere colder this time. The northwest, Alaska, or I may even *gasp* cross the border into Canada.

There is so much I haven’t told you about the remainder of my Southwest/Midwest journey. It will take time, my friends, for me to put it all in words. And so, in celebration of Halloween Month (that’s what we called it as kids), I thought I’d share a bit about my Ghost Town travels. These totally came out of nowhere. I was hanging out with some completely random people in Colorado and they brought me around on their ghost town tour. We also went to the Ghost Town Museum near Denver. A rollicking good time was had by all.

First, what IS a ghost town, you ask? Well, wikipedia will tell you that it is “a town or city that has been abandoned, usually because the economic activity that supported it has failed, or due to natural or human-caused disasters such as flood or war.” But I would add, that a ghost town is an isolated, desolate, haunted area. Many of the places on this list I’m about to make used to be near railroads, but were abandoned when people moved out to the highways. Some were old mining camps. But all of them are spooky. mooo hooo hahaha! (That was my spooky cackle.)

Here are some ideas for Halloween fun if you happen to find yourselves out in the middle of nowhere in Colarado. The key to a good ghost town experience is to go with the right people. You have to be in the mood to pretend to be scared (because shhhh…they’re not really scary.)

And if you happen to be in California, take the “walk you’ll never forget”—the Calico Ghost Walk, a 90 minutes after-dark tour of the Calico Ghost Town in Yermo (Barstow).

Happy Halloween!
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Next stop: Vermont and Maine Fall Foliage!

I know I said the Massachusetts fall foliage was the best of the best, but that’s because I hadn’t been thinking about Vermont’s rich, colorful, fall landscape. Think of it as a lightshow as you zoom down the highway and see a blur of colors surrounding you. One great way to see the length of the state is to take State Road 100, from Wilmington to Troy, scenic all the way. Side roads will lead you to Mt. Mansfield (you can hike or take the gondola), to Lake Champlain (gorgeous!), and Green Mountain National Forest. You can take the vintage railroad between White River Junction and Norwich (weekends only) for great views of the White Mountain foothills.

Head back over to the coast for Maine’s plush foliage scene. Peak time is mid-October. The rugged coastline makes for different scenery from the rest of the northeast, and the richly forested areas just scream for attention with their bold reds, oranges, and yellows. Check out Wolfe’s Neck Woods State Park and Bradbury Mountains State Park (keep your eyes peeled for hawks), both north of Portland. (Make sure you stop at the L.L. Bean Flagship Shore Freeport—open 24 hours a day!) Go inland a bit to find the Sebago Lake region—climb Douglas Mountain to see the ocean in one direction and the White Mountains in the other. Southern Maine offers boat excursions from Bath, some to Casco Bay and some to Kennebec River. A ferry service also runs to the islands in Casco Bay. Camden is a perfect place to stop, for dinner or for lodging, and also offers gorgeous ocean and mountain views, all surrounded by to-die-for foliage. Don’t forget Acadia National Park and Mount Desert Island, in addition to the quaint and historic town of Bar Harbor.

Oh, and one more thing: whenever you’re in Vermont, make sure you stop by the Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream Factory in Waterbury. It truly is the greatest place on earth.

Happy Fall!


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NEED to GET OUT of Richmond!!

I’m taking a break from my “Literary Travels” to say this: AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH! So going to Philadelphia for the summer didn’t end up working out b/c my grandparents decided to move out of their house and into an apartment so everything is in boxes and my grandfather had hip surgery and my parents thought it would be too much if I were there—even though I think I could’ve been a big help. So instead I’m HOME, in Richmond, which is NOT where I want to be. AND I’m a stupid counselor at that stupid camp that I SWORE I wouldn’t work at again. AND my parents are driving me crazy. Maybe most teenagers are used to that, but since I go to boarding school and generally see my parents for AT MOST two weeks at a time, but usually a lot less, spending THE SUMMER home is extremely daunting. And it’s only been a month so far…
The only silver lining of this dark, dark cloud is that my parents are letting me take one of the cars up to Philly to visit my grandparents after their big move, which is in a few weeks, after the first session of camp is over. And I’ll be stopping in Baltimore on the way to visit a friend from school. I’ll probably be gone for 10-12 days total…more if I can convince the authorities…
The only solace I have while I’m still here is Short Pump Town Center Mall, the Library of Virginia, and Kings Dominion. And I guess I have a few friends stuck here too. We all bitch and whine together. What else are friends for?

Returning to Zion

Howdy, peeps! Hows it hangin? How are the bones?

I’m broadcasting to you from (a little too) sunny Bryce Canyon National Park. Known as one of the most beautiful places on earth (especially now that I’m a part of its scenery –I jest!), I am GLAD that I went out of my way to get here. because really, what does “out of one’s way” really mean? its not like I was actually going anywhere to begin with.

Seriously though, I spent another day in Salt Lake City and then went to Zion National Park and after a few days there, I didn’t think it’d be possible to be in awe again. I’ve been around, y’know? I’ve seen rock formations in my day. But, man, there are rock formations, and then there are ROCK FORMATIONS. (And Zion National Park had the latter, obviously.) I went on the most fantastic three day hike, probably of my life. I met some cool people along the way, which was good b/c after one stupid snapshot, the batteries in my camera died and I realized I had forgotten more, so these guys will (hopefully) be emailing me some shots of me in front of an arch, you know to prove that I was there. I think they also got me canyoneering (I met them as part of an organized climb).

So from there I went to Bryce Canyon National Park and I’ve actually barely been in yet. Went for a day hike as soon as I got here and then went to “town” to get batteries, Dr. Pepper, rations, and check my email. But tomorrow I’m heading back in to get a better look around. I don’t wantto put to much pressure on this experience, but I think this may end up being the highlight of my journey. I’ve been feeling a little zany lately, lack of sleep, lack of food, but thinking of what I saw today subdues me a little, grounds me a bit, puts me in place, and makes me realize how small I am in this magnificent world—yeah, it does all those things.

Though that does bring me to my next point: I’m getting tired, bro. When I headed out for this adventure, I had the strength of 10 lions and the persistence of 10 mules. now I’m at like 6 and 5, respectively. At what point do I go home? Ahh, home, such a sweet word, packed with memories and a thick mattress…

Well, I still want to get to…where? I don’t even remember! I had a list as long as my leg of places I wanted to visit. And by now I’ve probably only hit mid-calf (starting from my toes and working my way up). Well, my new goal is to hit my knee—see what I mean about being zany? I have no idea what I’m talking about anymore.
Before I go, I just thought I’d wiki Zion National Park – did you know that it’s been inhabited by humans for 8,000 years? Did you know that some of the rock formations date back 13 million years? Did you know that Zion is a Hebrew word referring to a place of safety and peace? wow there are fantastic pictures here—those guys better follow through and send some to me…


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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?

Alive and Safe and maybe never going whitewater rafting again!

I seriously posted that last post and before I signed off (like a minute later) I already had an email from my mom telling me that I’d better be safe and email or call her when I get back. (Mom, PLEASE don’t sit by the computer all day waiting for me to write…..seriously, aren’t you supposed to be working??)

And so, here is just a very short post for all my dear readers: rest assured, I am safe. New River Gorge National River (didn’t swallow me up as I thought it would). Though I think rafting just may not be my thing.

First of all, the rapids weren’t even so bad (supposedly). I think they were a level 3 or something, which are “wimpy” rapids. We had a simulated “flip over” as soon as we got in the boat, and even that left me screaming and splashing around for dear life—mind you, we were in 2 foot deep water.

But MAN, I have never seen such peer pressure. The other people in the boat FORCED me to stay on the boat, saying that I’d be ok and that we “probably” wouldn’t flip over anyways. And they were right, kinda. No one flipped over…but me…three times! But, as goddess is my witness (that’s for you mom, I know how much you love that), I would not allow that frothy, glistening water to win our raging battle. And so each time I fought, and each time I came out on top, stronger than the last time.

By the time we got to the last rapid, people were actually laughing so hard and not focusing on the rapids at all, that our whole raft capsized throwing us all into the calm of a patch of river that was just near a truck that was waiting to load us up and take us home.

Ryan says I’m a good sport. Or sportess—he’s making fun of me.

It should not go unmentioned, however, that my brush with death was nearly worth it due to the breathtaking scenery that surrounded us. A little before and little after, we hiked through the area and I really took the most amazing pictures of cascading waterfalls flowing off of sandstone cliffs.

And then I remember that this is why I needed to get out of the city. To try new things and to experience the divinity of nature. And that is what I found here—that is what I keep finding.

Even this house that we’re staying at. They have acres of land and children and animals who all seem so happy and at peace with their surroundings. They open their home to travelers and allow them to taste from sweetness of their lives. This is family. This is something great.
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