Taking a break from the writing challenge to fly off and visit faraway lands. Come over and read all about it, cuz I’m blogging here. From here:
In keeping with British Columbia’s rambunctious weather patterns, Day 4 was chilly and overcast. The sore throat I’d been wrestling since the night before the trip was beginning to get a leg up on me, so Mom proposed a trip to the health food store to get some supplements for my suffering immune system.
I countered that we walk – it was only 5 kilometers from where we were staying. A good stretch of the legs. Plus I was eager to explore some of the trails I’d seen branching off the main highway. Dad agreed to walk with me, and together we explored the backstage area of Whistler’s network of ski resorts and parks.
We passed wildflowers and rock gardens, a variety of trees. We watched paddle boarders on the lake, enjoyed the quiet, and talked about all kinds of things.
That’s what I love about long walks with my dad – neither one of us are big talkers, but when we’re gallavanting in the great outdoors, we let loose. Everything under the sun, we discuss it. I discovered this a couple of years ago when Dad talked me into training for a half marathon with him. When we did our training ‘runs’ together (more like jog for ten minutes, then walk until I was ready to try again), we swapped wisdom on topics ranging from travel plans to job searches. It does me good.
Whistler Village Park is an enormous town center, the center of the shopping and dining in Whistler. Even in summer there were numerous patrons – maybe since there wasn’t any skiing to do. We located the health food store and got me some Olive Leaf extract to take with the Emergen-C I was drinking.
Since we were there, we wandered around a bit and watched people. Dirt bikers riding down the mountain, lifts taking people up the mountain. Lots of shoppers and diners wandering through the bricked streets. We found a coffee shop for a snack and fortified our walk back.
Just as it began to rain. It was a gentle rain, so we didn’t mind.
Even so, it was nice to get home and put on dry socks.
If the following photos look familiar to you, it might be because Whistler was the home of the 2010 Olympic Games. What you probably don’t know is that it was June when the games were recorded.
Okay, not really, but seriously it could have been. Whistler is gorgeous and full of winter sport, but the temps stay pretty low even in summer.
We were feeling a little wiped out from all the getting around and frigidity of the Victoria Island portion of our journey, so for our first day in Whistler we decided to keep it chill. It was actually a sunny, pleasant day – pushing 60 degrees Farenheit, so we drove a little bit down 99 with the intention of finding something scenic and looking at it.
Scenic is not tough to find in Whistler – around every bend, over every hill there is something to see. The view above is fairly common… snow-capped mountains, evergreens flourishing beside trickling streams, rushing waterfalls. Wildflowers galore. And also bears.
This sign greeted us as we began the winding ascent to the official home of the winter games, on a quest for waterfall viewing. It was an exceptionally foggy morning (pretty early, as we were still somewhat jet-lagged 3 hours ahead of the rest of the west coast) and we didn’t THINK there were any unpleasant creatures about.
We locked the car doors and drove past one or two black bears foraging on the side of the road. They may have been intimidating in real life (ie: outside the car), but they appeared to be much more interested in posing for pictures than in taking a bite out of any hapless tourists or misdirected winter Olympics spectators. They were just doing their thing with no apparent concern for the cars driving past.
Normally there is an entry fee for the park, but it just so happened that a private event was going on that day, so the fee was waived. We drove past the ski jump and the official mascot for the 2010 games. We passed the Olympic rings. We kept driving until we found what we were looking for.
It was ethereal and mysterious in the lingering fog and rising mist. The sound of rushing water was at once calming and invigorating.
There didn’t seem to be much of a road beyond this point, so we drove back up 99 and got lunch (Southside Lodge, excellent diner cuisine slash hostel). Feeling fortified and refreshed in our quest for pretty things, we headed north this time.
It took about 30 miles, but eventually a sign for Nairn Falls caught our eye. Parking was a cinch, and we found several signs that informed us that a quick trek through a mile or so of trail would bring us to the falls.
The trail was pretty easy walking and we came across several families with young ones as well as older folks along the same path. I love wildflowers and paused to admire some of them as we went by. The idea that something so beautiful would take root and bloom whether any human being would ever be involved or not is one that I find haunting and inspiring.
I could philosophize further, but that’s not really what we’re doing here. I’ll just let you think about the daily miracles that go unseen by human eyes and take away your own deductions from it.
More wildflowers grew in the cracks between the rocks, and the foaming water looked frigidly inviting. I couldn’t stop taking pictures and videos, struggling to master a perfect panning shot without the aid of a tripod or steadicam rig. As you can imagine, this was an absorbing endeavor. When I looked up to locate my parents, I found my mom doing the last thing I would have expected.
She was lying down. On the wooden deck. Feet propped on the railing, arms out to the side, eyes closed.
This woman was on vacation.
So I joined her, and in a matter of minutes Dad plopped down next to us. Just three Matzes lying in the sun, enjoying the waterfall mist and the waterfall noise and all the wonderfulness of being in Whistler, British Columbia. Should you visit Nairn Falls, you may very well be tempted to do the same. It was highly gratifying.
As you can imagine, after all this excitement we needed some ice cream.
Prompted by signs for a Pemberton just a bit farther north, we located and drove through the small town featuring a skate park, a library, and a coffee shop. There was ice cream too, so we lounged on the deck furniture and reminisced about our favorite parts of our road trip so far.
It’s been a beautiful, delightful, enjoyable day in Whistler. Let’s do it again tomorrow.
In which Victoria’s brisk breeze drives us inland to one of the most beautiful gardens in Canada.
British Columbia! Oh, how lovely thou art. From the legendary Butchart Gardens to the ferry ride across the Strait of Georgia, to a quick zip through Vancouver (wow!) and a 90-minute drive up the Sea-to-Sky highway to our destination of Whistler, BC. Goodness, what a treat for the eyes.
We spent the morning enjoying breakfast at the Huntingdon Hotel, a cozy place just spitting distance from the harbor, with lovely views of gardens from the room window and a delightfully sunny breakfast area.
Feeling refreshed and adventurous again, we drove around downtown and West Victoria for a bit, enjoying the offerings of home and business architecture and the local Tim Horton’s (nonexistent in the Washington, DC area). This place is cute. And I mean cute. If it had been about 10 degrees warmer (Fahrenheit, that is) and slightly less windy, a jaunt around the downtown walkway would have been in order.
Instead, we found a haven at Butchart Gardens, a 55-acre outlay of landscaping that is both relaxing and awe-inspiring.
The gardens were once a limestone quarry, owned by enterprising cement manufacturer Robert Butchart. Once the quarry had fulfilled its usefulness, his wife Jennie came up with the idea to turn it into a humungous garden. It took awhile, but between the time she started (1904) and now, the gardens took over and turned into an awesome display.
We finished up our tour with an overpriced gelato (but really, the ambience is worth it) and set out for another ferry ride. This one was considerably less chilly than before, and we passed a pleasant 90 minutes staring at the horizon.
The GPS got a little confused, sending us on a brief detour through an Indian reservation (I would tell you which one, but I couldn’t hope to reproduce the blend of symbols, and letters, and numbers spelling the name).
Once back on track, we stopped in Vancouver for some groceries. What a cool city! I felt like we were on set for a Doctor Who episode. Between the hazy cloud cover, rolling streets surrounded by tall buildings, and the mountains in the distance, the whole vibe was futuristic. I need to see that again.
Getting out of the city meant driving on a big scary bridge. The Lions Gate is a suspension bridge that connects Vancouver with the North Shore and all points north (like Whistler). It’s named for the Lions, two mountain peaks looming ahead of us as we drive over the bridge.
I don’t know much else about it except that it is high. Super, crazy high. With lots of water underneath.
And we made it.
Then on to 99: the Sea-to-Sky Highway. What a view!
The beautiful route got us through the mountains and into Whistler in about 90 minutes, for an arrival time of about 9:30 pm. The sun was just setting as we dropped our bags and took a look around. The view from our condo window:
Yeah, it’s gonna be a good week.
In case you’re just joining us, I’m a few days into Robert Brewer’s writing challenge, encouraging us to take steps every day for 30 days toward building a platform and developing your following.
It’s been a smashing experience so far, and I’m pretty excited to carry on.
A reasonable suggestion. Where to begin?
Since I blog primarily about stories, fiction, travel, and my personal experience with all those things, it seemed smart to look for other blogs with a similar focus. When I laid eyes on MORFIS, I knew my search was over.
MORFIS is a collection of art, illustrations, photography and design that takes you to another place. Browsing around the virtual gallery, I found myself smiling involuntarily. The imagination spread across the digital pages is really something. I was drawn in.
But it isn’t enough to visit a blog and merely appreciate it. We are to leave evidence of our appreciation.
I was hard pressed to choose, but I settled on a post depicting illustrations by Dan May, a highly detailed fine artist in Chicago. Take a peek at the blog and see what you think – I was quite inspired, and may even come up with some new stories based on what I saw. You can see Dan’s photos (and my comment) here.
Yesterday’s challenge went so well, I almost wanted to do Day 2 last night! This place has been neglected since January and with one post I suddenly have two new followers, Jill of all Trades and Kashfi Fahim, two fellow writers and bloggers on WordPress.
Now that I know who I am, Robert Brewer wants me to lay down some goals. I guess the plan is to confront all my phobias right at the beginning of this challenge, and then things get easier later. Part of the problem with setting goals is that I set unreasonable goals. I’m sure this is not uncommon, but still it bugs me to have items on my to-do list that are simply not going to get checked off.
Whoever said writing was therapy, I’m beginning to see the point. Well, here goes.
Day 2: Set Your Goals
Since it worked out so well yesterday, I’ll start with Robert’s goals as a template and swap out my own. I just noticed these lists both suspiciously end with ‘Etc.’ Hmmm…
Deep breath. I can do this.
- Complete this writing challenge (2 days down, 28 to go!)
- In June, finish editing my pilot TV episode for The Chocolate Tourist
- Increase traffic and visibility for online episodes of The Chocolate Tourist
- In June, get to page 60 on the rough draft for my screenplay
- Finish tweaks to 48HFP film entry for wrap party on June 6
- Get in the habit of blogging weekly at DCTravels
- Create my first e-newsletter for Pink Papaya
- Come up with a basic marketing plan for For The Glory by the time I leave for vacation
- Work out every day and track calories
- Play an open mic before the summer ends
- Go back to Europe with my mom and visit castles
- Figure out how to sync my cortneywrites.com domain with my WordPress or Tumblr feed
- Beef up my social media… with Google+
- Figure out Reddit and Digg
Again, I’m sure I forgot something… there’s always editing.
The trouble with these long-term goals is that when any one of these things happens, it will throw most of the others off course. I guess then I will just reassess and rewrite. I can do that.
- Get The Chocolate Tourist on air with a network
- Develop other show ideas for web and TV
- Teach some other people about what I’ve learned and am learning
- Sell my screenplay
- Become financially solvent with writing and production work alone
- Record a CD of all my songs
- Attain and maintain a healthy weight
- Find someone to marry and marry him
- Enjoy each day with whatever it brings
- Get closer to God
- Learn French
- Live in a treehouse
What about you? Are your goals in front of you somehow? Do they motivate you?
Well, yesterday’s writing challenge turned out so well, I decided to live another day. Freshly inspired by the new Sherlock Holmes movie (what a great screenplay, and so well produced… not to mention incredibly well edited), primed to create.
Write a setting based on the most beautiful place you’ve ever seen.
What places have I seen… in real life, not in movies or photos or books or the Air and Space Museum’s To Fly! IMAX film.
I’d better start with a list of where I’ve been: beach, park, Florida, the keys, California, Mount Vernon, Niagra Falls, lighthouses, gardens, Seattle, Denver, Estes Park. Oh… I know!
The wind fluffs his hair and makes him squint as he holds on with one hand and gazes out to sea. It’s high – 200 feet above the water. And on this cloudless day, the view is incredible.
Down below, a ceremony is underway. He can faintly hear the low, boomy echoes of the mayor’s ribbon-cutting speech about the brilliant engineering, the dedication of the construction crew members, blah blah blah sacrifice, blah blah. Thanking everyone who made this day possible.
We didn’t do it for you, he thinks as a lone cloud scuttles across the sky, making a playful shadow over the water. The rippling waves touch sand and retract in their habitual familiarity. From here all the trees and houses are scattered neatly in untraceable patterns.
But the best sight is seen above. The massive steel architecture is breathtaking in its strength and beauty. As awe-inspiring as it is practical, the beams crisscross with the sun, the bounds between earth and sky getting lost in the intersection.
He’s seen it every day for the last three years, building this bridge. This special, private place just for him and his fellow crew members, suspended between heaven and earth. A bridge that took a lot of hard work and sweat equity to build. A bridge that gave even more.
Tomorrow it will be overrun with motor vehicles. Commuters on cell phone and trucks belching fumes. People using the bridge to get where they’re going, who may or may not pay attention to the glistening waves and the intersecting sky lines. Tomorrow is tomorrow.
Today, he’s on top of the world.
In which my car becomes a bug cemetery.
The freeway is a cruel, cruel place for insects and flying creatures of all kinds. Just a glance at my bumper and windshield will give you an idea of the sheer volume of grisly deaths that occur on Florida highways every day.
I was moved to compose a soliloquy on behalf of baby bugs everywhere. If you ask me I will probably sing it for you.
Day 5 started grouchily, as I realized I had overslept and would have to skip some things if I would make it to Key West by nightfall. My neck was so stiff I might have to turn my whole body to check my blind spot shifting lanes. In short, my plans were really putting a cramp on my plan-free adventure.
Physical limitations are a reality of road-tripping, and this trip was testing mine. But the good news is… I’m a Christian! And so I prayed.
Surrendering to life as it is and not as I wish it to be is never easy, but it’s good. Rather than rushing out the door with my grouchy self, I took a few minutes to stretch, got some grub at the La Quinta continental breakfast bar (with waffles!) and spent some time reading the bible and talking to the Lord.
As it happened, my devotional for the day led me to Psalm 127, one of the poems written by ancient Israelites sometime around the tenth or eleventh century BC. It was good then, it’s good now:
Unless the LORD builds the house,
those who build it labor in vain.
Unless the LORD watches over the city,
the watchman stays awake in vain.
It is in vain that you rise up early
and go late to rest,
eating the bread of anxious toil;
for he gives to his beloved sleep.
Psalm 127:1-3 (www.biblegateway.com)
Isn’t that great? It’s like God said, “Hey Cortney – it is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest. Chill out and enjoy what I’m doing here.” So I said okay.
Much of the morning drive passed uneventfully. I listened to Great Expectations a lot because I had to take the interstate for the sake of time, and 95 is boooring. Somewhere past Miami I stopped to get gas and a salad. When I got back on the road it Stormed with a capital S.
Now, I’m from Northern Virginia, and we are notorious for our extreme nervousness when it comes to precipitation of pretty much any kind. I think Miami is worse.
Suddenly my placid highway of nothing-much-to-pay-attention-to was an obstacle course of hazzard lights, speeding trucks, 15 mph Lincolns, and water from all directions. More praying ensued.
The weather cleared just as I exited at Homestead. I was a little ahead of schedule, so thought I’d swing by the Coral Castle – which according to my GPS was only ten minutes out of my way. But.
See that little blue thing near the center of the photo? That’s where I’m trying to go. See all those orange blockade thingies? They appear to be cutting off all possible entrances to the place I’m now spending 20 minutes (with traffic) to see.
I did manage to snap a picture as I inched by. But a few minutes later I was on the Overseas Highway through the keys so I didn’t take it too hard.
What a beautiful sight! Miles of 2-lane highway surrounded by calm blue waters as you skip from one tiny, quirky island to the next. It was a treat to pass the 2 1/2 hours marveling at this feat of God’s creation and human engineering, right next to each other, even though an obnoxious 18-wheeler rode my tail most of the way.
I got into Key West at 7 on the nose. My hotel was easy to find and I was able to quickly check in and deposit my stuff to go exploring. The front window looked right out at the Gulf of Mexico and I asked the woman at the front desk if she ever got tired of the view. “Never,” she said. “I’ve lived here 9 years, and I’m grateful for it.”
It was hot, but not debilitating. I strolled lazily through Mallory Square, which was full of tourists being entertained by jugglers, snack vendors, musicians, and something to do with fire. There was even a man giving a Bible lecture to an audience of one (no, not that One).
I wanted to see Key West, but the light was fading fast and everywhere I turned I found tourists and touristy things. Stumbling across a tiny shop painted key lime green, I took refuge from the crowds and chatted with the lady selling the keys’ best Key Lime pie.
She’s lived here for 9 months, working for the owner of the pie shop. Most folks come in the shop because they saw it on TV (Bobby Flay’s Throwdown – Bobby won, but apparently he cheated).
It was pitch black and difficult to see beyond the bright lights and noisy crowds of Duval Street, the main drag. I called it a day, purposing to get out early and see the place I’d spent all week getting to. In my room, I flipped on the TV to find that all the channels were agog with the royal wedding. Oh yeah. I guess that was today.
Day 5 stats:
Water ogling: plenty
Near-death experiences: 0 (but I was skeered)
Next stop… home!
In which… well, you’ll see.
This is the first morning I woke up and didn’t know where I was. Thankfully a few moments’ reflection brought it all back. I was really starting to get tired by now. Not road weary – just physically tense and a bit ragged from all the late nights I’d been keeping.
It is interesting to note how just four days into my trip, I was mentally constructing a calendar based on where I was going rather than days of the week. “I’m going to Orlando, so it must be Day 4. Which is… (Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday) Thursday. Okay.”
Wait a sec – Orlando??? What was I thinking? There’s no way I can drive all the way through Georgia, part of Florida and arrive in Orlando by nightfall and still remain in my right mind.
I was torn. But in the end Charleston won out and after misleading myself yet again (easily adding an hour to my drive time for the day… grrr), I finally found it!
Having suffered through a devastating earthquake, two wars, and innumerable hurricanes, Charleston has rebuilt and restored itself many times, yet it remains one of the South’s most beautiful cities. Impressive neoclassical buildings line the streets, especially in the older, upmarket sections of town south of Broad Street and along the waterfront Battery. Charleston’s many small, lush gardens and parks make it ideal for aimless exploring on foot rather than by car.
(from Road Trip USA, http://www.roadtripusa.com)
Gotta say, I do like the look of palm trees in the city. What a charming place this is! I stumbled across a lovely tree-lined walk bedecked with a garden that featured a fountain in the middle. A plaque on the sidewalk informed me that this is ‘Wragg Mall’, dedicated by Mr. Wragg to the people of Charleston in 1801.
I hope he didn’t mind my enjoying it too.
Wandering the quiet residential streets, I eagerly absorbed the unique (and probably really expensive) homes, basking in the breezy humidity. I believe I was experiencing that ‘glistening’ which southern women do. And it was only 10:30 in the morning!
Charleston has that rugged elegant look, like it’s seen a thing or two. And lived to tell about it! I drove down to the battery and beheld even greater glory and grace. There on the one side was a prospering body of water and majestic, imposing yet inviting mansions on the other. I just looked and looked, grateful to be one of the few cars on the road and no need to hurry past.
I didn’t see anything in Charleston I didn’t like. Even when I missed 17 and drove into the other side of town, featuring much less grand but still interesting houses. I wish I’d had more time to explore, but this is definitely a place to come back to.
Southward to Georgia. I had to pass a visit to Savannah, although now I wish I had at least driven through it. However, the US-17 route through Georgia offered a smooth pass-through on many intriguing towns, most of which featuring a stoplight or two, a restaurant (the one I tried to visit had already closed at 2), a few homes, a mechanic, and possibly a motel, including one that had clearly been closed for business longer than I’ve been alive, but still seemed to be home to a few folks. The juxtaposition of grand houses and historic plantations with short single-level houses and trailer parks was a consistent theme along the main highway.
With no traffic to speak of, I crossed the border to Florida late in the afternoon. The sunshine state was experiencing a steady downpour, but when I sought highway A1A and the ocean suddenly rose before me, I liked the gray and misty appearance. It formed a nice contrast with the placid waters of the Carolinas. You could barely tell where the stormy sea ended and the stormy sky began.
Adorably quirky houses lined the beach, but I was allowed a peek at the water here and there before highway 9 took me on the roller coaster bridges that got me around Jacksonville. Whew! My heart started thumping just at the sight.
An irrational fear that I would flip over backwards kept me gunning for the high point of each one. But once I’d crested the upward angle, the magnificent view over the side! It was worth the near heart attack. And then I was glad to be alive, which made everything feel better from sheer relief.
I wonder what manner of men these early explorers must have been, striking out into unmarked territory with no certainty of provision and much certainty of danger! And then those that came behind them engineering and building so that I can come along and do my exploring in safety and ease.
No doubt this trip would’ve been harder if I’d had to row across all the waterways.
These explorations of mine are nothing new from a global or historic perspective. Type in ‘Florida’ on Google Earth and you can find a map and detailed satellite photo. This is far from undiscovered country in that sense of the word. But it is full of new discoveries for me, and I’m so grateful I’ve had the chance to make them.
Day 4 stats:
Things that make you go “yay”: 6
Freak-out moments: 2
Chapters: A lot – I think I was a little over halfway through all 59 of them by the time I reached Orlando
Next stop… Key West!
In which I embark on a 10-day, multi-destination road trip fraught with danger and uncertainty. I mean, how will I know if I packed enough books?
It’s something I’ve wanted to do ever since I read it about it in Jamie Jensen’s Road Trip USA seven or eight years ago – a drive down the Atlantic coast by way of scenic two-lane highways and picturesque little fishing villages.
If your impressions of the East Coast come from driving along the I-95 corridor through nearly nonstop urban and industrial sprawl, following our Atlantic Coast route will open your eyes to a whole other world.
Yes, that has been precisely my impression, I thought when I read that. I-95 is a blessing as a means to an end. If you have somewhere to go it is the quickest way to get there. But wouldn’t it be fun to take a trip in which the trip is the destination, and it’s nowhere in particular I’m in a hurry to get to?
So sometime in February I determined this would be my year. The coastal route goes all the way from the tip top of New Jersey down to the southernmost point of Key West, with lots of intriguing stops along the way. Somewhat confined by time and cash, I chose to start in Maryland and travel down through Chincoteague.
The only issue was timing. A good road trip can really be enhanced or detracted from by two factors: weather and traffic. If I went too early in the year, it would be chilly most of the way. If I waited too late, I would run into vacationers gunning en masse for the beach.
I settled on late April, the week after spring break for elementary kids. As this happened to be the week after a planned trip to Saint Louis to visit my dear friend Lina Gentry and her husband Owen, I include Saint Louis in my road trip adventure.
Thurs-Sun: Saint Louis, MO
Sun: Fly back to BWI
Mon: Drive to Virginia Beach, VA (by way of Chincoteague)
Tue: Drive to Morehead City, NC (by way of OBX)
Wed: Drive to Charleston, SC (by way of Ocean Isle Beach, NC)
Thurs: Drive to Orlando, FL (by way of Midway, GA)
Fri: Drive to Key West, FL (by way of Homestead and the Coral Castle)
Sat: Drive to Miami and fly home
One carry-on suitcase for ten days at large, including Good Friday and Easter services, cool rainy weather, six days in a car, beach attire, and super humid hotness. It was a challenge I was willing to meet.
Wanting to get the most out of my six days on the road, and not being a fan of redundancy in general, I chose to rent a car for the drive, then fly back at the end. This was the smartest thing I did out of the whole week.
I planned on about 5 to 7 hours of driving each day, which I hoped would allow for any hiccups in the route and still give some wiggle room to explore. I had a few landmarks in mind, but mostly just wanted to be open to whatever caught my fancy.
So Thursday evening I flew out of Reagan National Airport into Lambert-St. Louis to be joyfully reunited with my friend. I have only seen her twice since she moved to Missouri three years ago, and one of those was at her wedding.
Lina kept me entertained with all the local interests. We went to the top of the Arch, wandered around the art museum at Forest Park, and enjoyed the botanical gardens, thanks to a couple of umbrellas from Dollar General.
It was a really sweet time to be with her, and to get to know Owen, who I had only met once and that was at their wedding! He is a really special guy, and I’m so happy that they are together.
We had a few adventures while I was there. The Friday night church service was serenaded by tornado sirens throughout. I was assured that someone was monitoring the weather, and we would adjourn to the basement if need be.
We made it through unscathed, but the airport did not. All flights canceled until further notice! Well, what was this going to do to my road tripping plans?
Nothing, as it turned out. The Saint Louis airport was cleaned up in a hurry and as of Saturday evening, some flights were making it out. My flight for Sunday evening was delayed 20 minutes, but otherwise I was unaffected. If you haven’t seen the video from the storm, it’s pretty wild. I had just been there 24 hours prior:
Praise God for his grace and protection thus far. Next stop… Baltimore!