Sunday, August 30, 2009

"Each Venture is a New Beginning" ~ T.S. Eliot

Almost everything is packed and ready to go. Actually, everything but Teddy Tripper and the laptop I am using.

Interestingly, for the past few days, I have been scurrying around tending to the myriad of details that 5 weeks away from home and work requires. And, although I sensed I was one day ahead of schedule, something drove me to keep that frantic pace.

Now, I get it. My intuition was telling me that I needed tomorrow, the day before my big trip to take it easy, perhaps do some relaxation and meditation exercises, get myself centered. I believe if I start out with a sense of inner peace, I will be better able to open my eyes to all the richness and serendipity that is certain to be found in this new venture, this new beginning.

Back in a few days from the wild wild west.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Packing is the Pits!

It's even harder to figure out what to pack when I keep hearing a voice yelling the most tiresome advice: "Pack light!"

There actually was one time in my life when I packed light for a trip. Back in the 70's, when a husband, three daughters, ages 14, 12 and 5, and I packed for a 4-week camping trip through seven countries in Europe, each of us had one suitcase. The sizes varied depending on the size of the owner, and we only brought what we could fit into our suitcase. This worked well because the popular fashion fabric was polyester, which was not only lightweight, but wash and drip dry, which we did most nights in the campground sink.

The problem with the 5 suitcases did not become apparent until we arrived in France and found the only car for rent was a very small car, with no trunk. So, there was nothing to do but tie everything onto the roof. By "everything" I mean the rented tent, cots, sleeping bags, camp stove, lantern, table, folding chairs, and of course, the 5 suitcases. To say we looked comical would be an understatement; however, it did save us time traveling across the borders. The guards would see us coming, realize the magnitude of any kind of inspection, and wave us right through.

Thirty-three years later, when I was trying to come up with a fun and whimsical idea for the cover of "Cruising Connecticut with a Picnic Basket", that image came to mind, prompting the oversized picnic basket tied to the roof.

Now, for the second time in my life, I am determined to pack light. Since I am flying to Denver to begin my driving trip, just like our European trip, whatever does not fit into my suitcase will stay home. But, what is interesting, again, is all the other stuff I need, or feel I need: a cooler and ice packs, extra pillows, eating utensils, including dish, bowl, cup and silverware, copies of Cruising Connecticut, gifts, a canvas bag for my front seat to hold maps, schedules, book/journal, tape recorder, CD's, and (many!) miscellany items.

All these "must have" incidentals will require a rather large carton to be shipped ahead to my grandson who I plan to visit on the second day. Well, at least this time, I'm pretty sure the extras will fit in the car!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

"There is no set path; just follow your heart"

I've had this quote on my desk, copied from a friend's refrigerator magnet, since last year, shortly after I started planning my x-country trip. It resonated with me. I wanted to travel the country like John Steinbeck in "Travels with Charley: In search of America", except that instead of bringing along a French standard poodle, I would bring Teddy Tripper, my Vermont teddy bear, a gift for my first solo RV trip in 2003, when I drove down the east coast of Florida and up the west. The great thing is that he arrived with all the appropriate accessories, such as backpack, cell phone, sunglasses, and sandals, and carried a sign, "Florida or bust."

Steinbeck had a "lifelong wanderlust", and so do I. At first I thought of taking my entire trip with "no set path" which I imagined Steinbeck had done. But, I soon realized that this is not 1960 and I am not Steinbeck. So, I did my thing with the guide books and the maps and yes, made reservations for all 35 nights.

In the end, it became clear that of course there is no set path, that is, until we create one. And the fact that I created mine in advance rather than as I went along, does not diminish the fact that during my weeks of research and planning, I did indeed follow my heart.

Here is the path my heart created:

National Parks: Rocky Mountain, Mt. Rushmore, Yellowstone, Grand Teton, Glacier Mountain, Redwood, Yosemite, Zion, Bryce, and Mesa Verde, plus many national monuments and landmarks. In between, I will visit places like the Black Hills in South Dakota, the Coast of Oregon, Napa Valley in California, and the Monument Valley Navajo Reservation in Utah, as well as the west coast cities of Seattle, Portland, and San Francisco. And, best of all, I have set aside time to get off the beaten path to visit friends of friends in small towns along the way.

Now, I just have to find some cowboy boots for Teddy Tripper!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Eating Healthy and Cheap While Traveling

Since my longest road trips of late have been 3 days, the 36 day x-country trip I am planning has me a little concerned about my traveling companions, a somewhat finicky digestive system and a thin wallet. So, first I googled "Eating Healthy While Traveling" and got 404,000 hits.

After an hour of random research I got impatient and gave up, since I was already familiar with most of the food suggestions which I use regularly while traveling: A cooler filled with cheese and/or peanut butter, fruit, whole wheat crackers, my own trail mix, hummus and raw veggies, and milk for my breakfast cereal. And, of course, lots of water which I freeze ahead to help keep my food cold.

I also love my wrap, a slice of Swiss cheese and a slice of deli turkey breast rolled up together with a filling of Cole slaw for a tasty crunch. Actually, this is the Surprise Roll Sandwich recipe in Cruising Connecticut with a Picnic Basket without the roll.

So, I'm okay for breakfast, lunch and snacks, well at least for 3 days. But, the other 33? I find that eating the same things over and over is not only boring, but usually turns me off from those foods in a very short time. So, I will have to persevere in finding new additions to my old standbys. I am hoping some of my readers have suggestions which they will share, either by posting a reply (click on "Comments" at the bottom of this post) or email me at

Next, I googled "Eating Cheap While Traveling." Here, I got 1,440,000 hits and after checking just a few realized this was a better fit for me. gave me some new ideas, like carrying an empty water bottle to the airport and filling with tap water after check-in, plus some reminders, like packing an immersion heater for boiling water in your hotel room, great for instant soup.

I love the portable picnic pack idea I found on which I will assemble and take with me for all those picnic lunches I plan to have. This handy pack should work well whether I find a picnic table or use my lap. Check it out.

Ah, now dinner is an entirely different matter. Back to my research!

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

My Solo Cross-Country Trip

The recent flipping of the calendar page from July to August is a mixture of "YIKES, only four weeks to go, how will I ever be ready for my cross-country trip", and "WOW, only four weeks to go before my next exciting adventure." And the emotion changes as quickly as I turn the pages of my guidebooks, which for two days this past weekend, totaled about 24 hours.

That's a whole lotta pages(!) but now I am much closer to reaching the goal I started this spring, planning my 36-day itinerary, including dates, destinations, and hours and miles from point A to point B. In addition, at least for the first week, I have a list of places under the headings "must visit" and "visit if I have the time" plus reservations for lodging, including a couple of hostels which will be a first for me.

I love the initial research, poring over maps and guidebooks for general information, searching the internet for the unusual and bizarre, and networking with friends and friends of friends for specifics and personal stories. I discovered that the process is pretty much the same, whether I am taking a 5-week cross-country tour to unfamiliar places, or a series of day trips in my home state of Connecticut.

Oh, sure, a small part of me envies the carefree traveler who can happily hop in the car and go where the spirit takes him, but my curious and cautious nature seems to demand that I do an extraordinary amount of advance planning so I know exactly what to expect. Interestingly though, once I begin my trip, I am remarkably flexible and carefree, changing course where necessary, or making the decision to veer off the path to look for my own serendipity.

During future blog postings, I will talk about traveling alone versus being lonely, keep you up to date on the method and progress of my research, which 10 national parks I will be visiting, and other considerable and trivial facts, such as whether or not I can find a convenient and practical way to pack my picnic basket!

What I hope my readers will do, especially those with more experience traveling cross-country (in case you are wondering what "more experience" means, I have none!) is to share tips with me and other readers about how to best prepare for and enjoy this kind of travel.

Follow my blog. Halfway down this page on the left, under Subscribe to Cruising Connecticut, click "Posts", or email me at I'd love to hear from you.

More next week!