Tag Archives: travel

It’s Not Just About the Destination

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“It’s not just about the destination” sums up my thoughts while traveling to escape the noise and fast pace of the city and my work-business life. It is not to escape who I am or what I love to do… my passion and commitment are firm, although, at times, I doubt the strength I have to continue on certain paths. Plagued by self-assessment, as anyone might be while trying to navigate the rough roads of every day, I often wonder if I should just run off on some other trail–change my direction–change my destination. Then, I remind myself… it’s not just about the destination because, in fact, we all end up the same place anyway. It is all about how you see your journey there and I am constantly reminding myself to stay in the moment without worry about what happens in the end. Therefore, I do realize that I see things somewhat differently depending upon my situation and location. This trip was about certain goals, but everything in between, before, and after is up to fate and fortune. What you make of a day is really what thought you put into it and the effort afforded to enjoy every moment. It will all be there when you return, so to worry about “what to do” or “what about” or “what if” is a waste of such a beautiful surrounding.

I am happy I am able to reflect on the time I take away–this time we were really tired at the end of the day and barely had supper and did a few mundane tasks before sleep claimed us. There is something about the mountain air and being out in the beauty of nature that fills you with enough that you are pleasantly exhausted. My knees couldn’t help but remind me that I did more than usual even though I try to do it on purpose, whenever I can, in order to claim every minute of the day in action. To bed early–one would think we’d stay up late writing… however, a tired body won out over a determined mind this week.

Day One arrival was nice and early and we could even check into our hotel room and then go exploring on Wednesday. We took a trip to the Beaver Boardwalk–my daughter recommended it last trip, but we didn’t make it there. Going this time was a treat. What a beautiful nature spot in Hinton! Yes, we have our ponds and walkways here at home, but sorry, Sherwood Park, the most obvious thing missing is setting… I sometimes (well, often) wonder why I still live here with so much soul/spirit connection to the mountains. This park was the perfect way to spend a couple of hours, wandering the boardwalk through the marshes and beaver habitat, traipsing some closer-in trails, and taking a look-out post in the tower to admire the view. I say closer-in because I am not one to wander onto the forest trails–hiking was a younger days sport for me due to my limitations, ones I have accepted, and am able to push to some extent enjoyment of the activities. Also, there’s the fact that we are in wildlife territory and bears and cougars just don’t excite me up close and personal. From the truck window, I am a brave soul – not on foot, however.

Trips away with my dear friend, Mandy, make me appreciate her even more because of the similarities we have –I don’t have to try to keep up and do things I feel out of my comfort zone with… we match in many ways–our appreciation for nature and its fragility to human invasion; yet, the strength and majesty and power of it awes us in the same breath. I could travel the same roads and see the same sights each day or weekend or whatever, and still be in wonder at the amazing embrace of nature–the bold colors of plants, the cuteness of a baby animal, the calming peace of water and wind, the warmth of sun–even if it only peaked through clouds throughout most of our mid-week trip.

We never lost sight of the reason for our trip, although it was in the back of our minds as we connected with the precious moments of each opportunity. The Beaver Boardwalk was more than just walking through a nature setting–it was about stopping and appreciating the finer details of plants, trees, the view, the colors, the sounds, smells, and feel of it all on your soul. Nature caresses one’s spirit with renewing qualities to create a mood of relaxation and connection. There was no sign of any wildlife–other than a couple of birds and fish in the ponds. I wondered about the lack of waterfowl on the ponds… Mr. and Mrs. Beaver must have been relaxing in the shade of their studious home–we saw signs of them being around, of course, but no chance sighting of the animals.

Impressions of the place are best in point form, because that is how they hit you when you are in the moment:

  • The song of the red-wing blackbird
  • The amazing arrangement of wooden walkways over water
  • The variety of flora with bursts of color that stand out so vivid against the greenery
  • The sound and tempo of the wind through the trees as it rises and falls
  • Sun peeking through the overhead canopy in an otherwise dull cloudy sky
  • The man who looked at me funny for taking an overhead picture… yes, look up, too!
  • Wire mesh protecting perimeter trees from industrious beaver clearing crews
  • Signs giving information about the place: make less noise to see more wildlife or be aware and cautious and informed of bears, cougars, wolves… :O
  • Picking up a couple of interesting stones from the rock pathway to commemorate
  • The lookout tower and amazing view of the nearby mountains through the trees
  • Patterns in nature–ripples on the water, long grass blowing in the wind, piles of drift-water-worn limbs

My thoughts may not match anyone else except for those who have the same appreciation for the beauty and magnificence of nature. But, even in that similarity, there are personal differences. The photos I take are not ones that another may take as I look for the shot that appeals to me; I don’t take people pictures; I don’t do selfies. I want the essence of the place where I am–what attracts me, what speaks to me. To each their own.

The take-away for this activity–always invest in the time to enjoy “every precious moment,” as a friend posted. The emotions that grab me in the mountains are awe-inspiring, captivating, yet overwhelming, at the same time. The thought that this glorious world we live in surrounds us for so short a time in comparison to its own life span is one for self-contemplation. No matter what you believe, it’s what adds to a beautiful life–it’s not just about the destination.

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Strawberry Creek Lodge – Writing Retreat – Spring 2016

Blog 1 – The Retreat

Anticipation.

It’s been building since the day we left last year, brought on and encouraged by the positive results and the lasting effects of concentrating for days with one’s own muse. More time! So in answer to that request, we extended the trip one more night on the long weekend, which gave us one more full day of retreating to write. It’s funny that we need to retreat in order to bond or reconnect with our inner creativity. It’s the way life is, though – fast paced and loud, demanding and insistent. Surely a retreat is not always necessary – it’s a mini vacation for the mind and soul. If one truly takes the time to focus on “self”, while appreciating others’ need to do the same, the results are amazing and the argument for retreating is unarguably natural medicine for the ailing spirit.

Commitment.

Planning and soliciting attendance isn’t necessarily difficult or anxiety building until you get closer to the day and unanticipated events happen to cause holes to appear in your apparent flawless and effortless planning. Life happens – things come up that you cannot possibly foresee over the course of a year. The need to have minimum numbers causes the added pressure to ensure all the seats are filled. We are all thankful that a distress call put out there attracted the attention of like-minded individuals who could make the weekend getaway. Financial strains this year had me even questioning my spending; however, the benefit to my mental well-being far outweighed any other argument. It just means more work upon returning home.

Benefits.  

Nature. Focus. Amazing surroundings. Like-minded souls sharing your love for words. Ability to socialize, materialize, compromise – or just disappear into your own world, as needed. As a writer, the solitude is a blessing and it is made even more inspiring by the beautiful setting and lodge.

No – you don’t have to go away to write, but a retreat is an experience every writer should try during their writing journey. Most will go back for more – year after year. Others will savor the experience and move on, knowing they can always go again when warranted. For me, it is a place I could imagine retiring to in order to write to my heart’s content for the rest of my life… the whole working for a living thing-money and paying bills- thing that stops me for now. Every trip produces more work and creates memories shared with writing colleagues. Fellowships are forged – friendships are solidified. The wonderful thing about Strawberry Creek Lodge is the myriad of delightful nooks and crannies where one can hole up for a time or stake out for the duration; the rooms are wonderful sleeping and private working quarters to spread out your tools and prepare to produce; the meals… the meals are marvelous. Imagine being called to the table by the cowbell at set times to enjoy amazing meals with your retreat pals. No cooking. No dishes. No cleaning.

Pitfalls.

None. Unless, of course, you count the fact that you won’t want to go home and you might attempt to kidnap Brenda, our awesome host/cook, because you never want to have to cook again… ever…

As a dedicated writer, invested in your passion – you will utilize every moment possible to focus on your words; be kind to yourself with rest and relaxation; socialize at appropriate times; connect with your inner creativity and nature. For those who couldn’t go – there is sadness in what life brings – but there is always next year.

A Writing Retreat. It is not something that is necessary – but it is something life-altering to those with a serious passion for word creativity. The retreat is a great way to immerse yourself in the beauty of solitude away from every day distractions to focus specifically on writing. It’s a recharge for the creative battery.

See you next year – keep on writing!

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Photo Blog Challenge Wrap Up

January 2015 – 30 Day Photo Blog Challenge Wrap Up

So it is now going on into the early morning hours of February 1st and I am contemplating the grand finale for this challenge. I found that trying to focus on my own work allowed me a chance to express a little bit of suppressed creativity. I love my words. I love my camera. And to combine them into compositions in answer to the prompts in whatever manner happened was worth the time invested. I found as I went along, the challenge was something that I love do anyway – I am always watching for that perfect shot, that one time chance, that image that evokes a feeling and can be related by words, as well. Although this is a “wrap up” there will be no real end to this for me as it is as natural and as inevitable as sun rise. There are a few prompts on the list that I will admit to passing over, either because they deluded me in attempt or they didn’t spark an interest. Prompts are like that – they either “speak” to you or they are silent. I like to think that I can respond to anything, and I guess I can if I don’t really care what I “say” – however, I enjoyed the posts that happened when least expected. It’s like the moments in life that you either catch on “film” or you commit to eternal memory. So I always look up to the sky for inspiration and light or down to the ground for that unusual shadow or circumstance. I think as I go and realize an offering when it is handed to me. Like spaghetti falling onto the counter, tempting a game of pickup sticks. Synchronicity at work is the greatest compliment to my creative impulse.

Day 26 – Close Up Blog - Jan 26 - image close up>>> The rocks lie below and if you don’t pay attention to them, take a look next time. What do you see? Perhaps, it is just a haphazard arrangement of sizes and colors with no apparent pattern? Do you question the missing spots and wonder if you’ve “left no stone unturned” in your evaluation? Or is it just there, tempting those who might glance down to see something in what is apparently nothing more than a rock gravel parking lot… Interpretation is, after all, up to you and your muse.

Day 25 – Strangers >>> have nothing of note for this prompt so I pass on this one. I have mentioned before that I am not a portrait photographer and think less of imposing upon others around me. I am okay with people watching in order to study habits and characteristics for my writing, but taking pictures of people without their permission would be just creepy. That would be how you would interpret this as “strangers” the noun. Pass.

Horses

Day 24 – Animal >>> Well we all know where this might go given the opportunity… which happened to present itself on a recent drive. Horses will always warrant a stop along the road. It brings back April memories of seeking the wild horses that run west of Sundre.

But, if I keep close to home, the little pest that is poking at my leg to pet him is always around even though he might not be the most willing photo participant at times. He is quick and takes to looking away just as you click the pic. I am going to wrap up Day 20 – In My Bag – by saying that if I had it open on the floor like this box, I can tell you I would have a cat in the bag right quick. So, although I did not really fulfill the Day 20 prompt as best as I think I could, it is another one that gets a pass. So here’s my animal… Squishy in a box ready to ship off. Any takers?Squish

That only leaves Day 21 – Faceless Self Portrait and Day 30 Self Portrait… really nothing has changed enough from Day 1 to insert any other self-portrait here. I embrace creativity, yet have specific things I stay away from – particularly me in a photo. The Day 1 photo was one of those – ah ha moments – it was there on a day out to Elk Island Park and was something to recognize in the moment. It spoke to the challenge and to me and to what I would attempt to accomplish. It really addressed Day 21 as well because with that camera up in front you are, in essence, faceless. What I am going to finish up with, however, is my beautiful Sunshine – it usually makes it into all my photo days because without it I wouldn’t be traipsing all over snow-covered back country roads. The truck is a blessing and has helped to fulfill many adventures already. Memories that will stay with me forever; and isn’t that what life’s all about. This challenge has given me some great opportunity to share, to explore, to create… and for that I am truly thankful.

Sunshine makes winter tolerable

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Eye … Cannot Live Without – Photo Blog Challenge

 

January 30-day Photography / Blog Word / Freeing the Creative Spirit Challenge

Eye Blog image January 14

Blog Challenge – Day 13 Cannot Live Without and Day 14 Eyes

This blog is not going to be long and involved

Thinking through options my challenge is solved

I went through the list of things that I love

I thought of all people near, far, and above

There was coffee, chocolate, and all comfort food

Wine, sunset, and roses to set romantic mood

There will always be words and writing no end

Sunshine, spring, and horses – no need to pretend

But imagine a world where you cannot see

Where things are to imagine what they might be

So when I thought about all without I cannot live

I am blessed for my eyes and the insight they give

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Challenge – Day 11 and Day 12 – Creative License

January 30-day Photography / Blog Word / Freeing the Creative Spirit Challenge

Day 11 and 12 – Something Blue and Sunset

Day 11 and 12 Blog image - Blue and Sunset

The sky was the hue of winter Alberta blue…
If we are fortunate enough during the winter in Alberta, we have many of these days where the sky is crisp, clear, and blue – when sunshine is always a welcome addition, and a highway drive is warranted on a weekend afternoon. By contrast, I shot some pictures on January 1st at Elk Island Park and you will notice the grey winter day where sky and horizon blend where air and ground meet. The kind of day that dawned bright on Sunday was opportunity to obtain clear shots of the Alberta blue skies to fulfill that day’s challenge. The vantage point shifted from the apartment catching one of 3 jet contrails tracking across the sky in a short time span, to the countryside as the sun made its way beyond the day, and back again, to capture similar shots the next evening. The amazing properties of working with light are the shadows cast and the deep blue of snow in the sheltered areas; it’s the background it provides to many objects silhouetted; it’s the variance of color that reflects on sky, trees, snow, and other objects. Something blue… The thing about winter afternoons in early January is that no matter how bright they are they begin to fade by 4:30 with dusk bringing its own lingering beauty to the countryside.

To close out any day, the sky is my view and it paints magnificent scenery for me to appreciate from my 4th floor apartment. This vantage gives me a clear shot of the sky and its many colors as I witness many a sunset. Combining the prompts made sense but would have certainly created a huge challenge had the sky been overcast and grey, or if it had been white with snow. Treasures along our sightseeing journey:

  • Jets with contrails streaking across a clear blue sky always remind me of my mother and I feel her watching with me, commenting on their intrusion.
  • Horses pawing the snow-covered field searching for frozen shoots.
  • A companionable silence while driving a snow-covered country road.
  • Millions of stars in a dark velvet sky.
  • Using GPS and a little bit of intuition to connect with the right secondary road.
  • Arriving home with a loved one after a memorable day.

The day is what you make it… so, remember to always appreciate the little things along the way.

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January 3, 2015 – 30 day Photo / Blog Word / Freeing the Creative Spirit Challenge

January 30-day Photography / Blog Word / Freeing the Creative Spirit Challenge     

Day 3 >> Clouds

Oh, the irony…

Day 3 - 30 day challenge Clouds

It was a fluff of white against the sky, floating magically from west to east across my vision. I pulled the telephoto lens out to get a strategic shot from the balcony of my 4th floor apartment. The air was cool as the temperature dropped to winter norms overnight. The snow shone like glistening diamonds, little sparkles of bling in the bright mid-day sun. Now… if you have followed my photography over the years you know I am a big fan of clouds. And as I looked out over the distant sky, I laughed. Oh, the irony…

Clouds… they are so much more than just their scientific explanation. They can be amazing, overwhelming, poetic, artistic, frightful, or even downright scary. If one were to single out the little specimen above, it could be confused with fractus clouds developed readily in nature. Its apparent light form reflects light through the water droplets in its formation; it floats and moves with the air currents – its edges have been described as torn “cotton candy.” The irony of my assignment for today’s 30 day photography challenge was that there was not a cloud in the Alberta sky – at least, not from my locale and vantage point. The clear sky was mocking me – let’s see how you get out of this one without killing off your muse! The good thing about prompts is that no matter what happens there is always a way to interpret them – all it takes is a little bit of inspiration, some ingenuity, gnashing of teeth and guttural waling… and a lot of creativity.

January 3rd was colder, but the day shone bright and beautiful. There was no need to “seek the sun” as it displayed prominently throughout the day and it was followed up at sunset with an almost full moon. The series of shots today allow you to view my world as I determined the focus of my blog and camera. Sometimes things are not always what they seem. We can be mistaken in believing one thing even while we attempt to keep a clear mind and sharp eye. It is easy for our judgement to be clouded if we do not take the time to research and find the right answers to suit our assignment.

Carpe Diem ~ Life is what you make it ~ even while searching for clouds on an afternoon in Sherwood Park and finding only man-made industry generated doppelgangers.

 

 

 

 

   

 

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2014 comes to a close…

The end of another year… it seems to be the place to look for new beginnings. The year ahead may hold major change, needed adjustments, or an unknown future. In this moment, we may just be looking forward to an evening with friends or one in quiet contemplation… no matter which way you decide to usher in the New Year, I encourage you to look back over the last 12 months with positive reflection. Take note of the good things that happened, these are the memories that will carry you through into 2015 and beyond. To all my writing friends and readers of my blog, I thank you for your never-ending support and appreciation. I look forward to the New Year with a renewed commitment to my writing and creativity. Happy New Year everyone and here’s to another awesome year in this amazing journey!

2014 personal recap for FB

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Day 5 – Back To It

Easter Long Weekend 2014 Blog Pictorial – continued…

The last day of a holiday is bittersweet. Driving away from the mountains is always something I regret… I watch them fade in the rear view mirror and I think… what am I doing? I feel like the wild one trailered and towed away from my freedom. I tried to make the day last but the time passed and miles fell away and soon I was back to it. Back to the everyday life – not that there’s anything wrong with my everyday life… it’s just busier, and noisier, and faster paced. My extra-long weekend didn’t depend on time or schedules; it wasn’t filled with noise or the unnecessary. And nature doesn’t work that way. When the sun was out, so was I. The quiet of a Sunday morning was prime for locating the reason for my journey. When my body was tired and the quest accomplished, I stayed in and rested. Today, I was showered and packed and on the road by 10:00 am. As I got closer to Edmonton, the “back to it” increased and the relaxing feelings of the weekend faded away with the return to rush hour traffic.

On the return trip I retraced most of my steps with a quick stop here and there, but mostly I kept to the beaten path and was back to the city by 4:00 pm. I picked up my keys and met Ray for a drink and supper to close out my day. I return to be with those I love, to resume my job and work my company, but forever in my memory and in my heart, I know there is something that no one or nothing can take away from me… my chance encounter to see the wild horses where they belong – free and unhindered. Always follow your dreams.

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Day 2 – Wildies Unfounded

Easter Long Weekend 2014 Blog Pictorial – continued…

The delay was short-lived – Saturday morning dawned bright and full of sunshine and, as the day progressed, the temperature steadily increased. The roads were clear with the exception of the shaded parts into Mandy’s acreage in the morning – there I dropped the keys for pet sitting and garnered a hug and a wish for safe journey from a friend. It was a quick crossing as I bypassed Sherwood Park via the Yellowhead through Edmonton heading west. Ray was busy running errands so I only made a quick pit stop in Spruce Grove to pick up my morning coffee at the 7-11.

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I headed west on Highway 16 to take the Drayton Valley turn south. Highway 22 runs south along the foothills, jogging this way and that… it’s called the Cowboy Trail. I enjoy taking new ways to get places. Through Drayton Valley and east then south again into the County of Wetaskiwin headed for Rocky Mountain House… although I have been there before, this was a new way in for me. Clearwater County gave way to Mountain View County as I headed to Sundre from Caroline. It was then just a quick 30 minute trip west on 584 to my Bed & Breakfast reservations – A Bed in Heaven.

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From the door facing out… ah, well… self explanatory!

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From the door facing in – comfort and room to do as I please.

From my room you can see foothills to the southwest. I spent some time checking out the area and getting my bearings so I might travel a little further and in different directions. My hosts told me they had wildies at the corner beyond their property a couple of months ago. All the commotion in the area probably sent them further into the bush, however. I saw a helicopter circling the areas around Sundre as I drove through – it was probably totally unrelated.

My drive ventured to the Forestry Trunk Road but I doubled back soon thereafter knowing I would follow it on another trip – I had already driven most of the day what with stopping for picture-taking and all. I didn’t see any animals except these two contented ponies. They were inside fencing and appeared to be groomed – at least it was my perception – they are not wildies.

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Hazy sun and study of trees…

IMG_0302 …then back to the B&B… my evening was a little bit less exciting. I didn’t want to bother my hosts to ask for the Wi-Fi code and knew I could get it at breakfast in the morning. My cell phone was not picking up any signal so I could not message anyone… I downloaded the pictures from the day… 66… and then wrote the beginning of this post. I was tired so I went to bed early. It was a good start to my weekend holiday.

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Day 1 – Searching for Wild Horses

Easter Long Weekend 2014 Blog Pictorial

Best laid plans...

Best laid plans…

With the generosity of our workplace allowing both Good Friday and Easter Monday as stat holidays, and my regular day off falling on Tuesday… this year’s Easter weekend is super long… ah… 5 days! What are my plans?

I am not sure when the idea hit me but it was in the midst of 2013 amongst the angst and anger and residual anguish – I decided that when all was said and done I would begin to do some things just for me – without feeling like it was selfish and without guilt of experiencing happiness. I read several quotes recently that proposed a life unlived wasn’t a life at all and doing something different would expand not only your external experiences, but equally contribute to your inner growth. I, therefore, would plan a trip to seek the Alberta wild horses. At that time, it was not determined when the trip would take place although claiming it to be mine solidified for me that it would, indeed, happen…

Earlier this year, I decided my trip would be in April. Prompted by the ominous winter (it’s always ominous, and for me, it gets more so as the years go by…) and encouraged by the fact that 2014 is the year of the horse on the Chinese calendar… well, it just made sense – there is almost a serendipitous magic to it. Why seek the horses, some may ask? Many confess to loving horses… most respect their beauty and devotion to purpose. Some own them. Some admire them at a distance, their large stance even provoking fear in some. Some advocate for the wild one’s protection while others are ignorant to their plight. I did not grow up around horses but I do remember the love for them perpetuated by those around me – my mom being one who loved them from a distance but feared them up close. I think I was born with this connection and would grow to experience my own quest for freedom through their spirit and tenacity. I did all the things that girls who love horses do – they were a favored subject for artwork, I purchased horse magazines when I was in Junior High… coveting the photos and dreaming of my own as a wanna-be equestrian, I went to all the horse shows and rodeos and my walls were pinned with their picturesque beauty. My off and on encounters, over the years continued and included: trail riding on the ridge above the town site of Jasper AB, working promotional sales at the big white Cavalia tent in Toronto in 2005, attending the Cavalia horse show in Edmonton with a dear friend in 2012, tattooing my wildhorse logo on my shoulder… and writing under “freeing the creative spirit” as willdhorse33 online. Is your tattoo a horse?

There is no reason why my desire to be near to them is any more than any other who feels as I do… it’s just that it is something very personal, deep inside, almost inexplicable – it’s an emotion that hits when you see them standing out there in the fields; your heart begins to race when you see them run, and it’s almost like you can feel the breeze as it passes through their mane.

In going out there one might ask what I am looking for – is there something I’m expecting to find? I would answer that I have found it in the decision to go, to seek, to search for that which connects so deeply to my own spirit. I am not fearless and adventurous – I won’t go traipsing into the bush with high hopes of capturing their images. I just need to be there, where they are… I am not the activist although I will always support efforts to protect and stand for the cause. I am an artist willing to draw them and a photographer wanting to immortalize my experience.

Day 1: This is springtime in Alberta and on April 18th – it snowed overnight and Good Friday was not good in the weather department. With several days ahead, and an understanding bed and breakfast host, the trip will just be delayed. I cursed the snow… but Ray reminded me, “It’s just a delay. It will be better tomorrow.” The voice of reason and it did give us time to spend together before I departed for my dream chasing journey. Friends were comforted by my sense of caution and willingness to remain at home. But my ride is antsy and wants to run. My trigger finger is itching to take a plethora of photos to pictoralize the passage. Whoa, there… tomorrow will be here before you know it.

Awaiting departure

Awaiting departure

So with Coleman, Canon, and creativity awaiting departure, this is how Day 1 moves into history. It lazily takes me into the journey with time to contemplate the days ahead, cherish time in the moment spent with a special person, and feel gratitude for the opportunity afforded me.

“On your journey to your dream, be ready to face oasis and deserts. In both cases, don’t stop.” ~ Paulo Coelho

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