Close Call in Alexandria

As I embarked on my journey to Hemphill, Texas, I had this brilliant idea: I was going to take copies of my first novel, Mayhem at the Happy Valley Motor Inn and Resort, and place them in Little Free Libraries as I neared my destination. Since the series is set in that part of the country I could picture readers being excited to find a book about a fictional campground on Lake Toledo Bend.

So, when I drove through Alexandria, Louisiana, near the Texas state line, I googled the nearest Little Free Library and headed to that address.

The route took me away from the interstate and into a neighborhood that grew less and less savory with every turn.

I told myself I wouldn’t get out of the car if I didn’t trust my surroundings. Sure enough, when I found the right place, the little library was sitting well back on the property—near the front door, and it didn’t appear to have any books inside at all. So I pulled over to the curb and reset my GPS. When I looked up, there were three law enforcement vehicles there with me. 😳

My heart kind of stuttered for a moment, but they didn’t have their lights on, and no one approached my car, so I kind of waved and drove away. As I headed down the interstate I kept glancing in my rear view mirror wondering when they were going to come after me.

I wonder if they’d have accepted a book or two in exchange for a ticket? Guess we’ll never know.

Peace, people!

Vegas, Here I Come

I’m packed. Kind of. If there were a global list of travelers listed in order from most capable to least, I’d rank in the lower 10 percent. Right above those who’ve never left their homes and below those who once took a trip to their Aunt Jane and Uncle Bob’s place one town over.

No, scratch that, they’re all likely more capable than I am, and at one time in my life I flew weekly to visit schools all over the country. Back then, I was a lean, mean packing machine. I could cram all my training materials and a week’s worth of clothing into one suitcase in less than an hour.

And now? Now it takes me all day and I still end up leaving something at home or packing the wrong clothes or forgetting that my tennis shoes don’t necessarily go with everything.

Still, I’m packed. Kind of.

In spite of my failings, I’m super excited. I’ll be at Bally’s (aka The Horseshoe) in Las Vegas for a writing conference where I hope to learn from some of the best in the business. I wonder if any of them teach a class on packing? If so, sign me up!

Peace, people.

In Praise of British Airways

My recent trip to England is still very much on my mind. The food, the history, the wonderful people, and yes, the transportation to and from my destination.

I’d booked my flight through American Airlines, and because I tend to be frugal (since I don’t have tons of money, and therefore, little choice in the matter) I opted for the cheapest seats available on my flight to England.

So for about seven hours, (give or take a bazillion) I was crammed into a small seat—one of four jammed close together in the center section of the plane. And it wasn’t an aisle seat, so in order to reach my one allotted personal item (aka handbag) I had to use my feet to snag the straps and drag the bag up my shins until my fingers could finally grasp enough of it to pull it into my lap where there was just barely enough room to extract whatever I needed before returning it to under seat storage.

It was a laborious process, and since I’m a chronically disorganized individual (CDI), I repeated the steps at least two dozen times during the trip.

You might ask why I didn’t just keep the bag in my lap for the entire trip, and I’ll admit that I tried, but then was unable to use my tray table and by the time I’d gone through the rigors of retrieving my purse, I really needed a drink.

I won’t go on and on about the discomfort, but next time I’ll pony up the money for a better location. Perhaps beneath the plane. At least there I wouldn’t have to crawl over my fellow passengers to use the toilet, or to stretch my legs, or to take a full breath and exhale without encroaching on another human being’s personal space.

After my less than comfortable outgoing experience with American, I was really dreading the return flight. I’d not heard great things about British Airways, but what was I going to do? Hitchhike?

To my great surprise and immense relief the return trip was a dream. Same (cheap) price for seating, but the seats weren’t crowded so tightly together. I could wiggle. I could fetch my bag with ease. It helped that the flight wasn’t as full as the AA one had been, but even if it had been I’d still have had considerably more room than I’d had on the previous flight.

Plus, the seats had some support and reclined in a more ergonomic manner. Nice. The food was slightly better and I had room to actually chew.

One day maybe I’ll have sold enough books to fly first class. I’m not holding my breath, though. At least not on a completely full plane. There might not be room to exhale.

Note: Flight attendants were great on all my flights. These folks put up with so much and maintain their cool under trying circumstances. Cheers to the intrepid souls who care for us in the skies.

Peace, people!

The Traveler’s Dilemma

Today I’m leaving England. I really don’t want to go, but at the same time, I can’t wait to be home. I miss my husband and my cat. My bed. My shower. My water aerobics class, too.

I’ll miss the people I’ve encountered here, though, like the Canadian couple I dined with two nights ago at this cozy little hotel in Horley, near Gatwick airport. They’d come to England on a teacher exchange program many years ago and come back for a visit. They once met Princess Diana’s mum in the basement at Harrod’s department store.

Then there was the elderly gentleman who regaled all the guests in the hotel’s common room last night with stories of his adventures. He’s heading to Vermont today to see his great grandchildren who he’s not seen since the start of the pandemic. I didn’t ask his age, but I’m guessing he’s in his eighties. Lovely man—the son of an American soldier who, after returning to the states, never acknowledged his English son.

And most of all, I’ll miss my friends, Shirley and Mike, and their son, George. The trio had me in stitches most of the time I was here—either from laughter or exercise, and sometimes both at the same time. They’d take me and sweet Rosie the wonder dog, on long marches through the countryside. I’d huff and puff while Rosie frolicked, running hellbent for leather hither and yon across fields and through the woods.

They introduced me to crumpets for breakfast, then fed me beautiful meals every evening to restore any weight I might’ve dropped during the long walks. I’m afraid to step on the scales when I’m back home.

Okay, I need to finish packing so I can catch a plane. But first, one final crumpet please.

Peace, people!

On My Own in London

I have decided that the English are the kindest, most genuinely nice people in the entire universe. From offering directions, to giving me their map, to walking blocks out their way with me to Buckingham Palace, to making sure I only got a brief glimpse of a man standing at the urinal, these people have been angels.

Well done, I say. Well done.

Peace, people.

County Kent

I’m currently visiting friends in Dover, England. They’ve taken me all over county Kent: Folkestone. Deal, Sandwich, and the county’s seat of government, Canterbury. If my WordPress account would allow it, I’d share photos, but I’ve done something to piss off the powers that be, so I will just have to give you my impressions.

Every experience has been incredible. I’ve seen homes and buildings so ancient that it blows my mind. Established in 1559? Yep. And these can be found sitting adjacent to modern structures that might fit into any city in the world.

I walked into the Canterbury Free Library. This venerable edifice appeared to be straight out of a fairy tale. Yet inside was a state of the art library. Fascinating. The marriage of the old to the new works nicely here.

My friends have spoiled me rotten. They’ve fed me like royalty and treated me like family. On Wednesday, I’ll leave County Kent for a couple of days in London, but County Kent has my heart.

Peace, people!

The Early Bird

Today’s the day my flight leaves for England. I was so excited I barely slept last night. I’d packed two days earlier, only adding the few odds and ends this morning. Double-checked my list around 8 a.m. and took a movie break, figuring I’d leave for the airport around 11 for my 1:43 flight.

So I watched Buzz Lightyear on Disney Plus then once it was over, I loaded up the car with my luggage and headed out of the housing development. It was only ten, so I was way early. But I’d gone about a mile and remembered I’d never made copies of my passport: one to leave at home and another to keep in my carry-on luggage just in case my purse happened to be stolen.

I turned back to the house and ran inside with my passport, quickly popped out two copies and was on my way again. I needed new mascara and a Starbucks drink, so I detoured to Target. Once in the Target parking lot I thought I should clean my glasses, and in the midst of doing that I realized I’d done something really stupid—left my passport in the copier.

Good grief. I still had plenty of time but now my heart was racing like an Indy car on the home stretch. What else could I possibly screw up today?

I hustled back home, grabbed the passport, and decided to skip Starbucks and Target, and head straight to the airport. And here I am. With more than enough time to spare. In fact, the gate agent commented on it.

“My you’re an early bird.”

Let’s hope I’m not in for more bothersome “worms.” I’ve caught quite enough already.

Peace, people.

At Least I Speak the Language

In a very few days, I’m heading off on a grand adventure. Alone. To a foreign country. My emotions right now run the gamut from pure excitement to abject terror.

Mostly excitement, though. You see, I’m going to England to hang out with a couple of dear friends I’ve never actually met. Via FaceTime, the three of us have assured one another that we’re not axe murderers, and honestly, I’m positive they aren’t.

We’re keeping our plans fluid because I know how annoying I can be and they might want me gone after day one. I can also be charming, though, and in that case, they might want me to stay forever. In either event, I’ve booked a few days at a hotel in London and a return trip because at some point Studly Doright is going to miss me.

I leave on Tuesday and would love some good travel vibes—luggage that makes the trip with me, smooth flights, pleasant seat mates, on time arrivals, etc. Oh, just for the record, I’m leaving my axe at home.

Peace, people!

Bright Spots

I haven’t posted much lately. My mind is occupied with worry for my mother-in-law and sister-in-law, both of whom remain in an Amarillo hospital battling COVID. Both are now on ventilators.

On Tuesday I began my journey from Tallahassee, Florida, to Amarillo, Texas. I’m hoping to be a help and not a hindrance to the sister-in-law and niece who have been bearing the brunt of the responsibility these past few weeks.

Last night I stayed with my son and two of my grand dogs and this morning I’ll have a fairly short (four hour) drive to Amarillo.

The son and dogs were bright spots on my trip.

Jason and Milo

Ryder slept with me part of the night. He snores a lot less than Studly Doright.

Peace, people. Oh, and wear your masks and get vaccinated and boosted as soon as you can.

A Treetop Martini

Last night Studly Doright and I had dinner at The Garlic, a popular Italian restaurant in New Smyrna Beach. The ambiance was fun, and old world funky. The food was excellent. Truth is, I was so wrapped up in the dining experience that I neglected to take any pictures. Thank goodness for Pinterest.

We had it on good advice to arrive early. Since the weather was cold, most everyone wanted indoor dining. Studly Doright and I were fortunate to get the last remaining indoor table, and we were there at 4:30.

After dinner we drove a block or so to Norwood’s, a seafood place that boasts a treehouse bar.

We climbed the stairs from The Roots Bar on the lower level into this wonderful treehouse atmosphere.

The table at the end of the walkway was reserved for a special occasion.
Had it not been so cold we might have sat around this table that circled the trunk of a gnarly tree.
My beautiful martini and the back of the man who made it for me.

We topped off our sumptuous meal from The Garlic with drinks and desserts at Norwood’s. I had some insanely delicious pumpkin spice cheesecake along with the specially crafted martini above. I asked what the martini was called and the bartender shrugged. “I made it just for you and the dessert you chose.” One word: Perfection.

Studly enjoyed a brownie and water. Good thing, too. I couldn’t have driven back to our accommodations after that drink.

I’d love to visit both restaurants again on a warmer evening. The outdoor seating at both places looked inviting, but not on such a cold day. Now we’re home and I heated up a can of Gardein Chick’n Noodle soup for dinner. I wonder what martini might’ve been perfect with it?

Peace, people.

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