Traveling Alone: Let them know where you are

I am nearing 16 years as a traveling guy for a Fortune 500 and the side benefits are out of this world.  I personally have managed to visit all 50 states as probably many of of you all have.

Most of us have a little spot in us that gives that drive to do that special interest that appeals to you deeply.   I believe there's one TFA whose soul purpose is to visit a Starbucks in every state and there's one I know that can't pass up a chicken and waffle restaurant.  One of us out there collects Harley Davidson pins and visits a US National Park every chance he gets.  All these penchants are fun and usually do not expose you to any inherent dangers.

For me, it's photography and when I get that call for a new assignment, I start hitting google maps trying to figure out where and what I want to shoot.  However, I seem to sometimes get in a jam with my avocation.  You just need to think about your surroundings and be careful.  Things and situations can change quickly.

Case(s) in point:
Years ago, the HQ Team Leader called and sent me to Oregon.  Being from Louisiana, I was just mesmerized at the mountains as I drove south to Roseburg stopping often to snap a picture thinking I'd eventually run out of mountains.  Once there, I began to hear about Crater Lake so that was all I could think of until the weekend came.

When Saturday arrived, I pulled out my maps (no GPS for me then) and struck out on my quest.  Riding along, I noticed a waterfall coming off the side of a steep hill so I pulled over, grabbed my camera and began climbing a pile of rocks to get that perfect and up close shot of the cascade but as I began to make my way down,  my foot slipped on a mossy rock and found myself bouncing off a half dozen boulders before I came to a rest in a heap 15 feet below.

My camera was OK but I managed to break an elbow.   In pain, I continued on to Crater lake and took a couple of pics before getting back to the room and dosing up on ibuprofen until I could see a doctor the next day.

Then there was the time at an annual conference in Saint Louis that I got the brilliant idea to go downtown and take a picture of the Gateway Arch at night.  It was a full moon.  I parked my car and made my way to the plaza, wandered around a while to choose how I was going to do my shot.  Not having a tripod, I had to lay down on the concrete,  propped the front of my lens on a book and sited through the viewfinder and squeezing off a dozen or so different shots with various exposures. 

As I fidgeted with my settings, I caught the glimpse of a very large foot next to my head.  Now, if you're lying prostrate on the ground in an unusual place, there are just not many options for a quick escape if there's trouble.  While there were people off at a distance, I was pretty much alone.

Not wanting to make any sudden moves, I slowly turned my head to the direction of the pair of well worn boots and traced the image with my eyes upward to reveal the face of a guy bigger than me with lots of hair and big nasty beard.

"Something I can help you with?", I asked.  It sounded pretty dumb but I was at a loss for words and I was making a vain attempt at appearing cool and not appearing as a victim here.

"Got a buck?", he grunted.

Without a word, I slowly reached into my left jeans pocket, felt a bill and slowly pulled it out and handed to him.  I have no idea how much I gave him.  It could have been a buck or it could have been a twenty.  I didn't know or care at that point and was hoping he wouldn't produce a knife, hammer or screwdriver.

"Thanks!", he said and wandered off into the dark as I pondered if I needed that one more shot of the fountain and arch.   Things could have gone so wrong.

Once while in New Mexico, I thought stopping off at a turn out near Cloudcroft and climbing down into a canyon in search of a small waterfall might be a grand idea.  There was one other car so it had to be safe, right?  Anyway, I took a cell phone pic of the license plate of my car along with the GPS tagging and emailed it to my brother letting him know where I was in case I really didn't come back.
Finally, after crawling down lots of boulders and not encountering rattlesnakes, I reached the bottom of the arroyo and began get my photo groove on.  Somewhere in the distance, I heard thunder.  How nice, it might rain and be cool.  Then I notice a log lodged in the middle of a tree limb about 8 feet above my head.  Yikes, his could become a flash flood in minutes!   I quickly gathered up my camera bag and began crawling back up the boulders not so careful this time.  As an old guy 20 years away from being in shape, I began to wheeze and pant for breath.   I could hear someone coming up the canyon behind me and they were moving fast.  Not to appear in trouble I quickly sat under a mesquite bush and played like I was taking pictures of the surroundings, just as this 30 something local and a couple of teenage kids scurried by me.

The older asked, "You OK, Sir?  You need help?"  I'm certain he noticed the bright red complexion of my face and felt sorry for me.  I tried to appear non-nonchalant and said, "Oh no, I'm fine. Thanks for asking."  I was such a liar.

After they left I took another 20 minutes to get a few more feet to my car.  I called my brother to let him know I was back to my rental.  He said he would have been calling the cops in another 30 minutes if I hadn't called.  As it turned out, I'd injured my knee and developed an infection with a lot of pain that took weeks of meds to cure.

I've got a ton of similar tales but the important thing to remember (particularly for me) is to be aware of your limitations, let someone else know where you are and if possible, don't travel alone in unknown places.   Nowadays, I have an app on my phone that my wife can tap into that will reveal my whereabouts within 100 feet.  I'm long past caring about that kind of privacy and still email my family the license plates of my rental cars.



After coming home from California, I spent a couple of weeks getting both eyes worked on by removing cataracts.  It makes me feel old to think about it but it certainly had to be done.

When it was over, I was amazed to see how bright and clear things were.  My doctor said it was entirely necessary because I'd probably not be able to pass the drivers license vision test my next time up.

After all that was handled, I had a couple of Texas assignments.  The first was in the small town of Bastrop, just east of Austin.  I'd hoped to see the burst of bluebonnets but unfortunately, the assignment ended before they came to full bloom. 

I did spend a bit of time on weekends walking along the boardwalk in Austin and hiking the state parks nearby.

I had hoped to be there when the bats return to the Congress Street bridge.  Each afternoon just after sundown, bats pour out of the crevices of the bridge and fill the skies attracting hundreds of people just to watch the site.  Again, I had to leave a couple weeks early and missed it.

There was this quick 2 day trip to Oklahoma which yielded nothing but an extra plane ride. After that, I found myself in Weslaco. Texas.  It's a little town in the Rio Grande Valley between McAllen and Brownsville.  (Trivia fact: Weslaco got it's name from the W. E. Steward Land Company)

Fortunately, I was located near another co-worker, Jim Larson with whom I spent a lot of time with exploring the RGV and much of what it had to offer. That included a lot of Mexican and seafood.

Besides the tourist attractions, I managed to become friends with some locals and for a while considered myself as either a Winter Texan.  Since it wasn't winter any longer and the temps were now reaching 100°, I'll refer to myself as an Undocumented Texan.  Either way, I think Texas and I fit.

Included in our explorations were the butterfly sanctuaries.  I found out more facts about the Monarch Butterfly than I could possibly explain in this blog.  Just look it up, it's astounding.

In every location, certain birds were everywhere.  Some of the more common birds were loud and noisy Chachalacas.  These birds were sometimes called Mexican Pheasants.  I asked a naturalist if they were edible and he said yes but they were a protected species in Texas so they weren't to be hunted.  Another was the big black Crackles.  They too were loud but not nearly as large as the Chachalacas.

On this picture, you'll have to look closely between the two Crackles to see the well camouflaged Chachalaca.

We did see a pair of Orioles nesting.  The nests were fascinating in the way they hung like a big bag from the tree limbs.  I've never seen an Oriole.  This species doesn't get too far north in the USA but is home in the Rio Grande Valley (RGV).

When I first arrived it was spring break time so it took a month or so to conjure a trip to South Padre Island.  I was disappointed there were no naturally growing trees there but the beach people didn't seem to mind.

One weekend, Jim and I rode over to Corpus Christi and took a tour of the USS Lexington Aircraft Carrier, now a museum with several airplanes on display on the deck.  Jim, being a former Navy pilot was all over the place.

Good times.

Texas has come and gone for now but I still miss it.

Shame on me. Long time; no post

I've already been up for a while taking a nice ride along the river road feeling almost apologetic for disturbing the egrets in the water filled ditches who were not especially grateful for the rumbling of a Harley Davidson on a mild summer morning.

The sun had not completely risen and the mixture of dark blue clouds with orange edges reminded me of a saying I learned years ago, "Red skies in the morning; sailors take warning."  It looked like it may rain later.  Still the clatter of the pipes sang a morning hymn and comforted my soul.  I talk with Him quite a bit with the V-Twin choir singing in the background.

Still there were no rain drops on my windshield and there was hardly any traffic on the roads. It seemed I owned the world and as I returned back to my neighborhood, I sort of wondered how many neighbors I was waking as I downshifted and rounded the corners sometimes scraping my floorboards on tight turns.

It felt great to be alive.

Call it writer's block, apathy, laziness or whatever but I've just haven't had the drive or will to post.  Not only that, I've not been all that excited about hauling out the Nikon because for the past few years, it was like another body part.

Anyway, this year I have had a short assignment in Atascadero, California.  I only had a couple of weekends to do any exploring.  A lot of that was visiting Morro Bay and watching the sun set on the rock.  

As the sun began to set, a boat pulled through the channel to spend some time for a late weekend evening sunset.

You'll have to pardon the dirty sensor and lens.  Consider the sun dogs as just being artistic.

Knowing I couldn't get that far north, I thought I'd ride on up to see how far I could go.

Anyway, I did cruise north toward San Simeon stopping along to see the smelly and noisy Elephant Seals and checking out a zebra near Hearst Castle.  

 I did not go into the castle.

I did get on up a few more miles as far as Ragged Point Inn before the road was closed and sent me back south where I spent some time back in Atascadero at the Tamale Festival.  It was a typical small town festival selling, yes you got it, tamales.  One on the best things was seeing the Azteca horses with riders singing as they ponies seemed to dance to the beat of the Mexican band.

With such a short time there, trips were cut short but manage to meet my old friend Jon Zeller up in Paso Roble in Central California's wine country.

I appreciate the chance to get back up there but am a bit disappointed I could not get further north on Big Sur.


2016 Year in review

2016 has been a year that I've neglected posting a lot.

While I've had no real personal hardships this year,  it's been a bad year due to losing a couple of aunts, one on my Dad's side and one on my Mama's side. Friends and family members have experienced challenges with the recent flood and all the hardships associated with that and the rebuilding.  Not all has been negative; I've met some new friends and renewed some older friendships.

My travels have been mostly in the central part of the US this year and did not even get near California or Hawaii, let alone Alaska or Florida.  I've spent time west of the Mississippi in Texas, Kansas, Nebraska and Iowa.  I've also spent quite a bit of time in Tennessee, North Carolina, Ohio, Iowa and Nebraska as well as working in Baton Rouge.

A lot of the time taking pictures of bugs, waterfalls, moons, sunsets and sunrises, all of which border on an obsession.

Here's a few shots.

I saw the beginning of the year in southern Kansas.

 Not looking at my appointment calendar, I don't exactly remember the order where I was located.  The three or four Texas assignments were usually very quick and my bags never really got unpacked.  North Carolina and Tennessee took up nearly half of the year.

While working in Madison, NC, my wife flew up to visit me in lieu of me coming home.  Maybe I should clarify that...she actually stayed with our friend nearby near Sugar Mountain.  There are tons of things to see, hikes to take and scenery you have always dreamed of.

 Although I worked in North Carolina for nearly 3 months, I took a one week motorcycle vacation ride up to Tennessee and North Carolina, with my friend Louis, visiting places like Chattanooga, Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge, Cherokee, Maggie Valley and the Mecca of motorcycling in that area, Deals Gap or the Tail of the Dragon.

You'd think I had enough of that trip but as soon as Louis and I returned, Darlene and I loaded up in the car and took virtually the same trip with a few variations, the biggest part of the time in or around Banner Elk, North Carolina admiring the fall colors and mountain streams.

I also found myself visiting Ohio a couple of times, dodging a few Amish on some side roads and being there for a super moon.

My working year ended with a trip in nearby Nebraska where I imagined a stalker and got into a little bit of snow.

May you each be blessed with a happy and prosperous new year.


Stalker in Omaha

As a traveling sort of guy, I'm always cognizant about possible dangers in the various areas I visit. Danger is not always apparent and can come as a surprise.  I have friends who have had personal effects stolen out of their vehicles while they were fueling up a rental car. 

So, it's just my second nature these days to often drive around an office building or hotel just to see what may be in the dark shadows or even in the daylight.

This morning as I was leaving my hotel, I was headed to my car and looked out to see this guy standing beside a truck next to my own car just staring up at the hotel building. I was a bit hesitant to go near him because he wasn't moving.  He just stood there holding what I thought was a coffee mug.

With him between the truck and my car he was going to have move if I approached near the front of the car. Also, that would make me vulnerable for a robbery or a mugging.   My other option would be to come from the rear where there would be more walking room.

My mind flew through possible situations and how to handle this so in a few moments I decided, "Well, I've got to make the best of it" and walked toward the front which would cause him to either move out of the way or expose his intentions.

As I drew nearer, it was then that I realized it was merely a decal on the side of the truck.

At that time, I realized it was time for an appointment with the ophthalmologist.


Well, yeaaUH !

Says it needs work.
I may have mentioned....I'm in Kansas for the past month or so by the way of Arlington Texas for a couple of days.  I'm staying in a casino for crying out loud.  Since I'm too cheap to gamble, it just doesn't have an appeal for me.
I'll have to be blunt...while these folks up here are the salt of the earth, there just isn't a lot of things to do other than just go out and count the number of yard art tractors, rusting automobiles and miles and miles of checkerboard acreage.
 The highlights of my days are the 14 mile trip from my office in Wellington to my room at night where I keep my eyes peeled for some new curiosity.  Sometimes the sunrise is fabulous
 and sometimes there's a notable sunset.
 This past weekend, I managed to find a little fishing lake just east of me and found a half moon trying to peak through the trees.
 To my surprise, an Eagle flew up in one of the Cottonwoods near me.
 I would have loved getting closer for a tighter shot but eagle stalking isn't one of my strong suits so when I got a little closer it took flight leaving me with 40 more miles across the prairie to the hotel.
 At least I'm not somewhere in Minnesota chest deep in snow.  I admit that I wanted off Oahu and remember thinking that I would miss that place after I'd gotten home and it's true but never understood how true.  It was a place where you could just pick up your camera and find a great picture to take.


I'm now back home from Honolulu

While Honolulu and all of Hawai'i seems to be the ideal place for a 3 month assignment, it had gotten to the point I dreamed of home quite often.  That and the fact that I was about to be a grandfather again kept me preoccupied much of the time.

Meet Hazel, she was born December 28.  She's the one being held by the old guy in the leather jacket.

Since Ms Darlene needed the car to get around and work, I was at the mercy of my motorcycle to get around for 4 weeks after Oahu.  One day, I had stopped off at the Harley dealership when one of the employees walked up to me gave me his card and introduced himself as "Snake".

I had a personal card of my own so I gave him one of mine.  I'll have to say mine seemed a bit bland up against a card with "Snake" on it but nevertheless, the exchange was made.  Snake mentioned that he and several other riders took a long ride each Sunday and asked if I was interested.  Explaining to him that I was not in town that much, I pretty much dismissed the idea of riding with a group.  I had taken part in a few group rides before but it just wasn't really my thing for a number of reasons.  That's a story for another day.

A few days later, I got a text from him inviting me on one of the rides so I sent a text back declining the invitation, citing a trip I wanted to make visiting my mother, brother and our son up in Monroe.  I figured that would be the last of it.

A week later, I get another text inviting me to meet up for a trip up to Middendorf's restaurant in Manchac where the waterway connects Lake Pontchartrain to the smaller Lake Maurepas.  That restaurant is known locally as having very thin cut catfish and a favorite for people in the New Orleans, Baton Rouge and southern Mississippi.

So after church that Sunday, I rode up to the Twin Peaks restaurant in Baton Rouge to meet up with these guys.

My arrival was maybe 10 minutes before the appointed ride time and there was already several bikes out front so I parked Boudreaux along side them.  I walked in and recognized Snake and was introduced to several others.  Wanting not to seem unsociable, I ordered an ice tea when the waitress approached me. Hey, it was Sunday.  They all were having a beer. 

Chatting it up with some guy on the merits of a Windows cell phone, I turned to see one guy wearing a Glock on his belt.  Now, I don't know the percentage of income ratio between alcohol and food at this place or the legality of it all but the pistol on his belt gave me an immediate recall of a shoot out at the Twin Peaks in Waco last year between the cops and some motorcycle enthusiasts which ended badly for nine and jail time for a several others.  What possibly could go wrong here?

Anyway, I took my ice tea and went outside and sat on my bike until the others joined me.  Of the two dozen riders that were at the bar/restaurant, there were only nine of us who actually took the trip, not including Roy Rogers the pistol packer.

Once out on the highway, the trip took us eastward along scenic highway 22 to Ponchatoula and down I-55 toward Manchac (Akers post office) and stopping once for a guy who forgot to fill up with gas before we left. .

Arriving at Middendorf's we had a wait for around 30 minutes where most of us ordered thin fried catfish fillets.

As we were finishing up, the temperature began to drop and clouds were appearing dark so another rider and I elected to head south to LaPlace and take I-10 west back to Ascension Parish.  The others re-traced the original route.  I do not know if they ran into rain or not.

I've ridden in rain and I've ridden in cold and can deal with both but I try to avoid the combo of rain and cold when I can.