Catching up and some “Super Sunday” thoughts…

OK. It’s been way too long since I actually sat down with the sole purpose to write something to post on Down Many Roads—my long-standing blog about various topics of which I’m interested. And I’ve frittered away so many opportunities to do that very thing during the past several weeks and months. Reading, rather than writing, has still been my “go to” activity when I’m up before dawn most mornings, and I feel rather guilty about that—but not that guilty! Recently, I have enjoyed reading the following books: Beneath a Scarlet Sky, by Mark Sullivan; The Russia Hoax, by Greg Jarrett; The Saga of the Pony Express, by Joseph J. Di Certo;

Since I last posted regarding our wonderful adventure on the Oregon Trail with our grandsons, I have been busy with a few road trips to Ohio to see Mom and my older sister and husband. Mom turned 90 last month and is doing remarkably well. We had just returned from an 18-day Panama Canal cruise, and our intention was to make the six hour drive to northern Ohio to celebrate her birthday on the actual day—January 22. But a nagging viral infection entered the scene, as did the return of the Polar Vortex, preventing me from making the trip to the shores of Lake Erie.

About that same time, we had been inundated with continuous snowfalls, accumulations mounting daily. As such, I’m planning a trip out in a couple of weeks, hoping that this sudden thaw and this stretch of very pleasant weather will hold on for a while. Fingers crossed.

Our aforementioned cruise began on January 2, when we flew out of O’Hare to San Diego. From start to finish, the whole trip was wonderful, particularly the warm and comfortable weather all the way along, where we ended up in Fort Lauderdale and flew home from there. I will be writing about the highlights of this adventure in future posts.

Watching the Super Bowl yesterday left me in a total state of “the blahs.” Not only was the game a complete flop, the commercials—usually the highlight of Super Sunday—were non existent. There is definitely something going on in our world and society that has changed things that are supposed to be fun into anything but. Too much preachy content that caters to a generation I find difficult to comprehend much of the time. The outcome was not really surprising, and I’m not a Patriots football fan. However, I do admire their achievements and their adherence to off-the-field obligations. Enjoy your White House visit, Patriots!

Now, it’s time to focus on getting through February. Good to be back and writing! See you sooner than later…

Snow, cold, scuttled travel plans & hungry birds!

IMG_1969.jpg
Three “visitors” during the snow storm

Hello out there. It’s 8 a.m., and we’ve already reached our high for the day at 12°F. What a wonderful day to stay inside! The coffee is good, the music gentle in my ear buds, and the house is warm and comfortable.

And to think that it was but a mere short time ago when everyone was gushing about how pleasant the temperatures still were and how green the lawns remained.

After our recent weekend’s blast of snow, however, those lawns are blanketed with white, the trees are bare, and winter has firmly entrenched itself.

But…it should.

After all, this is mid-December in northern Illinois, and once the winds and cold of winter decide that it’s time for them to pop in and stay, everything turns quickly and decisively. The birds make quick work of emptying the two feeders out back.

I watch them now as I write this, and they’re so much like anxious shoppers, crowding one IMG_1966.jpganother on the ground below the feeders or vying for a spot on the edge of the feeders above.

I wonder if they are required to take a number to determine who’s “next” to be served! It’s clear that one of my jobs later today will be to trudge out through the snow, bucket of seed in hand, and re-fill the feeders.

And, of course, this weather plays havoc on making any sort of travel plans. Last weekend, for example, we’d planned to drive to Ohio to attend the 90th birthday gathering for an aunt and then on up to Lake Erie to visit my mom.

When the snow began in earnest Saturday afternoon, however, all plans went by the boards. The current plan is to try it again this coming weekend, but there is some inkling of more weather “issues” that could crop up once more. We shall see.

In the meantime, I’ll catch up with some long overdue writing and keep the bird feeders filled.

How’s the weather in your part of the world?

A snowy homeward adventure…

English: A view of Panama City Beach, Florida ...
English: A view of Panama City Beach, Florida from St. Andrews State Recreation Area (in the United States). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In my last post, I wrote about our trip to Florida and what a good time we had with two good friends, despite the non-Florida-like weather.

We had planned to head over to New Orleans for a few days, after dropping Bill and Barb off at the Panama City Beach airport, but the weather forecast sort of took our enthusiasm out of the equation, and we decided, instead, to get on the road and drive straight home to northern Illinois.

Our driving conditions were ideal all the way up through Alabama, Tennessee, and most of southern Kentucky. However, as soon as we got back into our dear home state of Illinois about 7 p.m., the heavy snow had begun, and, of course, we were several hours from home. We kept thinking that the farther north we drove, the less the storm would be—based on the weather maps and radar we were intent on watching!

I was forced to creep along behind semis at a top speed of 19 mph, and the storm continued to intensify. Many vehicles had spun out and into the median, stuck for a long night, and others had exited into the deep ditches and woods on the other side of the highway. What state trucks were out plowing or salting, were finding it difficult to keep up with the heavy snow, and it was pretty obvious that we needed to get off the highway!

salem_ilThe long stretch of interstate between Carbondale and Effingham, Illinois, is dark and sparsely populated. What towns there are, north of Mount Vernon, are small and offer few options for accommodations. We exited at Salem, Illinois, a town of about 7,500 people. We filled up with gas, and the woman working at the station was very helpful and called a couple of the motels there.

The first had no vacancies, but we lucked out on the second one. The Guest House International was only a block away, and we slowly slogged our way there, where we found several others waiting there with the same idea as us.

But, as promised, the woman clerk had held one of the few remaining rooms and we were thankful. It was good—and safe—to be off the road and out of the storm for the night!

We were up and out by 8:00 the next morning and found the interstate to be passable but not really ideal for travel. But at least it was daylight and it wasn’t snowing as it had been the night before. I took it easy, and we worked our way up north where the weather had been much better and very little in the way of snow. By the time we made it home in the late afternoon, we were both tired and glad to be off the road.

Last week the frigid temperatures broke and the past several days have been very pleasant, and new life seems to be rapping at our door. People are out and about and enjoying the 40s and 50s that are gracing us with their presence this week. Little by little, all of the accumulated snow is disappearing and larger patches of grass in our yards are unmasking with every passing hour.

Our snow time ordeal seems like a long way off at this point. Now, it’s time to think about first applications of spring fertilizer, a new lawnmower, and sitting out on the deck for morning coffee! Have we truly worked ourselves out of the throes of winter’s relentless grip? I certainly hope so….

Panama City Beach, Florida.
Panama City Beach, Florida. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A mild mid-January & glorious sunrises…

Sunrise over Maple Park
Sunrise from our back deck…out across the cold fields.

Without much fanfare, mid-January has crept into the picture. And here in northern Illinois, one might get the impression that it’s late February or early March with this weekend’s milder temperatures ranging into the low 40s. A good deal of our snow from a week ago has dwindled, and ever-widening patches of grass out back are appearing by the hour!

And although this is nothing to get too wound up about, we all seem to be comparing and contrasting this year’s winter with that of last year’s polar vortex experience and agree that it’s a much more agreeable sort of winter! Having dry and bare pavement and sidewalks makes things much easier to navigate. In short, we’ll enjoy it for as long as we can.

The last several days have begun with beautiful sunrises, and they are fun to watch as they fully climb up above the horizon way out to the east from where I write. And though I prefer those dreary rainy days to really motivate me and get me into the proper writing frame of mind, it’s hard to beat one of these glorious sunrises.

Here’s to a good week ahead as we move into the next part of winter…

 

Thoughts on a near-perfect “writing day” …

Courtesy of MORGUEFILE
Courtesy of MORGUEFILE

The morning had dawned gray and cold, and—here and there—light traces of snow that had fallen in the night were visible. Far out to the east, across so many empty and barren fields, the sunrise had valiantly tried to make itself known, but the thick, dark cloud bank hanging so ominously low would have nothing of it.

A few snowflakes had blown about and had brushed lightly against my writing room window and then were gone. The backyard, that I had mowed for the final time last week, lay quiet and resigned to the fact that those wonderful warm days of summer and fall were but a memory now, and winter’s chill, with its snow blanket soon to arrive, was creeping in unopposed.

Alone in my house out in the country, I listen to the quiet all around…and the quiet is good.  From my computer, the relaxing and pleasant classical music station soothes the roughness of the world outside, transporting me into a good writing mood, and thoughts about the next chapter of Sandbar’s Secret begin to take shape. Periodically, the furnace “kicks in,” offering reassurance that our house is warm, and the newly arrived cold, a preamble to winter, can do nothing about it.

I finish writing the letters that have needed writing for many days, and they’re ready for a trip to the post office later. I send a couple of quick e-mails and clean out an overcrowded Inbox. I spend some time trying to figure out where I want to go with this week’s blog post—which “road” shall I travel today?—and settle on sharing my thoughts and impressions about this wonderfully inspiring day, glad that I don’t have to be outside other than to visit the post office, dump the recycling over at the Waste Management site, and maybe go to the store to see if the sale on Budweiser is still on!

It has been a busy week with appointments of one kind or another: Lab work for routine six-month doctor visit on Monday; a trip to the Apple Store on Tuesday morning for a battery replacement in the iPhone; pick up the grandsons from school on Wednesday and take them to basketball practice; finally, the trip in to the doctor’s office early this morning to go over the lab results and the routine check-up (which all turned out very well).

In short, I love this sort of day, especially when the past weeks have been endless strings of sun-drenched, blindingly bright days. On days such as this, the writing seems to be better, and the energy and drive to accomplish much is stronger than ever! And now that the rush of this week has subsided, I can stay inside now, on this cold and gray day, and focus on moving my writing along on this near-perfect “writing day.”….CortlandWriter

Courtesy of MORGUEFILE.
Courtesy of MORGUEFILE.

The Good Luck Highway

scrivener-basic-composition
scrivener-basic-composition (Photo credit: ChrisL_AK)

This past week, I’ve spent an inordinate number of hours at work on final revisions and edits of this next book of mine, The Good Luck Highway. And although it has been a productive week, I’ve reached the stage where I’m growing weary of my characters, storyline, and overall conflict! I don’t know if this is a good or bad sign (maybe a combination of both), but I’m hoping that this is a natural phenomena that happens to many writers after they have invested so much time, thought, and work into a book.

If I can avoid any more unexpected interruptions during the next two days, I will have the thing finished and ready to “put out there” and share with the world very soon.

US Highway 98 looking westward from the George...
US Highway 98 looking westward from the George NeSmith Bridge at Newport, Florida, USA (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

On another note, I am excited about the cover design and will be sharing that in an upcoming post very soon. I couldn’t be more pleased with the way it has turned out. And it will definitely be an important part of The Good Luck Highway. …CortlandWriter

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Charleston: Charm & power outages…

Charleston, South Carolina
Charleston, South Carolina (Photo credit: Dougtone)

It has often been said that “all good things must end,” and that’s exactly what happened with my brief foray into wearing shorts and short sleeves in brilliant 70-degree weather that one day in Savannah. Hoping for more of the same weather once we reached Charleston, our hopes were dashed upon the rocks (I love being melodramatic this morning!) when we awoke on Tuesday to be greeted by cold and drizzle. Dedicated and intrepid folks that we are, though, we made the twenty-minute drive from our hotel to the Visitor Center on Meeting Street in Charleston so we could chart our course for the next two days, crappy weather notwithstanding.

The kind lady at the information counter advised us that we should probably do whatever it was we wanted to do now because the forecast for tomorrow was calling for freezing rain. In short, today would be the lesser of the two evils. And so we purchased the combo tour, which included a harbor tour and visit to historic Fort Sumter, followed by a lengthy Gray Line bus tour around the beautiful city of Charleston.

Once both tours were concluded, we enjoyed a delicious dinner at Hyman’s Seafood Restaurant. The grouper medley special prepared three ways was outstanding, and there was definitely more than enough to fill us up!

From there, we hopped aboard the free public trolley and rode the mile-long route back to where we were parked at the Visitor Center. Before we realized it, we were back on westbound I-26 heading back to our hotel, wondering what kind of weather actually would be coming in. Sometime in the night, all of the bad stuff they’d been predicting finally arrived.

rainyday.summerville
Looking outside from our hotel room window at the freezing rain. The pines are heavily laden with ice in Summerville, SC.

Wednesday was  freezing rain, causing countless pine trees to snap under the weight, taking out power lines and bringing things in the entire surrounding area to a halt. For a while, before the power left us, I managed to get some editing and revising done on my book The Good Luck Highway. After that, we spent the better part of the day without power. 

When the power did come back on–after several false alarms—we decided to take a drive to see if there was any place to get some dinner. Of course, that was no easy task since all businesses in our area were still without power. Finally, driving back three exits toward Charleston, we managed to find a brightly lit Cracker Barrel, the most popular place in the world!

English: View of the house at Middleton Place,...
English: View of the house at Middleton Place, near Charleston, South Carolina. Now the plantation’s house museum, this structure was originally the south wing, but became the main residence after the original main house was destroyed. The low wall left of the house indicates where the original main house once stood. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Thursday was better and the storms had moved on out, leaving behind much damage and many areas still struggling to get power back. A morning stroll through the City Market and a humbling visit to the old Slave Mart were the morning’s wanderings. From there, we drove out to Middleton Place, a true southern plantation, and walked the grounds and had a guided tour through the house. We both agreed that on a pleasant spring day, the time there would have been so much more enjoyable. As it was, it was still pretty impressive.

Dinner for our last night in Charleston was at the Shem Creek Bar and Grill, another place that had been recommended by friends and/or family. Located in nearby Mt. Pleasant, the large sprawling restaurant and bar served up all sorts of wonderful seafood dishes. I had the Shem Creek Sauté, a wonderful mix of mussels, clams, and scallops sautéed in olive oil, shallots, and spicy Cajun sausage, then tossed with linguine and topped with fried oysters. A couple of cold Budweisers to go along with it, and the meal was magnificent!

Our long, tiring, fun day over, we found our way back to the hotel, ready to hit the sack since the early morning would arrive all too soon.  After breakfast, we’d pack up, load the car, check out, and point our Malibu west on I-26 for the weekend in Waynesville, North Carolina. But I still missed being able to wear those shorts some more!….CortlandWriter

Official seal of Waynesville, North Carolina
Official seal of Waynesville, North Carolina (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
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