This past long weekend Linda, I and our furry companions took off east to Grande Cache. As always water is the draw for me – large lakes are the closest I can get to ocean waves in landlocked Alberta! I have grown to appreciate the magnificence of the mountains and the wildlife that inhabits them. Not only are the Rockies stunning, but it is always good to realize how insignificant you really are.
On many of our journeys we have been gifted with many sightings of animals, large and small, but one particular animal stayed elusive. It is the modern day unicorn – the caribou. Although, we have driven through the migratory areas of these beautiful deer, we have never seen one until this trip. An adult female grazing by the highway, who dashed into the trees before I could get a photo. However, the joy of seeing one of these endangered animals was the thrill of the weekend. (not my photo)
As a lifelong lover of the natural world, it is always devastating to learn about the impact of human existence on the wonders of the world around us. To help the caribou there is a conservation project and also a Caribou Patrol. Signs are posted for drivers to take care on the migratory routes and any sightings must be reported. It is so great to know these magnificent animals are protected.
We did drive to other locations during the weekend of writing and reading. Victor Lake, Sulphur Gates and the Labyrinth Park.
But was also happy to sleep while I wrote or was reading.
This last weekend, I enjoyed a delightful writing retreat in a private lakeside cabin. The cabin was perfect with every amenity you could wish for. Sammie and I walked across the fields, and lounged on the deck. Watching the water fowl, gulls and other birds and the ever changing moods of the lake, were especially inspiring. One night, I witnessed two shooting stars in a dark sky populated with millions of stars. This tranquility was accompanied with a virtual writers conference, When Words Collide. Where I was a panelist discussing writing groups and a co-presenter for a publishing session.
Where have you visited this summer? What inspired you?
On the trip home, we discovered a small bookstore in Castor and of course, had to explore. I found a book to add to my TBR pile, which has ghosts in it. As you know I have my own experiences in that area.
When Robins Appear by Densie Webb
A remarkable tale of a mother and daughter dealing with love and loss, joy and pain. Their relationship ebbs and flows, as we ‘see’ each of their inner thoughts and turmoil. A story that brings real life into sharp focus. I enjoyed it immensely.
What are you currently reading?
(Always leave a review – just a short sentence will do!)
My friend, Linda, and I have been on so many road trips for writing retreats, attending books fairs and writing events in the last eleven or so years, that we have the preparation, planning, and execution of them down to a fine art.
This particular road trip, we are virtually attending When Words Collide as presenters, but it will be a fully literary trip, as we work on current projects, visit local libraries and bookstores, too. There will be day trips for exploring, watching wildlife and finding inspiration as always on the back roads.
We organize our trip, for the most part, in the same way each time. It is a tried and tested practice for us.
Road trip journal
Bird identification book.
Blankets, emergency kit, shovel, trolley.
Chargers, camera, sunglasses.
A bag for trash.
Plenty of water bottles.
In addition there are Sammie essentials:
Water and food bowls
A peaceful and beautiful location.
Options for where we can write – so a desk (or two) and two comfortable chairs, and a nice view.
Comfortable beds, ample lighting, space to spread out our things and a good shower.
A microwave, fridge and storage for food. Luckily, we both like the same foods.
And tea! (So there must be a kettle).
Notebooks and pens.
Current writing projects
Chargers, extension cord and power-bar (there are never enough power points).
New for this trip headphones with mic’s for the presentations.
How do you plan for a writing retreat and A road trip?
I am lucky to have fellow writer/author and best friend, Linda, who loves road trips as much as I do. This friendship has led to numerous road trips over the last twelve years or so, giving us the opportunity to explore my new homeland and Linda’s home. We have several essential items that we pack or insist upon in our accommodation, a companionable routine for the driving and exploring, as well as the writing, editing and reading portions of our trips.
We do not ride the highways but back roads, trails and secondary highways giving us time to stop and watch wildlife, take in the scenery and explore hamlets and ghost towns. We have been inspired on multiple occasions to create but also to decompress and relax. We have encountered numerous animals, witnessed fabulous scenery and found little known corners of Alberta, Saskatoon and British Columbia.
For the driving portion of our trips, we leave early knowing we will be taking the long way to our destination. This has culminated in more hours added to a trip than maybe we should admit to! (Case in point our last ‘day road trip’ took fifteen hours.)
Our in-car essentials are:
My road trip book to write down the road numbers, towns and counties we travel through and Linda’s map book to mark out the roads we travel. A bird identification book, blankets, emergency kit, shovel, trolley, chargers, camera, sunglasses. Also a bag for trash and water bottles.
Our accommodation requirementsare:
A desk (or two) and two comfortable chairs, a nice view, and a kettle! (I need my tea). Comfortable beds, ample lighting, space to spread out our things and a good shower.
Our trip essentials are:
Lap tables, laptops, notebooks, pens, current writing projects, reading material, chargers, extension cord and power-bar (there are never enough power points), cell phones, camera, back-up drives.
Comfortable clothes (layering is essential), warm socks, jackets, walking shoes/boots, slippers. These change dependent on the time of year of course. Eye glasses and ear plugs, a bottle of wine & snacks, easy meals and tea bags (Okay I’m English teabags are a must!)
Neither of us needs noise so silence reigns unless we are discussing our day or writing projects.
Over the years our routine has evolved into a well oiled machine. We are comfortable in silence and respect each others creativity and time to just create and enjoy the wonders we encounter.
Having time to let our writing Muse gather and cultivate new ideas, allows us to start, progress, or even finish writing projects.
What road trip essentials do you need?
When was your last road trip/ Where did you go? What did you do?
Tom slumped into the metal picnic chair. He hadn’t wanted to come on this stupid trip with his parents. He could have stayed at home, hung out with his friends – had fun. But no, his parent insisted he come on this ‘last’ camping trip before he went to college. He gazed down at his new runners, pristine white and blue. It had been a mistake to wear them here; they would get ruined with the obligatory hike tomorrow morning. The camp fire crackled and spat its warmth welcome as the night air cooled. With a full stomach of baked potatoes cooked in said fire filled with spicy chili, followed with s’mores, he was getting sleepy.
“I think I’ll turn in, Pops, Mom. We’re up early for the hike right?”
“Yes we will be, but before you go, we have something for you.”
Tom frowned but sat back down.
His Mom went into their tent, pitched on the other side of the fire. He could hear her rummaging around. When she reappeared she had a drawstring bag in one hand. His father stood up and both parents looked at their son. A strange look covered their faces, an intent gaze that made Tom uncomfortable.
“Okay what is this? Why are you looking at me like that?”
“We have something for you.”
His mother handed him the bag, Tom pulled the drawstring and cautiously peered inside. He let out a laugh. “An old teddy bear? Come on guys, I way past cuddly toys, you know.”
“It may look like an old teddy bear, Tom but this one is special. It has been handed down through the generations, father to son and so on. It is my honour to pass it on to you, now you are eighteen.”
Tom pulled out the frayed, threadbare teddy bear; it had obviously seen better days.
“Well, okay but what’s so special about an old toy, like really?”
“Tonight you will find out. It is best you experience it rather than me explain, Tom. Have a great night.”
His parents smiled and turned away, entering their tent and zipping it shut. What the heck is up with them? Old toy! Special night! It must be some kind of gag; they cooked up between them to make this last trip memorable. What losers. Well, goodnight teddy. Tom left the toy and bag beside the fire and entered his own tent, zipping the opening up tight and sliding into his sleeping bag.
The clear sky was filled with stars, a haze of purple grew larger and a bright light hovered over the campsite. Tom woke some time later to a rustling outside, he turned over. Pops can’t hold is bladder, poor oh man.
“Tom, it’s time to go.” The voice was high pitched and sort of squeaky. That’s certainly not Pops or Mom voice. He sat up, seeing the tent open and the old teddy bear standing in the entrance. “What the f…” Tom could feel his head spin, bile rising up his throat. This is one hell of a dream.
“No dream, Tom. Tonight we travel to your true home.”
Tom’s body froze as the toy spoke and took a step towards him. I’m hallucinating or dreaming. Too much spice in the chili or something. Maybe it’s the beer Pop’s gave me?
“There’s no need to be frightened Tom, your father and his father and his father have all been through this. Now, it is your turn. Up you get, we have to go.”
The teddy bear raised an arm. Tom could feel his body moving involuntarily. He tried to call out but no sound uttered from his mouth.
“Best we keep quiet, Tom. Follow me.”
Tom’s legs moved, his feet trod and he followed the strange talking toy. He was not in control of his body but his mind was a reeling. He watched the bear raised both arms. A sudden bright light flooded the campsite. Tom looked up to see what looked like a star fall towards them. He tried to turn, his body refused to comply. The light descended and he felt his feet lift off the ground. A whirling purple portal emerged from the light and the toy and boy entered it. A tunnel of swirling mauve light transported them. Tom gripped his hands into fists. This better be some kind of nightmare, I’ll wake up in a minute.
“No nightmare, Tom. It’s your destiny.”
“Can you hear my thoughts, bear?”
“Of course, I can and soon you will be able to do it too.”
The swirling slowed and stopped. Tom looked round him, the campsite was gone, the mountains, the trees, the lake. Before him was an enormous golden tree growing out of a huge crater with gold waterfalls tumbling out of it. An amber mist floated above the water and a long bridge spanned the space between the tree and the boy and bear.
“Where are we?”
“Home, Tom, we are home.”
“I’m not home, you dumb toy. Take me back.”
“You must go to the tree, Tom. She will explain everything.”
“She? What are you on? It’s a tree, it can’t talk.”
“Oh but she can and will, Tom. You are the next in line. You must go.”
Tom tore his eyes away from the tree to glimpse the toy disappear. He yelled for it to come back but to no avail. After some time, he decided to play along in this trippy dream and walked across the bridge. As he stood in front of the tree, bending backwards to see its top most branches a voice entered his mind.
“Welcome, Tom. It is so good to see you. I will teach you all you need to know as the next wizard in line.”
Let me know what you thing of my story incorporating magic into the theme. Did the narrative the way you thought?
I am excited to be presenting at a local virtual writing conference – The Art of Writing on 27th March. I am hosting a session on creating a great blog post.
I managed to grab a ticket for The Winter Book Club with Ethan Hawke on Sunday, March 14 and I get a copy of his book A Bright Ray of Darkness too.
Also there will be an Easter road trip with my dear friend, Linda. We just need to book an isolated cabin for a few days of writing, reading and exploring.