Freedom and the Great American Road Trip

Before flying off on my European adventure a couple of years ago, I sold most of my possessions, including my car. Well, all great adventures eventually come to an end, and when I returned home—halfway through autumn 2015—I had to find alternative forms of transportation until I could afford to buy another vehicle.

I moved into a downtown Bellingham apartment, so I walked a lot. I finally figured out the bus schedule and took buses to all those far flung places my feet couldn’t carry me. My friend, Pam, lent me her Toyota Matrix during the worst part of the winter so I could get to work and school. I got by. Even so, I ended up feeling like a prisoner within the borders of my hometown without my own car.

Most places in Europe have amazing public transportation systems, and it isn’t unusual to go without a car if you live in a big city. And even if you want to travel across the country there’s probably a bus or train that goes there, so it’s not a big deal. In the United States, however, (unless you’re within a major metropolitan area like L.A., New York City, Seattle, etc.) public transportation isn’t the greatest. Americans are very spread out, and not having a car can be a huge disadvantage. I think for that reason, many Americans look at their driver’s licenses as not only proof of their personal identity, but an expression of their cultural identity—that we are a free people who can go where we want, when we want, without many restrictions.

And I wanted to live without restrictions. I wanted to wend Chuckanut Drive’s narrow curves and take in the view of the San Juan Islands at sunset. I wanted to drive out Highway 20 to Mount Baker or to Whidbey Island to visit friends or hell, just meet a friend at a moment’s notice on the other side of town without having to wait for the next bus or for someone to pick me up. So, seven months after my initial foray into public transportation, I bought a new car.

Seeing the odometer at zero (or, close to it–I think it read 11 miles when I took it out for a test drive) sent a twinge of excitement through my belly. I had my freedom back, and I wanted to hit the open road and go somewhere. So, at the end of the summer, I went on a road trip from Bellingham, Washington to Buena Vista, Colorado to visit family. I tossed my camera onto the passenger seat, rolled down the windows, and drove away. There’s nothing like a great American road trip. Nothing. You see so many things you’d miss on a train, plane, or bus. I may never go carless again!

Here are some photos from last year’s freedom ride (click to enlarge or view slideshow). I would love to take another road trip someday. What are some of your favorite routes?


Redefining Happily Ever After

The Sun Already Set

I got married 18 years ago yesterday. Through some odd twist of fate in the Skagit County Clerk’s office, I was granted a divorce exactly 10 years to the day later. In the time since, I’ve literally flown around the world looking for that special someone. The only person I’ve found is myself. I’m pretty happy with her.

My dad doesn’t believe me. He called a while back, telling me how he prays every day that God will bring a man into my life. I told him not to pray for a man. If he’s going to pray for anything, pray that I’ll be happy, that an editor from a travel magazine will call and offer me a job. There was a quiet sigh on the other end of the line. I’m sure he’s still back in Minnesota praying for my future second husband.

When I pitched my Ireland memoir to a literary agent last summer, she asked me, “So, did you end up with the man?”

I replied, “Do you see a ring on this finger?”

She said, “People want happy endings. They want to escape their lives and imagine a better one.”

“Well, those aren’t my readers.” And, I thought, you’re not the right agent.

Does happily ever after mean you must end up with someone? I think every man and woman should spend some time alone before answering that question. Not a week. Not a summer. You need enough good, quality time with yourself to fall in love with your life. Your life. Not someone else’s. Know that you can actually take care of yourself if you have to, that you can have fun on your own, that you can walk into a restaurant at a table set for two and not grow red with embarrassment when the server removes the second setting. Keep embarrassing yourself until you don’t give a shit about saying, “One for dinner please.”

Yesterday evening, I tossed my new camera in the passenger seat of my car. (I call him Nathaniel George, or Nat Geo for short.) As I drove around looking for a place to capture the sunset with Nat, I thought – I have a good life. Today I’m Bellingham, Washington. In a month I’ll be Ireland. If I meet a man, fine. If not, that’s okay too. All that really matters is that I’m traveling the world with my camera, and that’s cool to me. That’s my dream.

Happily ever after can mean whatever you want it to mean.

The Picture Behind the Picture


I think I missed my calling as an exotic dancer. I can do just about anything in heels, and you wouldn’t believe the awkward positions I’ve assumed in pursuit of the  perfect shot. I’ve been on my back in front of my house, on my belly in front of Roozengaarde during the Tulip Festival, and on my elbows and knees just about everywhere else. And this weekend, I got the opportunity to straddle a street sign while standing on a guard rail on Padilla Bay.  I needed that pole to help steady my shot. My camera may be ubiquitous, but my tripod certainly is not. (I’m too much of a free spirit to be burdened by lots of equipment, but yes – I do pay for it on occasion.)

Andy captured me on his cellphone while I framed my subject, and luckily, he chose a tasteful angle. Two feet to the left and this would have been an entirely different picture!



I’ve been reading Steve McCurry’s Blog lately, and it’s forced me to rethink what I want to accomplish with my photography.  I know we can’t all travel the world and evoke complex emotions with each shutter actuation, but I’d like to think I’m shooting with purpose. 

When I got my first point and shoot, and then when I got my hands on a DSLR (thanks to David), I took pictures of anything and everything.  But now?  I don’t know.  I think more before clicking.  Perhaps that’s why I haven’t been posting as much lately – it’s not so much being busy as just wanting to take things to another level.  I’m not sure what that next level is yet. 

I’ll have some time to think about this in a couple of weeks when I travel back to Ireland. Ten hours in the air with no entertainment other than B movies that haven’t yet made it to DVD provides a lot of that.  Also, it turns out Steve McCurry has an exhibit in the Temple Bar area of Dublin while I’m there, so I’ll need to check that out!   Maybe Bono is wrong and I will find what I’m looking for??  🙂


I got an email from someone I’ve grown quite fond of this morning who wrote, “life is an adventure and it should leave you  breathless from time to time and wondering what just happened.”   I couldn’t agree more. 

As I drove the winding road up Chuckanut this evening, admiring yet another amazing sunset, I felt at peace about my whirlwind trip to Ireland and anything that may come.

Resolute on a Long Dock

The sunset was breathtaking, and there I was driving up I-5 without my camera.  But, I did some quick calculations and determined there was enough time to go home, grab the Canon, and get to the marina to capture what was left of it.  My calculations didn’t allow for the slow mustang on Squalicum Parkway or the time loss for walking in heels down a long dock, however.  Sure, people laughed at me as I clanked down the dock and disturbed every living thing within ear shot.   It didn’t matter, though, because I was determined to get the shot. 

It didn’t happen.   I arrived at the end of the dock, weaving through large fishing boats, to discover the sun had disappeared behind the large rock wall.  I’m sure the whole marina heard me sigh.

Disappointed, I turned to leave and discovered a man standing on the bow of a ship behind me – in the perfect position to still get that sunset.   Turns out, we’d both had the same idea. 

It was one of those beautiful chance meetings in which I met another local artist  who is equally as passionate about photography.   He gave me some good pointers and ideas on the long walk back to our vehicles. 

His name is Jeff Aspnes…go check out his website –!


No trespassing??  Like I ever listen. 

I did lose the lighting more quickly than I expected last night, so my train project didn’t happen.  Instead, I took the path to the marina again and tried to make the most of what remaining light reflected off the clouds. 

I happened to spot a Minnesota license plate as I walked down one of the docks.   This resulted in a conversation with two fisherman, who were enjoying a “once in a century” run with a certain type of fish that I can’t now recall.   Keith, the talkative one, bore a strong Viking resemblance:  bushy blonde hair and beard, leathery skin from too much time at sea, with that far away look in his eyes like something distant and dangerous still beckoned him.    Norwegian myself, and convinced there are some Vikings in my bloodline, I understand that feeling.  I understand that draw towards the unknown and the inability to stay rooted without soon growing restless. 

I wish the fisherman would have let me photograph them, but these tough guys turned out to be camera-shy.  You can view more photos in my “Ordinary Things” Gallery

Camera:  Canon 40d
Location:  Lonesome Dock;  Bellingham Marina