An Online Portfolio

Archive for the ‘Travel’ Category

A Picnic in Helvetia

Helvetia Last Saturday was about as perfect a day in the Pacific Northwest as you can get. My family took advantage of it by stopping by The Meating Place, a local butcher shop and cafe, to pick up sandwiches before driving out into the country to our new favorite picnic spot in the gorgeous Helvetia countryside. DSC00923 We spread our blanket under a large maple tree standing next to the road and shared our lunch while we watched a herd of cows doing the same thing in a nearby field. DSC00912

Down in the lower lands a tractor was turning dirt in a field and it’s long dark track revealed the fertility of the Helvetia farmland.

DSC00917Across the road is the Helvetia Community Church, a quaint house of worship that is reminiscent of the churches found in the Swedish and Germanic villages from which Helvetia’s European settlers immigrated. Of course, they weren’t the first people to claim this region as their own. The Atfalati band of the Kalapuya Indians settled in this region 10,000 years ago and today are a celebrated part of Helvetia’s history, with their presence being honored each year at the Helvetia Cultural Fest.

The famous Helvetia Tavern is a family favorite and as we drive back home my husband can’t help but roll down the windows to see if he can catch a whiff of the burgers he so passionately loves. Hot off the grill, these tasty burgers Helvetia_Tavern_(Washington_County,_Oregon_scenic_images)_(washDA0029)are juicy goodness between a sesame seed bun. Their fresh cut fries and onion rings are so delicious we never can decide on one or the other so we opt for a “half and half” order. Recently, a back yard patio has been added and from there you can watch the setting sun gild the entire landscape in its warm light.

All along the road you’ll find signs leading to privately owned farms that offer an abundance of fresh-from-the-field produce, meat, and wool products. Throughout the spring and DSC03240summer you’ll be able to harvest your own fruits and vegetables at many of the U-Pick farms. During the fall and winter months bring your children out to the pumpkin patches and christmas tree farms and let them experience a bit of farm life, too. Helvetia is facing the familiar threat of urban expansion. As the influence of the Hillsboro tech companies continues to creep north, the residents of Helvetia have organized to fight for their border rights. Save Helvetia protects rural Helvetia by advocating for rural reserves, challenging unnecessary urban growth boundary expansions, advising governmental bodies about interchange improvements and new road construction, and clarifying soil fill practices. DSC02933 Helvetia, Oregon can easily boast one of the most beautiful rural settings in the state, and maybe even in the United States. It’s productive farms are a reminder of what enticed the settlers to leave their homes and travel thousands of miles to stake their claim to the American dream. I’m glad I’ve done it because I believe I just may have found paradise on Earth.

Showering in Shangri la

The Himalayan mountain range is a terrestrial scar where the Earth’s crust has buckled so profoundly the landscape looks like giant waves on a frozen sea. Rumors have it an ancient paradise can be found there, a utopia for the few blessed souls whose fate allows them to enter it’s jeweled city; Shangra la.


For the rest of us poor souls the endless climbing means another thing altogether. Long days spent hiking up and down those rocky, vertical footpaths make it so that all you really want is a hot shower and a steaming cup of soup. Sore muscles and oxygen deprived minds take their toll on those who are not fortunate enough to live at the top of the world.

Not that I can’t appreciate the landscape’s majesty, but as I look up to see the underside of the Overlook Hotel* my hopes soar with the realization that in this underdeveloped nation we are going to be staying in what appears to be some evil mastermind’s secret lair, like the Piz Gloria in the James Bond film, “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service”.

Himalaya Hotel

As it turned out, the hotel wouldn’t be our “home away from home”. Instead, we were given maps that led down several narrow footpaths to a series of ramshackle cabins. Other than suffering from a case of severe draftiness, they were decent enough and cleaner than other places we’d stayed in. They certainly would make very satisfactory overnight accommodations, except for one very disconcerting feature that was missing in our little, one room shack; a bathroom.

Rustic Shower

Upon further investigation I found that we were to share a communal bath in another cabin further down the path, around a corner, and up a short rise. The infamous Everest wind had picked up so I pulled up the collar of my coat and wrapped my scarf around my head until only my eyes could be seen before heading out into the blustery, cold evening.

Over the rocky, rutted path I traveled, fortifying my resolve with the thought of streams of liquid warmth washing over my aching limbs, but as I neared the bathroom my hopes fell into the chasm whose edge I’d been carefully circumnavigating.

The bathroom shack’s weather beaten door swung back and forth with the wildness of the wind, as if it was frantically waving me in from the cold. When I opened it and stepped inside a prophetic drop in temperature greeted me. There was no light switch, which was probably a good thing considering the bathroom was, in fact, a one room shower stall. A string hung from a box attached to the wall, and next to it was a sign with an arrow pointing skyward. Squinting into the shadows, I looked up to see a rusted, tin shower head swinging from the ceiling. I pulled the cord and waited a few seconds as the sound of water rattled through the pipes. When it reached the shower head it burst forth to baptize me in the glory of ancient melting glaciers.

Shower HeadAnd by that I mean it was cold. Ice cold. Shockingly cold. Fresh-from-the-melting-glacier cold. Shards of nearly frozen moisture raked my body, leaving my skin tingling painfully as it adjusted to the, until then, unknown temperature. It was the kind of cold that enters directly into your bones and stays there, like a waking nightmare, for several minutes, or hours, or maybe even days. The leisurely hot shower I’d imagined quickly shortened to a rough scrub at the dust that covered my limbs and face, then a vigorous swipe of my towel, and a very quick, and I must say, extremely energetic run back over that footpath to the relative warmth of my cabin.

And by that I mean there were ample blankets.


*The name of the hotel and a few of the details are fictional. The temperature of the water is true.

Top Ten Places to Visit the Royally Dead

All around the globe you’ll find the resting places of the famous and infamous. More than just mere curiousities, their tombs offer us a chance to reminisce on their achievements, while we reconcile the fact that they were human beings just like us. There they lie, in beautifully crafted tombs, rotting away or mumified into eternal slumber. Here is my list of the top ten places to visit rulers who’ve gone to the grand palace in the sky–or maybe to a heated dungeon far below.


10. Napoleon’s Tomb at Les Invalides; Paris, France – Napoleon Bonaparte was a spectacular war strategist, conquering most of Europe during his military career. Some speculate that this need to dominate people originated in his self-esteem issues regarding his less than spectacular stature. His tomb comes in at number ten for a similar reason. Les Invalides, the building in which it is housed, is a wonderful example of French Imperial architecture but it’s beauty overshadows the large but understated sarcophagus where Napoleon’s body lies at rest. If any soul would attempt to come back from the dead to protest this slight, it would be the “Little Corporal”.

9. St. Paul’s Cathedral; London, England – St. Paul’s Cathedral, designed by master

architect, Christopher Wren in the seventeenth century, contains the bodies (or what’s left of them) of leaders who’ve caused thedeaths and subjugation of millions of people. Within the marble walls and floors rests over two hundred prime ministers, admirals, and counts who reigned throughout the British Empire. They might not like the fact that now they are the ones being walked all over.

8. Peter and Paul Fortress; St. Petersburg, Russia – All of Russia’s emperors and empresses, from Peter the Great to Nicolas II and his family, are entombed inside the fortress’ cathedral. Lined up side-by-side behind wrought iron fencing, they represent years of court intrigue, outright murder, and horrendous oppression over their own subjects. The remains of the newest occupants, Tzar Nicolas, his wife, Alexandra, and their five children paid the ultimate price for the wrongs of their relatives and were only given their places in the chapel after having been retrieved from their forest graves ninty years after their deaths. Not a very dignified way to enter the afterlife.

7. The Taj Mahal, Agra, India – It was one of history’s greatest love stories, and the beauty

and symmetry of this magnificent building that contain the tombs of Mughal emperor Shah Jahan and his beloved wife reminds me of a set from one of Shakespeare’s most romantic plays, Romeo and Juliet. Each day at sunrise and sunset the white marble catches the sun’s rays and magically turns the entire building a golden pink hue under the changing light. Love still lives inside this tomb between the sarcophaguses of the Shah and the love of his life.


6. The Vatican Catacombs, Vatican City – Two thousand years worth of tombs holding

 the leaders of the Roman Catholic church are buried deep beneath the seat of one of the most powerful institutions that has ever existed. Money, prestige, power; its what these popes railed against but its also what’s behind the numerous accusations of horrendous criminal acts leveled at them over the centuries, including murder, theft, and even covering up acts of pedophilia. I wonder if there is an actual fight between good and evil down there at night.

5. Westminster Abbey; London, England – With its Gothic towers, arches, and dark alcoves, there are hundreds of shadowy corners where the ghosts of England’s kings and queens could come to life once again. The sarcophaguses of seventeen Medieval rulers’ sleep comfortably all around you, and their marble likenesses continue to intimidate with their stony smiles and hardened hearts. In quiet places you can almost hear the echoes their steely voices demanding the beheadings of wives, the imprisonment of lovers, and the deaths of the condemned.

4. Lenin’s Tomb, The Kremlin; Moscow, Russia – Mummification in the modern age, that’s what you’re seeing inside Lenin’s Tomb. His lifelike appearance is almost translucent as it lies in it’s dark coffin. His head and torso are raised a bit and his hands rest on top as though he’s about to climb out. Tourists file past the Soviet leader under the watchful eyes of Kremlin guards, who ensure that the proper respect is given to the man who freed them from the grip of an uncaring elitist class and delivered them to one of the most feared dictators the world has ever seen. It’s deathly quiet in there. Maybe it’s because Lenin looks ready and able to rise up and personally scold you, with a scratchy but still powerful voice.

3. The tombs of Rumi and the Mevlana Dervishes at the Mevlana Museum & Shrine in Konya, Turkey – Under a green dome, in a low-lit room, lies the sarcophagus of Rumi, the Sufi mystic and poet. On its brocaded shroud verses from the Koran gleam in golden thread. The haunting music of flutes, drums, and a stringed instrument called a Ney fill the cool room. The world of the exotic and unknown lives inside this room and it transports you to an alternate universe where we commune with the spirits as if we’ve known them for an eternity.

2. The Egyptian Collection of Berlin’s Neues Museum – Who knew the long dead rulers of Ancient Egypt would be moving to the cosmopolitan world of Berlin in the mid-nineteenth century, but during the archeology craze that occurred during the last years of the Imperial Age they were excavated from their Egyptian tomb sand shipped across the Mediterranean Sea to a new home in Germany. You can see them, wrapped or partially unwrapped, in their newer glass sarcophaguses inside the Egyptian rooms, still surrounded by their treasures. Their curse seemed to follow them half a century later when, not one but two, German Empires were dramatically defeated inside the nation’s own borders.

1.  Xin Zhui (wife of the Marquis of Han), Hunan Provincial Museum; Changsha, China – The body of China’s “Lady Dai”, a two thousand-year old mummy, was so well preserved that when it was found in 1974 a modern-day autopsy was performed. Her skin retains its suppleness and her limbs can still be manipulated even to this day. Her organs, including a set of perfectly pink lungs, were removed and now reside in  hermetically sealed jars in a separate room. Obviously, the ancient Egyptians could have learned a few things from the Chinese when perserving their crusty ancestors for the afterlife. So, for this reason, and the permanently gruesome scowl on Lady Dai’s face, Xin Zhui has nabbed the number one spot on this royally creepy list.

Road Trip Travel Tips For Families

The time has come for planning this summer’s family vacation and after spending several years going back to Kansas for family obligations we want to experience a new adventure this trip. Well, as luck would have it, we have yet another family function that we’re obligated to attend this year, so how do we find adventure in another trip to a place where I’ve spent nearly thirty years of my life? We’ve come up with a new, innovative way to focus on the journey, not the destination. Rather than flying we’ve planned a good, ol’ fashioned road trip.

Now the question becomes; with eighteen hundred miles of open road ahead of us and a three-year-old in the car seat behind me, how are we going to keep our sanity over the course of seven days. Here are some tips I’ve picked up to keep your children from turning your family truckster into a roaming mental hospital.


Road Trip11)  Plan your trip so that your sight-seeing stops are spread out at regular intervals.

2)  Have games of all sorts that require little or no actual pieces. A few games that have always worked in my family are I Spy, Twenty Questions, Where’s the Alphabet, The License Plate Game, and memory games like ”I went on a picnic and I brought ____.” Our family loves to put in an adventuresome sounding CD and play the pretend game of “Going on Safari”, where we “see” elephants, giraffes, zebras, and gazelles in the things we pass.

3)  Eat in the car and play at the picnic areas and rest stops you find along the way by active games like catch or exploring. By doing this they’ll get their energy out and have another activity in the car to keep them busy. And don’t forget to stretch as often as possible.

4)  Buy a kid’s camera and create a scrapbook along the way so your child can keep his/her memories and gain the skill of   a photographer.

Road trip3

5)  I have mixed feelings about this one–Bring an iPad loaded with your child’s favorite movies

or TV shows but save it for times when there is no other way to keep boredom from becoming meltdowns. The point of being on a road trip is enjoying the landscape around you, so make sure they have time to idly stare out the windows, too.

6)  Pack healthy snacks in easily accessible, single-serve bags so whenever they want to eat they’ll be faced with only healthy options.

7)  Make sure sight-seeing stops are interesting to your kids so conversation before and after will be engaging and kill time in the car.

Road Trip8)  Along with a box of crayons and paper, bring other craft projects that won’t be messy.Origami or crocheting are both great activities that will require no tools and create no mess and their projects can be given as gifts to people you’ll see along the way.

9)  Keep the phone charged so the kids can call grandma and grandpa and tell them where they’re at and what they are doing.

10) Books, books, and more books. Take your kids to the library prior to the trip and let them pick out some favorites and some new books to try. Maybe something about the things you’ll see along the way or maybe the history of the places you’ll visit.

Rollin’ Through Cairo

Cairo Traffic

Earlier today I was stuck sitting in traffic and I started daydreaming of faraway places. On the back of the bus ahead of me was an ad for mouthwash…a swirl of refreshing blue liquid curling into a perfect wave around a bare-chested man with a dazzling smile. Underneath the ad an exhaust pipe blew out balls of heat that blurred the photo until it looked like a mirage.

Cobalt blue water in a desert landscape…

Egypt? Yes…yes! I’d love to go to Egypt! Pyramids, palm trees…exotic sights and sounds…the beautiful, barren desert split in two by the Nile. It sounded like a refuge to me….

…Then I remembered what Cairo traffic is like.

Crowded, chaotic, and cacophonous… Millions of cars, trucks, and motorcycles funneling in from desert freeways to streets laid out a thousand years ago. My own experience in Cairo traffic was a thrill ride akin to a demolition derby. Bumping and pushing, grinding and honking… Vehicles of every kind fighting for tiny spaces left in the traffic streams by someone else who’d moved deeper into the fray.


The evening I arrived in Cairo I was picked up by Fahti, a private driver sent by my cousin. He was around thirty years old, with jet black hair and eyes that could swallow you whole. He wore a black, leather motorcycle jacket with white stripes down both sleeves…The uniform of the young, hip, urban man. Offering me his outstretched palm, he helped me into the backseat of his white, German-made SUV. I spent a second searching for a seatbelt but gave up when I realized there were none. Something told me this was the kind of ride that was best enjoyed on the edge of my seat.

I looked up just as Fahti slid on his expensive sunglasses. “You, comfortable?” he asked hopefully into the rearview mirror. His words were delivered with an accent so soothing they were like little, soft pillows tailor-made for my ears alone. Fahti turned the key in the ignition and gunned the motor.

Oh, God…here we go!

Seeing a gap in the traffic, Fahti forced his way out into the street. Horns blared all around us as cars swerved away from the vacant area we’d come to conquer. He manuvered the car to the center of the horde where we stayed for most of the freeway ride. It seemed that each driver knew his place in the lineup and stayed a respectful distance from each other as we cruised along. Fahti used this moment to relax. He leaned back and hooked an arm over the passanger seat. Lifting a finger casually, he pointed towards the desert. “Pyramids,” he announced. I squinted but, whether it was the drifting sand or the pace of the car, I could’t see any pyramids.

How fast is a hundred, sixy-nine kilometers, anyway? I wondered after daring to glance at the speedometer.

Eventually, we exited the freeway and headed down into Old Cairo. Two and three cars at a time turned into narrow avenues where more cars were parked along either side of the street. There were no lanes marked so the other vehicles crowding in around us pinned us to our spot. It had become a fight for survival.

Fahti kept his cool, although now he had both hands on the wheel. He shifted fast, stomping on the clutch and throwing the gears around like the expert he was. When he wanted to move ahead he’d go at it aggressively, staking his claim passionately. I clung more tightly to the headrest in front of me and dug my nails into its leather upholstery.

A square opened up ahead of us and we began circling a tall obelisk in its center. Fahti had trouble getting close to our exit on the first go-around so we took another rotation…I think on two wheels. He slid up to the cars ahead of him, gently nudging them out his way until he was ready to execute his move, then, rather abruptly, we were out of the roundabout and on a quieter but incredibly twisted side street. We made several turns in both directions and I could hear my bags thumping in time as they swayed back and forth behind me.

Another vehicle filled a space beside us and I saw Fahti’s head nod ever so slightly in the other driver’s direction. He nodded back just as I felt a surge of gas go through our engine.

Oh, shit! Now it’s on!

Egypt1The other driver raked our side and I heard a grinding, metal-on-metal sound. Fahti jerked the wheel an inch to the left and drove us into our opponent’s front fender, pushing him back and away from our car. Both drivers revved their motors again and we surged ahead. Fahti was still in the lead but the other driver was right on our tail, pushing against our back bumper. We continued crawling along that way for several more blocks before Fahti yanked the wheel hard to the right at a corner and we turned down another lane. That was the last we saw of that driver.

The cars on this quiet but crowded street were mostly parked. Fahti negotiate his way around them with the same calm he’d displayed at the beginning of the ride. He pulled up to my hotel and hopped out of the driver’s seat. Opening my door, he extended his hand to me gallantly, and asked, “Did you enjoy the ride?”

A link to see Cairo’s traffic in action.


A Natural Work of Art

I just returned from a trip back to Western Kansas where I grew up. After several rainstorms the landscape has turned a vibrant blue-green, which contrasts beautifully with the white limestone rock that tells of its history as an ancient seabed. The creek was alive with turtles and fish while I was there, and deer and rabbits bounded gracefully along, racing me as I turned my car down the country roads.


My favorite activity when I’m in Kansas is getting up early to watch the sunrise. With a cup of coffee and my camera in hand, I drive out to my family’s farm, find the perfect spot and park. Prairie grass, wet with dew, bathes my feet and the scent of wild sage fills the air. The birds awaken and I hear the distinctive songs of meadowlarks, kildeer, mourning doves and red-winged blackbirds. Nearby rabbits pause as if hypnotized into a state of absolute trust–they’re here to witness the same show I’ve come to see and together we watch the horizon as the first colors of the day appear in the night sky.

A streak of red rises just behind the black silhouettes of trees. Then orange, so brilliant it could be mistaken for a brush fire.

Flourescent CloudsSoon clouds pick up the colors and sweep the sky with a pink that I’m sure can’t be reproduced on canvas. Brushstrokes race across the sky, becoming lighter and sharper as the sun crests the Earth’s eastern edge.

Over the next few minutes the sky turns from dark night to a clear blue that is deep and rich with vaporous, wet clouds.


The dawn is near and with each color splash I’m granted an intimate glimpse at nature’s palate.


As blocks of color reveal themselves to me I am reminded of the artist, Mark Rothko, an artist who is often identified as an Abstract Expressionist, although he himself rejected this label. He is considered one of the most famous postwar artists and his signature style, referred to as “multiform”, consists of only two or three large color blocks painted onto large canvases with the intention to induce an experience in the viewer through the feelings brought forth naturally from his choice of color combination. He would instruct people to stand as close as eighteen inches from his work so as to envelope themselves in the intimate moment of viewing the artwork. In his later years Rothko stressed that to truly experience his art was akin to a spiritual experience.

I experienced the same feeling watching the great dome above me turn night into day, and as much as the artist wants to imitate life, in my opinion, it still remains outside his grasp.

Here are a few of Rothko’s paintings.

Mark Rothko3 Mark Rothko1 Mark Rothko2 Mark Rothko4 Mark Rothko5 Mark Rothko6 Mark Rothko7 Mark Rothko8

Rasta Beats


Press play then return to read on…


A voice; far off and tight…

“A rasta man…”

Others join in.

A bell.

Shaky voice; full of years…

People singing together,

Individually distinct.


They sing pain…

I feel it.

They sing family…

I feel it.

They sing home…



I feel it.

“They (Wingless Angels) play deliberately at just slightly under heart rate. The drumming goes deeper than your bones. It’s marrow music.”

– Keith Richards; producer for Mindless Records.

The music you’re listening to is called Niyabinghi (also binghi). It’s a style of chant that sprang from the Rastafarian resistance celebrations and went on to inspire popular ska, rocksteady, and reggae music. Comprised of three kinds of drums called “harps”; a single akete or “repeater”, a middle-pitched funde, and a bass striking loudly on the first beat and softly on the third of four counts, they create a smooth, comforting rhythm that is nearly hypnotic. The funde and bass keep regular rhythms, while the akete player improvises a conversation with his beats. Words, spoken or sung, during the chant are taken directly from Bible verses or well-known Christian hymns.

The African influence is easily heard in Niyabinghi but the style is considered to be a new sound that combines Jamaican traditions with a rediscovery of African drumming, rather than a direct continuation on traditional African rhythms. It is the religious music of Rasta followers and has been used by reggae’s legendary musician, Bob Marley.

I was introduced to Niyabinghi music through Keith Richards. Not in person–although that would be in the top five dream moments of my life–but rather through his promotion of a group called The Wingless Angels (that’s who you’re listening to now). He met them while living in Jamaica during the early 1970s and found the rhythms of the drumming to be a calming influence as he recuperated from a tour with the Rolling Stones.  For me, this meditative music helps me to reach the place where I can connect with the words that need to come out in a story. It slows me down and allows me to enter a world where I am free with the music of the Rastaman.

The Wingless Angels website:

My Indiana Jones Moment

Press play, then come back to read the article: 


A true story, 1996  

Black market street vendors lined the sidewalk all the way out to the main road. They were agressive, thrusting armloads of cheaply made and stolen goods out in front of me as I passed by. Trinkets, souviners, flowers… I’d just about made it out to the street when something useful caught my eye.

A black leather whip.

“Whip?” the vendor asked hopefully, as he removed it from his arm. “Very good leather. Made from bull,” he added, “I show you.” With a downward thrust of his arm, a loop wound through the long coil, ending with a loud crack as it snapped back on itself. He smiled at me. “You try now,” he held it out to me and as soon as I wrapped my hand around the handle my inner Indiana Jones sprang to life. I knew I had to have it.

I handed over my rupees, stuffed the whip into my backpack, and turned towards the street where several rickshaw drivers were calling to me. I went to the nearest one and looked it over, sizing up the driver with a wary eye. “Very comfortable! Very comfortable, ” he assured me. I doubted this to be the case, as I looked over his rusted three-wheeled motorized rickshaw but, no matter, I was just going back to the hotel. The driver took a look at the address printed on my hotel’s business card and assured me he could get me there, so we settle on the fare and I jumped into the backseat.

With a sputter of the engine, the rickshaw took off.  We rounded the corner and fought our way through the narrow streets of the ancient city, braking for other rickshaws, pedistrians, and the variety of livestock that veered into our path. Gas, brake, gas brake; my body lurched forward and back, pitching left and right as the rickshaw bumped over the pitted streets. It was taking much longer than it should have and I began to sense a tenseness in my driver.

He doesn’t know where he’s going, I realized. Digging into the side pocket of my backpack, I brought out my hotel’s business card again and offered it to him but he waved it away. So, I sat back and watched as the streets continued to pass by. Finally, after turning away from the main road and driving us onto a more deserted and darker street I ventured to ask, “Hotel?”

“Yes,” he answered, with another dismissive wave.

“I don’t think so,” I point to a busier street a few blocks away, “Take me back to the main road over there.” I didn’t know where I was or where my hotel was and it was quite obvious this driver didn’t know either.

“I take you to hotel,” he said with authority.

“No, you take me to that road now.”

He turned in his seat, taking his eyes off the the road ahead without easing up on the gas. “You sit. I drive!” he ordered.

“No! You stop this rickshaw, right now!” I was becoming more and more angry with each exchange.

“You be quiet, woman.”

Well, that was it. I knew who I was dealing with.

I slid to the edge of my seat and as he slowed to take a corner I caught the ground with my foot and sprang from the rickshaw, landing safely on the dirt road. As I turned to walk away I heard his brakes squealing and felt a spray of rocks pelt the backs of my legs. “You come here! Pay me!” yelled the driver as he came running up behind me.

I had already goetten a few steps ahead of him and knew this would be my best chance to protect myself, so I reached into my backpack and pulled out the whip. His cursing was growing louder and I knew he was almost close enough to grab me. With a spin on my heels, I turned to face him. With his fist raised in anger, he yelled, “You listen to me, woman!”

I kept walking as I readied the whip.

“You pay me!” he yelled, reaching out to grab my elbow.

Raising my arm high in the air, I drove the handle of the whip forcefully down towards the ground. The leather rippled in a high arc, snapping as it curled around its end with a resounding CRACK!

Surprise stopped the driver in his tracks. A stunned look passed through his dark eyes before turning to a new level of rage. “You pay me!” he yelled.

Anger flooded my own face as I shook the whip’s handle at him. “No! You listen to me! I am not paying you. You are not taking me anywhere so turn around and leave. Now!”  I backed away, keeping my whip out in front of me, ready and waiting for more action.

“You pay me,” the driver called out once more, shaking his fist but not moving. “You pay me…”

I kept walking and made it to the main street where I hired another driver. Anger had overridden fear, but I was tense. After making it back to the hotel I headed to the bar for a whiskey.

Because that’s what Indie would do.

It’s Official!

An article I submitted to has been accepted and published today. I’m so excited about the new turn in my writing career!! You can check it out here:

Nature’s Return to the City

Spring has finally arrived in the Pacific Northwest and with each passing year my longing for a life in the country grows. My ears strain to hear the croaking toads through the rain and my eyes scan the grey skies for lines of geese and ducks returning to their summer retreats.

To get my springtime nature fix I hop in the car and head out on Highway 99W to the Tualatin River National Wildlife Refuge in Sherwood, Oregon.

Encompassing 1,856 acres within the floodplain of the Tualatin River basin, it is one of only ten urban wildlife parks located within the United States. Forested areas, wetlands, and grassland common to Western Oregon are all represented in the park, and in twenty years of development by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service nearly two hundred species of birds, over fifty mammal species, and twenty-five species of reptiles and amphibians common to the Northern Willamette Valley have been cataloged.

Visitors approach the refuge via a walking trail that descends into the basin and crosses a small, shaded pond. Benches are available there for people who’d like to stop and listen as a group of frogs croak out a happy welcome to you. Continuing on, the land opens up into a savanna where offshoots of the trail curve around hundreds of transplanted trees in this birdwatchers’ paradise. The trail then turns west to run alongside Rock Creek, the main river system inside the refuge. At several points along the trail natural and planned overlooks provide excellent opportunities to watch animals living along its shores.

The creek and its companion trail flow into an old growth forest where a natural aviary composed of tall coniferous trees host several species of birds. If you listen closely, you may hear the beats of a woodpecker as it carves out a home or the whoosh of hummingbirds as they gather nectar from wild berry bushes. Mounds of ferns at your feet are perfect places to watch slithering lizards racing from one hiding place to another. Further along, a bridge crosses over an area of Rock Creek where enormous tadpoles, fish, and newts are visible in the rushing water.

The grand conclusion to this mile-long trek is a nearly 360 degree view of the wetlands area. This wide expanse of the refuge is dotted with trees and covered with wispy grasses and stiff reeds. Hundreds of ducks and geese can be seen throughout the year, along with several cranes and a pair of resident bald eagles, who perch high in an old oak tree to watch the wetlands below with wary eyes.

Access to the refuge is free from dawn until dusk and facilities, including a shaded area with picnic tables, are available for public use. During the summer months when the water table recedes a second, two mile trail branches out from the main route, circling around the refuge and returning to the Wildlife Center and its “Nature’s Overlook” gift shop (open Tuesday through Sunday from 10:00 a.m. — 4:00 p.m). Educational events are planned throughout the year, including the Tualatin River Bird Festival in May to kick off the summer season with family-friendly activities and lectures about the refuge’s environment, animals, and planning for further development. Trails are for walking only and no pets are allowed inside the refuge. For more information, please, visit their website at:

Tag Cloud