It looks like I took another unintentional blogging hiatus. Life has thrown a lot of busy curveballs my way and I have been navigating them with as much grace as I can muster. This post is about three months in the making and I do hope you will forgive my tardiness. Let's begin, shall we?
Another year, another RWA Nationals. I had the great privilege of going to Denver to network with fellow writers, to learn and to grow. I also found a number of ways to mix business with pleasure in the form of a family vacation before and after. That meant rather than being away for a long whirlwind weekend, I was out of pocket for two full and glorious weeks. Let me share more about Nationals and our big family adventure.
When my husband found out that Nationals would be in Denver, he threw out the idea that we combine it with a family trip. He hadn't been out west since he was a kid, and I had no memory of being out that way. It seemed like a great idea.
So, we left right after The Boy's gymnastics class the Saturday before Nationals to begin our long trek to Denver. The trip took two days but we found stops along the way to break up the monotony of driving. My favorite stops on our way to Denver included the Golden Spike Tower in North Platte, especially their exhibit on the North Platte Canteen from World War II, and our brief stop at Lee's Marble Museum. Lee was incredibly sweet to The Boy. The most amusing part of this leg were the Sapp Bros. "Mom Approved" bathrooms. Not only were they the cleanest public bathrooms I have ever seen, but imagine my surprise to find that I could heat my bottom and use the bidet feature if I really felt the need. And to answer the question I'm sure I'll get...no, I didn't try out all the features.
We had a couple days in the Denver area to do some family sightseeing. That included a trip Rocky Mountain National Park, the Garden of the Gods and Cave of the Winds. The stark beauty and the contrasts in nature at varying elevations was absolutely breathtaking. But, the reaction to elevation was NO JOKE! I was huffing and puffing, and guzzling water like it was going out of style!
Probably my favorite side trip before Nationals was Wednesday. A local friend took me to the Forney Museum of Transportation and to Wings Over the Rockies. I got to see Amelia Earhart's car, a lot of planes from my childhood (I'm an Air Force brat) as well, and learn more about World War II aircraft. I learned what all the dials and levers were from the cockpit of a C-45 and got to wear an X-wing pilot helmet next to a model of an X-wing...not that it looked great since I had a turban on my head. I also was able to try out a World War II era stencil cutter and see aerial reconnaissance cameras. The only bummer was that I didn't have time to go try out the simulator. That would have been a blast. I highly recommend a visit!
The conference got underway for me in full force on Thursday. I presented one of the 20/20 programs on the first half of the 20th century. It was hard to cram 50 years of history into 20 minutes, but I did my best. I brought lots of show and tell from my personal collection. I hope everyone who attended got something out of it. The RITAs were fantastic. I wasn't supposed to attend them because my local friend had invited me out swing dancing with his scene that night. But, he was late which meant I could attend and still go dancing. Suzanne Brockmann's Lifetime Achievement Award speech really inspired me and I'm glad I could witness it in person.
The rest of conference was a blur with workshops, classes, networking, speed pitching, etc. I barely saw my boys as they were off on their own adventures. I enjoyed the camaraderie, reconnecting with old friends and contacts, and making new friends. I also had a new head shot taken and I love it. I had to narrow it down between two, and will likely go back and buy the second one. You can see the one I went with on my website home page.
Once Nationals ended, we were off on the rest of our journey. We had a week of traveling and driving, but the pace was not nearly as breakneck as the drive to get to Denver. Our first stop was Yellowstone, and as we had on the way to Denver, we made stops along the way. My definite favorite was getting to walk on the Oregon Trail (yes, I am of that generation). My husband even "died of dysentery."
After reaching our destination, we explored Cody, WY and took in our first rodeo. The most poignant part of that day was visiting Heart Mountain. I grew up knowing about Japenese internment camps, but had only heard of Heart Mountain after seeing George Takei's Allegiance musical (which I also HIGHLY recommend). Not only did I want to see Heart Mountain for myself, but we wanted to use the visit as an opportunity to teach The Boy what can happen when people are discriminated against because of who they are or what they look like. If you are ever out that way, I encourage you to visit. They did a wonderful job of educating the public, and even The Boy took something away from the experience.
The next two days were spent driving all around Yellowstone. It's a huge park and we actually did pretty well with seeing most of it. We only missed the northeastern corner. The wildlife, natural features and the whole area is stunning. That said, I will be honest when I say I do not miss the smell of rotten eggs from all the sulfur. The Boy wanted to watch Old Faithful erupt three times and loved the mud pots. My personal favorite part of the trip was my hike up to Wraith Falls.
After Yellowstone, we began our journey east towards home. It was amazing to see the beauty of Bighorn National Forest and the Black Hills. I grew up on Doris Day's Calamity Jane, so we had to pay our respects to Wild Bill and Calam in Deadwood even if it was only a visit to the cemetery and dinner. We also made a short pitstop in Buffalo, WY to see the Occidental Hotel, visited Devil's Tower and Crazy Horse before stopping for the night.
The next day found us at Mount Rushmore. If I'm being honest, this was the place I was most underwhelmed by. It was the most commercialized of the National Parks and Monuments we stopped at. But, it was nice to scratch it off the bucket list of places I needed to see at least once in my life. After Mount Rushmore, we continued east and visited Wall Drug (which was an experience) before reaching the Badlands. The stark beauty compared to what we had seen in Yellowstone, and the other National Forests really struck me. We hiked up some of the gravelly peaks and took it all in. I honestly don't know how anything survives out there, but it does and thrives. We even finally caught a glimpse of bighorn sheep (something The Boy really wanted to see), as well.
Our last day before getting home was quite literally a travel day. We had no plans to stop anywhere except to get home that night. We happened across one more National Monument we hadn't heard of before, and we are really glad we stopped. Pipestone National Monument is in Minnesota. It is a quarry where Native Americans are still able to quarry with a permit the pink pipestone that makes their ceremonial pipes. We also came on a day they were having a sundance so we were able to hear the singing and drums. It was a wonderful experience. The volunteers working on their pipes engaged The Boy and answered all his questions. It's another place I'd highly recommend. The area was very serene and beautiful. The only other places of note to mention was the beautiful Dignity: Of Earth & Sky statue at the rest area when we crossed the Columbia River and the Jolly Green Giant statue (with Sprout) in Blue Earth, MN. We made it home very late that night, tired, relaxed and with many more memories.
I'm so glad my husband had this idea. It took a lot of planning and there were some stressful moments, but the good definitely outweighs the bad. Probably the thing I will treasure most outside of the time spent together is that we were able to teach The Boy some valuable lessons about the world, about diversity, and about nature. He is still talking about the trip and his favorite parts. I hope we can do something similar in the future.
In closing, I'll leave you with a slideshow of pictures from the trip.
Till next time.
I'll be seeing you,
P.S. What was your most memorable trip? What was one takeaway that still impacts you from it? Let me know in the comments below.
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