It’s ALL Right Here!

Writing Prompts: Travel and Adventure

(What culture interests you the most?)


There are many places I’d like to see, speaking from a purely historic and/or scenic perspective. The reality, though, is that I’m never going to be a world traveler. I’m 74, a little late to be starting, and especially with my cranky old back to take into account.

But here’s another reality: Just about every culture that I’m interested in can be found right here in the USA!

For instance, I’ve always been fascinated by the Amish. We live maybe 1 1/2 hours from one Amish community, a lovely drive. We’ve stayed overnight in a B&B run and owned by a couple who are Mennonite Amish. We went to church with them, and were invited to enjoy a meal with them at one of the members’ farm. What a treat! We asked lots of questions, learned lots of things about their way of life, and we ate some of the best food you could find anywhere. All within two hours of home!

Off the grid in Amish country - Los Angeles Times

If we go north, we could land in New York City. There are SO many neighborhoods there! Irish, Polish, Ukrainian, Jewish, Chinese and more. You pick a culture you’d like to know more about, you can find people who will be happy to talk with you about food, customs, religious beliefs, and especially why they came to America.

Go back south toward the Blue Ridge and Appalachian mountains, and you’ll come across people whose lineage goes back to Scotland, England and Ireland. Some are not open to talking with strangers, but others are open and just as curious about you as you are about them. We took a dirt road nearly to the top of a mountain years ago, and met an older man who was digging along the roadside. He leaned on his shovel and talked with my husband for quite some time. We could hear kitchen noises coming from his cabin, but “his woman” never peeped out the window or the door. I love their music.

In The Mountains Of Georgia, Foxfire Students Keep Appalachian Culture  Alive : NPR
But Did You Know...Appalachian Music & Virginia's Mountain Towns -  Virginia's Travel Blog

If you go farther south, you could land in New Orleans. There, you could meet descendants of the original Cajuns, whose cooking is wonderful. Some of them live right over the water, literally–cabins built on stilts. You would also meet descendants of slaves, all over the South, as well as north, east west–you can find communities that have been created by those who went west on wagon trains, or just stayed on the plantations on which they were born, making a living, just barely. Many became sharecroppers, always a risky business. Lots to learn from all of them, if they’ve been told about their ancestry.

Cajun Swamp House | Louisiana swamp, Swamp, Bayou house
A Bayou house near New Orleans

And speaking of west, you can meet some of the most laid-back people ever in Colorado, Wyoming, Montana, Idaho. Lots of the people out West have lineages back to Norway and Sweden, and have ancestors who came to America to farm because they’d heard about the rich soil and that land was literally dirt cheap. Some of them may have started in Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota and Iowa. Of course, you also have Indian reservations out West, and you can learn a lot of history from those who have ancestry that extends back into the mists of time.

Iowa Farm Scene - Balltown Overlook | Iowa farms, Iowa farmland, Farm scene
Iowa farm country, near Balltown Overlook
Mesa Verde Cliff Dwellings | Mesa Verde National Park | Durango, CO
Mesa Verde Cliff Dwellings (Colorado)

You may say, “Well, what about. . . . . . ” and list a whole bunch of places I haven’t mentioned. America is truly a melting pot, and we have a wealth of cultures right here, if we want to go looking and are willing to try to get people to talk with us. Generally, we have found that if you are genuine in your interest, people will respond well and you can leave with a whole new understanding of what makes up this great nation.

I don’t have to travel the world to learn about culture. I just have to open my eyes and my heart and take a good look at my own country to find a wealth of knowledge that is different from my own.


Vegas to Fruita

Writing Prompt: Travel and Adventure 

Write about your favorite vacation.

I had to consider this, because there have been some really good ones. I decided, however to focus on a trip that Terry and took, just the two of us, some 11-12 years ago. We hadn’t visited my mom in Fruita, CO for a very long time. Fruita is a small town not too far from where I was born, in Grand Junction. My family moved away from there, to Minnesota, when I was only two, so I don’t really have any memories of living there. Still, it always felt like coming home.

We decided to fly to Las Vegas and then rent a car to drive to Colorado. Several reasons for doing this, one of them being the low cost, way back then, of flying to Vegas. I’d never been there, and i don’t think Terry had, either.

Neither of us is a gambler, so I have to admit to being a bit surprised when the flight attendant announced that she would pass a hat, for anyone who wanted to play. I forget what the challenge was, but whoever won it won all the money in the hat. People went nuts. There was shouting, stamping, whistling–the level of excitement was amazing. I’m pretty sure whoever won the money was planning to use it in the casinos!

Driving through Las Vegas made me feel as if we were in a TV movie! All the buildings you’ve heard about, the lights, the flashing signs–it was fun to see, but I truly wouldn’t want to live there. We found a nice motel on the eastern edge of town, enjoyed a meal, slept well. The next day, we loaded up our car with emergency supplies–lots of water, extra gas, pre-packaged food, and so on.

First stop, not far away, was Hoover Dam. I’ll always call it that. Seems there was an effort to change its name a while back. It’s amazing, a magnificent structure that changed the course of a mighty river. Pictures can’t do it justice. You have to be there to get the immensity of it.

I’ve lost the order of things over the years, so I’m going to hopscotch now. The highlight, for me was the Grand Canyon. As I said, you can’t do it justice with pictures. You can’t understand how vast it is until you’re gazing at it in person. We decided on a helicopter tour, and I’m so glad we did! Our pilot was a Viet Nam vet, totally composed and in control, which did a lot to allay my fear of heights with nothing between me and disaster but a thick glass window!

We were his only passengers. As we took off, and the trees below began to look like toys, he said, “Get ready. Big drop coming up!” WHAM! He wasn’t kidding! I know I gasped as we flew over the rim and the ground below us just dropped away to a vast emptiness. Once we were settled in, though, I was amazed over and over again with the beauty, the variety, the rock formations, the tiny silver ribbon of the river running through the canyon. Our pilot asked if we’d like a little adventure. Sure we would! He said he wasn’t supposed to do it, but he began taking us lower, into the canyon, dodging in and out of the slopes to show us some things close up. It was wonderful. I wanted it to never stop.

Well. We went on, across miles of nothing. We stopped at the Painted Desert. We saw petrified wood. We visited the meteor crater in Arizona. We did all the touristy things we could find, figuring we’d probably never do it again.

Arizona Meteor Crater

After a delightful visit with family and friends, we journeyed back to Vegas on a different route, enjoying some of the most beautiful national parks–Bryce Canyon, where Terry got to see a bristlecone pine; Zion, The Arches–and picked up our flight back to green, lush Pennsylvania.

I enjoyed seeing the vastness of the West, the desert scenery that is so unimaginably different from where we live. Again, the vastness of it is beyond anything I’d ever imagined. It’s one thing to see pictures; another thing entirely to see it.

We fell in love with a town called Cortez in Colorado. It was near Mesa Verde (green flat-topped mountain) and had lots of trees, rolling hills, a river. We decided, if we ever moved to Colorado, we could live in a place like that.
It was a wonderful trip that went without a hitch. It’s a treasured memory.