Killing the Boredom on a Road Trip

Driving across Kansas has to be one of the most brutally boring trips for a child. I made a vow early on that we would not spend more than 2 hours in the car at a time. This would take some serious creativity on my part. I did a little research and decided that 2 apps would be essential in assisting me in keeping my child from ruining our trip out of boredom.

I downloaded the Roadside America app to my phone so we could find odd things along the way to break up the trip. It’s full of great roadside attractions that you wouldn’t necessarily know about.

I also made sure my Geocaching app was up to date on my phone. Geocaching is the equivalent of treasure hunting. It’s a big win with my son. When boredom starts to rear its ugly head I turn the app on and we look for the nearest geocache. We have found them roadside on bridges, fence posts, and trees. It’s a great way to stretch your legs and take a break from the car. It’s also always a little exciting when you find one.

An atlas. Within the first hour of driving I showed my son how to read the atlas. It laid FullSizeRender (7)out huge on his little lap and I explained how it worked. I pointed at our destination and told him he was the navigator. This kept him engaged and let him feel like he had some say in what was going on (not to mention teaching him how to read a map).

Books. At 7 my son was just starting to get good at reading. I found books at the library that were about Native American Indians, the Southwest US, and some just for fun. I would ask him to read to me.

Music. Without intention, we ended up with two theme songs for our trip. They became our favorites and he loved working the ipod and playing DJ. It made for great sing alongs, and he brought his drum sticks so he could tap out the beat.

Ipad. I downloaded kid appropriate movies ahead of time for the hours that were destined for inactivity. (After Kansas he never picked up).

I absolutely love my son, but he has taught me a valuable lesson: when boredom strikes and he’s unhappy, everyone is unhappy. Most of the time he is perfectly happy engaging me in conversation or reading to me. My goal for the trip was not to turn the car around in a few days and call it quits. I knew it was a real possibility if he hated the extensive car ride ahead of us. I personally have little tolerance for whining so this trip could go very good or very bad.

Volcanos and Moonshine

We headed to Banos, Ecuador from Devil’s Cauldron (about 40 km away). It’s near the active Tungurahua and a gateway to the nearby Amazon Basin. On the way there we 17352380_10210366736337885_4052340927093209023_ndrove by a village that was covered by an eruption about a year and a half ago. We saw the scarred remains of a home.

Once in Banos, we had lunch at a small bed and breakfast and spent the next few hours walking around the city. There were lots of tourist shops offering tours to the Amazon and volcano.

Banos has a very artistic flair, with artisans working in doorways and windows and paintings on buildings. It 17264284_10210172410480298_6561258471637593502_nhas a large ex-pat population, and I can see why. If I return to Ecuador, I would want to come back here.

We wandered into a a vegetable ivory shop called, El Cade. The son is the artisan, carving vegetable ivory, and the mother sat in the corner stringing jewelry he created. He gave a demonstration of how he carved a dried tagua nut into a small pitcher. The tagua nut is actually a seed from a certain palm 17353085_10210366801099504_4831787035353403146_ntree. The vegetable ivory resembles elephant ivory and was actually used for buttons before
plastic was popular. The small sculptures and jewelry were inexpensive and made for great souvenirs.

We took our bag of gifts and headed for the market. Outside vendors hacked away at sugar cane with machetes. One vendor was selling sugarcane ginger moonshine along with every other possible thing made of sugarcane. I took a shot of the moonshine and it was exactly as I had expected, enough to take my breath.

A little buzz from my shot of moonshine, I ventured behind the market and found an amazing view of the city.

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We drove away from the city and towards our lodge for the night. We drove into the Valley of Patate and then just above it to Hacienda Manteles. This place was like something out of fairytale. It was chilly and the air was crisp. The slightly smoking volcano loomed not far in the distance.

When I was shown to my room, a sheep and llama were hanging out nearby. It just added to the magic of the place. The rooms were situated so that 3 rooms were
inside one building with a little living room that had a fireplace. I took a shower and then ventured out to take pictures of the grounds. Lil’ man was playing with the random animals and running everywhere.

As it began to get dark I grabbed an alpaca blanket from my room and big bottle of beer. I had Karl meet me on the porch swing set up overlooking the volcano and valley below. Soon we could see every star in the sky. It was very romantic and peaceful.

Of course it didn’t last long and we ventured up for dinner. We served family style in the main dining room and after we sat around with everyone having drinking by the fire and chatting. Eventually our guide broke out a guitar and we all sang along. It was one of those moments that can make an entire trip. Lil’ man fell asleep on the couch and several of us sat near the fire singing Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah”. It was a perfect way to end our night.

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So this is middle aged

Today I turned 40. That’s like middle aged. I would say I should be ready for my mid-life crisis, but I think those are reserved for people who have lived a life of some convention. My whole life has been a mid-life crisis.

I began to lose friends and loved ones as early as grade school. It hit me in second grade when a class mate stood up suddenly and collapsed to his death bed that we are on borrowed time. By the time I graduated high school. I had lost 10 friends or close relatives. Mix that with growing up in a small farm town in Kansas and watching my father beat my mother to near death many times, and I knew I had to move. I couldn’t spin my wheels. Hell, I’d be lucky to make it to the ripe old age of 30. I had a bucket list to get busy with (yes, even in my early 20’s).

Before I hit 20 I had tried college in New Mexico and had worked as a dishwasher, waitress, bookstore clerk, housekeeper, and missionary. I sold my car and bought a ticket to Hawaii because it was somewhere I was always curious about. I sold art on the beach and wondered why I was so completely alone in the world. I came to the conclusion that I was capable of whatever I wanted.

In my 20’s I chased a man back to Kansas, then one to Iowa. I worked in marketing and sales, fire safety in a nuclear power plant, counselor to people with multiple sclerosis, barista, Executive Director of a non-profit, office manager of an environmental firm, personal assistant to a CEO, house sitter, and a nanny.

I fought to be paid and promoted as an equal in a corporate job, had my heart broken at least 3 times, played house, was misdiagnosed with cancer, began painting, and decided I had worth.

I won my first artist fellowship, moved to Europe with $300 and no back up plan, fell in love with myself, and fell in love with so many strangers that became friends.

In my 30’s I became a mother (unexpectedly). All the demons I tried to bury in my 20s came back to play. I was humbled and hungry. I was forced to think about someone other than myself. I wrestled with the fear of never being good enough.

I came to the conclusion that no one had walked in my shoes, therefore their way didn’t work for me. I would have to figure out how to do it my way.

IMG_0004I learned to ask for help, lost friends that were just there for the party, but gained friends who were genuine and true.

I held hands of dying loved ones, held new born babies of friends, learned that crying isn’t weak, and kept another human being alive longer than any house plant in my possession.

And now here I am at the doorstep  of my 40s. My intent is to make the next 40 years as interesting as the first. To remember that I am on borrowed time. I have a gift of another day that at least 40 people in my life no longer have. There is adventure in every day; we just have to be willing to say yes to it. So my physical years on this big blue and green planet might be 40, but I still don’t feel like the grown ups I remember from my teen years. They seemed so polished and put together. I am just me, and I’m ok with that. I’m faking it until I make it. I’m looking for the every day magic, and I’m wearing skirts and tennis shoes.

I’m working on accepting my body, hugging the shit out of the pain and releasing it, loving the unloveable parts, and trying to figure out why in the hell I still get neck acne.

On to the next adventure.