Traveling Alone as a Female and on a Budget – My Solo Road Trip from Virginia to Maine

Almost five years ago to the day, I embarked on my first real road trip from Virginia to Maine. And I did it traveling alone. If anyone tells you that you can’t travel alone as a female, they’re wrong. It was a very liberating experience. At the time, I owned next to nothing and was living paycheck by paycheck. Do we live in a dangerous world? Yes. There is going to be danger wherever you go. There are dangers where you live now. As long as you have a good head on your shoulders, take proper precautions and use a little common sense, you can have a safe and successful trip.

In a previous post, I discussed travel safety tips. Here, I’m going to share with you my experience in traveling alone all those years ago when I didn’t have a clue what I was doing. Back then I had no credit cards (Smart, though I had applied for one through my bank before the trip…it arrived in the mail the day after I left. Probably for the best.) Being tight on budget, I didn’t even own a smart phone! Instead, I spent my nights in the hotel room planning my next day by looking up things to do on my laptop and programming addresses into my TomTom.

Leaving Southeastern Virginia

Though it wasn’t the first time I’d left home, I hadn’t done that much traveling in the past. Previously, my family had taken me on road trips to visit an older brother in Arkansas and New York. I had even been to Canada on one occasion, to the Outer Banks of North Carolina and to Pennsylvania for a funeral. So it wasn’t that I hadn’t been out, it was that I hadn’t been out on my own for my own reasons.

I made everything up as I went with certain interests I knew I wanted to see. Mainly, the goal was to reach the state of Maine (no pun intended). I’m not sure what was pulling me towards the state but I felt compelled to go.

First, I traveled west towards the base of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Once I reached the Natural Bridge Caverns, I toured them to stretch my legs, then continued up the scenic route of Skyline Drive.

Skyline Drive

No pictures can ever fully capture the beauty of this place. If you ever have the chance to view the beauty of the mountains, the western part of Virginia and the state of West Virginia are the best places to view them in the east. With that being said, I will leave you with these:

This photo was actually taken years earlier at the top of Molly’s Knob. Every year my high school cross country team ventured to Hungry Mother State Park and Molly’s Knob was the final ascent. From the top you can see into 5 different states. It is part of the same mountain range.

The vast openness of the rolling hills and white, puffy clouds were peaceful and captivating.

Luray Caverns

After adventuring down Skyline Drive, I made my way towards the Luray Caverns. Far more vast and commercialized than the Natural Bridge Caverns, the rest at the northern tip of Skyline Drive. I was determined to get there before they closed for the day (Yes, so far this has only been one day…and a lot of driving).

Once again, pictures cannot do this place justice. If I ever go again, I vow to take none and instead, enjoy the beauty and splendor of seeing it with my own eyes. Sometimes when we go on trips we spend so much time taking pictures that we forget to take in the experience.

Some formations look like they were taken straight out of a Dr. Seuss book.

I believe this formation was dubbed “Mammoth.”
Would you believe me if I told you that ha;f of this picture is a reflection? In some places, the water beneath is so still, that it’s almost impossible to tell while standing there, looking at it.
Can to tell where the water stops and starts? This is another reflection shot.

A Random Motel in Luray

After I left the caverns, I found a place to settle in for the night. Since I had been “winging” it, I hadn’t booked any place in advance. This was long before the days of being a Hilton Honors Club Member. I checked into the last room of a motel that was $50 a night. This night was one of the moments that I realized how spoiled and privileged I was during my childhood.

The room had no wi-fi, millions of dead beetles in the window sill and bug traps/poison hidden in corners and behind the furniture. I’m not even sure what kind of bug they were trying to kill and I didn’t want to find out. That night, I refused to shower or even undress at all. After sitting on the bed and having a good cry (realizing how naive I had been all my life and how easy I’d had it), I dead-bolted the door (yes, the motel had dead-bolts), I put the desk chair up against it and my heavy luggage on top of that.

I refused to leave anything on the floor because of bugs and for the same reason I slept on top of the covers, fully clothed and with the lights on. Exhausted, I didn’t even bother to watch the television. Instead, I was thankful to have a place to sleep even with the fear of bug infestations and possible intruders trying to break down my door. After all, I had seen enough horror films that took place in motels out in the middle of nowhere.

Crash Diet

Not that I’ve ever been large (I’ve never been more than a size 2), but I had a small belly before I started the trip. Yes, even size 2’s get bellies. Throughout the course of this trip, my diet consisted of yogurt, granola bars and water. Once a day I would try and stop for a plate of pasta or a slice of pizza (a far cry from our now seven-course meals at modern sushi joints in DC, thank you, honey!) If you’re ever looking to lose weight (I’m not a doctor so you probably shouldn’t listen to this), one week of eating like that made any pudge I had vanish almost overnight.

Heading Towards Vermont

I knew that it would still take me more than a day to get to Maine, even without stopping and sight-seeing anywhere. Since I didn’t have wi-fi the night before or a smart phone with any kind of data plan, I stuck to the road the next day and rove through Pennsylvania and the country-side of New York. By the time I reached Vermont, I was exhausted and determined to find a place to stay that had internet.

I found a quaint motel in Bennington, Vermont that charged $100 a night. It was well kept and I felt safe showering and sleeping in my pajamas unlike the night before. It’s amazing what small comforts can do. Having internet, I took the time to plan the rest of my trip to Maine and figure out what I would do once I got there.

The place I stayed in Vermont was just around the corner from a legendary haunted house as well as the cemetery where Robert Frost was buried. As a total taphophile, I couldn’t help but take pictures in the graveyard. And no, I don’t remember the name of the house but it is there!

Making to to Maine, “The Southern North”

Maine is often called “The Southern North” because the people there have southern hospitality despite being among the northern “yankee” states of New England. Up here there are no Cracker Barrels, lots of wine and jam is made from blueberries and you can buy lobster on just about every corner. I’d go back in a heart beat.

I ventured to the Botanical Gardens which were filled with plants and sculptures of all kinds. Inside, was an interactive map where visitors were encouraged to add their zip codes. There was one other visitor from my zip code…and I have yet to track them down and find them!

I was lucky enough to miss the rain but you can see the remnant of it darkening the letters of this stone. “You must do something to make the world more beautiful.” Words to live by!
Three friendly Maine frogs, sharing a rock in one of the botanical garden’s ponds.
This was probably my favorite sculpture in the park, the porcupine. So creative!

Cellardoor Winery and Maine Desert

After leaving the gardens, I ventured out to the desert. Yes, there is a desert in Maine. Didn’t know that? Neither did I and it’s getting smaller and smaller each year so you might want to go see it while you can.

Headed towards the Cellardoor Winery located in Lincolnsville, ME, I was originally under the impression that it was named after a scene in The Lord of the Rings. In both the book and movie versions, there is a scene where the fellowship comes across a large door where they must “Speak ‘friend’ and enter.” While this is not the case, the actual story isn’t far from that.

According to the Cellardoor Winery Website, the story goes as follows:

A Symbol of Welcome and Friendship

As the story goes, a hobo, a traveler looking for work nearly 100 years ago, visited our farm in Lincolnville. He was welcomed. He felt safe. Upon his departure, he carved in the barn door a “hobo symbol” to let fellow travelers know they would find hospitality here.

All these years later, we have proudly embraced, are motivated by, this story and the spirit of welcome meant to be offered to guests. While the door with the fabled hand carving is treasured, we have adopted a current day artist’s interpretation of it as our logo. It is our inspiration to beat our guests’ expectations, to offer a respite from busy lives.

When you see our Hobo symbol, know that you are in a safe and friendly place. We invite you to our Cellardoor properties with open hearts, generosity, and camaraderie. Whether you join us for a tour of our winery, a wine tasting, a food and wine pairing, or one of our big events, we hope you enjoy your time with us.

A view from the balcony of the winery where I ate a late lunch.
A motto found along a lot of their merchandise.

Inside the Winery

While I didn’t see any offerings of tours, there were two tasting bars inside. At the time, they offered a free tasting of four wines at each bar on Sundays (which happened to be the day I was there!). You could pay a little extra to sample 8 wines at the first bar. The second bar featured meat and cheese accompaniments. It was well worth the trip!

Ogunquit Beach, Maine.

On my last night I stayed two nights in Bath, Maine before heading back south towards Ogunquit Beach. Staying my last night there, I found the only place I could with a vacancy, which happened to be within walking distance to the beach.

It was incredibly peaceful to walk along an uncrowded beach with low humidity in the middle of August. (Something you’d be hard-pressed to find in Southeastern Virginia.) It was my last moment of peace and solace before making the 13 hour drive back home to an area that I consider to be filled with toxic and close-minded people.

Arriving Home

When I got home, the excitement of my trip was quickly squashed and squandered by co-workers. You see, all of my jobs have been “male-dominated” and by that I mean that I was always in an environment where I was surrounded by men. When I would excitedly tell them about all the fun I had on my trip, I was often met with responses like, “You went alone!?” “You didn’t take your man with you?” (At the time I was either fresh out of a relationship or just starting a new one, can’t remember). “Why did you go by yourself? You should’ve taken your boyfriend.” “Women shouldn’t travel alone.” And the list goes on…

There’s also a lot of men out there who like to deny that men who would say such things exist. I started to fire back with my own questions. “Why do I have to have a man with me?” “Do you not think a woman can survive without a man?” “Yes, I went alone and I’m still alive. I wasn’t mugged, raped or kidnapped. So your point is?”

Take a Stand Against the “Norm”

While my parents didn’t speak against it, my aunt and older cousin were for some reason in awe of me. They think I’m cool because I  packed a bag and went to Maine on a whim. I never understood why, at least at the time, I didn’t. I see it now. My aunt and older cousin were from the same upbringing as I was, along with my mother.

My mother would often tell me growing up, “You don’t do that. You’re a woman and women don’t do that.” “Women don’t pump their own gas, that’s a man’s job.” “Women don’t take out the trash, that’s a man’s job.” And while all of that “was a man’s job” never once did she clarify what a women’s job was. She herself was big into microwave cooking and she never forced me to sew or learn any sort of “home-making” tasks. So what she really left me with was a blank slate.

Nothing was Specifically My Job

But that meant, I had to choose a path for myself and honestly, I enjoyed mowing the lawn. And I really didn’t mind pumping my own gas, much to her chagrin. My aunt and cousin thought I was awesome because I was woman willing to go against what she’d been taught by her upbringing. I continue to do this to this day which pisses some people off.

While the gender dynamics at my work place are changing, that is a big can of worms for an already long post. I have been asked on more that one occasion, “Why can’t you just do as your told?” “Why can’t you just fall in line and be like everyone else?” Because I’m not meant to be. It’s not in my nature.

I challenge anyone reading this, whether you’re a man or woman, it doesn’t matter, to challenge the status quo. Question why you do the things you do. Is it because someone else told you that’s what you’re supposed to do? Or is it because you want to do it?

Women, it’s OK to travel alone. Men, it’s OK to show emotion. Women, you don’t have to shrink yourself or blend in. Men, you don’t have to always make the plans. Be different. All of you 🙂

Thank you for reading!

-RB

 

Joining in on Writing Prompts: Organs

I’ve never been big on writing prompts but I suppose that is ignorant of me to say because I don’t think I’ve ever participated in one. During this month’s Camp NaNoWriMo, I’ve been privileged to have other bloggers in my cabin. One of my cabin mates, Amelia, runs a blog called You Can Always Start Now, in which she often participates weekly writing prompts. Many of the prompts come from another author and blogger, Linda, on her blog Life in Progress.

This week’s writing prompt for “Stream of Consciousness Saturday” (#SoCS) focused on the topic of “organs.” Since I am a day behind already, I have read both of their responses and while both unique and interesting, my subconscious has led me down a third path. Here is what I wrote for the prompt:

Organs. The first thing that comes to mind is a book I’m reading about being a mortuary technician. Think of all the nasty stuff they have to take out. The book is called “Down Among the Dead Men” by Michelle Williams and I just finished a chapter where she wrote about being careful when slicing a body down the sternum because you don’t want to rupture the stomach and have all of that disgusting-ness spill out.

The second thought that comes to mind is Egyptian canopic jars. I love studying ancient cultures, especially ancient Egypt. They seemed so advanced and yet somehow, we lost all of that wisdom and technology. It baffles me as to how. It also baffles me as to why they thought that the lungs, intestines, stomach and liver were needed in the afterlife. At least those are the organs I think the jars were used to protect. Apparently digestion is important in the afterlife. Take note, mortals!

How about you, fellow mortal? Care to join in on a writing prompt?

Happy writing!

-RB

Memes for Writing Encouragement

Readers, today’s post will be a gallery post. With the end of NaNo’s July Camp in sight, I recognize the need to encourage everyone to stay on track and push towards their goals. This being said, I own none of these pictures. They have been collected through the years by Google searches and various websites. Their authors are at the bottom of each meme or photo. I’ve compiled them here in the hopes that they will help motivate you in your writing endeavors or perhaps make you laugh. Enjoy!

-RB

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now get back to writing!

NaNoWriMo: How to Increase Word Count

The end of July’s NaNoWriMo Camp for 2018 is fast approaching. And with that in mind many writers are looking for ways to increase word count. Myself included. I don’t know what the weather is like where all of you are living but for me I am headed into a weekend of heavy downpours and cloudy skies. In other words, perfect writing weather.

I figured for today a good blog post would focus on ways that we could all increase word count. Next week is the final inning… The home stretch. Personally, I’m about 13,000 words away from my monthly goal of 50,000 words. However, I have spent most of my writing this month on my blog and my morning pages as opposed to working on my WIP. With that in mind, I’m hoping to have an overly productive weekend of words, words, and more words. But we all know how planning for a productive weekend goes. It often results in getting nothing done. With that being said let’s help one another cross the finish line using some of these prompts and ideas.

Tips, Tools and Tricks to Increase Word Count
The Harry Potter Word Crawls

I should saved the best for last but seriously, this one is just too good. If you’re a Harry Potter fan and you haven’t heard of these, you’re missing out. A forum on Reddit has a complete list of links to all of the word count crawls. There has never been a more magical way to increase word count.

Write from All 5 Senses

For real. Go back into every scene and use more description. What are the characters smelling? Is it pleasant? Is it malodorous? What are they seeing? Use adjectives like they are going out of style. You will come back to edit and clean it up later. For now, I expect you to be describing mole hairs. Describe every sound…even the quietest places have sound. For example, my home is quiet right now but I can hear the AC running, my fingers on the keyboard and water trickling from the turtle tank filter. Leave no stone unturned!

Kill a Character – Or Several!

I’m talking Game of Thrones style! Kill three main characters off at once. Take no prisoners. Sacrifice your lambs. BURN THEM ALL! Or you could settle for torturing one of them, brainwashing him, then castrating him. Your choice.

Introduce a Character – Or Several!

I guess this could also be Game of Thrones style as that series has so freakin’ many!

Word Sprints

Word sprints, as painful as they can be, really do help. Why? Because they don’t allow you any time to think about what you’re doing. Even as someone who is a “planner,” when I’m forced to try to write as much as I can within a certain time frame, I start coming up with all sorts of crazy goodness. And by the time the buzzer goes off, I usually want to keep going. Embrace that and run with it. That scene might not make it into the final draft but it counts for this month.

You don’t have to have an account on Twitter or Facebook to participate in them either. Host your own within your cabin! That’s what my kick ass cabin does! I almost feel like we should have a team name…

Write from a Different Medium

Sometimes I type. Other times I write long-hand and sometimes I use dictation software. Each method has its own pros and cons. (Can we say new blog post topic?) All levity aside, don’t be afraid to switch things up. If I get tired of staring at the computer screen and feel stuck or don’t know what to write next or how to write what’s next, I get up and move. That’s when I go lay on the couch or the bed with a notebook and start writing by hand.

Perhaps I know what I want to write and I’ve got the whole scene worked out in my head but it’s so long and my fingers are exhausted. Then I sit at my desk and turn on the microphone. I use Dragon Naturally Speaking but I’m sure there are many other dictation programs out there, this is what works best for me. Sometimes I catch myself rambling but it’s a great way to get the words out quickly!

I hope these tips help you reach your goals for camp this year. And please check out those Harry Potter Word Crawls! They are entertaining.

Happy Writing!

-RB

On Poetry (1)

Once again, I have waited until the last minute to update my blog but in an effort to successfully complete my challenge, I am posting a short piece on poetry. After all, I’m over halfway through the challenge and giving up now just isn’t an option for me and my stubborn mind.

I have both loved and hated poetry. I’m not very good at it, in my own opinion. I also don’t read much of it and the pieces I’m about to share with you were written over ten years ago. Perhaps, in the future I will get back into the craft of poetry and acquire a deeper understanding of it. For now, I hope that they will provide some source of inspiration or entertainment. Please enjoy these tiny morsels.

Poetry

The Fell Tower

whithered and weathered, broke and barren
carved and cracked
the ruined tower stands tall
beneath the burning light of the rising moon

the ravens crow, the wolves howl
the cats shriek

the wind screams, the trees whisper
the leaves rustle
the dark tower stands quiet
beneath the cold light of the moon

the wind pounds, the rain beats
the lightening crashes

the owls sing, the dead serenade
the chains rattle
the old tower crumbles quickly
beneath the dull light of the falling moon

Into the Labyrinth

I have strayed into the Labyrinth,
I am lost inside my mind,
There’s no turning back, there’s no getting out,
I’m stuck here for all time.

The puzzle that will never be solved,
Running through broken corridors as the world revolves,

No matter where I wonder or roam,
The Labyrinth is my new home,
Back to the start or towards the end,
Through the bending halls without a friend.

Rainstorm

Long has the jungle been overgrown with beauty.

As a cool heat was felt through the bamboo,

thunder could be heard dimly in the distance

and the storm faded away. Soft rain still trickled

lightly enough so that the small stream under the hill

could faintly be heard. Little droplets slid off

of the dense emerald leaves into the rich, silky ground

then ran off into a small stream through the jungle.

The creatures soon came out of their hiding

while birds sang and frogs croaked. Soon enough

the sun tried its best once again to light the stage

under the thick canopy releasing the sweet aroma

of the jungle rain. The life after the storm has now returned.