Category Archives: Travel

American Road Trip West, Part 1

Road Trip 1
South Dakota

“See the USA in your Chevrolet.” This advertising jingle, sung by Dinah Shore in the 1950s, called Americans to the road. We answered and haven’t slowed down since, no matter what the price of gas.

So Dave and I jumped in our Ford truck and away we went. From southern Wisconsin turn west on I90 and set the cruise. Last stop, Nevada City, Montana.

As Road Trips go, ours was relatively moderate—2,800 miles. We met a couple driving from western New York to Oregon. That’s a road trip!

We hadn’t done a Road Trip for a number of years, and we were reminded, again, of the varied beauty of our country. And of the people who settled the land.

We often thought of the pioneers as we followed their footsteps West. I imagined the pioneers standing on the eastern bank of the Missouri River saying, “Now what!?”

Road Trip 2
The Missouri River at Chamberlain, South Dakota

On we went to the Bighorn Mountains in Wyoming, Yellowstone National Park, Virginia City and Nevada City in Montana, to a ranch in the mountains in Montana, and then over the Beartooth Highway.

Ride along on this travelogue.

You Can’t Go Home Again

You can’t go home again. Thank you Thomas Wolfe. Trying to recapture what’s gone is elusive at best, but the trying can be fun.

I recently got back from another foray into my past—a trip to England. A saudade fix. If you want to know what that means, check back on a previous post,Saudade, A Deep Longing”.

We visited my former neighbors from the 70s who now live on the south coast of England. My how England has changed. It’s so crowded. One of the things I loved about England when I lived there was the pace of life: slower than in the US. Not anymore, at least in the population centers, which seems to be all of the south of England.

The quaint little villages have changed. Incomers, people not from there, are putting up lovely new stone cottages, filling in the spaces between the existing cottages. Stone rabbit warrens. Some houses are so close to the road that if the occupant opened their front door they might clip off the wing mirror of a car whizzing by, or so it seems.

Traffic is frightful. My husband calls the one-lane country roads “hedgeroads”, because they’re bounded by ancient stone walls covered with vegetation. The way you negotiate the roads with two-lane traffic is that someone has to back up to a passing point or wait in the nearest one for the oncoming traffic to pass. When that works (driving on the left, mind you), it’s fine, but we were turned back on one such road where there was an accident involving a lorry (truck) and a car. The locals drive their familiar roads as if they’re in a grand prix, so we timid non-left drivers hold our breath and drive on. I’ve often said we need a big red “Y” sign on the backs of our rental cars denoting “Yank”.

Yet it’s a challenge. I’ve got the driving out of Heathrow down, but the getting back to the rental car drop-off is another matter. So far I’m 0 for 3. But if we make the same mistake we made this last time, we’ll know exactly where we are.

I continue to resonate to my toes with England and all things English, but we may have to make the next visit to the Scottish Highlands where there are more sheep than people.

Buses wedged together for five hours—it’s crowded in the south of England!

Next Novel—Like Climbing A Mountain

Pity me—I’m starting to think about beginning work on my next novel.

It’s fun, but it’s also like standing at the bottom of the mountain, looking up at how far you have to go. We wonder—why in the world do people climb mountains?—really. Because they’re there? Not likely—it would be much easier to go around.

Taurus mountains, Antalya, Turkey

I think people climb mountains because the process of getting to the top fulfills some need—maybe a dysfunctional, masochistic need, but a need nevertheless—and the view is gratifying, even incomparable.

I climbed a mountain once, sort of. I got up at 3 a.m. and joined a group for a trek up a smallish peak in Switzerland. We had to start early to get off the mountain before snow melted, opening up unseen crevasses. It was mostly a hard slog. We followed switchback paths, marched over a snowfield, and clambered up the rock pinnacle with the assist of embedded chains, to the hut at the top. But what a view! Of the Matterhorn, Dent du Midi, and other surrounding peaks. On the way down, a woman panicked when we had to leap over a petite crevasse (the bottom of which I couldn’t see), and she had to be encouraged down step by step.

Writing is like that. Regardez la petite crevasse! Watch out for the little crack! (Our Swiss guide really said that.)

My next novel might be set in the Scottish Highlands or an island and then England, starting in the ’50’s or ’60’s and moving forward in time to the ’70’s or ’80’s. I foresee complexity (crevasses)—things I’ll have to research—all over the place. “Why?” the writer laments, “Couldn’t I pick something simple?” Because, when I’m done, it will have been worth it.

Cristine Eastin © 2012

More England and a Bit of Scotland

This is a lazy person’s post, or busy—we’ve got company coming for the weekend.

Here’s what I have to offer: more pictures of England, with some bonus Scotland pictures thrown in. Saudade tonic. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, read last week’s post—Saudade, A Deep Longing.

To see the slideshow, click on any of the photos and enjoy.

Cristine Eastin © 2012

Saudade, A Deep Longing

Saudade–I have a bad case of it. Wikipedia defines this Portuguese word as, “…a deep emotional state of nostalgic longing for an absent something or someone that one loves. It often carries a repressed knowledge that the object of longing might never return.”

Sigh.

My saudade sighs are for England.

In my mid-twenties I lived in Beaconsfield, England: halfway between London and Oxford. This was my house—minus the two-story addition on the right where the brick is darker and plus masses of tall Queen Elizabeth roses. My house must also have a new name, or no name, since one chimney was removed. The Post Office once directed a friend visiting from Geneva to my house when the friend said, “I think her house is called ‘Two Stacks’.” How quaint.

For two years “Two Stacks” was home. I arrived a young, naive woman and left with a heart full of the love of friends—a heart that’s got a chunk of it shaped like England into which only England and things English will fit.

I long to return: a longing so strong it feels as if it might pull my heart right out of my chest and stick it to some place in England.

I run back to England as often as I can—to the dreary weather, the quaint houses, the endless footpaths, the English way of life—and to friends.

Almost every day a friend and I walked our dogs here. Public access to private land gave us miles of hill and dale for the dogs to run, providing the dogs didn’t bother the livestock. The only time that almost went wrong was when I watched helplessly as a stud donkey chased my dog. Fortunately my dog ducked under the fence an inch ahead of the hoofs.

Sigh.

I long to walk in England. Tramping the sidewalks in my rabbit warren urban US neighborhood doesn’t cut it. Nor does walking the Department of Natural Resources land near my house where they’ve just clear-cut the woods to make way for a prairie restoration. “Progress!” she spat out in disgust.

Sometimes my English friend and I ate lunch here, both dogs resting under the table—the Royal Standard of England. I had already had a taste of living overseas by this time, having lived in Geneva, Switzerland, for two ski seasons, but the Royal Standard was an eye-opener. I understood why England viewed its American step-children as unappreciative of history. Part of the Royal Standard was 900 years old. I had no sense of history like that.

England has changed  tremendously since I lived there. The pace of life has almost caught up to the US, horrible blights on the architectural landscape have gone up, economic stress is rife, and the country struggles valiantly with ethnic diversity. The butcher shop that brined my corned beef for me and the butcher that gave my dog treats are gone, replaced by a huge, convenient grocery store.

Yet I can’t wait to get back. It makes me feel righted somehow—like my bones have fallen into place.

I know all this saudade silliness flies in the face of  Paul’s wisdom: “…for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content,” (Philippians 4:11). It’s not that I’m not content in the State of Wisconsin. But, for some reason, God put this love of England in me. I do know that my next novel will be set in Scotland and England. If I can’t live there in reality, at least I can live there in my imagination.

If only they wouldn’t drive on the left!

Cristine Eastin © 2012

New—Photo Gallery

I’ve added a new page—Photo Gallery.

My father was an avid amateur photographer. Like father, like daughter. Dad even did his own black and white developing.

Dad was like a squirrel—anything bright and shiny got dragged into his nest—so I got his hand-me-down cameras as he bought new technology.

I’ve enjoyed taking pictures since I was a kid.

For a long time I felt like I was seeing our trips through the lens of a camera, always going for that best shot. I thought maybe I should stop that and enjoy the trip more. The solution was to buy a happy snapper camera. Now, there’s nothing wrong with that camera, but I quickly ran up against the limits of its creativity. Back to the digital single lens reflex (DSLR) camera. I rediscovered that seeing a trip through the lens of a camera was a big part of how I enjoyed the trip!

How does my photography pertain to my writing?

Places I’ve been, experiences I’ve had, people I’ve known—grind it all together—and out comes a story.

Hope you enjoy the photos. I enjoyed taking them.

© Cristine Eastin, 2012