fat tire biking on trail

bridge across river

I’ve come to rely on my GPS to get to my destination. It’s a safer way to navigate than the paper maps I used to use — looking down at the map, up at the road, down at the map — all the while losing my place amongst the list of turns.

When I would miss a turn, first I’d swear a lot, then hysterical call someone, expecting them to gather immediately where I was and be able to get me back on track.

Now I pull out my GPS, plug in an address and follow the route the electronic voice calls out to me. But sometimes the directive to “Take exit 35C” cannot be followed because the exit is blocked and some orange detour sign is telling me to keep going straight.

Those signs don’t tell me how much farther I’ll need to go to get back to my original route, if that’s even where they’re going to take me. And when I drive too long in one direction without seeing another detour sign, I wonder if I missed it and should turn around. I don’t have any idea where I am and just drive on blind faith that I’ll eventually find my way. What other choice do I have?

And the whole time I’m following the detour, the GPS keeps bellowing out directives to get me back to my original course because it’s unaware that such a route no longer exists.

I spent a great deal of the summer thinking about what I want more of in my life and what I want less of. From that, I was setting priorities on how I would spend my time and making sure I created enough space for the things that really matter to me. I was also working on a financial plan to pay down my mortgage and put more money away for my retirement.

Then Luke put his face in a bur bush. This has meant four vet visits, eye surgery, many tubes of eye antibiotic ointment and Banamine (horsey aspirin), switching from pasture to stall board and daily trips to the barn.

It appears my route has changed — both financially and in how I spend my time.

fat tire biking on trail

My initial reaction was to say that all that work on naming my priorities and looking for ways to live according to my values was pointless.

  • I haven’t written for weeks and I’m not sure when I’ll find time to write again (although I did eek out time for this post).
  • And I’ve gone from working on skills for the job I’d hoped to move towards (which would mean lower pay but more job satisfaction) to working on skills to up my value in the job I’m already in because it looks like I’ll be there much longer than I’d planned.

After having an internal (and sometimes external) tantrum over what, in my tantruming mind, is “unfair,” I am searching for what can be salvaged. In other words, can I find the gift in this?

I know, being Pollyanna is not like me. I’d rather rant.

But this hasn’t been all bad.

The lesson is this: caring trumps expertise. I have a tendency to pull back and trust other people’s knowledge, experience, opinions, and actions over my own. I’m afraid to say what I think or what I want because, in my mind, I don’t have the right. Because everyone is smarter than I am.

And then, totally unrelated to this situation, I started taking a course in Negotiation because I have some things I need to negotiate at work. And I got something unexpected out of the lecture videos…

You need to identify the pie.

The pie is what you are splitting up with someone else. What do you want? What is at stake?

fat bike


I’ve never been very clear about what I want. I rarely believe I have the right to “want” anything.

  • Wanting is selfish.
  • Wanting is thinking I’m more important than someone else.
  • Wanting leads to someone saying “No.”

You repeat those messages enough and it becomes very difficult to even allow yourself to think about or recognize what you want.

And you know what? That is really annoying to the people around you. No one likes a martyr or being forced to guess what someone else wants.

I’ve had to say what I want done with my horse. Yes, that means paying for it but that’s better than letting other people decide what’s necessary. It also means taking more responsibility for the outcome because I have asked for what I want. If I end up not being happy with what I get, I can’t blame someone else for the results, like I can if they have to guess or make decisions for me.

I still don’t know where this detour is taking me. And I don’t know if my rambling is making any sense to anyone but me. But I’m not feeling as lost today as I was yesterday or the day before that.

I expect that I won’t come out on the exact road I had planned on taking, but I’m learning a new way to travel.


front door

The great thing about traveling is being in an unfamiliar environment where you see and experience things you don’t normally see at home.

So one would think that the good thing about coming home would be the familiarity and the comfort and convenience found there. Which is why I was surprised to find that when I came home, things actually looked different.

When you open the door to a house, the first thing you might notice is the home’s unique smell. Sometimes it’s a good smell, like cinnamon or cookies. Other times, it’s an old smell or a wet dog smell, which is bad or good, depending on how you feel about old things and wet dogs. When I walked into my house, it just smelled stale.

I started walking up the wood stairs, my foot steps echoing, as though the house was empty. Since it is actually filled with furniture and things, and I’ve walked into my house a million times and never noticed an echo, this was weird. And as I walked across the wood floor in the living room and kitchen, the boards actually creaked. Weird again.

I’m sure there’s some sort of scientific reason for this – the house drying out because no one is running water, cooking, or breathing – but let me go with my more “woo woo” theory. I think that a house that hasn’t been lived in for awhile sounds and feels empty, no matter how much stuff is inside it, because you need people to give the house a soul.

There’s one other thing that my house needs — and that’s dogs.


As soon as I put down my suitcase, I was grabbing my keys to go pickup Java and Latte from the kennel. Once we were at the kennel and I settled my bill, one of the employees brought my two dogs into the lobby. They looked a little dazed and confused, unsure of how to react to Steve’s and my sudden appearance on the scene. But when we went out to my Mini Cooper and I started opening the hatch to let the dogs jump into the back, they made a dash for the car before I had a chance to fully open it. Java bumped her head, but didn’t seem to notice.

In the car, they were  enthusiastically on familiar ground. Driving home, Latte alternated between sniffing the air coming through the car window, and putting her head between the front seats for a reassuring pat. Java simply rested her head on Steve’s shoulder.



When we got back home, I let the dogs out into the backyard, where they checked every corner for familiar and unfamiliar scents. I started unpacking, sorting clothes to throw into the wash, and taking a very welcome shower.

The house was no longer echoing or creaking.

We took Java and Latte on a walk to Kings Island. It’s our usual dog walk – out towards and then along the Mississippi River. I often long for another route, something new to see – I want to experience a feeling of discovery and adventure. But somehow, on this walk, I felt that. Everything looked fresh to my eyes. I started to feel how lucky I was to have the river so close by and be able to take walks like these. No, it wasn’t as cool as some of the walking paths in Minneapolis or St. Paul, but it was home.

walking dog

And the dogs? They never see this walk as the same-old-same-old. Every time they take a walk, there are different smells, different people, different dogs and different squirrels to see. Every walk is a unique experience — lived without any expectation of how it should be or what it should include.

Once again, my dogs have taught me something valuable… Look with fresh eyes at where you are, even if it’s the same old place you were yesterday, not expecting it to be different, but not assuming it will be the same. Any maybe it is never the same — not because “it” has changed but because you have.


Amtrak Station Portland

Amtrak Station Portland

At the end of September, Steve and I took an Amtrak train from St Cloud, Minnesota to Portland, Oregon for a destination wedding. The following posts are about our experiences on the train and in Oregon, which I wrote down in my travel journal. You can read previous posts here:

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

View from train

We are back on the train, traveling along a river in Montana. It’s difficult for me to take my eyes off the view. The river we’re passing by is a deep, aqua blue, the kind of color you see in post cards of the Mediterranean Sea. It’s so clear you can see the rocky bottom. This is another place I could see myself living.

Most of the trees are outside the window are evergreens but there are yellow accents of Tamarack and aspen, as though an interior designer had a hand in the decor: “We must have our accent pieces!”

It’s interesting taking photos out the window. They turn out like impressionistic paintings with a soft blur of motion. I wish I had taken more pictures but believe it or not, I had reached photo saturation by this time.

View out train window

The most common question I was asked at the wedding was “How did you like the train?”

Taking the train to get from point A to B is not something I would recommend for every one. If you are a type A, like to get to your destination as quickly as possible because your destination is what you consider your “vacation,” or you don’t enjoy sitting and reading and looking out the window at the scenery passing by, then the train is probably not for you anymore than driving a car would be.

reading on the Amtrak

I’m actually not a good “sitting still” person but found being on the train, without wifi, where I wasn’t able to accomplish ANYthing was a relief. It was good to be forced to sit still, to read, to write, and to stare out the window.

I loved traveling slow, getting a good long close look at the places passing by. Now there are rocky cliffs outside the window. Sometimes they come so close, I pull back, thinking the train will hit them.

As much as I enjoyed the train, next time we travel west, I’d like to have a camper in the bed of my truck (one more fantasy) so we can bring the dogs with us. I have missed them so much! I also would like to be able to stop along the way and get an even closer look at the character of all the places we are traveling through.

view from Amtrak train

Now we are passing by “Wash Away” laundromat in Cut Bank, Montana. There seems to always be a laundromat in site when we pass a town on the train. I find the naming of these places and some of the small restaurants a good form of entertainment, which just goes to show how easily amused I am.

What I learned on this trip is that the times that stand out most in my mind, that I enjoyed the most, took place when we were out of the vehicle hiking. So vacation plans should include more time outside the vehicle than inside. Leave the scenic lookouts to other travelers.

view from Amtrak train

We just went past a pond where the wind was blowing and creating water murmations (like you see with starlings). Pretty cool.

And now we are passing by two guys racing over a hill on horseback. Looks like they are rounding up cattle. I hope they are going to go get the small horse laying down a few yards from the track and the three cows that are on the wrong side of the fence.

view from Amtrak train

Our final day in Oregon, we went to Powell’s Books in Portland. Since most of the book stores in my area have gone out of business, Powell’s was like waving drugs in front of a drug addict. The bookstore takes up one full city block and has three floors full of new, used, and rare books (plus a 4th floor for customer service). They provide you with a map to navigate your way around. Still, Steve and I got separated and it took some phone conversations of “I’m by the windows… No, not those windows…” to find each other again.

I managed to come out with only one used book, an Orion magazine, and a Powell’s t-shirt showing two of my favorite things: a bicycle and a bike-basket overflowing with books. Plus I walked out with a list of book titles I wrote down as I walked through the store that I plan look up at the library when I get home.

Powell's Books, Portland

So our adventure is about done. Which is okay. I have so many great memories and new dreams for future travel.

Portland train station

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