Saturday, January 24, 2009

On The Journey...

When I started this blog, I had meant for it to be a clearinghouse of little articles I'd do about travel and food. But a lot has happened since then, and I'm wondering if it's time for Tie Dye Travels to evolve.

Perhaps a little history might provide perspective.

I was a television producer. I enjoyed the job, and thought it was all I was ever going to do. After all, how many people out there can claim they've achieved their dream job by age 25?

But things change, and through a variety of circumstances I decided to leave television in September 2007.

What I discovered about the world and myself in the months since then has changed my entire view of the world.

The blog started out just being about Arkansas. I worked on a project called "Where in Arkansas?" for Today's THV, and I rather enjoyed finding locations all around the state to write about, little bits of trivia to expound upon, odd things and unique things. It seemed a natural place to start.

I also picked up bits from the places around Arkansas' borders, too -- like Branson, MO with its shows and festivals. Like Shreveport, LA and the places you can reach from there -- burgs like Jefferson, TX and Natchitoches, LA.
Like Transylvania.

I started writing for other publications, too -- after all, you have to make money some way or another. And it was through one of those other publications that the idea of travelogues came up. And that's how I found myself on January 6th of 2008 sitting in a Memphis hotel room, trying to determine how I'd go about thing, how I needed to start researching and putting together said travelogues, the wonder of the possibilities staring me in the face.

Within six months I had doubled the number of states I had visited in my lifetime. I found myself slapped with the wonder of it all on a cold day in late January, standing on the railing at a harbor park in Boston with my husband and my friend Louis, realizing that this really was my job now -- scary as that might be.

The magnitude, the wonder of it all, struck me with such overwhelming force that I had to sit and take it in. Though not for too long -- it was bloody cold.

The writing took me in three weeks from the teens in the Northeast to the 70s in Phoenix.

By this point I was getting the routine down, learning how to budget my time, discovering what I needed to do to get all the photos and information I needed, learning how best to travel through an airport (and that wearing boots under tight jeans was a bad idea when going through security).

I sometimes felt overwhelmed, especially by the extremes of the job -- such as going from a night in a rather scary Super 8, by taxi, to the splendid and gorgeous Arizona Biltmore Hotel and being struck by the beauty and extravagance of the property. Such times I felt overwhelmingly blessed to do what I was doing.

I also discovered that maybe not every town in America was up my alley. My mom and I traveled a few weeks later across the United States to Las Vegas. The trip there was incredible. I had long wanted to retrace bits of Route 66, to travel the Mother Road and join on that highway of time.

I finally got to see things I knew about, like the Wigwam Motel in Holbrooke, AZ and the Cadillac Ranch in Amarillo, TX.

I was surprised at other sights, like Weatherford, OK's windmill farms and the way Albuquerque, NM appears like a sudden vision of sequins in the night over a crest on I-40.

My breath was utterly taken away standing outside a tourist stop at the Continental Divide.

Vegas? Neat, I guess, but scary too. Don't get me wrong -- I liked a lot of the neat things I saw in Las Vegas... but having spent a lot of time in Branson over the past decade, it seemed in many ways to be unnecessarily extravagant. Then again, I'm not a gambler.

Not that I'm complaining. If the trip had been by plane instead, we would never have followed our curiosity to London Bridge, and I would never have spent about nine minutes in California. I certainly wouldn't have found myself snowed in twice in a week on the road

-- once in Gallup, NM -- once on the road itself in an unexpected snowstorm in Russellville, AR. Yeah, that second one surprised me more because I spent my college years in Russellville and had never, never experienced snow like that there.

The job took me other
places, too -- places I
missed and wanted badly to revisit. It's how I found myself back in New Orleans in March, a city I'd fallen in love with years ago. It was good to visit the old haunts that remained, but also sad to feel the change in attitudes that permeate the area. The timbre of the love affair had changed. Thank goodness the food hadn't.

It took me back to Branson in April, though every briefly. Along the way I picked up bits in Memphis, Shreveport, and Vicksburg. And it sent me exploring Highway Seven in Arkansas, a favorite from my childhood and my college days, driving through the Ozarks and through a not so distant past that I hope to eventually be able to relate better to people -- how the modest little winding road used to be the highway to fun, the enjoyable and lively path to Dogpatch.

By that point, I was already preparing for another journey... a life-changing journey to parenthood that I am still trying to figure out.

In June, as gas prices continued their accent towards the $4 mark and the heat began to rise, I found myself in St. Louis, a gorgeous town I fell for hard. Honestly, if I were to ever live outside of Arkansas, I believe St. Louis is where I would land. Once again I found myself overwhelmed -- this time by a thriving arts community, a whole city pushing itself towards going green, and a unique and well-varied cuisine. I still miss T-Ravs.

I also found myself in Dallas at the City Arts Festival, temperatures closing in on the century mark, pavement steaming and people mingling and my own limitations coming to light.

By this time I'd gotten my routine down into a three-day standard where I could schedule everything I needed to acquire pretty efficiently. Still, after a
couple of days in Arlington after my Dallas sojourn, I was ready to return to Arkansas and stay.

Not that my travels ended. I still found ways to get out and about... whether it was traveling up to War Eagle for lunch at the Bean Palace and to restock the
household supply of flour and oatmeal, or heading down to Camp Taloha to work on helping restore and better the once-proud Girl Scout camp for others to use, or traveling to Altus to learn more about Arkansas wine country, or visiting one of the state's great festivals.

The job even gave me a new perspective on another favorite place, Hot Springs, when I traveled with other members of the media and became a bit of a de facto native guide for the better part of a week in September. It was incredible, taking in the perspective of others who, for the most part, had never experienced a town
that was part of the fabric of my upbringing. Through that journey, I was able to look at the area in a new light and realize just how much it had to offer -- right up there with all the other big-name cities I'd visited this year.

The last few months of the year brought me home... in
fact, I went from being out of state more than in state the first six months of the year to not leaving Greater Little Rock for the last two months. It all culminated, of course, with the birth of our child -- an event that indeliably altered the lives of myself and my husband. Something that seems to have made the changeover in our lives so complete from where we were in September 2007.

A lot has changed in that time. I'd hope that my writing has improved... but who am I to tell? I'm pretty certain my photography has come a long way. Today I write a lot -- in between taking care of my daughter and my husband and dog and house. I am thankful for the journey, and I find myself wondering where the road of life is going to take me, take us all.

So perhaps, in the end, Tie Dye Travels isn't just about the places I've visited and the food I've consumed. Perhaps it's also about the journey of my life, which I am lucky enough to share with the people who'd like to read about it. Perhaps... perhaps...

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