Astra and the Mountain Goats

September 18th, 2010 No Comments »

As we left Cripple Creek… I found out the universe has a sense of humor

We left Colorado rather exhausted and in my return to Austin I finished editing all the video and wrapping up the blog; however I forgot to include a small remarkable event.

Astra and I packed up the last morning and I was grateful for some cool weather before dawn since mid-July around the Colorado Springs area brought some high temperatures. We drove down the track towards the main road out of the Cripple Creek KOA and I told Astra that we were lucky to have been able to take the trip. She was less than enthusiastic. My daughter is not known for her pleasant morning temperament. I reminded her that she had seen an amazing assortment of wildlife on our travels and that alone was an incredible experience.

She agreed for a moment but then piped up about never seeing any mountain goats. I told Astra that she was lucky to have seen all the animals that we were fortunate to encounter and that the universe does not grant your every wish, nor should you expect it to.

We started our descent into the next town, Divide and about four minutes after we pulled out I hit the brakes because there was a small group of cattle on the road in the shadow of the mountain. As we inched closer, I realized these shaggy cattle were mountain goats shedding winter coats. Astra was elated. I rolled down the windows and the goats were around the car for a moment and the bounded up the side of the mountain in great vertical leaps. I was breathless, feeling like a perfect ass. Astra was in the back seat yelling, “See mommy!”

And I could see, too. I had just not four minutes before uttered a statement to assure my daughter that she was lucky and not all things come to you because, well as adults we have moments of disappointment. I laughed, shrugged and drove on towards Divide. I guess I was wrong and you can get everything you wish for; perhaps not exactly when you want, but no reason not to keep wishing.

Colorado~ The last stop

July 22nd, 2010 No Comments »

Colorado was shorter than I would have liked. I didn’t spend as much time in the smaller, mountain towns west of the Rockies because we ran out of money and summer hit Colorado with temperatures in the high 90’s, prohibiting tent camping.

Our first stop was Ft Collins. I spent two days there and the day I arrived, Ft Collins was featured on CNN & Money Magazine as one the best places to live in the United States.
Best Places to Live

I wandered about downtown and shot video. I even stopped by Colorado State and spent significant time videoing there with my mother, mesmerized by the floral gardens. I noticed above average number of restaurants, plus lots of friendly folks going about their day. It reminded me a little of Boise. When a city chooses to invest and maintain the downtown, then the life quality of life is increased and small business owners have a chance to make a living and not be squeezed out by larger corporations. My first impression of Fort Collins was reminiscent of Medford, Oregon. I can’t say that I would never live there, but it felt a little big for me, though it’s significantly smaller than where I live.

Later I learned from a former resident that the area had been plagued by a meth problem. I wasn’t sure about this so I did a little research and the county where Fort Collins is located has struggled with meth labs. I thought that it was odd that the city was so high on the best places to live list, given this issue, but perhaps other factors prevailed in the sequencing of the cities.

The video I shot and put together if it were a salsa would fall in the mild category. I did meet a cool guy named Cody at Nature’s Own and he was interested in moving to Austin and talked with me about it off camera. While I could have gotten some good information from him he was too shy so I interviewed a nice young woman named Ashton whose immediate goal was to leave Fort Collins to sow some oats and who can
blame her? Sowing oats is like the customary smack on the bottom after you are born. Kick starts you, doesn’t it?

Here is what I shot in Fort Collins, a nice mild video that would befit it’s status as number 6 on the Best Places to Live list.

Downtown Fort Collins & Nature’s Own

We left Fort Collins and headed south to Denver. When we were in Crescent City, CA we met a family a few sites down from us staying in a KOA cabin. Astra and I had a lovely tent site right next to some massive old redwood stumps nestled in smaller (relative to the stumps) trees and ferns. It was a Jurassic landscape and we stayed four days. During those four days Astra and Maddie became friends and decided they wanted to meet up later when our journey took us through Colorado.

Denver is not on my radar for a place to live. I’d been to Denver and Boulder back in the 1990’s when my campus environmental organization was affiliated with a larger parent group called SEAC— Student Environmental Action Coalition. As I write this, I wondered if SEAC was still functioning and sure enough it is! One of the first SEAC conferences ever held was in Boulder, CO and I went there with my group called SCAPE (Students Concerned About Protecting the Environment) from Mississippi State University back in the early 90’s.

SEAC

I’ve always liked Boulder, but it’s too pricey for me, so our trip to Denver was to see the friends we’d met. Astra found a kindred spirit and I met some lovely people with whom I enjoyed spending time. Vicky is a chemical engineer and Awon teaches creative writing and their daughter Emma is about the age of my students & I found much to talk about with everyone. Maddie and Astra who are about to enter the fourth grade were inseparable and talk about how they met and why they are going to be life long friends in the video below. It’s very sweet and I hope it will serve as a memento for them in the future.

Astra & Maddie: Kindred Spirits

We tootled around Cripple Creek, a town that has capitalized on converting older structures into casinos and of course there are wild donkeys that run free about the place and have the right of way. I did video Cripple Creek, but I could not find anyone to really talk with me except I did get the scoop from our waitress about the schools. She had an unfortunate experience with the local elementary school with regard to her daughter’s progress. I made some suggestions, though she did not want to be interviewed. It’s a small town so I can’t blame her. I may include a few clips. It’s not anything I find particularly illuminating except for my quest to find the grocery store after circling the town two times and finding nothing. Astra and I decided that Cripple Creek was a place to visit, but not a place to live. However, we did find a town we really liked and there is video of it.

The next video is from Divide, Colorado, a town west of Colorado Springs in the mountains. We popped into Venture Foods and a lady asked not to be interviewed but directed us next door to Darryl AKA Darren Thornberry and his interview is below. Astra was present for nearly all of the interviews & this one is her favorite. After we left she remarked, “That was the best interview ever, mom!” Darren’s flair makes him a great front man for his band and I was lucky to meet him. You see I woke this last morning of our adventure weary from road travel and dreading finding no one and nothing of interest. I should not have despaired, because the universe smiled on me and I had a great day.

Darren Thornberry

Thorn’s Musical Journey

I continued to drive east towards Colorado Springs and entered the town of Woodland Park where Darren actually resides and I can understand why he would choose to live there. The size, layout, scenery, businesses and activities all screamed ‘live here Sher.’ As were driving through town I saw a sign for the farmer’s market that day and pulled over and headed over to it. If there is one good place to meet people and find out about an area it’s a local market. I was fortunate to meet some like-minded folks from the Harvest Center. I was impressed by the work they have accomplished in Woodland Park to help bring about a sustainable living area. The video below contains scenes from the farmer’s market and an interview with Lee Willoughby from the Harvest Center.

Woodland Park Farmer’s Market & The Harvest Center

The Harvest Center

The next stop was Manitou Springs and if it had not been 100 degrees outside I might have spent more time exploring the area. It reminded me of Eureka Springs, Arkansas and I suspect it’s a popular day spot for Colorado Springs residents. I took some video here and spoke with a young lady who divulged to me off camera that she had a poor experience living in Fort Collins owing to the meth problem in the city. This would not prevent me from moving there since it appears from all the billboards of meth stained teeth throughout Colorado that communities are working hard to remove this drug problem. Here is the clip. I also had the good fortune to eat some of the best falafel ever in a restaurant called the Heart of Jerusalem Cafe. It’s on the video. Take a look:

Manitou Springs

The last video I filmed in Cripple Creek outside our cabin and it’s my goodbye and thank you to all the amazing people I encountered in my travels. Seeing the people, walking the streets, driving around aimlessly exploring potential cities and towns has given me a foothold and confidence to relocate to these areas that I would not have had if I’d stayed in Texas all summer. I was especially attracted to the Flathead Valley in Montana, but then I liked nearly all the valleys I visited ~ the Skagit and the Rogue~ and would feel fortunate to live in an area where sustainability is at the forefront of community development. If we met, please watch the video to allow my sincerest of thanks in person.

Sher says goodbye from Cripple Creek, CO

Montana— Big Sky Country

July 8th, 2010 2 Comments »

The state of Montana always elicits a sort of dreamy-eyed wildness when mentioned. Montana has a low population, vast undisturbed wilderness and fosters independence in all who reside there. My trek through Montana was in western Montana, as I had seen eastern Montana and knew I would prefer being closer to the mountains.
I had also met someone from Kalispell last spring (my Farmer’s Insurance agent) and she encouraged me to check it out and so I did. First, let me say all of the Flathead Valley was lovely and though I liked the Skagit Valley in WA and the Rogue Valley in OR, I finally had the kick in the head moment I’d been waiting for all this time. I could see myself there and was sad to leave it.
My first video of the area is from an unlikely place, but it caught my eye and I just could not rest until I got to see it and make a movie about it. It was called the Humane Society of Northwest Montana which is located on the northern end of Kalispell. A nice young man named Dennis was my tour guide and I was very impressed with this facility especially since it highlights the possibilities for a community and for people who may have the option to leave something special that benefits people and animals.

Northwest Humane Society & a tour with Dennis

My friend Barry Dopp who lives in Challis, Idaho told me I had to visit a little town near Glacier National Park called Polebridge. He said they had an incredible bakery & a funky July 4th Parade that while he had never seen, he’d heard was a blast. Astra and I were staying just north of Kalispell, camping, freezing and having a decent time besides that. So the morning of July 4th rolled around and we were still on Pacific time and woke late and hit breakfast late, too. I struggled to find the time the parade started on line and when I did locate it, we had to scramble to get there by noon.
Polebridge is not on many maps as it’s tiny and situated around Glacier National Park and the Flathead National Forest. We were headed through the park but I could not find any road signs directing me to use that road so I stopped at a gas station outside the park and a young woman explained to me that I should take a short cut due to the traffic and delays. She wrote them down and they sounded like a wild goose chase over dirt roads with turns and twists, but they worked!! We arrived 10 minutes before the parade and I am so glad we made the trip. Take a look at this— the 4th will never be the same.

July 4th, 2010 Parade in Polebridge, MT~ 22 miles south of the Canadian Border near Glacier National Park

On my travels through Kalispell I was looking for folks to interview and I met two nice young people (I know that sounds I am their grandmother, but I am due to hit 40 soon) and they were trying to help me find something to video. After a few minutes discussion I finally decided that it was them I should interview. They were both exceptionally friendly and articulate and were great examples for their community.

Tierney & Josh~ Kalispell Montana

We stayed in Kalispell over the July 4th weekend and I stayed in a KOA between Kalispell and Whitefish. My KOA experience was great and if you are reluctant to camp, give them a try. It’s a great introduction and I always meet fantastic people. I spent the 4th celebrating with Canadians mostly from Alberta and though it was not their national holiday, they had a great time shooting off fireworks & kicking back! Our neighbors to the North are a jovial, easy going nation. Love ’em.

Below are two videos from this time. One is an interview with Walter, one of the owners and the other is from Astra sharing her experiences about camping and the trip. She overcame a hurdle this summer and proved that her tenacity will be a life long trait. Both videos contain the same footage at the end, but I felt obliged to include it in Walter’s interview for the KOA since it will likely get more hits on YouTube.

Kalispell KOA Independent Website

Kalispell KOA

Astra’s Update and the Wild Petting Zoo

I left Kalispell and headed south down to Missoula, a cool town I’ve always liked that mushroomed over the last ten years and left me in shock, as I suppose even college towns are not insulated from urban sprawl. I didn’t video it because along the way I spotted a sign for the National Bison Range and I turned off the main highway decided to check it out. If you hear me say on video that we are going to ‘check it out’ and that sounds contrived to you, just know that it almost always happened that way. Some footage was planned, but normally I saw a place or event that caught my eye and stopped. I would get this feeling like someone was poking me and I knew I had to stop.

The National Bison range is administered by the Department of the Interior, the same branch that handles the National Park Service, The BLM, Fish and Wildlife Service and many other agencies. The Forest Service actually falls under the USDA. This place is blessed with vistas that brought me to tears. The wildlife was intriguing and caused much excitement for everyone, but all I could think was that the Flathead Valley was the mythical Eden. The video includes some great shots of calves with their mothers. However there were some people trying to walk up to these bison which to me were much less acclimated to humans than the bison in Yellowstone. A female became very agitated while we and other folks were near the calves (in our cars except for a few idiots). She snorted, stomped her hooves and fixed me with a glare that sent a chill down my spine. It was the animal equivalent of you are about to cross a line– back off now. I pulled forward a bit and Astra videoed a special shot of a mother and calf nursing. It makes me sad that there is no real open range anymore. Even this area was fenced off though the deer and antelope can probably go where they like.

The National Bison Range: Flathead Valley

Astra made her own movie one day and wanted everyone to know that she was on the trip too and working just as hard as me to find a new place to live so we agreed she would video one day. I am proud of this movie. Astra is only 9 years old and she did a great job with her movie.

Astra’s Mini Movie: Idaho and Montana

Occasionally I would receive suggestions from people I met along the way. When I was in Kalispell one rainy morning Astra and I chanced by a park and pulled over to walk around the medium sized pond that had many geese. I met a young guy and we chatted a bit and he’d had good experiences in Darby and recommended I see it. I knew I would pass through Darby on my way to Idaho and decided to stop and see if I could find someone to talk with me. I met a remarkable young woman named Becka who had developed a nice life for herself and I was very surprised that at such a young age she seemed so grounded. Her interview and scenes from Darby and the luscious candy shop where she worked are in this video:

Darby, Montana & Becka Marshall

This video was actually filmed in Idaho and since I don’t have an Idaho section, I am placing it here because it occurred around the same time period. Everyone I met and videoed was a stranger with the exceptions of Jen and my friends the Kublers with whom I evacuated Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Jen Purvine has been my friend for about 15 years. We met in Idaho City, ID when we had both been working on the Boise National Forest and have remained close ever since. Jen has Renaissance qualities; she is good at so many things and lives her life fully, always learning more and her enthusiasm never seems to waiver. She is one of the few people in my life that I can turn to for an unfettered opinion. Jen and I also share a strong sense of duty and equanimity towards all living things. She leads by example and the least significant of creatures does not go uncared for on her farm. I think her unique qualities should not be hidden away in the middle of Idaho and more people should know her and what she does. During her interview, I did prompt her to reveal the overall cost for caring for these animals to make a point that asking folks to take on rescued animals implies a permanent financial responsibility for the life of the animal. I think people often neglect this fact when trying find homes for unwanted pets.

Jen lives in Challis, Idaho which is geographically isolated in either direction on the highway, 60 miles north or south of any other city. It sits in a valley through which the Salmon River flows.

Challis Idaho Local Webpage

Rescue Farm

Washington

June 27th, 2010 No Comments »

We are in Washington now and have passed through Seattle staying only one night and managed to stop and see Mt St Helen’s that same day too; they have a terrific visitor center right off I-5 with a perfect view of the mountain.

I find Seattle nestled in trees and if anything were to sway my affections it would be trees, but like Austin, Seattle sprawls onward into Everett and south to Tacoma and is too big for me. I might consider a town east of Seattle if I could find one that was not too big and not too small. I am like Goldie Locks the home seeker!

Bellingham is lovely, but I much preferred the Skagit Valley where I was fortunate once again to be allowed to video a new place— Sakuma Brothers Farm. We also drove Chuckanut Drive along the Samish Bay and it was exquisite.

Sakuma Brothers Farm

Reflecting on Tami’s interview and tour of the farm, I realized that maintaining family owned farms is a community effort. Sakuma Brothers has been successful for two reasons: one, they diversified their crops and continue to try new things and two, their investment into outreach has created a personal connection to the family and the crops they grow. It’s not enough to know where your food comes from— you to also know your farmer.

Integrating family owned farms into a community landscape to provide locally grown food is the future of all rural and urban areas in the United States. We have to quit shipping food 3000 miles because it has ceased to become cost-effective or environmentally solvent. This farm is an example of a local food source that is known and appreciated.

Sakuma Brother’s Market Stand

We filmed Mt Vernon, Bellingham & Fairhaven a few days ago and then went on to relax in the Cascades. I have a video of those three cities to put together and another one I’m making of Hwy 2, plus some footage of Eagle Creek Ranch. We should have a break tomorrow night and I might have them ready to upload by then. We are leaving Washington soon and I wish I had more time, but funds are getting tighter and we will have to return to Austin some time in the next three weeks.

Below are clips from Bellingham & Fairhaven which proved to be extremely difficult for me until the very end when a lovely lady named Cindy (sp?) agreed to speak with me. Prior to that I had been shut down by three people. A first for me. My ego took a beating with three straight rejections.

Bellingham & Fairhaven

We also visited Mt Vernon and I shot some video there. I liked Mt Vernon and it seemed friendly and engaging. Thanks to Ruth & David for telling me to be sure to stop there and take a look around.

Mt Vernon WA, Skagit Valley

Last but not least, I have a video of Hwy 2 in Washington that took several days and many clips to put together and it may be a while before I have it ready. This whole trip has had a few blips here and there— equipment issues — either camping or lack of WIFI or electricity for my computer and video camera which slow things down for processing. The slowness has been good since I usually have an extremely busy schedule. We stayed in the KOA around Leavenworth for about three days and explored the area. I was just happy to be camped next to the Wenatchee River and slept soundly each night as it flowed past us below. I met a friend here at this location and that chance encounter reinforced my decision to make the trip. It had a very serendipitous feeling to it & I never looked back after that.

Hwy 2 Road Trip Central WA: A wild ride through beautiful mountain country along the Wenatchee & Columbia Rivers

This final movie is from Eagle Creek Ranch near Leavenworth, WA. We met a lovely couple Michael and Susan who operated this horseback riding outfit. It was a very special trip for Astra as she loves animals, especially dogs and horses.

Eagle Creek Ranch Trail Ride

Western Oregon

June 19th, 2010 4 Comments »

Welcome to Oregon! I have never actually lived here, but I did work one year in Milton-Freewater, Oregon teaching high school science. I lived across the border in Walla Walla, Washington. I loved the valley of the Blue Mountains because of the locally grown fruits and vegetables; I remember buying a box of Fuji apples for six dollars. At that time I had no idea about the varieties of apples, much less the difference between a Fuji or Braeburn apple. Did I ever learn! One year in Eastern Oregon and at least I can now differentiate among several varieties.

At the moment we have passed through Cave Junction and are now in Medford. You can always tell a lot about a town by the quality of its library and the Medford Library is superb! Additionally the wireless is super fast and we are here uploading video and I’m relieved that it won’t take me hours.

This video was taken yesterday and just by chance we stopped for lunch at a place called The River Valley Restaurant. None of my interviews or videos thus far have been planned. Rather they have spontaneously occurred in the moment, popping up like mushroom patches along the way.

A Souper Moment

We’ve been to Medford, Ashland and are now in Corvallis. I do have video to upload of these places, but tonight— the Solstice we chanced upon a place called the Fireworks Restaurant. It was next to the First Alternative Co-op which we filmed earlier in the day with an all access pass! We passed The Fireworks and noticed this place served gluten-free pizza and I felt Astra deserved this treat. The real treat wasn’t just the pizza. It was the place! They had cob structures just like the ones at the Solar Living Institute and they sourced all their food. I like Corvallis. It’s like Austin only about a 1/20 of the size.
The Fireworks Restaurant

Medford was nice & I had contemplating moving there. Here is my clip from Bad Ass Coffee:

The local scene at Bad Ass Coffee


Once we arrived in Corvallis Astra and I filmed our two week update. Here’s how we were feeling prior to visiting Corvallis. I should point out we had just woken from deep slumbers and then shot these two clips:

Astra & Sher Two Week Update from Corvallis

Corvallis: So my favorite place. There are several videos of Corvallis below, but the largest and most detailed and the one I had cut down because of the YouTube size restrictions was First Alternative Co-op.
I appreciate the flexibility of the staff in allowing me video any place I wanted to visit.

First Alternative Coop in Corvallis— a stellar example of sustainability

Some nice young women at First Alternative recommended I visit a bike shop and this turned into an exploration of biking in Corvallis. I had planned on interviewing only one store, but I could not resist going to as many as I could in the downtown area. Mike at Cyclotopia summed up what I think quality of life is all about— doing what you like and not being driven to make loads of money. Take a look at this video– it’s quite different and a departure from what I normally do even though I also like to ride my bike. These folks showed a side of Corvallis I never might have encountered.

Biketropolis~ Corvallis Bike Shops

While filming bike shops around Corvallis I bumped into Analise (spelling may be off on her name) and she gave me the flip side of life in the Willamete Valley as compared to Austin:

An Austinite Speaks Out

Portland was restful & fun because I got to spend time with friends. I have been kind of lonely for people my own size and Astra got to see her friend Niko and she and I spent two days with few exchanges which was a good thing as we were getting tired of each other.

Mt Hood (thank you Michael) was breathtaking and I was tickled to see people snowboarding in June. I also got to hit downtown Portland and drink some yummy beers. During our reunion dinner I videoed the story (retold nearly 5 years later) of our evacuation from Hurricane Katrina. It was all fun and laughter over a nice dinner, but it was very hard on all of us and left lasting scars. Life goes and we have all started over. Watch us recall those few fateful days:

Recalling the Hurricane Katrina Evacuation


My final visit in Oregon was Astoria. I’ve always wanted to see this place ever since I saw Goonies when I was a kid. I also have read several books and novels about Lewis & Clark and Astoria features strongly in these. Natural features, big, bold, unusual and unpredictable intrigue me and so it was when I saw the Columbia River. I had seen it before of course in more diminutive form as it passed through Oregon and Washington creating their natural border, but the confluence of the Pacific and the Columbia were chilling. What a waterway!

We visited the Maritime Museum and I learned just how dangerous the sands of the Columbia are to ships and have been since the town’s inception. We dropped by the Flavel House for some town history and of course the beach (where Goonies was filmed) and the magnificent waves of the Pacific. We also stopped at Fort George Brewery in downtown Astoria where I was able to video the process of beer making and learn more about the microbrew industry, and yes drink some beer— wait drink some fabulous beer I should say. I leave Oregon with a heavy heart, since I liked lots of places here, especially Corvallis and Astoria and could happily down in either place.

Fort George Brewery

I struggled through this interview and luckily Spencer was an easy going presenter because after I tasted all of the beers— some of which had an alcohol content of upwards near 8% my face felt like play-dough. I went to the restroom complete with really cool murals that I could not fit into the clip and splashed cold water on my face and told myself I was a professional. I took a deep breath and headed out to the interview. Once I was moving I felt more coherent. What a wild ride. Astra stayed behind to enjoy what can only be described as an unusual cheesecake recipe: bacon maple cheesecake. She allowed me a small taste and it was delicious, so if you ever stop in for the beer, save some room for the cheesecake, too.
The Fort George Brewery

Northern California: Capitola, Swanton, Sonoma, Hopland & Redwoods

June 15th, 2010 1 Comment »

We are currently traveling through Northern California and I have several great videos that I will post soon. Our respite for now is to hike around the Redwoods National Forest. We have filmed all the places listed in the title. I have been fortunate to meet and interview some unique people who live in parts of California that are stunning examples of sustainability.

Swanton Berry Farm was unbelievable to me. It’s located just off the coast, a few hundred yards and there was a low fog broken by sunlight the Sunday afternoon we passed through the area. The farm is u-pick or you can buy yourself. They make pies, jams, other confections and you pay on the honor system. All employees have health benefits and all berries are organically grown. I stepped into a piece of America as it should be. Small, local, fair, sustainable and it gave me great hope that one our nation will have more places where people can go and buy their food and know the person who grows it.

Swanton Berry Farms, Hwy 1, Northern CA

Swanton Berry Farm

I landed in Sonoma courtesy of Donna that I met through NHNE and she hosted Astra, Stella and me for the evening where we shared a lovely meal of Thai food and toured Sonoma. The town is has a rich history and maintains many historical sites, the plaza being its center piece. The next morning we were headed north and I stopped to video before we left. I hit an amazing cheese shop and got some great footage or so I thought. Later I realized I had turned the video camera off and was not filming. Luckily I saw a lady in purple flitting about on the steps of the Convention Center and something told me she was the one. Sure enough, she was! Pat gave me a great interview and provided information about the area that might be of interest to many.

Pat of Sonoma, CA

My tour of the Solar Living Institute was exciting for me because sustainability isn’t just something I would like to have happen in the United States. It’s how I try to live my life, sometimes in the face of opposing situations, but I still press on towards this type of lifestyle. Meeting Patti, Roby & Sarah was a treat for me. Patti spoke to me off camera about the trip we were making and gave me some advice that stuck with me. She and Roby had made a similar journey years before and while they had not found their ideal spot, in the end it didn’t matter. It’s the process that is important. She was right in the end. After all that happened one thing I ended up with was fearlessness. If you have try and maybe try various jobs, places and even people before you can find the right fit. Being afraid to try is what keeps most people stagnating their whole lives.

Solar Living Institute & REAL GOODS

The Solar Living Institute

Roby & Patti’s Blog 96 square feet

I spent two extra days in northern California than I had originally planned. One, I was tired, two there was much to see, three Astra had made a great friend and did not want to leave. Given all the media attention to the economy in California I was not considering it as a potential spot and as I was there traveling north through Hopland, Ukiah, Cloverdale, Santa Rosa, Willits and Arcata I started wondering why not live here? Everyone is howling about money, but the fact is I’ve never had any or owned a big house and had to live frugally. How is it any different from where I am now except smaller, close to the ocean and mountains with an emphasis on sustainability. However I was surprised at how poor the Crescent City area was give the access to the Redwoods National Park.

This last video is from Trees of Mystery, a privately owned tourist attraction that to me also embodies low impact tourism and maintains the natural resource. We had a great time on this trip even though we were crazy enough to attempt the advanced hiker trail. The advanced portion of this is the steepness of the trail. Still I consider this visit a favorite place and would encourage you to visit it if you are in the area.

Trees of Mystery

Trees of Mystery

GBW Maiden Video: Sedona, AZ June 11, 2010

June 11th, 2010 2 Comments »

Astra and I filmed on Red Rock Loop on a windy afternoon. With some highly skilled assistance from David Sunfellow and our new camera equipment (a Kodak Zi8 HD video recorder and awesome tripod) we were able to make our first video.

Looking for folks to tell me about their town

June 2nd, 2010 4 Comments »

The search for a new home may be a less than scientific process because I
have given up looking in online databases for “the best places to live”. If
I went by the statistics for housing, crime or cost living then I would not
know where to go. I am simply lost in all the data. So it’s time to pack the
Prius and set out like a pioneer. It must have been an incredibly empowering
moment when after months of hauling all your belongings in a covered wagon
you came upon a valley or river bend and knew that you had found home.

My home quest will begin in northern California taking me up the Oregon and
Washington coasts with potential detours, then crossing northern Washington
and heading into northern Montana. I have a planned stop in Kalispell, MT. I
met a nice woman from Kalispell last year — she was my Farmer’s Insurance
agent who came to our area after a spring of hailstorms. During our
conversation she told me about her hometown. She spoke of the people and
lifestyle of this town and ever since then I’ve wanted to visit it. I’ve
also applied for a few jobs in Montana — Anaconda, Missoula and Great Falls
and while I didn’t make second cut for the federal jobs, I’d still like to
see these places. After that I will head south into Wyoming and finally wrap
up my search in Colorado before returning to Austin.

During this journey I plan to collect my own data informally as I pass
through the states mentioned above interviewing local people to find out
about their hometowns. I have a few folks lined up already, but I would like
to use a network of ‘friends of friends’ like the kind that exists on
Facebook. My travels will be presented in a kind of blogumentary with video, pictures and journal entries. The interviews will be videoed and uploaded onto
http://greatbluewanderers.com . So if you or a good natured friend or family
member would be willing to spare some time this summer, I’d like to hear
from you. I can be contacted at sher@greatbluewanderers.com.

The interviews will take place in and around your local area, not at your
home. We would meet somewhere that you feel epitomizes the spirit of your
hometown, maybe a market or town center and the interview would take at
least 30 minutes. I might gather other footage too and interview people on
the street if they are willing to talk with me so your information would be
part of a possible series I collect for that area. Your interview would be
public access so anyone could view it online, so be sure you don’t say
anything you don’t want recorded for posterity.

My intention is to get honest opinions about the places I see so if you feel
the economy is not so good in your area or the city is not planning well for
the future, then by all means feel free to say so; I expect that each place
will have some extraordinary things and some challenging ones too. The goal
for me is to collect enough information to narrow done my search for a new
home and if I am lucky enough I will have that “aha moment” like the
pioneers did and find my spot along the way. However, the universe generally
makes me work pretty hard for all my epiphanies so I expect I’ll have to
visit all the areas I am considering before making any decisions.

How our quest came about…

May 24th, 2010 1 Comment »

Great Blue Herons are majestic water birds that soar above creeks, bayous, suburbs, highways, and vast undisturbed swaths of wetlands. Upon landing they glide with an innate sense of purpose and set down smartly as if that perfect spot were always known to them.  Humans have not such grace or poise with their landings. The lucky few manage to land feet first. The rest of us plant faces or land with great big thuds, fracturing bones and bruising our bodies. It’s nature’s joke. We have one of the most highly developed brains on the planet, but that doesn’t necessarily mean we know how to use them. I want to learn to land like the Great Blue Heron, gently and feet first.

We came to Austin after Hurricane Katrina because we had to go somewhere and it was suggested I head to the Texas capital where my youngest brother and his family resided. (Visit my Hurricane Katrina Blog.) There was nothing left of what used to be and the daily ritual of detours because few bridges were still intact, coupled with a sea of slabs where houses used to be was just too much. I needed work and hoped I could find it in Austin and we needed to start over. It was a rather simple decision. When you are in refugee mode, you move on as best you can, hoping soon the fog will clear and you can see the why of what happened to you. It’s been almost 5 years and the why still eludes me. It was a natural disaster so I can’t take it too personally. There are thousands of people like me who walked away and had to start over. I can’t believe I moved somewhere without a job first and I can’t believe I am considering it again only for very different reasons.

Sometimes an insignificant moment can precipitate the most amazing transformation. It was the quiet of the morning, driving to school and mulling over jobs I had applied for in several states when my nine-year old daughter said, “It seems strange to leave a place that you never even called home.” I told her that I liked Austin, but it never really felt like home. She nodded. “It doesn’t feel like it to me either, mommy.”

We had discussed this once before. Austin didn’t feel like home. It has great people, delicious food, live music, over a million Mexican free-tail bats, and stimulating culture and if you were a big city person, then Austin, Texas would be it for you. I am not a big city person. I need more land and less suburbia. I like towns that I can drive out of in 20 minutes. I can drive for an hour and still be in Austin. For 18 months I have been looking for jobs, mostly federal in other states and though I make the first cut, no one ever calls me for an interview. The economy is tight right now and there are a lot of displaced workers waiting to slide into those spots.

It was during this morning ride to work that I realized I needed to feel home, sense it in a deep meaningful way and settle on a place where my heart could melt into the land and never desire to escape. The first part of this journey begins with a quest for a more permanent nest. I am sure all Great Blue Herons would approve.