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A Weekend on the Tennessee River

Sunrise Along the Tennessee River

“Where the Tennessee River, like a silver snake, winds her way through the clay hills …” -William Clay Handy

 

Where I live, there aren’t many places to go where you can’t see or hear another person. Cincinnati is like most U.S. cities — filled with cars and highways and buses and buildings. But for those of us with a wandering heart, when we live in a city, it’s especially nice to get away once in a while.

Over Labor Day weekend, my family and I packed into the car and headed south across the Ohio River, through Kentucky and the Smoky Mountains into Tennessee.

It wasn’t the first time we’ve been there, certainly, but this time it was beautiful — maybe more than other times.

Along the Tennessee River

A place feels a lot like magic when the sun shines bright despite a forecast of rain and the water is smooth as glass. It’s surreal when a Bald Eagle soars overhead and an Osprey dives into the river and flies out with a hulking fish. It’s incredible when the sun rises through the Smoky Mountain fog, and when hours later the moon leaves a silver trail upon the midnight water.

Those are the enchanted places which restore the city dweller’s soul. Those are the places where a roadtrip can lead and make a difference in our lives. We can see with new eyes. We can become restored.

That place might be just down the road for you. For me, earlier this month, it was alongside the Tennessee River …

A Weekend on the Tennessee River:

Along the Tennessee River

Along the Tennessee River

A diving Osprey along the TN River
A diving Osprey along the TN River
With a successful catch, the osprey along the TN River
With a successful catch, the osprey along the TN River

Fishermen along the TN River

Along the Tennessee River

Sunrise Along the Tennessee River

Have you ventured on a roadtrip recently? If so, where? Please share in the comments below … thanks and have a great week!

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Half Moon Bay, California: a Photojournal

Half Moon Bay, CA, in fog

“It seemed like a matter of minutes when we began rolling in the foothills before Oakland and suddenly reached a height and saw stretched out ahead of us the fabulous white city of San Francisco on her eleven mystic hills with the blue Pacific and its advancing wall of potato-patch fog beyond, and smoke and goldenness in the late afternoon of time.” ― Jack Kerouac, On the Road

 

Two weeks ago, my oldest son and I ventured across country for a Mom-Son Road Trip. It was one of the greatest adventures I’ve gone on, and one I hope to make a tradition with my younger two sons when they’re 15-years-old (I wrote about why here last week).

One of the most beautiful places we saw while in California was Half Moon Bay, a legendary crescent moon-shaped beach just south of San Francisco.

The road leading west into Half Moon Bay winds with tight curves across a high ridge of mountains. We followed a lumbering truck up and around to the peak in the road, and from the east, the colors were brilliant–the blue of an inland lake reflecting a brilliant sky, the evergreen trees and brighter green farmland and the amber-colored hills. But when we reached the top, we expected Pacific blue, as far as we could see, and instead found it shrouded in dense fog, the whole landscape a pale monochrome.

After we arrived, we realized even with a wall of fog hugging the coastline, Half Moon Bay is still a stunning beauty.

Half Moon Bay
The Cliffs

The cliffs at Half Moon Bay are high, and run along the entire crescent beach–like no other beach I’ve seen. The color and layers of the rock are beautiful, and ice plants cascade over the edge.

Half Moon Bay, California, in fog
Half Moon Bay, California, in fog
Half Moon Bay, California, in fog
Pelicans

Instead of the legendary surfers, we watched pelicans glide across the waves, and a trio of dolphin passed by us a few meters from the shore.

Taken by my son, Me at Half Moon Bay, CA
Taken by my son: Me, at Half Moon Bay, CA

We were the only ones on the beach.

Half Moon Bay, CA, in fog
Half Moon Bay, CA, in fog

The fog, the absence of color and other people, made Half Moon Bay atmospheric, and lovely.

Half Moon Bay, CA, in fog
Facing south

Half Moon Bay was beautiful swathed in thick clouds, leached of color. I loved every moment there.

Have you visited Half Moon Bay? What were the conditions when you visited? Sunny with surfers? Foggy?

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Why the Mom-Son Road Trip is Our New Tradition

Half Moon Bay, CA, Tyler and Me, July 2014, Mom-Son Road Trip

Your children need your presence more than your presents. ~Jesse Jackson

 

 

It started early in January of 1999 when my first son was a couple of weeks old. I had learned to change diapers from the hospital nurses, and I’d mastered the art of the midnight change. And somewhere in the midst of the sleep, alone-time, and shower deprivation, I realized it all was going way too fast. My son was growing, eating, thriving — all things he was supposed to be doing — and yet I yearned for a way to pause it, to soak in his first attempts at smiles, the smells and the feel of his tiny grasp on mine. Time still marched onward.

Jennifer Lyn King
Me, 11mo Tyler, and Jesse our Boxer, 1999

I count myself lucky. I’ve gotten to be around for the first teeth, the first loose tooth, the first bicycle ride, the first day of preschool, kindergarten, middle, and even high school.

Joy in the simple things, Tyler at 11 months
Joy in the simple things, Tyler at 11 months

And now my first son, about to start his 10th grade year of high school, is taking SAT and driver’s training classes. He’s several inches taller than me (and I’m 5’11”). And he’s working hard and spreading his wings.

He’s doing just what he’s supposed to be doing: he’s growing up.

The Mom-Son Road Trip

I think there is a magical opportunity at 15 years of age when a teenager can’t quite drive on their own yet, but has begun to focus on specific interests. After listening to others who have experience and opinions about doing the same type of trip with their children, fifteen-years-of-age seems to be the perfect time.

Our family enjoys having family dinners around a big table, every night we can. Sometimes we talk about where we’d like to travel next. My oldest son, for the past year, has repeatedly expressed interest in seeing California. And I credit my husband for latching onto that nugget, and especially for encouraging me to take that trip with our oldest son.

Where did he want to go? California. And so, with a couple of frequent flyer plane tickets and hotel stays in hand, we made that trip come true last week.

Truly, it was amazing. We drove oodles of miles (LA – Monterey / Salinas – San Francisco / Sausalito – Los Angeles – San Diego / Coronado) and dipped our toes into as many beaches, sands, and places along the Pacific as we could. But most of all, we were there, together.

Half Moon Bay, CA, Tyler and Me, July 2014, Mom-Son Road Trip
Half Moon Bay, CA, Tyler and Me, July 2014, Mom-Son Road Trip (his black eye courtesy of high school basketball)

The memories will last a lifetime.

I am so grateful.

3 Reasons Why I’m Making the Mom – 15yo Son Road Trip a Family Tradition:

1. To slow down the clock. My boys are growing up too fast.

 

Salinas, CA, July 2014, Mom-Son Road Trip
Salinas, CA (Steinbeck-land), July 2014, Mom-Son Road Trip

2. To seize the opportunity to step out of time and routine.

We must take adventures to know where our hearts truly belong. We must take adventures together to know who holds our hearts.

3. To go someplace / travel somewhere he’s never been, show him a world beyond what he knows and make memories for a lifetime.

 

Mom-Son Road Trip, the experience of a lifetime
Mom-Son Road Trip, the experience of a lifetime

My other two younger sons may choose to go tent camping beside the local river (entirely possible!), and that’s okay. I think the most important part of the entire experience is to actually BE THERE. To stop time and do something special, beyond the normal everyday, beyond sports trips or family trips or other reasons to go someplace, and to actually go where they want. That is presence.

I feel it deeply, but this is one thing I’ve done in my life that by the end, I know I will look back and smile upon. It’s one of the most important things I’ve done in my life: the Mom-15yo Son Road Trip.

It was the best possible gift — time together with my son. Unforgettable. Priceless. I’m grateful.

 

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The Lighthouse: Portland Head Light

Portland Head Light

“Steadfast, serene,

immovable, the same,

Year after year, through

all the silent night

Burns on forevermore

that quenchless flame,

Shine on that

inextinguishable light!”

-Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, “The Lighthouse”

 

I have always loved lighthouses. I’ve photographed lighthouses lining Lake Michigan and Erie, the coast of Maine and the Eastern seaboard, the lights in California, Italy, Sweden, Belgium, Croatia, Spain, Greece, and on — I cannot stay away. There is something about the light, steady, sure, along a treacherous shore that I love.

The Lighthouse: Portland Head Light

When I was a teen, I bought my first D. Morgan print, and then later, a magnet, and now, I keep D. Morgan’s gorgeous gift book, A LIGHT FOR THE JOURNEY near to my writing chair. Her paintings are distinctive, and her poems, within her art, perfectly frame the subject of her work. My favorites of her work are her lighthouses series.

Every time I travel a coast, I love to look for a lighthouse, but my favorite in all my travels thus far is the Portland Head Light in Portland, Maine. This year, my family and I stopped there as part of our summer roadtrip.

Portland Head Light, July 2014
Portland Head Light, July 2014

It had been 10 years since I’d seen the Portland Head Light, and in 2004, I’d ventured out on the rocks to take a photograph. This month, in 2014, the path getting down to the rocks was nothing less than treacherous. But still I had to go. In a dress. My husband captured this photo of me out on the rocks:

Me, at Portland Head Light
That’s Me, out along the rocks at Portland Head Light, taking a photograph

The Portland Head Light changes in the shifting light. I love it in high summer, drenched with blue from the sea and sky, standing regal along the rocks.

Portland Head Light

The great revolving light on the cliff at the channel flashed warm and golden against the clear northern sky, a trembling, quivering star of good hope. – L.M. Montgomery, Anne’s House of Dreams

the rocks along the Portland, Maine coast

There are two ways of spreading light: To be the candle or the mirror that reflects it. -Edith Wharton

Portland Maine Lighthouse

Give light, and the darkness will disappear of itself. -Erasmus

 

For you: Do you have a favorite lighthouse?

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Niagara Falls, a Photo Tour

Niagara Falls

“The grandeur of God reveals itself through simple things” ― Paulo Coelho

 

When my family and I lived in Europe, we traveled everywhere we could, as often as we could. Usually by car, a few times by plane, we visited more than twenty countries and learned more in every way than we ever could have imagined. Actually going to a place and being able to fully experience it — to feel the texture of the land, see the colors and the architecture, hear the sounds, smell the smells, meet the people, eat the foods, speak the language — is crucial to understanding, to having a wide world-view. Travel is important.

We visited common places in Europe, ones we knew our boys’ American schoolmates would ask them about when we returned. Most Americans know Paris and the Eiffel Tower, and Rome and the Coliseum. And though we experienced much more than these European landmarks while in Europe, they were also important to touch and see.

It is similar now that we are back in the United States. Our boys are older now (two teens, one preteen) and they’re catching up on their knowledge of their home country. While they can identify every European country on a blank map, give most currencies used there, and speak many words in several of the European languages, they have a deficit when it comes to the US. And so we’re working hard to help catch them up …

12 States and 2500 Miles

Last week, I wrote about and shared a few photos from our summer road-trip … it was wonderful! As I’m getting through the oodles of photographs I took while we traveled, I’m posting some of my favorites here, place by place, for the next few weeks.

Niagara Falls

Our first stop was Niagara Falls, one of our most important US landmarks, one as American as apple pie.

Niagara Falls
Niagara Falls

I visited Niagara Falls many years ago, from the Canadian side and from one of the tour boats. During this visit, I felt awestruck by the sheer power of the Falls. It is reported that at its peak flow 2,832 cubic meters of water go over the falls each second (a good site for more info).

Niagara Falls, USA
Niagara Falls, USA

I don’t know if it was because this time, we chose to see the Falls from the American side, which involved lots of walking (which is good for teens to burn off some steam!), but also offered a close-up stand-almost-touching-distance from the water view, but the grandeur of the entire Falls was stunning.

Niagara Falls

 

Niagara Falls

Niagara Falls

And as the sun set, the light caught the water at just the right angle and the Falls became luminous.

Niagara Falls

The sunset was beautiful, too.

Niagara Falls

Certainly, Niagara Falls knows how to show off.

Niagara Falls

Have you visited Niagara Falls? What was your favorite place / way to view the waterfalls?

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23 Countries & 5 Seas: My 3 Years in Prague Travel Log

Stunning Switzerland

“The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.” – Saint Augustine of Hippo

In the past few years, since my family and I moved to Europe from the US Midwest, I’ve had the opportunity to see and travel to far more places than I ever dreamed. It’s been one incredible adventure.

Dubrovnik
Dubrovnik

During that time, I’ve written dozens of posts on my travels around Europe, from places like Dubrovnik to Paris, from Sweden to Tuscany. We’ve traveled to 23 countries in Europe, and dipped our toes in 5 seas!

 


visited 24 countries (10.6%)

I thought I’d compile a list as a blog post to share here. Following, a list of many of my Posts on Travel:

 

Italy's Amalfi coast from a hike along the Trail of the Gods

Italy’s Amalfi coast from a hike along the Trail of the Gods

“A mind that is stretched by a new experience can never go back to its old dimensions.” -Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.

 

For you: Most of our travels have been by car from Prague. Lots and lots of roadtrips! Where is your favorite place to travel on a roadtrip?

 

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Autumn Views from the Austrian Alps: a Photojournal

Austrian Alps in autumn

“The Hills are alive …” -The Sound of Music

It’s no secret that I love to travel. My favorite places to venture to are always into mountains or to a beach, anywhere.

Living in Prague has many advantages for its central location in Europe. My family and I have definitely taken roadtrips, and one of our favorites is to the Austrian Alps, to a region east of Salzburg called Salzgammergut. Most Americans know the region as the Sound of Music region. Yes, it is even more beautiful than in the movie!

the View from the Zwolferhorn, Austrian Alps
the View from the Zwolferhorn, Austrian Alps

Years ago, we found a village called St. Gilgen that has drawn us back time and time again over the 3 1/2 years we’ve lived here. I’ve written posts for AOL Travel and many posts here. But in all the times we’ve traveled to St. Gilgen, we’ve never gone in the autumn, and we’d never hiked the main peak, the Zwölferhorn.

This time, we did. Instead of a ten minute cable car ride, we did the 3 hour hike climb. And it was amazing. So, without further ado, I want to show you the best of the photos I took last weekend.

Autumn Views from the Austrian Alps: a Photojournal

the Austrian Alps, Wolfgangsee
the Austrian Alps, Wolfgangsee
the Austrian Alps, Wolfgangsee
the Austrian Alps, Wolfgangsee

Continue reading Autumn Views from the Austrian Alps: a Photojournal

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Střekov Castle: Stunning Gem of Czech Republic

“Střekov castle is situated in the village Střekov in the city of Ústí nad Labem. It was built at the beginning of the 14th century on a basalt rock above the river Labe to protect the important waterway and to collect duties. Střekov castle enchanted many world known artists notably Richard Wagner who was inspired to write a poem that served as basis for the libretto to the opera Tannhäuser.” -Wikipedia

 

Strekov Castle, Usti nad Labem, Czech Republic
Strekov Castle, Usti nad Labem, Czech Republic

One of the most surprising learnings from my time in Czech Republic has been discovering the number of castles throughout the small country. Czech Republic is roughly the size of the US state of South Carolina, 30, 000 square miles, with about the same number of inhabitants, 1.3 million. But imagine, in a country of that size, Czech Republic has over 2000 castles and palaces.

Strekov Castle, Usti nad Labem, Czech Republic

Strekov Castle, Usti nad Labem, Czech Republic

 

I’ve traveled to see many, and have found a few in places where I never would have expected to find a castle. One is only a few miles from my house.

Strekov Castle, Usti nad Labem, Czech Republic

Recently, my family and I took a roadtrip north to see a castle owned by the Lobkowicz family, renowned for its dark and looming presence above the Elbe River. That castle is Střekov Castle, near the town of Ústí nad Labem, close to the northern German border. (pronounced Strzh-eck-ov)

The View from Strekov Castle, Usti nad Labem, Czech Republic

Bohemian legend says that a maiden once lived in Střekov, the daughter of the Lord over the Castle. She fell in love with a common horseman, yet her father forbid their love. Continue reading Střekov Castle: Stunning Gem of Czech Republic

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The Alps: A Photojournal

the Alps, the charm

Captain von Trapp: It’s the dress. You’ll have to put on another one before you meet the children.
Maria: But I don’t have another one. When we entered the abbey our worldly clothes were given to the poor.
Captain von Trapp: What about this one?
Maria: The poor didn’t want this one.  ~ The Sound of Music

The Austrian Alps have many meanings. To some, they mean great skiing in winter. To others, they make a wonderful place to hike and bike in summer. To many, the Austrian Alps bring the Sound of Music directly to mind. For me, Austria and its beautiful Alpine region means all of the above. I simply love Austria.

A few weeks ago, my family and I drove from Prague to Venice, Italy. The main reason we wanted to drive, despite the ski season traffic, was to experience the views. The Alps are truly glorious in the wintertime, especially on days of blue skies after a heavy snow. It just so happened that this trip, the weather was perfect. Perfect for photographs, too. So, this week, as I work intensely on my work-in-progress novel, I’m posting a photojournal of Austria.

I hope you enjoy the views as much as I do!

The Alps, the View from Italy's Veneto region
The Alps, the View from Italy's Veneto region
Italy into the Alps, near Venice
Italy into the Alps, near Venice
Entering the Italian Alps
Entering the Italian Alps
Near Venice heading north over the Alps, Italy
Near Venice heading north over the Alps, Italy

Continue reading The Alps: A Photojournal

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Paradise Found: My Fourth of July in the Austrian Alps

Paradise Found: St. Gilgen, Austria and the Zwolferhorn

“Though we travel the world over to find the beautiful, we must carry it with us or we find it not.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson, American Poet, 1803-1882

Paradise Found: St. Gilgen, Austria and the Zwolferhorn
Paradise Found: St. Gilgen, Austria and the Zwolferhorn

When I was a girl, I read all the time, and the first book I remember wanting to reread was Johanna Spyri’s HEIDI. If you aren’t familiar with the children’s classic book, HEIDI is about an orphaned girl who comes to live in the Alps with her reclusive grandfather. Like most fans of Heidi, I relished the notion of finding hope in the face of hopelessness, but I also loved the setting of HEIDI: the rugged and beautiful mountains of Europe where man and mountain thrive together. There is something about being in the mountains that connects with who I am. Whether it is in the Tetons or Rockies of the Western United States, the coastal mountains of Maine, or the Alps of Austria, Switzerland, or Italy, my heart sings when I am in the mountains. Luckily for me, my family feels the same way … Continue reading Paradise Found: My Fourth of July in the Austrian Alps