Daymaker - a person who performs acts of kindness with the intention of making the world a better place.
~ David Wagner
, author of Life as a Daymaker; how to change the world by making someone's day ~

DayMaker - any thought, word, or deed that spreads happiness, compassion, or fruitful ideas.
~ Annis Cassells ~

Thursday, October 24, 2013

L is for Las Vegas

Mid-west bumpkins, moving to California in August of 1973, our route took us right through Las Vegas. It was our first time in this storied place that we’d only seen in the movies. But we knew that from glamour, glitz, and gambling to devastation, danger, and despair, all could be found in Las Vegas.

When we hit downtown and saw that iconic hugeous waving cowboy and all the other lights, we could only cheer and stare. Bumpkins. We were bumpkins. Ignorant of Circus Circus, or any accommodations for children, my husband and I took turns gambling. One played the slot machines while the other stood just inside the casino doorway, entertaining our daughters and soaking up the air conditioning. Six-year-old Amina could read, and when she saw a sign that stated “No Children Past This Point,” she took it to heart and made sure that she and Asila, nearly four, stood well back.

Two years later, when my sister Reenié came to visit me in Bakersfield, the opportunity came, and we threw together a spontaneous trip to Las Vegas.  We shoved some money in our pockets so we didn’t have to carry our purses and lit out for the casinos. Reenié was in her mid-20s but looked a lot younger. The security guard thought so, too, and approached her for her I.D. She couldn’t produce it but told him, “That’s my sister over there. She’ll tell you I’m 25.” He followed her over,  I assured him of her age, and we kept playing the nickel slots.

With easy access to Las Vegas from all over the country, it was a perfect place to hold Judy’s family reunion in 2010. Brother Jim secured lodging for us in a lovely time-share resort just off the Strip. We could all be close to each other, cook together and spend family time, and we could partake of all Las Vegas had to offer. One night, the entire group took in a Cirque de Soleil show. Another evening, those who want to go out on the town did, while the homebodies spent a relaxing evening viewing the lights from our 10th floor apartment. 

Friends drove down from Coos Bay one year in December, and we made the journey over with them. Seeing three shows in three nights and ambling the length of the Strip several times, we all enjoyed the time in this captivating city. 

Though I am not much of a gambler, I did discover that I liked playing roulette the several times that I played downtown at the California Club. A friend whose husband was considered a “high roller” coached me through my first evening at the wheel. It was exciting, and I was winning. I could see how folks could get caught up and go overboard. But, my inclination was to stop while I was ahead, so I did walk away $100 to the good that first time.

I’ve had some good times in Las Vegas, and an occasional re-visiting provides all the glitz I need.

~ xoA ~

Saturday, October 19, 2013

K is for Kenya

All my life, like anyone who has ever been to a zoo or seen a movie about Africa, I’ve had a fascination with the magnificent animals. Seeing them in their native habitat was a dream that became a reality in 2005 when Judy and I booked an African Safari to Kenya and Tanzania.

Except for the leopard, the rest of the “Big 5” -- lion, water buffalo, elephant, and rhino -- all showed up.  

Graceful zebras, impalas, and giraffes appeared on a regular basis. 

Our animal-spotting luck held as our knowledgeable guides put us in the exact spot to see the migration of the wildebeest.  

And, one day, we were up close and personal with a pride of lions. The animal life and scenes were every bit as wonderful as I’d anticipated, even more.

But, the most profound experience for me was being on African soil. I’d had no idea the effect it would have on me. 

Stepping off the plane in Nairobi, eager to negotiate through the airport to the baggage claim area, I noticed that the signs were in several languages, including English. That was a relief. Within a short distance, it struck me that everyone who worked in the airport was Black. The bag handlers, airline representatives, customs officers, everyone. I was surrounded by people who resembled me. This had never happened before. I took it all in. Then I noticed feeling an unexpected sense of overwhelming pride and belonging that brought me to tears.

As our days on safari continued, it became evident that many of the Africans with whom I had contact received me a little differently than they did the rest of the folks in our tour group. Workers seemed eager to chat with me.  “How are you liking everything?” several asked. Or, “Is this your first time in Africa?” One morning, a chef at the breakfast buffet set my made-to-order omelet on my plate, smiled and said, “It looks like you have been here before.”

And, indeed, I felt like I’d been there before. The surroundings, language, culture, and customs were different, but it sure felt like home.

~ xoA ~

Sunday, October 13, 2013

J is for Juneau

Alaska had been on Judy’s and my top-ten list for a number of years. In May of 2010, we sailed aboard the Ryndam, a Holland-America cruise ship, navigating through the Inland Passage. On our second day in port, we docked in Juneau, Alaska’s capital city.

A dog-sledding adventure intrigued us as we read about the many possibilities for land tours. Then we talked with the vendors outside our gangplank and found that it wasn't what we had in mind. One company’s tour entailed a group outing in wheeled carts, like on a hayride, pulled by dogs mushing around on a track.  The second dog-sledding option, actually on snow and ice, would involve a helicopter ride and would cost us $495 each.   

Moving down the line to another booth, we came upon a zip-lining excursion. This company promised zip lines to eleven stations, and we were hooked.  It began with a speed boat ride across the Gastenau Channel to Douglas Island, where the guides suited us up in all manner of cables and buckles as well as helmets and gloves. Our cameras were attached to our rigging so we wouldn’t lose them as we zipped along. Then came the instructions for once we were on the course. 

Our guides put us into an ancient truck they called an Ugmog and took us out to the first station. Once there, they gave us further instructions.  We'd use our left hand on the trolley to insure that we stayed forward and straight on the line.  When signaled by our guide on the destination platform, we'd brake by pressing our right palm on the lower zip cable. 

We got the hang of it pretty quickly, and our little group of six zipped across those lines with style!  We laughed, shouted, and whooped as we traversed the zip lines high above the ground and through the trees. It was a thrill. Then, it turned scary. 

Judy was the lead zipper for our longest, fastest run -- over 800 feet.  She disappeared into the canopy, and all went well for the first two-thirds of the run. 

Unbeknownst to all of us waiting at the take-off platform, Judy began to twirl sideways.  We had been instructed to correct that by a little wrist twisting on the control trolley on the top cable.  Instead of this working smoothly as it had before, her shirtsleeve caught between the pulley and the cable wire. This caused her to turn 180 degrees and zip along head first instead of feet first.  Since she could not see the landing platform, she applied her brake hand way too soon. That stopped her 75-80 feet short and required her to haul herself hand-over-hand up to the station, a tedious and time-consuming venture.
Back at the take-off station for this leg, our group and guide Alex waited for the all-clear signal. It would mean that I, already clipped in and ready to zip, could launch.  After what seemed like forever, Alex spoke into the walkie-talkie, asking if everything was clear.  No response then, and no response the next four times she posed the question.  I was worried. When I finally got the "go", I took off, zipping at breakneck speed. When Judy came into view, I lost focus and went roaring toward the landing platform.  Too late, I saw Martin's signal to slow down. By then, he had already used the emergency cord brake to slow me down; I floated in for a perfect two-point landing.  Judy was uninjured, but the sleeve of her new hiking shirt was chewed up like it had been in a dogfight.

We finished the zip-line course by rappelling down from the last station. There were plenty of high-fives and smiles as we congratulated each other. Then, to our surprise and great pleasure, the crew hung medals around our necks in honor of our surviving the adventure.
~ xoA ~

Thursday, October 10, 2013

I is for Intercourse

In the heart of Pennsylvania Amish farm country sits the little village of Intercourse in Lancaster County. It was the scene of the 11th Women on Wheels® International Ride-In, in 1997. I rode Big Red, our first cross- country solo ride, to get there. It was one of the most memorable and best ever Ride-Ins! For the entire summer, Big Red and I clocked rolled 7,982 miles. 

Along the way to Intercourse, I stayed over with friends in Arizona, Texas, and Georgia. In South Carolina, I visited with Millie, the wife of a motorcyclist I happened to meet in Oregon on my first solo ride the year before. Then I spent a glorious time with my daughter Asila and soon-to-be son-in-love David in North Carolina. It was then that I first met his lovely parents and gave them each a ride on my motorcycle. Before heading for Intercourse, I stopped in at my dear friend Peggy’s in Lynchburg, VA and took her for a ride, too.

A long ride into the night, on dark, undulating roads that wound through cornfields got me to the motel outside of Intercourse where I met up with my friend Trudy. She had ridden in from Bakersfield, and we would share lodging while at the Ride-In. 

Intercourse is just east of Bird-in Hand and north of Paradise. The many quaint shops, bakeries, and restaurants lured us in when we weren’t kicking motorcycle tires and visiting with buddies in the host- motel parking lot. Riding those two-lane country roads, our iron horses juxtaposed against flesh-and-blood horses pulling black buggies, kept everyone supplied with stories.

One of the featured events of the Ride-In was a train ride. A rainstorm had been predicted, but hundreds of us women bikers made our way to the train station in Strasburg anyway. We parked our bikes and picked up our box lunches just before the rain hit. As soon as the train got underway, the torrents came, blowing sideways and drenching everyone, especially those in the open cars. Hairdos trashed and pasted to our heads and clothes soaked through, we still managed to laugh and have a good time. A huge surprise met us when we returned to the parking lot to find a few bikes downed due to the rain and high winds and our helmets full of rain and waterlogged. It took days to dry everything out.

 Now, sixteen years later, when we get together with other WOW® members and reminisce about the Intercourse Ride-In, two things stand out: that train ride is one. “Remember that train ride?” someone asks, and we shake our heads knowingly if we were on it. For anyone who wasn’t there, we can describe it as if it were yesterday.

The other outstanding recollection is of the most awesome-licious banquet in the history of Ride-Ins. Those Amish cooks knew how to put on a banquet. Tables laden with delectable offerings of cooked-from-scratch comfort food and plenty of it delighted us all. Conversations go like this: 

“Were you in Intercourse in ’97?”


Then simultaneously, “The FOOD!” accompanied by moans of remembered rapture.

The outstanding ride; the food, friends and fun; and the giggles over the name of the village make Intercourse a memorable place that belongs in my Travel Hall of Fame.

~ xoA ~