Sakura-Con

sakura

An annual anime convention, Sakura-Con takes place at the Washington State Convention Center in Seattle, WA.

Excitement hangs in the air. Costumes decorate the city streets. Sakura-Con is here.

My daughter has spent months planning, crafting, and sewing together her costumes. She loves anime, and this particular convention holds a special place in her heart. It is the first, she attended.

Walking into the convention center, I’m instantly transported into a world of imagination and make believe. It is a world, I struggle to understand.

There are throngs of people everywhere. Hesitantly, I follow my daughter’s lead through the crowd. I don’t know what to make of the scene around me.Looking around, I wonder if saying “yes” to this event was such a good idea. People are everywhere in various states of dress – women and men in skimpy outfits, furry creatures, people decked out in armor, women and men in beautiful gowns, and anime characters galore. Moving about the crowd, I’m struck by the overwhelming sense of friendship and camaraderie. People talk, laugh, and pose for pictures with the characters they like.

Picking up a schedule, we map out our day. There are numerous activities, we can participate in – various panels, costume contests, fashion shows, meet and greets with different voice actors, band performances, anime video premiers,  gaming competitions, and more. The options are endless.

The stamina needed to keep up with it all is insane. Constantly on the go, the events run from early in the morning until after midnight.I’m exhausted by the end of the first day.This anime world is a crazy, but I’m comforted to know it is all in good fun.

The stamina needed to keep up with it all is insane. The events run from early in the morning until after midnight, entertaining everyone and keeping them on the go.

On the second day, I know what to expect and better prepare myself. Bringing my laptop and camera with me, I sit myself at a central location while my daughter goes to the events with her friends. Sometimes, I join them. Surprisingly, there are events that hold my attention. Other times, I simply wander about taking pictures.

By the third and final day, I’ve learned a few things. The panels have helped enlighten me. The anime videos have entertained me. The detailed work put into the costumes have astonished me. The friendly open people have helped to welcome me into their world.

We’ve attended several Sakura-Con’s over the years, and I still struggle to understand the world of anime. I couldn’t begin to tell you which character belongs to which anime. However, I have fun every time I go.

More Information on Sakura-Con

Homeless America

Do you ever worry it could happen to you? I never used to, but I do now. My eyes were pried open when I began traveling the United States.

Homelessness isn’t an allusive problem, but a reality. It is no longer a problem that exists somewhere, out there. From the smallest of towns to the largest cities, homelessness is steadily becoming more prevalent.

Look around. Do you see it? Has it made its way to your town – to your neighborhood?

Anacortes, Washington:

During the summer months, tourists can be seen milling about the town moving from shop to shop. Once little more than a fishing village, Anacortes evolved over the years into a prosperous town thanks to the tourist industry. Ideally located on Fidalgo Island, Anacortes is the gateway to the San Juan Islands.

Commercial fishing boats can still be found docked at the Cap Sante Marina, but pleasure boats are now the majority. Sadly, the fishing industry has diminished over the year as costs and regulations have increased.

It was in this little, scenic seaport town that we met Perry.

Driving along R Avenue, we were headed down to the docks when we drove past a man slowly making his way down the sidewalk while pulling a metal cart behind him. The cart seemed to be filled with all his worldly possessions. Scuffed and worn, he looked like he’d seen better days.

Pulling off the road, I rolled down my window and offered him some money.

Smiling, he softly shook his head. “While I appreciate your generosity, I never accept something without giving something in return. Will you give me a second?”

Mildly surprised, I nodded in agreement.

Turning to his cart, he dug through it until he found what he was looking for.

Smiling, he held out a baby carriage for me, he’d built out of a beer can. “I saw your little one in the back, and thought you might like this. Be careful, don’t let her play with it. The edges are sharp.”

Taking the carriage, I admired his work. “Thank you. It’s beautiful.”

Visiting for a few minutes before parting ways, I learned that Perry had made the streets of Anacortes his home for the last three years. He loved the area, but would like to move somewhere a little warmer. The damp winters make his arthritis act up.

Washington DC:

Home to the President of the United States, Washington D.C. is a beautiful hustling city that lies along the Potomac River. Well-known for its monuments, museums, and galleries, the city is rich in culture. However, it is also well-known for its homeless problem.

It is here in our Nation’s Capital that 12,215 people were found to be homeless on January 28, 2016, by the COG Homeless Services Planning and Coordinating Committee.

The problem is only too evident when you drive through the city. Tents and tarps set up under a bridge create a temporary community. This makeshift tent city is one of hundreds popping up around the United States.

Orlando, Florida:

This past Christmas was our first on the road. We spent our holiday season at Bill Frederick Park at Turkey Lake in Orlando, Florida. A hundred and eighty-three acres of rich green land adjacent to beautiful Turkey Lake, the park was a lovely change from the cold Alaskan Christmas we had experienced the previous year.

Exploring Orlando and the surrounding areas, we spent approximately a month at the park. While there, we came to meet a nice young family who also happened to be staying there. On the surface, their family appears similar to mine. Like us, they are a family of five and they are a mobile. However, that is where the similarities seem to end.

We are an extended family with grandparents, parent, and two teenagers. We made a conscious choice to give up our stationary lives and adopt a nomadic traveling lifestyle. Our home is a thirty-four foot RV that we navigate around the highways and back roads of the United States. We live doing what we please.

They are a traditional family with a father, mother, and three young girls. Their mobile life isn’t by choice. They are a homeless family who primarily live out of their car. They expand their home to include a small tent when they are fortunate enough to be able to afford the fees of a campground or park. They live in fear that someone will find out they live out of their car, and will tear their family apart.

How desperate would I have to be, to knock on someone’s door to ask for help?

I’ve turned this question over and over in my mind, but I still don’t know the answer. It is something I simply can’t imagine. Perhaps, it is one of those situations where you just need to be there to understand.

In the last year, I’ve heard that knock four times. It comes as a surprise every time. Although, I imagine it’s easier and less intimidating to approach an RV than it is the door of a two story home. We do what we can to help – providing sack lunches and warm blankets. It isn’t nearly enough, but I like to think it helps.

Homelessness happens easier and faster than many of us realize. The reality of it is, it can happen to anyone for any reason.

.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Juneau, Alaska: A Photo Essay

Nestled along the Gastineau Channel at the base of glaciers and mountains, Juneau is a remote town that can only be reached by boat or plane. Reminiscent of the old mining town it once was, Juneau flourishes in the summer months, but basically shuts down during the winter. Armed with a camera, I spent time exploring Juneau’s unbound beauty.

 

Daily Prompt

 

 

 

 

A Small Town Festival

watermelonI’m a collector – a collector of experiences, not possessions. For me, there is nothing better. As a traveler, I’m always looking for opportunities to add to my collection. In every small town, big city, and state we visit, I keep my eyes peeled for anything that promises to be interesting: events, museums, workshops, parks, exhibits, fairs, trails, galleries, festivals, beaches, and the like.

You never know when opportunity will present itself, but you must always be ready. Recently, I had such an opportunity.

On a quiet Saturday morning, we were headed to the store to restock our groceries when we came across a festival. No wonder the small town was so quiet, everyone in town seemed to be here. There is no time like the present to seize the day. Groceries were quickly forgotten as we pulled into a designated parking lot. Setting off to enjoy the local festivities we were presented with a question – How much watermelon can you eat? You can test your stomach’s holding capacity for the pink meat of this sweet fruit at the Watermelon Festival in Chiefland, Florida. Held annually on the first Saturday in June, this small town festival has something for everyone.

Festival goers can try their skill at the Watermelon Seed Spitting Contest, watch the floats in the Watermelon Parade, and enjoy intelligent, beautiful, young women square off against one another in hopes to win a scholarship at the Watermelon Pageant.

Children race from activity to activity. Some gravitate towards the giant wading pool with inflatable ride-on toys. Splashing about, they enjoy the cool water against the stifling heat. Others forego the water to jump on the bounce house.

Artists and craftsmen lay out their wares trying to entice customers into shelling out their hard-earned cash for items they just can’t resist.

If you’re in the mood for something a little more substantial than watermelon, you’re in luck. Food vendors are prepared to offer you the finest foods…gator, gyros, cracklins, snow cones, kettle corn, sandwiches, sausages, lemonades, and so much more.

How much watermelon can you eat? It is a question, anyone can easily answer at Chiefland’s Watermelon Festival.

However, it is a question I could’ve answered even if I hadn’t attended this event. None. I don’t actually like watermelon. Weird, I know. There is just something about the fruit, I’ve never cared for. My family all adore watermelon, and have never been able to understand my distaste for it. Nevertheless, I had fun adding the 62nd annual Watermelon Festival to my collection of experiences.

Watermelon Festival Information

 

 

Chicago

Bumper to bumper traffic mixed with suffocating heat is making for an angry commute. Pulling onto the off ramp, I remove myself from the fray and decide to spend the afternoon exploring. My detour takes me to downtown Chicago.

Driving along the city streets, I wonder where I should begin. At a glance, I find old and new merged together. A city of contradictions, Chicago is distinctly unique. It is a city with rough edges that are slowly being smoothed away.

Old charm mingles with modernization. Lovely greystone homes line the streets of old neighborhoods creating an idyllic picture. Street art and graffiti adorn buildings and signs. The L’ glides along the tracks quickly carrying people to various neighborhoods through out the city. Shopper’s with discerning taste stroll along the Magnificent Mile on Michigan Avenue exercising their debit and credit cards. Stunning cutting-edge architectural glass and steel buildings highlight the river front. Old plastic pop bottles, discarded papers, and plastic wrappers liter street corners and sidewalks. Artistic monuments stand in tribute to the city’s culture. Revitalization signs promise to breathe life back into old neighborhoods.

Wandering the city streets, we worked up quite an appetite. Deciding to splurge, we stopped at Home Slice on Webster Avenue to indulge in some of Chicago’s famous pizza. We had always heard there was nothing quite like Chicago pizza, so we were excited to try it. The inviting patio tables and chairs lured us into dining outside. Sitting down, we were immediately greeted by a friendly server who saw to our needs and made some excellent suggestions. Enjoying a relaxing lunch, we talked, laughed, and people watched while we refueled our bodies on thick slices of pizza, savory garlic bread, and spicy stuffed jalapenos. We ate until we couldn’t eat anymore. The food was exemplary. Everyone was right, there is nothing like Chicago pizza.

As day began to give way to the evening hours, we made our way to the interstate. It is time for us to be moving on. Chicago wasn’t a planned stop, but it was a lovely detour. All of us agree, we can’t wait until we are able to visit again.

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Day in My Crazy Life

image

On average non-travel mornings when we aren’t exploring and trekking across states, I sleep late, wake leisurely, and pull myself out of bed around eight-thirty or nine. Once I open my eyes, I lay there willing myself to move. To get up, to get going. Creativity and productivity waits for no one. I move as if I’m in a trance, stumbling my way to our small kitchen, I pour myself that ever important first cup of coffee. As my morning java seeps in, I pull myself together, and grab my shower. After I’ve showered and put myself together, I’m ready to go. I grab my second cup of coffee, my laptop, and head outside. I let the fresh air filter into my system as I spend the better part of the day, pounding away at my keyboard.

It is a beautiful routine that is distinctly mine, and I love it. Perhaps, I value this part of my day so much because for years I was forced to wake at five every morning, rushing from the time my feet hit the floor. After doing this day after day, year after year, you’d think it would have become an ingrained habit, but it never did.Waking at this ungodly hour was something I easily relinquished. Now, I sleep late and stay awake into the wee hours of the morning.

This morning started off just like any other. It was a perfect morning then suddenly it wasn’t. Setting my coffee down on the picnic table, I looked at the clouds moving in and wondered if we’d see the storms earlier than they were predicting. Sitting down, I allowed my mind to wander over the possible adventures I’d share in today’s blog. Which will it be? Would I write the time I kicked up my heels and square danced in Missoula, Montana? Would I explore the time we boogie boarded at Smyrna Beach, Florida? Would I explain how we once went on a quest for Lebanon Bologna in Pennsylvania? The possibilities are promising.

Suddenly, my day comes crashing to a halt. My laptop turns on, but no matter what I do the screen remains blank. Nothing I do helps. My laptop which is less than three months old is fried. After calling the company’s trouble shooting hotline, I learn that it is likely a problem with the internal hard drive. Translation, I will be without one of my most prized possessions for two and a half weeks while it is out for repair.

Are you kidding me? I’ve been stripped of the tool I use to write. How could this happen – my laptop is less than three months old. I’m super careful with it. It has to be shoddy manufacturing. When I come up for air, relief hits me. My laptop is under warranty. I won’t have to worry about digging into my own pocket to come up with the money to repair it, and I’m thankful that I didn’t loose any of my work. I’d had the forethought to back up everything on flash drives just in case something like this ever happened.

Some of you who follow my blog, might be wondering why I’m sharing this with you. This entry is different than my others. Normally, I explore the different experiences I’ve had, places I’ve been, and people I’ve met while living and traveling across the states. Believe me, that was my plan.

However, today’s misfortune gave me the opportunity to explore something a little different. I hope you enjoy this little excerpt from my crazy, but amazing life.

 

 

A Road Trip Through Childhood

route_66My love for travel was instilled in me at an early age. Vacations and weekends free from work inevitably meant a road trip of one kind or another.

My mom would pack and organize the car to keep us kids comfortable, entertained, and separated. Separation was key to any successful road trip. Only a year and a half apart in age, my sister and I would often end up fighting like animals. On our own, we were both quite civil and well behaved. It was only when we were together that things had a tendency to turn ugly. To preserve everyone’s sanity, separation was mandatory. Neither of us dared cross the imaginary middle line between our two sides. Crossing it always meant trouble that wouldn’t end well for either of us.

To avoid the chaos of traffic, we’d set off on our road trips in the late evening hours and drive late into the night. Happily tucked away into my side of the backseat, I would cuddle down with my pale pink pig pillow, soft lap blanket, and my backpack filled with books and activities while my sister was secure on her side of the car with her round grey hippo pillow, her own soft lap blanket, and respective backpack filled with books and activities. Traveling this way never failed to lull me and my sister to sleep. To this day, I cannot ride in the back of a car without nodding off.

pink pigOur road trips led to all kinds of adventures, both big and small. The memories come one after another.

Riding the cable cars in San Francisco, I stood outside a shop in China Town staring in horror at the ducks hanging in the window until my mom insisted I go in to see all the things the shop had to offer. If memory serves, we bought spices from that small shop.

Camping deep in the mountains, we are delighted to find a small creek close to our campsite. My sister spend those few days wading and playing in the creek.

The storm was one for the record books. Creeping through snow and ice, we were cautiously making our way through it when we were stopped short by a man flagging cars down. My dad stopped, assuming the man had been in a wreck and needed help. As it turned out, the man had narrowly missed the seventy car pile up on the road ahead of us. He was flagging down cars to warn them, so no one else would get hurt. For the next hour or so, my dad and that man flagged down other unsuspecting cars until emergency personnel arrived.

Standing in what seemed to be a mile long line to ride the Matterhorn at Disneyland, my dad and I were both visibly dragging our feet. We both hated high rides while my sister and mom loved them. For some unknown reason, riding this particular ride was deemed a family affair. As we drew closer and closer to the front of the line, my dad and I grumbled about plummeting to our death. Almost to the front of the line, my mom either felt sorry for us or had enough of our grumbling and told us we didn’t have to go on the ride if we didn’t want to. Looking at me, my dad asked me if I’d like to get out of line. Instead of jumping at the chance to free myself from this horrendous experience, I was filled with righteous indignation. We had waited nearly an hour and a half to go on this ride, and that was exactly what I was going to do. As I was hurtling through the dark caverns at a thousand miles a minute screaming for dear life, my regret was swift and unrelenting.

Traveling along highways and back roads, we’d often stop at little road side stands seeing what treasures they had to offer. Fresh fruits, vegetables, ice cream, and curios at these little places always held my fascination.

Sitting cross legged on the floor of a longhouse, we watched in awe and delight as a Native American tribe danced.

Flinstones2Piling out of the hot sticky car, I lift my face to the sky and gratefully take in the fresh air. We’ve finally arrived. We are in South Dakota. We’ve come to visit my grandparents, but this trip also means we get to see Mount Rushmore and Flintstone Land. I think I was most excited about Flintstone Land.

There is something distinctly special about road trips. Cramming everyone into the car and hitting the open road is liberating. It allows you to connect in a way that cannot be done when work, school, and the outside world are continually knocking at your door. Some of the best childhood memories I have are when we  were road tripping across the United States.