Road Trips

The morning air is frosty clear my breath pushes clouds from my face. The neighbor’s wood smoke floods my mind with memories of mountainsides shimmering in seas of golden aspen leaves. It is Fall. It’s time for a road trip.

Man has a long history and fascination with road trips. The yearning for road adventures is universal and often epic. Imagine the early morning, eons ago, in the Siberian cave, when Og shook wife Iz awake and grunted, “We go!” And off they went, traversing Siberia, the Aleutian Islands, Alaska and down the coast to sunny California, when Iz finally stop nagging Og to settle down.

Then there was Marco Polo, the wander lusting Venetian who told his mom he was going out for tea.  Marco came back 24 years and 15,000 miles later. To his credit, he brought back not only tea but a nice silk smock for mom.

America has had it’s share of epic road trips. In 1804, Lewis and Clark set out  in search of the Northwest Passage. It took them three years to find the Pacific Ocean and finally straggle home. In 1969, Americans went on the ultimate road trip when we sent the first men to the moon. Me, I don’t consider any of my road trips epics, nothing like the journeys of Ulysses, However I’ve had my thrills.

My first boyhood ramble was with a pack of young rascals across town and into the woods to find a pond filled with tadpoles. There we were thrashing the water, trying to convince frantic little frogs into canning jars when my brother stepped on broken glass. Suddenly, our expedition became an emergency. We wrapped his bleeding foot in a t-shirt and dragged him painfully home. My brother survived but still swims with shoes on, even in pools.

The scope of my road trips exploded when I bought my first Volkswagen van.  Was there ever a more perfect road trip vehicle? My ’63 bus was called “Borgo,” a name that erupted from a beer induced belch. Borgo was the essence of simplicity, the dashboard had a mere two knobs, wipers and lights. If either worked, it was a good day. The speedometer dial had only two indicator lights. bright green gasped no oil. bright red screamed no battery. These lights only came on after dark in the middle of nowhere. Did I mention that VW vans were notoriously heatless. I remember the snowy night in Spokane when the shivering station attendant asked if he could scrape the windows.

“Sure,” I said.

Imagine his surprise discovering the ice was on the inside.

What makes road trips magic? It’s the surprises.

Of course, there have been the unpleasant ones. The tire bursting as we bounced down the boulder sized gravel road in the Bitterroot Mountains. It took three guys jumping a sweaty hour on  the tire iron  to finally free the frozen lug nuts. I still swear at mindless tire mechanics with overzealous air wrenches.

Still, most of my road surprises have been happy ones. Discovering the ultimate sour dough pancakes in a tiny cafe on the Klamath River, and the mouth-watering meringue pie at the road stop in southern Utah. And the smiling faces, the small town waitress with the steaming coffee who beamed “Howdy, how are you this fine morning?” and she really meant it.

Then there were the cold stares from the old-timers, suspicious of outsiders, the guys whose tongues only loosened after a few free beers when they finally admitted “Yes, Denio Hot Springs really does exist just thirteen miles out of town.”

Some surprises were  sublime. Parading crimson clouds floating over hazy hills against an endless sunset. The morning mist melting into visions of snow shrouded mountains. A midnight ride across the Sonora Desert windows wide open, cool night air pulsing with cosmic clarity as towering saguaro cacti sped by silently saluting the frozen moon.

There have even been miracles.

It was the  pause before sunrise, a hint of gold  over distant peaks. In front of us, The road stretched forever straight. Crammed three abreast across the van’s bench seat, we stared in sleepy silence as the Cat Stevens tape started over for the fourth time. Outside, the ghosts of cardboard cattle floated past in rising fog. Far ahead, a speck, appeared, soon becoming  a vehicle. Charging onward into morning,  the vehicle became a pickup truck. Converging at 100 miles per hour, the pickup’s passengers became a man driving with a woman beside him.  Suddenly the truck was in our lane. Gasping, we faced death. In that eternity a hand grabbed the wheel, the truck swerved back and careened by, an angelic guided missile, lost in a swirl of dust.


The sun broke above the mountains, wrapping us in golden grace.

I believe road trips are in our blood, a need to challenge the unknown, a hunger to satisfy human curiosity.

Borgo now rolls down Heaven’s highways. My own wanderings have become more mental than physical. Yet the steely sharp edge of autumn air still stirs my soul. and when  my feet playfully shuffle through fallen leaves, I am called away.

It’s time for a road trip!

Tio Stib Signature

Remedies For Reluctant Romantics

Winning at the Game of Love!
Romance For Dummies…

I’m Not A Yell Leader

Finding My True Voice

There I was, standing on the bright lit stage, alone and staring out into blackness.

A voice spoke from the dark, “Okay, you can start.”

I jumped up in the air, “Boolah boolah, boolah boolah, Holy Mackel I, West Seattle High!”

I heard a voice inside my head, “What are you doing here?”

It kept going, “Why are you , Steve the Shy Guy, trying out for yell leader?”

I heard another voice answer back, “Because it’s the cool thing to be. Because my friends are trying out. Because maybe the girls will like me if I’m a yell leader.”

I finished the routine and stopped jumping. The voice from the dark said, “Thanks, we’ll let you know.”

Standing in the hallway with the other hopefuls, I already knew the answer,  I was not a yell leader. This was soon confirmed by the posted list of new jumping jacks. My name was conspicuously absent.

In the continuing search for my authentic self I’ve discovered three ways to find my true voice.

First, discover what I’m not. The yell leader tryouts was an example of this. Yell leading was simply not my personality.

Number two on my list of finding my true voice is paying attention to what I really miss.

Last, find my bliss, what are those experiences that so stir my soul that I’m lost in ecstasy?

As a young boy, I was given a violin and told I was going to learn how to play it. I tried, but the resulting screeches drove even the dog mad. Is there any sound worse than a poorly violin? To the relief of many, I left the violin for the guitar which I found much easier to make melodious sounds. But after a time I realized that I was playing too much melancholy music. It was bringing me down. Yes, it was the sixties and there was lots of melodrama around. Then I was given a  banjo.

The musical clouds parted and I was in a world where it seems no sad songs were possible. Really, have you ever heard a sombre song on a banjo?

I took the banjo everywhere, played it on lunch breaks on construction jobs, played bluegrass at a redneck bar in nowhere, Wyoming, my banjo was my constant companion.

Then, one day in Baker City, Oregon, one of many small towns I’ve bounced through in my mobile life, it was time to move again. Time to let everything go. We had a moving sale and the house was flooded with curious treasure seekers. I noticed a young family standing in the corner admiring my banjo. I walked over and said, “Hello.” I listened to their story. The father, not even thirty, was bald yet smiling radiantly. It seems he had just beaten cancer and suddenly the family could see the wonders of life again. He told me he’d always wanted to play the banjo. The banjo wasn’t for sale, so I simply gave it to him and wished them a full and happy life.

Many miles and months later I realized I needed a banjo in my life. It was my connection to an inner joy that fed my soul. I walked into a Portland, Oregon music store and found a used banjo had just been left for resale. It became my new banjo buddy.

Yes, sometimes we don’t know how important something is until it’s gone.

My last suggestion on finding our true voice is paying attention to what fills us with bliss, what are those experiences, those encounters that stir our souls and catapult us into worlds of peace and passion?

In younger years, I was plagued with the question, what shall I do with my life? Obviously, I wasn’t going to be a yell leader. I went to college and decided to be a dentist, that seemed like a helpful profession. Then it occurred to me I could be even more helpful as a doctor and followed that path. One day I found myself sitting in a crowded room taking the med school entrance test and I heard that voice again, “Why are you here?

I looked around, but no one was obviously talking to me. The voice again, “You don’t really want to be a doctor.”

A weak voice answered, “No.”

“You can’t stand the thought of spending more years with this bunch of zealous overachievers can you?”

A feeble reply, “No.”

I walked out and became a social worker, then a YMCA director. None of this work felt right, but it didn’t feel wrong, until I discovered architecture. By chance I applied to architecture school and was accepted. From the first moment I entered that world, I knew I was home. Architecture was my bliss. Architecture was truly  my voice.

And so my life has revealed itself, I’ve found my path by discovering what I’m not, paying attention to what I’m missing, and done my best to follow my bliss. This is how I’ve found my authentic self

The epilogue to this story is that two years ago I lost my sight and with it my connection to the visual world of architecture I so long enjoyed. Admittedly, I was lost for a long time. Eventually, I began to consider the things that had guided me in life, to what had led me to my true voice, and realized I needed to start over again. I rejoined Toastmasters to surround myself with loving support and positive attitudes. There is no better place to explore one’s authenticity than in the fellowship of a Toastmasters meeting. In Toastmasters, the ultimate group to explore our authenticity.

Tio Stib Signature

Remedies For Reluctant Romantics

Winning at the Game of Love!
Romance For Dummies…