Posts Tagged With: Grand Canyon

Small Wonders of the World

One of the reasons for traveling is to see the wonders of the world, both natural and manmade. The Taj Mahal, say, or Egypt’s great pyramids, or the Great Wall of China. So far, my record on this is not outstanding. So far, the only grand and glorious “wonders” I’ve visited are the Grand Canyon and the marvelous huge redwoods at Muir Woods. I’ve been to the Empire State Building, too, which was cool enough but not exactly wondrous. Maybe you have to see it with King Kong.

But smaller wonders are a different matter. Even ordinary travel can be filled with those, if you only think to look. Take our most recent drive to New Mexico and back, for example. Here were just a few little wonders.

Along I-25 south of Colorado Springs, the ditches are edged with stout fences apparently designed to keep deer and antelope from playing on the highway. Yet every few miles there was what seemed to be a stile. Each one was a little artificial hill, with a gap in the fence at its top. From top to bottom on the side facing the highway was a short line of posts and rails, not connected to the fence, the purpose of which was not immediately obvious. It would seem logical that these gaps were intended to guide migrating critters toward underpasses, except there weren’t any underpasses close to them. So what were the stiles for? We wondered.

One morning we sat waiting for our breakfast at a chain restaurant I won’t name, except to mention that it sounds like a new piece of technology from Apple. We saw one of the waitresses coming across the parking lot. She was obviously on her way to work—carrying a takeout cup of coffee from a fast food restaurant. Why didn’t she just get coffee at work? I wondered. Then my own cup of coffee arrived. I took one sip. So much for wondering. It was immediately clear why the waitress brought her own.

We were driving along a highway in southern Colorado—one of those roads with signs warning you “No Services Next 75 Miles” where seeing two other vehicles in a ten-mile stretch feels like heavy traffic. We caught sight in the rear-view mirrors of something coming up on us, much faster than our sedate and legal 65 mph. Not a semi, or a convertible, or even a pickup. It was a train. Usually, in this part of the country, trains are long caterpillars of heavy coal cars—impressive, but not exactly speedy. As this one rushed past us, we saw that its two engines were pulling a meager string of only five Amtrak passenger cars and two baggage cars. No wonder it was moving so fast. We did wonder, though, where the passengers came from and where they were going. And did anyone looking out the windows notice our car, with its South Dakota license plates, and wonder the same thing about us?

An even more interesting wonder along that same highway, though, was the spectacle of the trotting tarantulas. Every half-mile or so we’d see another one, making a beeline (if I may use that term for an arachnid) across the road toward the northwest. Were they fleeing from some predator? Making a seasonal migration? Why did the tarantulas cross the road? I wondered.

So, of course, when I got a chance I looked it up. Apparently in the fall, male tarantulas in search of romance set out on treks in search of like-minded females. They sometimes walk steadily for as much as 50 miles looking for potential mates, who meanwhile are sitting in their comfortable burrows, no doubt munching chocolate and reading romance novels, waiting for Mr. Right.

But why do the males only travel in one direction? Do you suppose they are all headed for the same female? Maybe they’re answering some sort of tarantula personal ad. “Lonely black widow, cute and fuzzy, seeking adventurous, athletic guy for sixteen-legged fun and potential fatherhood. Apply in person. Unsuccessful candidates will be eaten on the spot. Successful candidates will enjoy one blissful encounter and die shortly thereafter.”

It’s possible that the unwitting, lovelorn guy tarantulas find the reward worth all their trouble. I hope so. But I wonder.

Categories: Travel | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments

“There’s a Hole in My Bucket”

A bucket list. Maybe you have a real one, written out and posted on your refrigerator. Or maybe you just have a few things in the back of your mind that you really want to do "someday." ("See the Eiffel Tower by moonlight." "Visit Machu Picchu." "Go skydiving." "Learn to play the banjo." "Use 'quartzite' for a triple word score in Scrabble.")

Either way, it's probably a good idea to have some sort of list of things you want to do before you kick the bucket. And an even better idea, of course, to actually do them.

But here's something else that's also a good idea: a "hole in your bucket" list.

Some of the things on your bucket list might not belong there anymore. Maybe you wanted to do them once upon a time—or thought you did. But by now, one way or another, they're just not worth the trouble. It might be time to let those things just slip through a hole in the bottom of your bucket.

Maybe you've figured out that some items on your list are too risky or too dumb. (Bungee jumping, anyone?) You might be like the rancher who said he wanted to be a bull rider "until I got older and my brains came in."

Maybe some things on your list really aren't your dreams at all, but belong on someone else's bucket list. If your spouse has always wanted to go sky diving or canoe up the Amazon or trek through the Gobi Desert, you don't have to want to go, too. You can wave goodbye with a big smile, then enjoy looking at the pictures afterward.

There might be items on your list that seemed like a good idea at the time, but on second or third thought, you really aren't that interested. When I visited the Grand Canyon a decade ago, a hike to the bottom sounded like fun. Now, not so much. By now I've figured out the drawback to the whole plan. The natural consequence of hiking to the bottom is that you have to hike back up to the top.

Sadly, it might be too late for some bucket list items. If you're a person of mature years, say 59 or 67, you probably aren't ever going to realize that long-held dream of dancing with the Rockettes or playing tight end for the Green Bay Packers. (Let's face it—no matter who you are, "age 67" and "tight end" just don't belong in the same sentence.)

If there are things on your bucket list that won't keep, start actively planning to do them sooner rather than later. And while you're at it, take a close look at your list. It might be time to let some things fall through the hole and disappear. Letting go of goals that no longer fit makes more room for new ones.

It also helps you refocus on long-held goals that really do matter to you. One of these days, there's got to be a place to play "quartzite" and get that triple word score.

Categories: Just For Fun, Living Consciously | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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