Annual Rituals

The first quarter of each year is defined by three rituals for me.

The first is that I become preoccupied with work at this time. There’s a big project on top of my regular work and I tend to think about the job a lot. The other eight or nine months of the year I focus on separation of work and home but this becomes less and less a priority as the weeks drag on through the winter months. It’s the nature of the beast and I have no regrets or complaints. It’s just the rhythm of my year.

Then there’s the No Spend Challenge that I do each January. This year it stretched into February as well. It’s designed to keep me happy at home, staying healthy and using the things I have. What did our Greatest Generation grandparents teach us?

Use it up, make do or do without.

The money I save in the winter helps pay for adventures the rest of the year. It also promotes rest and a sense of quiet.

The third ritual is that I take a long weekend trip as soon as my project goes to the printer and as soon as I can dig myself out from under the non essential work that piled up.

This weekend was that weekend and it was exactly what I needed. I didn’t go far and my destination wasn’t exotic. Heck, it wasn’t even as warm as home. But it was quintessentially American and it was a solid start to adventure season. It was good for my mental health.

I haven’t felt like myself in some time. In addition to making you tired, causing you to gain weight, messing with your voice and cholesterol and causing the worst brain fog, the thyroid toys with your mind and emotions too. I saw glimmers of the old Brandi here and there this weekend. She pops up sometimes when I’m out adventuring and it’s a relief to know there’s hope she’ll come back to stay someday.

I’m home now and am starting an eating plan meant to help my thyroid. After all, my body is attacking this little gland. The least I can do is stop calling it names for being so useless and start trying to help it through better nutrition. Ha! It’s no wonder it feels like it’s not even trying. I’m mean to it! Expect to hear more about this another day.

There are lots of stories to tell from this trip through eastern Indiana, checking off my list a few things I have wanted to see for a while.

In case you’re thinking that Indiana doesn’t sound very exciting (I know you are because nearly everyone I know looked at me funny when I told them my plans) know that you are wrong by my standards. It doesn’t sound exciting but this area is defined by lovely countryside, small towns, friendly people, interesting history and lots of the things I enjoy. There are so many old churches, Carnegie libraries and vintage signs, it was a feast for my eyes and wandering imagination.

Friends, I read a quote from Bob Ross this weekend that supports part of my worldview. You know the PBS painter with big hair and a gentle voice who inspired a nation to paint? He said “Beauty is everywhere. You only have to look to see it.”

Right on, Bob. Right on.

Come back and I’ll tell you about some places I went and my observations on the world. It’s true. Beauty is everywhere. There’s something interesting to be found everywhere. You only have it look to see it.

What’s Better?

What’s better than a map, a fresh notepad and a gal with a plan? I can’t think of a thing! Look out world! Adventure season has arrived.

Remember, blessed are the curious for they will have adventures. So go be curious. Go have adventures. Go be happy.

Freedom Of The Open Road

There’s nothing more freeing than the open road. It’s especially nice if you get up early to watch the sun rise and make time to brake along the way for roadside attractions.

I especially like neon signs, great downtowns, old churches, rustic barns and covered bridges.

As I begin planning this year’s adventures, I have been looking back on the road trip by which I measure them all. It was in the days following Christmas 2018 and I set out on the National Road through Indiana all the way to Terre Haute and back to Springfield, Ohio. There is nothing like rambling down the National Road if you want a slice of Americana.

I had no hotel reservations but a list of places to see – the Model T Museum and an old firehouse turned restaurant in Richmond, Lynn’s Soda Fountain in Brazil, the magnificent Oasis Diner in Plainfield and a host of antique stores along the way. I talked to people, saw murals and learned so much that trip.

The last day, I left Richmond in the pitch black with a breakfast sandwich in hand and a camera on the seat next to me. It took hours to make it to Springfield because I rambled down side roads and around the block in small towns just to see what was out there.

The journey was the destination and the plan was to have no plan.

It was the epitome of freedom and adventure and the absolute best vacation from reality. Everyone should experience such joy and independence as I found on the National Road for those cold late December days.

Will I get to experience this type of joy again? I honestly don’t know but have my sights set on some new places to visit and some familiar spots in Indiana. Perhaps a few days rambling through small towns in the Hoosier State will be just the ticket.

So, roadies- where will your rambling take you this year?

The Brass Armadillo

Antique malls tend to offer a variety of goods that aren’t actual antiques. From handmade crafts to vintage toys to books, soaps and a litany of other things, it seems you never know what you’ll find.

Imagine a big treasure hunt.

It’s a fun thing to do any day but I usually seek out an antique mall on vacation. It’s a good source of unique souvenirs but it’s also interesting to see what’s available in other areas and how it’s valued.

There are huge regional differences in how many things like vintage Christmas decor, dishes or even Coca Cola products are valued. A Coke crate can be picked up for cheap in central Indiana where there’s a big manufacturing and bottling presence. Whereas they’re about twice the price in Ohio.

As an aside, the company’s iconic contoured bottle was born in Terre Haute over a hundred years ago. That’s a different story for another day.

At the Brass Armadillo Antique Mall in Denver I found a lot of aviation related items including a nice print and this vintage Pan American carry-on bag. It’s in great shape and was under $20.

It’s hard to even find this sort of thing locally and it would cost significantly more around here.

I also like to seek out old snapshots like the ones pictured above with the bag. These photos can be acquired for as little as fifty cents or a few dollars. The Brass Armadillo had a ton of booths with boxes of pictures and I finally just had to cut myself off. These are especially neat souvenirs as some can be found with regional interest that show local architecture and landscape.

I like vintage photography and always think it’s sad to see family photos tossed in a box for sale. So I collect the ones that draw my eye and affectionately think of them as “The Family.”

We didn’t know it at the time, but this store is actually part of a regional chain. It’s enormous with over 600 vendors and a ton of variety.

Literally, friends. You don’t know what you’ll find around the next corner.

I was dying to bring home any number of vintage suitcases but the logistics of air travel with a somewhat fragile old suitcase were too much to deal with. Another time!

If you’re in the Denver area, I highly recommend checking out the Brass Armadillo. Learn more about them on their website or maybe find a location closer to you.

Model T Museum With Dad

A highlight of last year’s Christmas vacation was a stop at the Model T Museum in Richmond, Indiana. While I know little about cars and nothing about the Model T, I had a fantastic time touring the museum and learning from a great tour guide. The entire time, I kept thinking about how much my dad would love it there.

In my lifetime, I went places with both my parents or with my mother but rarely just with my dad. So it’s a treat to spend a day just the two of us. We set out early, zig zagging through small towns and then across the National Road into Richmond. Neither of us enjoy highways and we weren’t on any kind of schedule so it was fun wandering down roads we hadn’t seen before.

The museum didn’t disappoint. I enjoyed the tour again and he loved it, getting more out of it than I ever will. He has many of the tools and parts they’re displaying, jumbled into his own random collection of stuff. Good luck finding any of it. He’s sort of a pack rat and, while no one else can ever find anything, he knows exactly what he has.

The museum tells the story of the Model T in the context of what was happening in the country and world. It’s very nicely done and I would recommend it if you get a chance.

We also stopped at a big antique mall near Dayton that I’ll tell you about another day.

It was a good day and I’m glad we got to enjoy it together. Solo adventures are fun but it’s even better with someone you know will enjoy it.

Harry Ferguson and the Weirdness I Photograph

The people in my life probably think I’m nuts when I get excited about some of the things I photograph. For example, check out this old Harry Ferguson tractor in my cousin’s driveway.

I had no camera or phone with me so I had to borrow a phone to snap these pictures.

Yes, it sounds a smidge nuts.

I know you have a burning desire to know who this Harry Ferguson fellow was. He was an Irish born British mechanic and inventor who evidently played a major role in the development of the modern farm tractor.

He also developed a plow that could be attached to a Model T car, a real game changer for farmers who needed a car as well as an ability to plow- both expensive investments in a day before everyone lived on credit.

Funny – when I toured the Model T Museum in Richmond, Indiana during my National Road adventure last year, I learned a little about this topic. Oh… you haven’t read my account of the Model T Museum tour? Well, you need to so click this link as soon as you’re done reading this story!

A quick Google search tells me that he also developed the first four wheel drive Formula One car AND was the first person in Ireland to build and fly his own airplane.

And yes, he is THAT Ferguson – his name lives on today in the Massey Ferguson Company.

So back to my brand of crazy.

I just loved old cars, trucks, tractors and really any kind of large equipment or vehicle that has interesting lines or patina.

Bonus points for neat gauges and cool wheels!

One of these days someone will find me wandering through a junk yard, snapping photos of rusty old car taillights and gas gauges like a woman possessed.

For now though it’s just a cute little quirk….