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Fun and adventure in the western C States

By now, you probably know that traveling/exploring is my thing. As much as our budget will allow, anyway. After our Boston-to-Sacramento move last summer, we’ve slowed down a bit, but here are a few of our latest adventures in sightseeing.

In April, we celebrated a belated anniversary (22 years!) in Stinson Beach, California. This little town—population 600—is nestled in a gorgeous cove on the Pacific Ocean in Marin County, about 20 miles north of San Francisco on Highway 1. It backs up to Mt. Tamalpais and Muir Woods.

Stinson Beach with old log on sand

Stinson Beach, looking northwest toward Bolinas

view of the mountains from a park in town

A view of the mountains from a town park near the beach

cottage living room

The cozy cottage we rented up the hill, with a view of the ocean

Stinson Beach

Stinson Beach after the weather cleared

While there, we drove up the coast a few miles to the adorable town of Bolinas, which sits just off the northern tip of Stinson. You could wade across, but there’s no bridge, so the drive is about 20 minutes around the inlet, where we saw seals lounging on a sandbar.

homes on a green hill in Bolinas

Homes in Bolinas

row boat in the water

An inlet in Bolinas, just off the northern tip of Stinson Beach

Gwen on edge of rock at ocean

Bolinas, just up the coast from Stinson Beach

Mid-May, we flew to Colorado for a friend’s retirement from the Air Force. Colorado Springs never disappoints, with its towering peaks, thick forest, and red rock. We even got snow! On Friday, we ran through our little rental home’s neighborhood and happened upon a back entrance to the Garden of the Gods (GOTG) park.

Gwen in Garden of the Gods park

Garden of the Gods, camera facing southwest toward Pikes Peak and Manitou Springs

red rock and a green field in GOTG

More Garden of the Gods

On Saturday, we hiked through Red Rock Canyon Open Space with friends, only a mile or two from GOTG, with fabulous views.

view of mountains and red rocks

A view of GOTG (top right on horizon) from the Red Rock Canyon Open Space

red rock surrounded by trees

Red Rock Canyon Open Space

Last summer, while waiting to close on our house, we hung out for a week in Redding, California (among other places). Since my oldest son had gone back to college for the summer term, he missed out. So, during his short pre-internship stay at home at the end of May, we took him north to see the amazing volcano that rises 14,179 feet above sea level at the southern end of the Cascade Mountain Range (i.e. Mt. Shasta).

hills and mountain over a lake

Mt. Shasta peeking over the hills around Lake Siskiyou

Gwen in front of Mt. Shasta view

Closer to Mt. Shasta on a hike up Spring Hill

Mt. Shasta framed by trees

Shasta framed by pine and manzanita from Spring Hill

We also checked out the impressive Sundial Bridge over the Sacramento River in the heart of Redding at Turtle Bay.

Sundial bridge over the Sacramento River

Looking west toward the Sundial Bridge (taken July 2016)

Sundial Bridge, facing north

On the Sundial Bridge, facing north (taken July 2016)

spire of the bridge

Spire of the bridge from below

Sacramento River, facing west

Looking west from the bridge, up the Sacramento River

Been on any cool trips lately? Have any fun travel plans for summer?

Wonder Woman

Wonder Woman poster with 5 versions of WW

courtesy of DC Entertainment

When I was a kid, Wonder Woman was my favorite superhero (still is). I wasn’t a comic book reader, but I adored the live-action show with Lynda Carter, and my old vinyl record that had a couple of audio episodes.

I marveled at how well she could run in that asinine costume, which by today’s standards would be downright staid. But even more, I loved that she was stronger than the men, highly intelligent, and feminine.

Costume aside, what girl wouldn’t want bullet-deflecting bracelets, a magic tiara/boomerang, a lasso that forces anyone in its snare to tell the truth, earrings that let you breathe in outer space, and an invisible jet? Add incredible beauty, superhuman strength and speed, telepathy, and the ability to speak any language, and, hey, where do I sign up?

And now Wonder Woman—and every girl/woman she inspired—gets her own feature film starring Gal Gadot as Diana.

Anyone else counting down the days to June 2nd?

(Dis)connected

© Thorsten | Dreamstime Stock Photos

Do you ever wish you could disconnect from the Internet? We are plugged in via social media, on-demand television, virtual helpers like Google Home and Amazon’s Echo (Alexa), smart thermostats, email, our cars, online banking, and more. We don’t even realize how dependent we are until the connection goes down or we lose power.

Smart computer systems, using access to immense amounts of data, can use our browsing history to recommend new products, guess that we’re pregnant before our own family members, and predict the fastest route from our home to the beach at 5pm tomorrow.

How did I live without all this technology in the first half of my life?

And yet, I sometimes miss that disconnected life. I sometimes envy those who have managed to let it all pass them by, even as they become disassociated from mainstream society. Last year, I found myself almost jealous of the characters in the dystopian novel Station Eleven because they had no obligations to a small glass and metal rectangular object through which an astonishing amount of my life plays out.

I’m not a Luddite by any means. I love technology. I love having two-click access to almost any information, and the ability to turn on my lights with a voice command or “visit” my far-flung family members via FaceTime.

But sometimes, I need to disconnect. I need to go into my backyard, walk the dog, take a hike, or go to the beach, and live screen free for a while. Not just screen free, but instant-access free.

The problem with on-demand everything is that the minute we think a question, we can run off and answer it. But maybe it would be better to merely ponder it for a while. Enjoy the quiet act of thinking without distraction. To stew in our thoughts without always feeding our eyeballs with information.

I’m reading a book (on my iPad, of course) called The Inevitable by Kevin Kelly. It talks about the types of innovations we can expect to see in the future, and how we’re only going to be more integrated. There are a lot of exciting things coming.

But I’m still going to need a break from it all.

Even now, I feel better when I take some time out of my day to unplug. This is one of the reasons why I run. And do yoga. Or brainstorm with—gasp!—paper and pen.

I don’t want to ditch my devices and move off grid, but I am trying to purposely schedule sanity breaks into my day. I imagine they’ll be even more important as we march inevitably forward into the connected abyss.

What are your thoughts on our expanding connectedness?

16 free romantic suspense books

[UPDATE 18 April 2017: The promotion is over, but my book, Blind Fury, is still free at all online retailers. Many of these others are as well.]

Looking to try some new-to-you authors risk free?

Thriller author Mark Dawson has launched a new free ebook site called The Book Locker and I was lucky enough to get Blind Fury showcased during its very first week.

The Book Locker lets you search free books by genre, and new books are featured each week. Blind Fury—along with fifteen other freebies—is listed under romantic suspense, but you can click the Genres button at the top of The Book Locker page for great reads in just about any genre you can imagine.

Book Locker RS pageI hope you find some gems!

A winter without snow (finally)

dog in snowFor the first time in six years (minus the year in Alabama, where we did actually get a dusting), I’m not anticipating any snow for winter. Nor any below-zero, ice-particle-blowing, freeze-your-face-windy, shovel-till-you-can’t-lift-a-mug-of-tea days.

winter collage

I’m not going to lie, I’m pretty excited about it.

I prefer to visit the snow on my terms, and if I get the urge, Tahoe is only a few hours, some tire chains, and about 6000 vertical feet away. Yosemite, Shasta, and Mammoth are all fairly close too.

As much as I (yes, still) want to live closer to the coast, Sacramento’s location in the upper Central Valley is great because it has four distinct, but relatively mild, seasons. Summer gets pretty blazing hot without lasting too long, fall brings plenty of glorious, tree-turning color, and we can enjoy frosty nights and cool days in winter without having to turn out in twenty pounds of gear to stay warm.

And while the multitudes of deciduous trees are busy dropping their leaves, the fall and winter rains turn the wild grass emerald green.

red tree

No rush, but I’m looking forward to seeing everything blooming and unfurling in spring, even as the grasses fade to summer gold again.

Of the two countries, nine States, and 14 metro areas I’ve lived in, everyone of them has had a perfect time of year. What’s your favorite season where you are?

A day in Berkeley

Oxford St

Oxford Street across from the Berkeley campus

As a writer who works from home full time, it’s easy to let inertia set in and never leave my house except to fill my cupboards. But I’m an explorer at heart—as is my husband—so we made a commitment to spend at least one day a month sightseeing or hiking somewhere within a few hours’ drive of our house.

Last weekend, we chose Berkeley. A few years ago, when I was visiting to give a workshop to the San Francisco Romance Writers, I ran along the water to the Berkeley Marina—and had lunch and dinner…somewhere—but I hadn’t been downtown since I was seventeen.

It was definitely time to go back. The decision was helped by the relatively short drive—about 75 minutes when the traffic is good, which it happily was earlyish on a Saturday.

I’m certain there’s lots more to do in this fun, pretty college town, but we started and ended with food—there are plenty of options for plant-based eaters like us (we chose Saturn Cafe and Flaco’s)—and spent the time in between visiting UC (Cal) Berkeley’s pretty campus, and exploring Tilden Regional Park, which borders the campus up the hill along the east side.

The park’s botanical gardens have native plants representing California’s wide variety of climates, and lots of quiet, green spaces to wander.

These are a few of my favorite shots from that day.

eucalyptus trees

I love the colors on the peeling trunks of the eucalyptus trees! Blue and gold are especially fitting since they’re the University of California colors.

Sather tower

Sather Tower is hard to miss

view of SF

View of the East Bay and San Francisco (across the bay on the right) from Grizzly Peak in Tilden Regional Park

view of san pablo bay

View of San Pablo Bay from Grizzly Peak (facing NNW)

Gwen at botanical gardens

At the Regional Parks Botanic Garden

redwoods

Redwoods in the botanic garden

Found this guy hiding in the ferns at the botanic garden

Found this guy hiding in the ferns at the botanic garden

What are some of your favorite places to visit near you? (Or me, for that matter. I’m always looking for gems. 😉 )

Check out this page for more travel/road trip posts. Also, many of my small trips end up on social media instead, especially Instagram.