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Pressing Play: A Look Inside My Play Journal (Harris Neck Army Airfield, Townsend, GA)

Notes from a Play Journal. There is a secret and very special place to hike and bike near Savannah, Georgia. Harris Neck Army Airfield in Townsend, GA is a nature preserve that provides visitors an opportunity to explore the old runways and taxiways of the abandoned airfield. You may find yourself off the beaten path and stumbling upon one of the old hangars. What happened to the interior roof? Was it a fire?

This is a must-see for any aviation enthusiasts and/or pilots!

Pressing Play: A Look Inside My Play Journal (Casper, Wyoming)

Notes from a Play Journal. Wyoming is so cool. Casper, Wyoming is one of our new favorite surprise random destinations. The trip begins with bicycle rentals from Mountain Sports. You can ride from the shop to the North Casper Sports Complex, where you can access the paved Platte River Trail for ten miles of pure biking pleasure.

The Tate Pumphouse is a great place to stop for a bathroom break.

I love the sign on the side of the Black Hills Bentonite Company. Wyoming really is one of the last great places.

4.5 mile Bridle Trail at Casper Mountain is a must-do and was not crowded on a Sunday morning in July.

Rarely do we dine at the same place twice while traveling, but exceptions were made for dinner at The Hangar in Bar Nunn and for multi-grain pancakes at Eggingtons in downtown Casper. I loved the Hangar as much for its history as the old 1927 Natrona County Airport as I did for its food!

Pressing Play: A Look Inside My Play Journal (Montana)

Notes from a Play Journal. The trip begins with bicycle rentals from Knickerbocker in Great Falls, MT. You can ride the River’s Edge Trail all the way to Giant Springs State Park. There are restrooms available at the park. In between, there are art sculptures to take in as well as views of the SMOKED barbecue restaurant is next to Knickerbocker and is a fantastic find! Try the spicy cole slaw.

View from River's Edge Trail in Great Falls.JPG
Sculptures along River's Edge Trail.JPG

You will find Windy Mountain in Highwood, Montana. This is just a short drive from Great Falls, and offers a challenging climb for low country folks.

Windy Mtn Highwood MT.JPG

The in-between details involved a cabin rental in Paradise Valley and a second attempt to hike at Passage Falls (unable due to rain); a lunch visit in Gardiner; downtown/historic district walking in Bozeman; and a breathtaking drive from Great Falls to Emigrant that took us past Wolf Lodge; Dearborn; Helena; and Butte. Some things you just can’t do justice by attempting to photograph.

Another star find of this trip was the Big Sky Resort in summer. We loved watching the mountain bikers zoom by as we rode up the side of the mountain. The drive from Bozeman winds past the Gallatin River and you can see the whitewater rafters as you continue on towards Big Sky. It was not over-populated at all for a Sunday in July!

Going up the ski left Big Sky.JPG

Take the lift up and hike down. Watch out for bears! Big Sky has a super cute base town that is all open for summer guests. They offer zip lines as well.

Top of Big Sky Resort.JPG

Pressing Play: A Look Inside My Play Journal (Providence and Newport, Rhode Island)

Providence is a fantastic city for outdoor exercise and for eating pizza at Providence Coal-Fired Pizza! For a scenic walking route downtown, start at Water Place Park and work your way uphill to Prospect Terrace Park in the College Hill neighborhood of Brown University. Fans of architecture and history will love viewing the historic homes along the path of this circa 1869 park.

For bicycling, head over to Dash Bicycle Shop and rent bikes. Ride to India Park and pick up the East Bay Bike Path for a 14.5 mile ride to Bristol, RI. We stopped and had coffee along the trail and ate lunch once we arrived in Bristol. The trail itself is in excellent shape, with no cracks or roots growing over the asphalt. I would give this trail a solid five stars as far as maintenance; scenery; and amenities that are available along the way. There is even a grocery store along the trail. A nice short detour should be made to see Crescent Park and the historic Looff Carousel.

View from the East Bay Bike Trail
View from the East Bay Bike Trail

A visit to Lovecraft Arts & Sciences bookstore in The Arcade is a must stop for H.P. Lovecraft fans. I picked up a copy of “At the Mountains of Madness” and though I have vague remembrances of reading the tale in high school. I waited so long for my second reading that the experience was fresh. I loved the references to the Necronomicon and the Elder Things and/or the Great Old Ones. The story really makes you wonder if Lovecraft knew something we don’t know. What lies beneath?


Newport is Newport, as always. Fun to visit during the week, but stay out of the crowds on summer weekends. The Cliff Walk can get very tight with all of the visitors. A hot tip for flying out: the Fairfield Marriott is connected to PVD via a parking deck. It’s a small walk, but still very convenient because you can drop your rental car off the night before and settle in. There are restaurants within walking distance of the Fairfield.

Cliff Walk.JPG

Pressing Play: A Look Inside My Play Journal (Weird Pismo Beach, California)

The Play Journal remembers Weird Pismo Beach, California, and other wanderings.

It’s funny what I took pictures of in California. Not the sunset over the Pacific Coast Highway, not any of the classic shots of natural beauty. We saw Carmel; Big Sur (Ragged Point was my favorite stop); Monterey; Pismo Beach; Cayucos; Avila Beach; Paso Robles; and the Port San Luis Pier. I think I knew I would be back, and I think I knew from experience that my camera wouldn’t do the scenes justice. I didn’t even try this time.

Central California is so beautiful with the contrast between the ocean and the hills. And it’s not crowded from Cambria all the way to Pismo Beach (at least in November).

Well, I tried one “nice” shot at Port San Luis.

Port San Luis - CA.jpg

Instead, I snapped things that made me laugh. Human seagulls at Pismo Beach.

Human Seagulls - Pismo Beach.jpg

A dog who has the look of a Dad waiting for his child to get out of class.

Dog catches movement. A stream of children pour out of school. But not the Dog’s child. Dog thinks: “C’mon! I’m dying here!“
Dog catches movement. A stream of children pour out of school. But not the Dog’s child. Dog thinks: “C’mon! I’m dying here!“
Dog has resigned himself to his fate. Dog thinks: “He’s never coming out. I’m going to die here waiting in this car. At least I can amuse myself watching those human seagulls.”
Dog has resigned himself to his fate. Dog thinks: “He’s never coming out. I’m going to die here waiting in this car. At least I can amuse myself watching those human seagulls.”

Lazy seals on this dock.

The reason this is so funny is because the sign reads: “Working Pier.” These seals are just useless lie abouts. They will never work.
The reason this is so funny is because the sign reads: “Working Pier.” These seals are just useless lie abouts. They will never work.

A gas station with caution tape – daring me to enter.

Oh, I dare.
Oh, I dare.

Pismo Beach had a classic old California vibe to it. Nothing fancy here, some downright gritty aspects to it, but my overall sense was vintage cool. I think Pismo Beach is to California what Tybee Island is to Georgia. Got to see some surfers. Part of what is so much fun about being somewhere else is you don’t know what you’re going to get. An old man at breakfast chatting me up. Asking where I’m from and then talking to me at some length about Jimmy Carter. Asking me if I’m a student (I’m 38 years old). I loved him so much. Next time, we will be fancier and see Santa Barbara; Malibu; Santa Monica; and Los Angeles.

Entered the old Mission in San Luis Obispo and lit a candle. Tried to say a prayer but it had been so long. I couldn’t even think what to pray for anymore. I vaguely muttered something about keeping me safe in 2019. I guess mostly my prayers had already been answered, and I’ll take that right now. But you have to keep lighting your way.

Pismo Beach - play journal.jpg

Travel. Write. Index. Buy Stealth Journals. Repeat — Jamie Whitmer

Pressing Play: A Look Inside My Play Journal (Orlando)

The Play Journal attempts an adult day out in Orlando sans Mickey Mouse and other cheap imitations.  

The Orlando Museum of Art only allows photography in certain sections. Here are some of those sections:

Edouard Prulhiere Untitled, 1993
Edouard Prulhiere Untitled, 1993
Richard Mosse Carvair Blackpool, 2008. Disaster response shot of a burning plane. Striking fear into the hearts of pilot wives everywhere. 
Richard Mosse Carvair Blackpool, 2008. Disaster response shot of a burning plane. Striking fear into the hearts of pilot wives everywhere. 
Nick Cave Soundsuit, 2011. I love anything that makes me think of Alice in Wonderland and/or the Mad Hatter and his tea party. Good times!
Nick Cave Soundsuit, 2011. I love anything that makes me think of Alice in Wonderland and/or the Mad Hatter and his tea party. Good times!

I did not get a good shot of the swan boats in Lake Eola Park, but rest assured that I was on one. I thought I saw an alligator, but it wound up just being a terrapin. It looked like a lawyer I used to know. So that was fun. I wish I got a picture of him so I could put them up side by side and you could compare them. I mean, that terrapin was a dead ringer. I’m tempted to go back and look for him.

Regrettably, I failed to capture an excellent scene that involved turtles on a pipe. You see, there was a group of turtles that had climbed up onto a pipe to sun themselves. Every now and then, a new turtle would swim up and attempt just once to climb up on the pipe. He would fall back in the water, and swim away in complete turtle shame. The one turtle in the middle of the pipe kicked his leg back and tried to push off the turtle behind him. The turtles were demonstrating life perfectly. 

It’s a long hard climb to the top. You can’t try once and give up and quit. Not everyone can make it. Some will be too weak to climb, some will be too lazy to climb, and some won’t even care enough to want to try and climb. Then, even when you think you’ve got it made, sunning yourself on top, the guy just ahead of you is going to try and kick your ass back down. Turtles. 

Underneath these fishy-smelling waters lurks a Terrapin, who looks like a lawyer. 
Underneath these fishy-smelling waters lurks a Terrapin, who looks like a lawyer. 

Another thing you need to know about the mean streets of Lake Eola Park is that high heels are frowned upon in this establishment. 

Don't be out here strolling in high heels, y'all. 
Don’t be out here strolling in high heels, y’all. 

When I first saw this sign I was fairly tickled about it, and still think it stands alone in the humor category. This is my first time being warned about shoes. I kind of thought it was implied. After walking around the loop a bit more, we came to a congregation of street people. I witnessed a legitimate scene that I am still trying to come to terms with. The short of it was that I think I found out that the sign is directed at street hookers and not tourists, as you would imagine! Cut to scene: two obviously highly intoxicated people. A woman standing and swaying, waving her finger in the air, and telling off a group of four men who were sitting on a bench. Woman: “I don’t do nothing for $8.50. Burger King can’t even get me for that. I want my full $10.00.” Men: “Oh, she don’t work for free.” “Nope.” I saw something in the park that I cannot unsee.    

Lake Eola park is scarier than anything I’ve seen in San Francisco; the 9th Ward; Chicago; or Manhattan. Govern yourselves accordingly. Although, faced with the choice between a walk in the park and listening to other people’s children shout and drool upon themselves while queuing up to ride a $100.00 spinning teacup, I guess I’ll take Hooker Park.

I allowed myself some snark with this one because it’s real. We got dressed out, we got in the car, and we went out to see something new. The world is not always Disney World. Disney World is not Disney World, okay. Go back and read that sentence again if you have to. Every experience is not “I’m sitting on top of a mountain and the sky is bluer than you can even understand.” Every experience is not: “the tableside guacamole was perfectly made and the chips were warm and not too salty,” or even: “we drove in silence through winding mountains that we were surprised to find, and the light hit us through the windshield in a way that could only have been what heaven looks like always.”

No, those are things that happened in Arizona last month. This is now. In Orlando. A place where no one should ever be on purpose unless they have legitimate business here (which we did). 

Every “Play” day is not a colossal success in the manner that an advertisement would try to sell you on. Sometimes, you are on a business trip and you are just trying to squeeze in a few hours of escape. I will embrace seeing something “real” even if it is a bit unpleasant and not sanitized for the tourist masses.

In fact, this installment of “Pressing Play” is probably the most real testament to what the journal is all about. And that’s making the most of the moments you have. Not everyone works in aviation and gets to travel as part of their job. Not everyone is privileged enough to take trips a few times a year. But we can all find moments to steal, and we can journal about them later to find gratitude and create memories for our families. 

I had one more afternoon break walking in the sun with my husband. We did the best with what we had and that’s a win. No, we were not hiking to the top of a mountain; relaxing in a cabin in Montana; walking on a beach in Maine; or driving and exploring Big Sur. Those things were personal travel experiences. Those are things that only happen a handful of times a year.

The real everyday moments are ones we steal. Live! Before they take it from us. That’s something that anyone can relate to. We got another day together where we walked in sunshine. I don’t know why I think of those words, but that’s what I frequently think at the end of the day. 

Ruthless turtles. Hooker Park. A terrapin lawyer. A walk in the sun. We lived this day and we were happy to have it. 

Travel. Write. Index. Buy Stealth Journals. Repeat — Jamie Whitmer

Pressing Play: A Look Inside My Play Journal (Arizona)

The Play Journal revisits Arizona. Some places I’ve seen.  

Notes from the road - Arizona
Notes from the road – Arizona

Yes! We made it to the top of Cathedral Rock in Sedona! It doesn’t look like much from the photo, but it is. There is plenty of freestyle rock climbing involved to get to the top. Very nice, and at 8:30 a.m., there were only 6 or so more people at the top when we arrived. We were even able to find parking at the trailhead. 

Cathedral Rock - Sedona, AZ
Cathedral Rock – Sedona, AZ

After hiking to the top of that rock, we went to look at a hole in the ground (read: Meteor Crater) and stand on a corner (in Winslow, Arizona). A local drove past in an old pick-up truck and screamed at the tourists: “Eagles suck!” It was so awesome. They pipe out very loud music on this corner, and I don’t blame the guy at all. 

standingonthecorner.JPG

The real gem in Winslow is the La Posada Hotel with the Turquoise Room’s signature soup, and co-owner Tina Mion’s art galleries. La Posada is a former Harvey House Hotel designed by Mary Coulter and opened in 1930. For a second I thought I had stepped into the Hotel California.

Amtrak’s Southwest Chief still stops at the hotel. Is it haunted? I don’t know, but I could certainly sense the past there, and it was an electrical past reminiscent of the feelings I got when I would visit the Jerome Grand Hotel in Jerome, Arizona. If history/place memory is a synonym for a haunting, then yes, to me it is haunting. In the most peaceful, comforting way imaginable. There was a Twilight Zone type of feeling (Next stop, Willoughby?). 

I wish I could have spent some more time here. Certainly I would have traded my nights in Sedona for nights here. Old America is the feel. A taste of a simpler time, maybe. Maybe I long for something that never was, but I had the sense that I could find something here that I needed. A moment in time that was essentially timeless. I could have been in 1930, 1954, or 2017. But I was there. I lived there for a time. 

Tina’s description of Mionland brought tears to my eyes. It involves the death of her grandmother. I knew it was about death the second I saw it, because the senior lady is standing up beside her wheelchair with her cane propped against the back, clutching her purse. She got called up. She’s waiting to transfer stations. I instantly “got” Tina’s work, and it was a powerful experience wondering through the public areas of La Posada, studying her paintings, and then reading her placards. What an unexpected treat!   

Mionland - 2010
Mionland – 2010
A New Year's Party in Purgatory For Suicides in Which Liberace Makes a Guest Appearance Down from Heaven Just for The Hell of It. 
A New Year’s Party in Purgatory For Suicides in Which Liberace Makes a Guest Appearance Down from Heaven Just for The Hell of It. 

The guest list at the New Year’s Party includes: Sid Vicious; Jimi Hendrix; Sylvia Plath; Judy Garland; Ernest Hemingway; Marilyn Monroe; and Kurt Cobain, just to name a few. The most fascinating mystery to me is who is the young boy at the back of the photo – standing in the doorway?

Favorite hike in Mesa: Pass Mountain at Usery Mountain Park.

Most beautiful drive: Prescott National Forest to Scottsdale, passing Wickenburg. 

Sedona Love = Tableside guacamole at the Mesa Grill at the airport. Morning hikes. Red rocks.  

Sedona Hate = poor wi-fi at Oak Creek Terrace and strange spiral stairs in room, with the shower located downstairs, and the half-bath located upstairs in the master suite. Never again! Who builds a layout like that?! Word to your mother – do not book Room 16. Terrible holiday traffic trying to get through town! So bad, we went to Scottsdale one day early to escape the traffic! 

Travel. Write. Index. Buy Stealth Journals. Repeat — Jamie Whitmer

Fun and Games at the Museum of Contemporary Art: A Look Inside My Play Journal

Making notes inside my Play Journal of some of the exhibits at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago. I can always spot Francis Bacon a mile away, because some guy is always screaming his head off! 

Study for a Portrait, 1949
Study for a Portrait, 1949
Encounter, 1966. Enrico Baj. This was my first time seeing works by Enrico Baj, and they were very interesting to study. I like the way he used actual medals for this collage of two generals.  
Encounter, 1966. Enrico Baj. This was my first time seeing works by Enrico Baj, and they were very interesting to study. I like the way he used actual medals for this collage of two generals.  
IMG_5509.JPG
Untitled, 1966. Lee Bontecou. I first saw works by Bontecou at this very museum in May of 2013. The steel; canvas; and lighting make a very powerful statement!
Untitled, 1966. Lee Bontecou. I first saw works by Bontecou at this very museum in May of 2013. The steel; canvas; and lighting make a very powerful statement!
Les merveilles de la nature, Rene Magritte, 1953. I always love trying to interpret Magritte's work! Fish-human hybrids made of stone. What is he trying to tell us?!
Les merveilles de la nature, Rene Magritte, 1953. I always love trying to interpret Magritte’s work! Fish-human hybrids made of stone. What is he trying to tell us?!

Pressing Play: A Look Inside My Play Journal (Chihuly)

Making note inside my Play Journal of the Dale Chihuly exhibit at the Morean Arts Center in St. Petersburg, Florida. It very much reminded me of the exhibit we saw many years ago in Oklahoma City (that is a good thing – fond memories). 

chihuly-st-pete1.JPG
Chihuly-blue.JPG
chihuly-st-pete2.JPG
chihuly-st-pete3.JPG
chihuly-st-pete4.JPG

This time, we caught some of the movie, and I loved hearing about the Jerusalem installation. Very uplifting exhibit! I had forgotten how powerful light and color could be. I had forgotten the magical brilliance of all of it. I won’t for awhile again, now. Like cranes that create, and then erase themselves from the sky.

— Jamie Whitmer

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