This year, was the first time I attended the Romance Writers of America National Conference, and I am so glad I did! Last week, I wrote a post about the highlights of my experience at the conference, and you can link to it here. Today I would like to write about the road trip itself and how I squeezed every bit I could out of the time we had to benefit my well-being as well as my ever-present Muse.
When I decided I was going to attend the conference in Denver, CO, my friends and I decided that it would be fun to extend the days off a bit and make it a road trip. While they aren’t writers, they are the best Muses a girl could ask for in that they support me in every aspect of my writing journey. Taking a vehicle allowed me to participate easily in the Indie Author Book Signing at the RWA Conference since we were able to transport my books in lieu of shipping them. It also allowed me to take a mobile office with me and work on my current WIP Twist of Fate, which made my Writing Muse happy. Here is a timeline of the trip:
Day #1 – Our first stop was Iowa City, and my girlfriend had found a cool thing to check out to walk the cramps out of our legs. The portion of the Literary Walk that we found took up about 2 city blocks and quoted the work of several area authors on bronze plaques set in the sidewalk. There was construction there when we went, so the parking was a bit tricky, but I am so glad we made the extra effort. Reading the plaques reminded me that everyone has a story to tell, and they are as wide and varied as the people who bring them to life. This stop really catered to the bookish part of my soul, and was definitely worth the effort!
Day #2 – The next day we were back in the car, and spent the majority of the day in Nebraska. I got a lot of editing completed, and even managed a few new words, since…dare I say it…Corn. Lots of Corn. There is a cool museum in Kearney, NE off of Hwy 80, actually over it as a matter of fact. It’s called The Archway, and it is worth stopping if you have never been and are traveling that way. The self-guided tour describes the hardships and determination of the people who first traveled the Oregon Trail, the race to California during the Gold Rush of 1849, the creation of the Pony Express, the industry that built the Transcontinental Railroad and the creation of the Lincoln Highway and the Interstate Highway System. The facility is a great place to stretch your legs and take a break, but I would plan on staying no less than an hour. There are also outside facilities that we didn’t have time for, but that will be sure to tire younger folks that might need to run off some extra energy.
Day #3 to 5 – Made it into Denver and after checking in at the conference and receiving my first ever badge, we settled in at our hotel. I spent all day Thursday and Friday at the Conference, but my friends and I were able to sneak in a few relaxing moments on the 27th floor of the Hyatt at Peaks Lounge. The view was fantastic from there, especially when the sun went down and the city lights came on. I would highly recommend the Paradise Sunset cocktail, Charcuterie Board, and House Blend Sliders!
While I was at the conference, my friends checked out the sites around Estes Park, CO. They took a tour of the Stanley Hotel, the birthplace of Stephen King’s The Shining. They definitely picked up on some strange vibes as well, and can easily understand how a writer could let their imaginations run away with them in a place like that. If you are there, you might want to take a tour of their facilities or even spend the night… if you dare!
Day#6 – We checked out early Saturday, and took a stroll in the park we found Downtown. We came across an awesome outdoor sculpture exhibit designed using the symbols of the Chinese Zodiac. The exhibit is only there for a short time, but we took lots of pictures, a few of which are below. The walk was wonderful on an early morning Saturday, there were hardly any folks out. Denver also has wonderful sculptures dotted around their city, so we took some photo ops before getting in the car and heading to the Molly Brown House Museum.
Loved this tour and highly recommend it! What a beautiful house and fascinating background on the woman who earned the title “The Unsinkable Molly Brown.” What I came to find out was that Margaret Brown was so much more than a woman who survived the Titanic. Her house, which was saved by the Historical Society from demolition in the 1970s, has been converted into a fantastic tribute to her life as an actress, advocate, reformer and world traveler. When her husband JJ Brown hit gold in an all but defunct mine, they became millionaires overnight which allowed for them to help the less fortunate, something Margaret did even after the Titanic sunk. Knowing that there were passengers that had lost everything, she rallied the first class passengers to donate money raising over $10,000 before the Carpathia reached New York.
After the tour, and before getting on the road for our next destination, we stopped in Boulder, CO for some lunch and to allow me some time to meet up with a connection I made on Twitter. While I didn’t have lunch at The Sink, I have been there before and it is definitely something you don’t want to miss if you are in that area. Nestled in the midst of a college campus and toted for the best Pizza in Boulder, it has a fun, vibrant atmosphere. The artwork on the wall dates back to the 1960s and is a visual representation of the politics and turmoil happening at the time, with a tongue and cheek twist.
Day #7 – After a harrowing drive through lightning storms, rain, and mountains, we found ourselves the next day in the Black Hills of South Dakota. We started the morning at the Crazy Horse Memorial, soaking in the serene beauty of the area, and the inspiring tale of the birth of the artist’s vision. What one man started, has been left in legacy to his children and grandchildren, and they are building not only a wonderful tribute for the Native American people but also a way for their culture to be taught to future generations. Their mission is extremely inspiring, and I highly recommend checking it out!
The next stop was Mount Rushmore and I really enjoyed learning about the reasons the figures of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln were chosen for this monument. The story of the birth, growth, development, and preservation of this country is told throughout the fabulous exhibits in the museum and carved in the granite of the Black Hills. As an introvert, I much preferred the vibe of the Crazy Horse Memorial, since it seemed much more relaxing and spacious to me. While Mount Rushmore is spacious as well, it was a bit more crowded and not as spiritual…at least for me.
Day #8 – At this point, we were all singing “On the Road Again” by Willie Nelson, and happy to get out at any point, to see anything. Shortly after getting on the road, we took a short jaunt off the highway through a loop of the Badlands National Park. It was well worth the extra hour it added to our journey as the scenery was awe-inspiring. I understand now why they call it the Badlands, there is a whole lot of heat, dry grass and rock formations, and not a whole lot as far as the eye can see. Although, we did manage to see some prairie dogs…in the prairie, which was super fun!
There were some pretty cool exhibits along the way that we found, strangely enough, at rest stops. We stretched our legs at a place where “Dignity” loomed over us in the form of a large stainless steel statue. It was comforting to see that she had her arms spread wide as if inviting me into a future that she could only see.
Day #9 – Found a great rest area that explained how designs on quilts fit into the history of the Underground Railroad. I love learning things I never knew and am super interested to dive deeper into researching this topic!
Finally back in Michigan, we made a stop at The Chocolate Garden, and holy truffles what an amazing place off the beaten path! This was a gem of a place, and if you are a chocolate lover, it is well worth the extra time you will spend here, especially if you have been on the road for 2 days and need to stretch your legs. They had flavors of all kinds, and their presentation is adorable! They also do chocolate tastings and are a perfect compliment for some of the wineries in the area. For folks that don’t get to Michigan much, don’t you fear…they ship also!
While the 50-year old in me came back tired, sore and popping more Motrin than is healthy for anyone, the writer in me came back rejuvenated, inspired and ready to create! I think the tradeoff is fair, and while I don’t think I will be making next year’s conference a road trip, I do have to admit that it is a fabulous way to get to your destination and feed your Muse simultaneously.
So my mission to you, should you choose to accept it…. Get your Day Trip on! Get in your car and head to destinations unknown, and if you keep your eyes and heart open, you might be surprised at just what you might find! Embrace the Journey everyone and let me know where your travels take you! XO