Category Archives: Travel

Story Inspiration: Dionicio Rodriguez – Faux Bois Sculpture

I’m always on the lookout for unusual sights, urban legends or myths to inspire my short stories so as soon as we set up camp in a new location, I make it a point to ask the locals where I should go. While camping near Maumelle, Arkansas this summer, one of our neighbors suggested I check out The Old Mill at T. R. Pugh Memorial Park in Little Rock.  All he would say was the site had been filmed for the opening credits of Gone With The Wind and it was amazing.The Old Mill6

Okay, sounded interesting although not the lore I usually research but I was bored so off we went with Jake in the back seat. Our retriever is a well mannered dog and attracts a lot of attention wherever we go . . . which he loves. Unfortunately, on this particular day Little Rock was in the midst of a brutal heat wave and Jake was feeling it. When we parked in front of the idyllic park setting – water, green lawns, flowering trees and shrubs – I noticed a sign which read, “no pets allowed.” It was too hot even in the shade to leave the Jakester in our vehicle. I resigned myself to leaving until Hubby, being the wonderful, accommodating soul he is, volunteered to pet sit  in the air conditioned truck while I explored The Old Mill. [Hmmm . . . looking back now, I question his motives.]

The Old MillAs I passed through gates flanked by large rock walls and shaded walks, it was like stepping back in time. Tangled vines formed an arch over a footbridge stretching across a small pond. On the other side of the walkway stood a two-story rock mill house with a water wheel churning green blue water. Azaleas spilled across the grounds and beside meandering paths. I can imagine how gorgeous the setting is during spring when the shrubs are in full bloom.

At that moment, I was content with the day’s excursion but it got better. As I eased through the massive portal of old vines, I trailed my fingers across the gnarled surface, marveling at the polished wood. Except it wasn’t wood. Ah ha, there IS a quirky tale here, after all!
The Old Mill4

The tumbling vines, wooden planks, bridges and more were crafted from concrete in the early 1930’s by a premier sculptor of faux bois (fake wood), Dionicio Rodriguez. Justin Matthews, developer of the Lakewood Community in North Little Rock, ran across the artist’s work while  visiting Mexico City. He then learned Dionicio had relocated to San Antonio and began a quest to find him. With the help of an interpreter, Justin negotiated sculptures for three of his projects, T.R. Pugh Park being one. Dionicio’s magnificent creation caught the eye of film maker, David Selznick who used the site in his movie, Gone With The Wind.

There are some historic aspects to the site, as well.  The grist mill’s first floor dates back to 1828. Two original mile stones were moved to the site from a road  laid out more than 150 years ago, and used by the Cherokee and Choctaw to travel from Dardanelle, Arkansas to Oklahoma. Three sections of a wrought iron shaft were cut from the stern wheel of an 1800’s passenger steamboat.

But it was eccentric actions of Dionicio Rodriguez during the construction phase that provided inspiration for one of my stories in the soon-to-be-released anthology, Tales From The Back Roads.

The Old Mill2Dionicio hired helpers to assist with building the concrete footings and underpinnings of the project, however he never shared the process behind his artistic methodology. It is said he mixed products in the trunk of his car, slamming it shut if anyone approached and even breaking jars or peeling labels to keep his ingredients a secret. He used a variety of objects to re-create the texture of wood such as spoons, forks and tools he handcrafted himself, perfecting the technique so well, he managed to fool the most discerning eye. Everything “wooden” in the park, including a huge bridge spanning an adjacent lagoon, is crafted in faux bois.

After learning of the eccentric way the artist worked, my imagination began to churn faster than the water wheel next to the grist mill. What obscure motive drove Dionicio to keep his processes and mixtures a secret? Were there illicit or illegal ingredients in the preparation of his product? Did he have an unseen force instructing him? Could he have hidden something in the concrete structures? Body parts, perhaps?

And that, dear readers, is how inspiration for a short story begins . . .

 

 

 

 

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Come Along For The Ride

Life on the road is about constantly learning to adjust. Things seldom go exactly as planned and even when they do, we have the luxury of making real time changes to our schedule if we choose. It’s a great lifestyle in theory but trust me, there are as many day to day challenges as living in a stick and brick.

I’m not going to lie . . . developing structured writing habits in an unstructured atmosphere has not been easy. You might say I’m a work in progress, just like my manuscripts. I’m determined to make some major improvements in 2016 so one of the things I did was merge our travel blog, OlDogandMe with my author blog. Nothing like a little variety to spice things up.

Readers will now have an opportunity to follow my writing progress as well as my adventures. Occasionally I’ll share research for an upcoming story in my Tales From The Back Roads series. (Vol One is Releasing Jan 1).  Or I may do a photo collage from one of my hikes. By eliminating the travel blog, it frees up time for this blog and my writing.

I redesigned DebSanders dot com to reflect these changes. I am no longer concentrating on book reviews although you might see one pop up from time to time.

As a side note, I want to enlist your help.  If you have a good urban legend suitable for the Back Roads series, let me know. My contact info is available on my BIO page. Tales From The Back Roads is a collection of short stories based on North American lore. The stranger, the better! You can learn more on the HOME page.

Travel and Fun Leave Little Time For Writing

As most know, we are full time RVers. The biggest adjustment for me as a writer has been balancing an unstructured lifestyle with structured writing time. I’m still struggling with it. I have two blogs, my author site and travel site (http://OlDogandMe.com) as well as manuscript commitments such as the second book in my Dead Men series and an ongoing anthology of short stories based on North American myth and lore. In the midst of all of that, I strive to fit in a few hikes and adventures.

I am the personification of too many irons in the fire! Yowsa!

But I’m trying – and I appreciate your support and understanding. When I spend too much time posting to OlDog and Me, I feel guilty about neglecting my author site and vice versa. I’ve considered combining them but haven’t figured out a way to successfully incorporate the different aspects of my writing and traveling.

All I can do is suggest you hop back and forth between the two websites to get an idea of what’s happening with my writing. Somewhere in the middle, I’m doing research for upcoming stories, fitting in a little touristy stuff and trying to achieve a happy medium.

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A Picture Is Worth A Thousand Words . . . More or Less

During our travels as full time RVers, I’ve snapped some pretty interesting photos. Today was one of those days. We’re currently camped in the Texas Panhandle – windy, flat, and miles and miles of nothing. As I stared across a vast expanse of farmland, I saw a single tree standing tall against the horizon. I was curious. Why would the landowner leave one tree in the middle of his crops?

A story played out in my mind so I thought I would share. It’s purely fictional. And short. Enjoy!

As always, you can follow our adventures at OlDogandMe.com

The Tree

by Deb Sanders

The land stretched as far as she could see – raw and unpolished, like the homesteader who lived here. For a genteel woman from the East, it was beyond her comprehension how anyone could exist in such a wasteland. It was not beautiful as he’d been promised. Nor did it instill a sense of grandeur. Her blue eyes narrowed under the shield of a gloved hand as she stood on the wagon seat, surveying her new home. In the end, the only emotion she could summon was . . . despair.

The wind tugged at the ribbons on her new bonnet. It was too late to return to the proper life she’d known in Philadelphia. Too late for remorse.

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Dreamin’ My Life Away . . .

Day dreaming. Visualization. Manifesting. Law of Attraction. Goal setting. Believe it and see it.

All of those terms describe a similar process – achieving one’s ambition or desire. 20150502_172043

The trick is transforming thought into action. Everyone “dreams” about the pot at the end of the rainbow. That pot might contain a winning lottery ticket, a cabin in the woods far removed from civilized society, an endless beach on an obscure island, or the funds to enable your family to pay the bills and sock a little extra away for a rainy day.

Sounds wonderful, doesn’t it? Not so easy to attain.

There are few things we can count on in life. One is change. The winds of time ensure we will always encounter shifting sands. The other is disappointment. Humans have a tendency to want what is just beyond our grasp. This means living in a constant state of unhappiness because expectations are seldom achieved, and when they are, the end result often does not meet our glamorized vision of what we anticipated.

And therein lies the key to happiness. Expect nothing. Enjoy whatever happens.

It is an impossible task for most people because societal influences dictate what we need to be “happy” – unless you’re a dark horse like me. Some days I think I’m on the cusp of enlightenment – but only by a hair.

You see, life has thrown so many curve balls in my path, so many rotten lemons too sour for lemonade, that I almost stopped believing in purpose. I lived to work. I worked to pay bills. I watched from a distance as others enjoyed lifestyles I would never experience. They were happy. They had the things everyone strives to achieve. They were blessed. Or so I thought.

89923b5cbb4c896d7c96018026b39241Someone once told me this was life. Accept it. And yet there was always a minuscule thread of rebellion refusing to accept the status quo. Sure, life might suck today but what about tomorrow? I suppose it could be defined as hope . . . which makes me a hopeful romantic. Without hope . . . without the possibility of improving one’s lot in life . . . how can anyone go on? If you take away the dreams, visions of a better existence, what’s left? Is strife, pain and disappointment worth the challenge?

Today I can answer that question with a resounding “YES”!

I’m about to embark on a great adventure. Full time RVing. Some naysayers consider this the ultimate personification of narcissism. Others snarkily refer to my upcoming lifestyle as irresponsible. A few scratch their heads at my gypsy free spirit, applying labels like black sheep, hobo, vagabond, poor relative, lights are on but nobody’s home friend/relative. They curl their lips and turn their backs because giving up material “stability” to embrace a simplistic, nomadic journey borders on insanity. These are the same people who drive 80 mph to reach an overlook, take 5 minutes to sigh, then jump back in their cars and head home to Tivo, Xbox and YouTube.

I get it. Life on the road is not for everyone. I’m happy my critics can enjoy their homes, green lawns, finger tip technology and gas grills. It all boils down to a square peg in a round hole. But which is right? The square or the round? I think both are right. It’s a personal choice.

I love the great outdoors. Always have. I’m grounded in the wilderness or wandering aimlessly on a deserted coastline. Awestruck by the beauty of this great planet. Connected to the energy of every living creature when all you can hear is the wind in the trees. My heart fills with such joy, such love, such wonder that words can’t possibly express what I’m feeling. It extends outside this feeble vessel called Deb Sanders to something greater than all of us.

There are a few people who say, “Wow, I’ve always dreamed about traveling.” “I’ve always wanted to RV full time.” “I’ve always . . .”seahorse-1

Suddenly, this crazy, disjointed, unorganized life I was dealt is coming full circle and enabling me to live the dream. I haven’t owned a home in years. I’ve relocated so many times that material possessions are meaningless. Sentimental relics from my past have been farmed out to those with more “stable” lifestyles. I’m happy. They’re happy. It’s a win-win.

June 21st is the first day of the rest of my life. I saddle up and ride off into the sunset. Until then, I’m living vicariously in my dreams content in knowing the only difference between dreams and reality is action.

 

Home is Where You Park It

Some of you may have noticed my blog feed has been sporadic of late, as well as undergoing a few subtle changes. There’s a reason for that . . . the call of the wild. Gypsy fever. Nomadic life. Full time RVing.

parkscampgrounds_heroYep. Me, hubby, the dog and cat are about to become Happy Campers. I’ve always had an adventurous spirit but never found the right time to fully embrace it. Until now. We’ve been mentally preparing for this daunting change for about six months but are just now purging possessions. I call it downsizing panic. I’m excited.  But nervous. Eager. But bittersweet about giving up my “stuff”. I tell myself material things do not make a person. So why is it so hard to let go?

It’s been a difficult couple of years. My writing took a backseat while I helped our daughter and her family adjust to a special needs baby. A wonderful but emotionally draining experience. It’s hard to be creative when your heart hurts.  Thank God everyone is doing well and on the right track. Now . . . time to resurrect my writing career. I’m almost finished with the first book in a new, cozy style mystery series and excited to get it out there. I’m sure many of my fans have forgotten me but hopefully we can reconnect while I earn a few new ones.

New books. New life.

Everyone thinks full time RVing is a long “vacation” but it’s so much more. It’s a lifestyle. It’s tiny house living on wheels. It’s minimizing every single aspect of your world. It’s slowing down to enjoy life, embracing the wonders of nature and  returning to – or discovering – a simpler existence.  I’m looking forward to long walks, uninterrupted writing time, and watching the sun set over mountain tops and desert floors. With a glass of wine, of course.

Hubby and I are torn between two styles of RV’s – a Fifth Wheel and a Class A. Owners of each type are passionate in their belief that theirs is the best rig for living on the road. Pros – I like the interior of Fifth Wheels, the added option of a vehicle in which to explore, and the easier turning radius when driving. Cons include less storage area and more time setting up camp. Class A’s have tons of underbelly storage, easy set up, and comfortable travelling for us and the pets. Downsize is . . . the size! It’s a little intimidating to drive a 37-40′ beast around, much less parking it. If we don’t pull a “toad” or tow behind vehicle, we are limited to renting a car for local excursions which is probably cheaper and safer but still a hassle. What to do? We’ve flip-flopped so much on this decision I’m getting dizzy! Whatever we decide, we are adamant about making the purchase in April and being on the road by the end of May.

I’m already building a new website for our adventure and will introduce it soon. DebSanders dot com will remain my author site. The other will serve as a travelogue – with a bonus.  I plan to research local lore and myths while wandering from place to place, then write short stories based on those legends. It will be a fun diversion in between novels.

I’ll still be posting book reviews from time to time on this site, as well as more articles about the craft and industry. And who knows what other tidbits might appear? Stay tuned and find out.