I see Waymo in Arizona

During my road trip from New York to Arizona, I started to see Waymo vans along the highway. I first really noticed them in New Mexico. I didn’t think much of it. I didn’t know what they were. I just figured it was a company that I was unaware of that used their vehicles as marketing tools. As I got closer to Arizona I began to see more and more became curious. What is that contraption on the roof? What is Waymo? I then realized it was a self driving vehicle. My first thought was “How cool!”. After spending ten days driving cross country, I started to think about how this vehicle would have changed my trip. Some of the drivers I saw had their hands on the wheel, others were eating their lunch or looking at their iPad. My Italian friends from New York would really like this because they could talk with their hands and fully express themselves as they drove.

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After the initial intrigue wore off, I started to feel a little uncomfortable traveling along the highway with self driving vehicles. I am glad I didn’t realize what Waymo was earlier in my trip because it now made me a little nervous. As interesting as it sounds, I’m not convinced that I would really like this. Yes, there are times I’ve thought “I wish this car could just drive itself because I’m tired” but I like being in control. I don’t like to be controlled by technology and programmers. I don’t like automated phone messages. I want a real person. I don’t like the cash register telling me how much change to give back. I like to count back the change. I don’t like copy machines that decides how I want my copies. I just want a copy! (My work friends can vouch for that). I want to make my own decisions and not have a programmer think they know what I want or need. Don’t get me wrong, I love technology, but I like using my brain, being in control and making my own decisions. If not, I can get very testy.

Waymo’s early rider program began in Phoenix within the past year or so which explains why I see many of their vehicles daily. With more questions than answers, I decided to look more into this Waymo. The first thing I saw was the trademark “We’re building the worlds most experienced driver”. Well, I consider myself an experienced driver. I’ve been driving with a permit and license for over 40 years and prior to that I drove tractors and other off road vehicles. What is there experience? Well, I see they began as the Google Car in 2009. Hmmmm….that’s less than 10 years. Waymo “knows the roads”. You are even able to see the roads as Waymo sees the roads based on the screen. Why not look out the window and see for yourself? “Avoid the stress of driving”. I know I’ve had more stress dealing with technology than with driving, just ask Siri.

I think many of the features can help. Some cars already have some of these features installed such as sensors. I think the technology behind this can help to reduce accidents. I am very apprehensive about taking total control from the driver. This extreme seems dangerous to me.

Who is liable in an accident? What is the “drivers” responsibility? Is the company liable? The programmer? How does this work with insurance? What about snow or icy conditions? That’s just the beginning. I would be happy to hear thoughts or experiences anyone has had. Maybe I need to learn more. Maybe I need to try it out. As of right now it makes me nervous and leaves me with many unanswered questions.

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Road Trips Rock

Sitting still to long gets me restless. It had been a couple days since I had been out exploring, so yesterday I decided to take a road trip. Tucson was my destination with a few side trips. I first drove down to Tumacácori National Historical Park about 50 miles south of Tucson and about 20 miles from the Mexican border. Tumacácori is one the Spanish missions that was established in 1691. I looked around in the gift shop however I decided not to do a tour because I was planning to go to San Xavier’s mission next. Also I needed gas, my low fuel light had just come on. Luckily the closest gas station was a little over 3 miles away at El Mercado up the road. As I was in the gift shop the volunteer told me about Tubac, a small artisan community just before the gas station. So I got my car and I drove to El Mercado and filled up my tank. I then proceeded to Tubac. What an awesome little place! There are only two main streets filled with artist’s studios, handcrafted stores, the Performing Arts Center and some little restaurants.

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Wagon Wheel windows

I spent quite a while walking around looking at all the art work. I visited the Performing Art Center where they had a museum filled with more art. Before I have left, I stopped at Wisdom’s DOS and had a fresh made strawberry lemonade and a street taco.

As I drove up Route 19, I went through border patrol on my way to San Xavier Mission. It’s a Catholic mission about 10 miles south of Tucson. You can see the huge white structure from the highway. It is called the White Dove of the Desert.

The church was very ornate and really breathtaking. It is the oldest European structure sill intact in Arizona. I wandered around he grounds and read up on the history.

Next, I drove to “A” Mountain in Sentinel Park. The road going up was a little narrow and a little harrowing at times as it went along the mountain. It was only about a mile up, but the views were fabulous. I could look over into Tucson and into the mountains. It was so peaceful above it all.

I then spent time driving around downtown, it was later than I had planned so the other attractions that I had planned to visit were closed. I did find The Gaslight Theater which has the charm of an old fashioned musical melodrama. Scrooge was playing so I couldn’t get inside to explore, but connected to the theater is an 1950’s diner. I went in to get an appetizer before heading home. It was full of 50’s memorabilia, staff were dressed in period appropriate attire, music played from that era and there was a DJ that would throw out some trivia related questions. They even give you bubble gum!

I then drove about 1 1/2 hours back. It was a long day, but filled with interesting new discoveries. Road trips rock!

The Thankful Struggle

Recently I just finished the book Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline. It was a great book that told a story of the trains that travelled cross country with orphaned children. Babies through early teens would ride the train stopping along the way to find “new families” in the Midwest. It reminded me of slave trade, as the young boys were “adopted” to work the farms, girls were used for labor as well. The children were often abused and deprived. These tough lives were thrust upon our most vulnerable. Reading the book, my heart ached for them and made me sad and angry. Through all this struggle, there was hope. Hope for a new life, appreciation for the little things as children who were forced to grow up too fast. After all this heartache, it was evident that the positive outcome is the strength they found and how these circumstances led them to a brighter future.

Of course, I starting thinking about this in my own life. How did I get where I am right now? My plan was to retire and be free to travel the world. When contemplating retirement, it was a tough decision. Can I afford it? Am I ready to let go? Will I lose my identity? Although the decision was mine, I thought about it day and night. I was working in a place that had changed dramatically in the last few years. Collectively, my administrators were narcissistic, unethical, unappreciative, disrespectful, micro managers and totally incompetent. Being in this toxic environment was unhealthy for me as I cried every day on my way to work and many times during the day. What I saw happening saddened and angered me. I hated being in a place where I spent more time overcoming obstacles that prevented me from doing my job. I was miserable! These circumstances made it easier to decide to retire with my integrity intact. Maybe I should thank these incompetent administrators? Well, I wouldn’t go that far, but I will say because of them I felt compelled to make the best decision of my life. I am thankful to not be surrounded by these kinds of people. I miss the wonderful colleagues and students. I wish them the best. I am dealing with the anger I feel, by trying to be positive and look at where it has lead me rather than the negative experience. Since life is about balance, I was fortunate enough to gain another work experience before packing my car and leaving town. This time with administrators who were caring, respectful and appreciative. I was afforded the opportunity to leave my career on a positive note and for that I am grateful.

I look at other things in my life that have been difficult or struggles that I have endured. All of these things have led me to where I am know, so even though I may at times still struggle with them, I remind myself of where I am and how I got here.

Thanksgiving day, I voluntarily struggled as I took my first hike in Arizona. Turks Head in Superstition Mountains was more difficult than I had expected. The beginning was a sand path that wound through the desert. I walked through the cactus and appreciated the beauty and the warm day.

As I got closer to the peak it got very steep and rocky. Scaling the rocks I had to be carful not to slip. There was some losses stone as well which made it even a little more difficult.

Before I got to the top, I got a bit nauseous and very lightheaded. I had to sit for a minute to catch my breath. I kept drinking my water, because it is very easy to get dehydrated in the desert. There were times I thought about quitting. This was far enough. Then I would look forward and tell myself “you made it this far, you can’t stop now”. I struggled to the top and was rewarded by the picturesque landscape. I was thankful that I had not given up, because that struggle led me to this.

After resting, I was ready for my decent. It seemed a long way down crawling over the rocks. The cholla cactus got stuck to me a couple of times. Luckily it was only on my boot. I had to remove it with the pliers. I was thankful it didn’t get on my skin. That would have been painful.

Cholla

My back, near my shoulder blades started to ache very badly. I was talking with a woman from China who is an acupuncturist. She did acupuncture for me right on the trail and magically the upper back pain was gone. I never had acupuncture but I think I may look into it. It was amazing. I was thankful that she could help. By the time I got back to the trailhead I did have a bit of a headache. I couldn’t wait to get home. I went right to bed and slept all night. My pounding headache made me nauseous, which made me vomit. I was hot and cold. I couldn’t drink or eat anything. Finally, in the middle of the night I started to feel better or at least I could drink water. Even though I drank water I think I was dehydrated. You have to drink a lot of water in the southwest! Getting use to the change of climate from the east and jumping in to a relatively strenuous hike (for me) probably wasn’t a good idea; however, I am rested and I will hike again. The experience was worth the struggle. I am Thankful!

“When everything is in uphill struggle, think of the view from the top”

“Life is limitless”

Open Mind, Open Heart

Traveling is exhilarating. Exploring the world puts things in perspective. Learning from history and various cultures, emphasizes how different we all are, yet how connected. I enjoy visiting ancient sites/ruins and visualizing it many years ago as people lived their daily lives, working, playing, surviving. How different the landscape is today, but the goals seem to be very similar……working, playing, surviving. Although there are different stresses, people still connect with one another, forming relations, good and bad. Some families/tribes/communities get along while others are at odds. Looking at how events played out, it is evident that history does repeat itself.

I visited Pueblo Grande Museum today. In the gallery, I saw relics found during the archeological digs and learned about the Hohokam people that occupied the area from 450-1450 AD. On the outdoor trail, I saw the ruins of their adobe houses, ball court and elevated platform. I visualized the Hohokam people going about their day, cooking, performing ceremonies and observing the happenings in he ball court and building their canal system, irrigating their desert gardens.  In 1450 AD it appears that they left suddenly, possibly due to flooding or warfare with other tribes. How different things were at that time. How different things are in different geographical areas.

I like to travel to see things from a different vantage point, to talk to people from different backgrounds. What are people thinking? What are their thoughts about certain world events? How might they do things differently than me? How does it differ from what I’ve seen from where I’ve been standing? Little things occur that I find “odd”. I try to understand them and the justification for them. For example, a little thing like going through the toll booths in Oklahoma was different. When you get to the toll booth, you tell them where you are going and they tell you how much to pay them. I ended up getting off early to get gas. I was asked where I got on. Of course I had no idea. The woman asked me for my receipt Receipt? Did I get a receipt? I never pay attention to that, I just throw them away. Well, I found my receipt and was refunded $2.55. I got gas and went through the tollbooth. “I guess you want your $2.55 back? ” I thought it was a strange system. It didn’t make sense to me and I didn’t think it was very efficient, but I learned to pay closer attention to my receipts. The whole world doesn’t work like your little corner of existence. Travel can teach us to be more open, pay closer attention and don’t take things for granted.

Open our minds and we will see all the beauty in the world. Open our hearts and we grow and find peace together.

It’s All About the Pace

The pace has slowed. I’ve started to settle. I kind of miss the adventure of a new day, a new place. Now my days have some “normalcy”. I never was one that looked for normal. I cook. I clean. I shop for food. I do laundry. I get ready to start working a few days a week. I investigate volunteering. I go out and meet people to socialize. It feels comfortable. I’m settling. There is a familiar feel to that. I am careful not to gather or collect “things”; things I will end up throwing away when I pick up and leave in the spring.

I have adventures and excursions planned. A cruise, day trips, weekend get-aways to explore the area and beyond. I’m excited and look forward to these. I need to come up with a plan of how I’m going to fit everything in and still do the “normal” everyday chores. I am going to make a plan or probably a spreadsheet (that’s how I roll, just ask people who know me). I’m going to carefully plan everything out to be sure I get to do the top things on my list. Of course, the document is fluid and can change as I see fit. I may add and delete things as I learn more. Remember it is all about learning and the experience. The worse thing I could do for myself is settle and get too comfortable. I would miss out on too much. But for now, I slow the pace. Tonight, I dye my hair, give myself a facial, take a warm bath, cuddle with my blanket and book and enjoy this quiet moment. Tomorrow is another day and hopefully another adventure.

Serendipity and Moving Forward

A few years ago, my daughter suggested that I read The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz. I was going through a very difficult time after getting my heart broken. That book helped me focus and look forward. Simple, yet powerful I read it quickly through tears, leading me to a point where I felt I could at least function without limiting myself based on the emotional state I was in.

It’s been years and I’m still not totally healed (although I never admit that!), but today I received a gift, a message from the universe. As I was looking for things to do, I came across an event at a local bookstore. Don Miguel Ruiz Jr (son) would be having a signing of his new book The Seven Secrets of Healthy, Happy Relationships. I debated if I should wait around for the three hours before the event. I checked out some stores in the area, sat at Wildflower Bread Company with a cup of coffee and perused countless books at the Changing Hands Bookstore. I had to buy this book. I had to meet this man.

About 20 minutes before scheduled, he came out and shook everyone’s hand and chatted. What a kind man. He started the book signing early, taking pictures and giving hugs. Meeting him actually brought tears to my eyes. I had him sign the book for my daughter because she is the one who brought me down this path. It’s interesting that the universe brings us what we need when we need it if we just listen.

I read the first few pages of the book and was filled with emotion. I’m not going to read it yet, but within the month I will be ready to face it. I found this description online to share with you……..

We all want to love and be loved unconditionally – unfortunately patterns and past experiences often put us in a position where we need to feel guarded or distant. This distance keeps us from feeling true emotional intimacy with our partners, and all aspects of our relationships suffer as a result. The Seven Secrets of Healthy, Happy Relationships seeks to change that by providing a path by which you can recover from the past, enjoy the present, and fight your fears for the future before they have a chance to take root in your relationships. Ruiz and Amara teach that unconditional love is like a river: when you love someone based on conditions, the river gets dammed and stagnant, but unconditional love flows through all aspects of your relationship and your life.

By undamming the river of unconditional love between you and your partner, you will create a strong, caring relationship by learning to:

  • Allow yourself to experience emotional intimacy, even if you’ve been hurt in the past
  • Heal past hurts and traumas that are holding you back from your current relationship
  • Be in the present in your relationship, rather than living from the past or in the future

Reading this was like a slap in the face, everything I know but won’t admit out loud. Maybe it’s time I did?

Sun, Sweaters and Sightseeing

I love the sun. Everyday in the Phoenix area the sun shines, any cloud is burned off by 9:00 am. Makes sense that it is called The Valley of the Sun. My new routine is to open the blinds every morning to let the sun shine in and sit on the porch with my coffee to start the day. The temperature has been about 83 degrees every day. Before I go out for he day I shut the blinds to keep the apartment cool. It has been perfect weather so I have been busy, out and about, exploring. There are sidewalk art festivals, music festivals, farmer’s markets almost every day in one direction or another. In the last five days I’ve been an Art Walk, Music Fest, Harvest Festival, saw a show at the theater, checked out a college, went out for dinner and drinks, walked around the park and tonight a walk around Tempe Lake Park.

Today I wore a sweater. Tonight I froze. It was 70 degrees. In the sun during the day it was a little cool. In the shade it was a little chilly. Tonight without the sun it was darn right cold! Funny how 70 in Arizona feels so much different than 70 in New York and so much different with and without the sun. When I got to Tempe I thought maybe I should have brought my gloves. As I walked I warmed up a bit. It was a beautiful walk with the bridges all lit up and the city lights surrounding me. It took about an hour to walk it. I then headed over to The Lodge, a bar and restaurant in Tempe, for a drink and snack before I headed home. It was actually nice to get home and wrap up in a blanket to get warm. This whole thing just reminds me that it is all perspective. You see things from where you stand and in Arizona I see 70 as cold.