Summer of Color:
The ATX Farewell Tour -
Part I: Home Is Where the Weird Is

Austin is known as the Live Music
Capital of the world.
Ah, Texas. Texas is...well, it's weird. It's so weird, that its capital even took that as its motto. No, really, "Keep Austin Weird" is a thing, and they're serious about that shit. It really is one of the most eccentric cities in the world, and no little part of that has to do with its relationship to Texas. As my brother Jaya and I have often said:

"This is Austin: individuality or death.
...but this is also Texas, so don't think we won't go for death."

Texas Bluebonnets
Texas itself is huge: it ranks second largest in both land size and population [according to 2013 census]. Within this enormous land mass there are multiple terrains & climates: desert, forest, plains, swamps, and even some beaches & mountains. It's broken up by winding rivers and a plethora of decent-sized lakes. It gets hit with droughts and floods, hurricanes on the coast, tornadoes on the plains, dust storms, and even snow. Driving across this vast state, you can't help but be hit with the marked differences...even if it takes most of a day to reach them. 

And set right there in central Texas's Hill Country is Austin, Texas's capital.

The Summer of Color: Beginning a New Journey

The last six months have been one hell of a journey, and now that I am back and recuperated (mostly) from my travels, have I got a few stories to tell. I'd love to get into all of it right here, and I'm sure the rambling mess that was hurled onto the screen would be entertaining at the very least. Still, I maintain a semblance of composure, and I prepare for an enormous series of posts and photos showcasing this period of time to be launched over the next few weeks: 

It's going to take months to share, but that's okay, right? I mean, we're buckling down for winter, yes? Which means we not only need something to do when huddling indoors from the frigid darkness but also need inspiration to plan for next year. (I'm already prepping trips for next spring.) So read on to see where this journey is going, and get prepared to feel a little wanderlust. But, first....

Why the "Summer of Color"?

Anyone who knows me well, knows I eschew (I've been using that word a lot...wonder if that means anything....nah) bright colors. I dress in black, gray, and various shades of muted greens. So what could possess me to write an entire series based on a color theme? Well, it all starts, oddly enough, with knitting.

A knitted cap from one of our
favorite yarn store haunts

Minute Muse Monday: Leaving the Playa

Take only memories.
Leave only footprints.
~Chief Seattle
Yes, this is a most perfect quote for leaving the Burn. With our self-responsibility and -sustainability philosophy, we must bring in and take out everything. "Leave no trace" is our mantra, but the footprints tell the story of what we do there, and the memories are forever.

Farewell 'til the next Burn!

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Minute Muse Monday...on Friday: Bonus Quote

Hey Gang. I had too many quotes and had to share this one. At this point, I am on the Playa, and I needed to share this one, since it's so apropos...

"For more and more of us, home has really less to do with
a piece of soil than, you could say, with a piece of soul."
~Pico Iyer

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Minute Muse Monday: Roughing It

"Reminds me of my safari in Africa.
Somebody forgot the corkscrew and for several days
we had to live on nothing but food and water."
~W.C. Fields
I like to think that W.C. Fields would have approved of Burning Man, and this quote most definitely embodies the humor. For an event that makes camping look like...well, camping, this could be a conversation yet heard across the Playa.

As I disembark in Reno today and head out to the Burn, I had to share some of the love. I hope everyone has a lovely week, and I'll see you back in the Default!

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Minute Muse Monday:
Stretch the Mind

"A mind that is stretched by a new experience
can never go back to its old dimensions."
~ Oliver Wendell Holmes
I'm full of kinetic energy as I finish my final preparations for the Burn...namely, packing. As I dig through my supplies, some of which are still completely covered in Playa dust*, I can remember previous Burns, like they were it was the first. Going to Burning Man the first time was like the above quote multiplied exponentially ...and then blasted into space on fire. It was a moment in my life that I have never forgotten. And so I will be heading back there yet again, and in that spirit, I want to share that joy...a joy I think all travelers get, no matter where they go.

What experiences stretched your mind? Share below in the comments!

*Playa dust is what we call the dust of the prehistoric alkali lake upon which the Burn event is held each year. The dust is finer than any I've ever seen. It is like powdered silk to touch, and yet lengthy exposure can cause major physical problems. "Playa foot" refers to deep, painful cracks in the soles of the feet from the drying nature of the dust. You can neutralize some of the drying effects with the judicious application of vinegar, but stilll...  Truly, it is a testament to how amazing this event is that so many of us return again and again, subjecting ourselves to this and the many other dangers that abound.

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The Return of Travel Polls!
....and other updates

It's been a wild few weeks: launch, Independence day, Comic Con, family staycation, submitting a piece for an art show (my very first!), and of course the required collapse afterward, because, seriously? That was amazing! And now, I'm checking in before heading off to the Burn.

Real quick: If you've never been to - or even heard of - Burning Man, then I highly recommend checking it out. This is my 7th year. To give you an inkling, here are some photos from earlier burns:

My first Burn '06
© Tricky Fish Photography. All rights reserved.

El Pulpo Mecanico
Yes, it's a steampunk octopus...that shoots flame.
© Tricky Fish Photography. All rights reserved.

Tasseograph Trash Tea Temple '06
© Tricky Fish Photography. All rights reserved.

A ship in the desert.
Your argument is invalid.
© Tricky Fish Photography. All rights reserved.

Suffice it to say, my brain isn't exactly on blogging right now...or much of anything else. I'm heading to meet up with over 60,000 people to a swath of desert we all call "home." So...yeah.

In the meantime, as I make final preparations for departure, I am implementing some new things for the fall and winter that I'm very excited about. We're going to start regular Tutorials, Reviews & Recommendations, "Best-of" lists, and have some fun with quotes. And now... it's time for the return of the travel poll!

I am so appreciative of the participation in these polls up to this point. It's given me some new insights, not the least of which being how I should continue with them. While I love collecting the raw data, I've decided to make this a monthly thing, rather than a weekly one. You're welcome.

Now, each poll will still only be open for a week, so don't hesitate. These polls really only take 10 seconds (and will now be called "Third Thursday 10s Travel Polls"...or T3 Polls, for short, heh). They're short. Unless you happen to be really philosophical, and I'm hoping some of these inspire that. As such, I'm relaunching the previous poll, and I think it's pretty important. In this one, we debate....


That's right. Transporters. And you know why? Because where are they? I was promised transporters in my youth. Get to work, science.

...ahem. At any rate, by the time they are functionally invented, we will have solved one of the many important debates that will inevitably surround them: whether the use of such a fast method of transportation will kill our desire to travel by other, more conventional means.

So cast your vote; let the debate rage! Or, you know, just click on it, right there...on the side. ⤴

*whispers* You know you want to...


Want, nay, need more? Check out my most popular post: a mini-review/how-to of Wonder Woman and solo travel for women here. And you can check out my social media pages below! Happy travels!

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Minute Muse Monday: Stuff Your Eyes with Wonder

"Stuff your eyes with wonder, live as if you'd drop dead in ten seconds. See the world. It's more fantastic than any dream made or paid for in factories."
~Ray Bradbury

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Forum: Travel Topics

...and now for something completely different...

This week, I decided to open things up to my readers. While I have plenty of articles planned for the future, I want to hear from you. Maybe there are some sights, products, movies, etc., you'd like to see reviewed. What travel questions would you like answered on Ransomed Roads? Have some "best-of" lists you'd like to see? Or "how-to's?" Let me do the research. After all, I'm probably going to do it eventually, anyway...because try and stop me from researching, or watching travel movies...  So, let's make this more fun for everyone!

So, drop a question or suggestion in the comments below. You don't have to have an account. This is a forum post, so we can discuss, post opinions, get into philosophical debates over whether The Hobbit is a travel movies or a fantasy movie...y'know whatever strikes our fancy.

You can also check in on Facebook. I'll keep a post going for it here:

Let's play...

10 Second Tuesday Travel Poll:
Two Polls This Week!

With everything else in our lives, who has time for polls? This one takes only 10 seconds. It's right over there on the right, top of the column. Read on if you want to learn more about this week's choice.

This Week’s Poll:

Minute Muse Monday:
Throwing Away the Map

“It is not down in any map;
true places never are.” 
~Herman Melville

On last week's "getting to know your area" post...

Adventure requires some risk. Sometimes that's walking out your front door; sometimes that's taking it a bit further. So, once you've got some idea of your surroundings, put the map away. Get...well, a little lost...or a lot lost. Go down the road more than you meant to, just to see what's over the next horizon or around that corner. Give yourself extra time to take in an area. Explore those unknown places that call to you! Chances are good that you will remember those times best.

5 Ways to Get to Know Your Area

Or, "What I Learned on Late Night Drives"

How well do you know your hometown? Do you know all the ins & outs, the shortcuts, and the hidden gems of your area? Could you serve as a tour guide? Or do you spend all your time in one part of your hometown? If so, you're not alone. It is remarkable how many people don't know their area very well, whether abroad or on the homefront. But it doesn't have to stay that way. There are different ways a person can remedy this and get more comfortable with their environment...and themselves.

So what can you do? Let's start basic...

#1 - Learn How to Read a Map...No, Really

The GPS and Google Directions era has been great. Never have we been this technologically advanced with this much general access to the toys that make life easier. There is, however, a downfall to this. As we continue to rely more and more on technology, we are losing our ability to do things without said technology. Frankly, I'm concerned by how many people don't know how to read a map. I'm not talking about following Siri's instructions or turning where Google shows us. This is more about basic awareness.

Poll Results (Fave US Parts) & New Poll Announced!

Last Week's Results:

Thanks to all those who voted! You made this better than I expected. The results of this poll were pretty telling, but it's what I learned during the process, rather than the results of the poll itself, that was the most enlightening.

First, it seems people were having trouble finding the poll. The mobile version does not allow you to see the sidebars. It does allow you to switch to web version, but only if you know to scroll to the bottom for the link. This is more than less than unhelpful. I had no idea this problem was happening. I was wondering why no one had voted by the weekend, and only found out Sunday, just in time to make changes and get some votes in under the wire. I decided to do away with mobile altogether. This means you have better access to all features on the site, and double-click on any part of the site to zooms in; pinch-zoom also works. Ah, beta testing.

As for the answers themselves, I gotta say, I'm neither shocked nor surprised, and still I found the results unexpected. There were 17 total voters who made this one happen (and I hope to see those voters back for future polls 😃). Here are the major stats:

I travel to understand cultures....

"I'm passionate and I travel the world not just as a tourist but to understand cultures... I've lived with Masai tribe... I travel the world and bring it back in the form of a research book that would become the starting point for the collection."
~John Galliano

Over the weekend I got to experience a Comic Con for the first time. (First time?!?) It was brilliant.

Review: Wonder Woman: "Traveling Like an Amazon"

Since it's comic con weekend here in the Omaha Metro area, I decided to go with a superhero theme. It may initially seem odd to start my first review post on a new travel blog with a film review of a movie that, on the surface, is not specifically about travel. Yet it's Wonder Woman's highlighting of many themes for women that are still - sadly - pervasive that makes this a perfect topic to discuss a continuing source of fear for women travelers: going it solo.

First, if you haven't seen this movie, you need to go do it right now. For the first time, we have a female superhero movie that stands on its own as much as it is part of a larger universe. ...and it's good. Really good. Second, spoilers everywhere in this post, so again, go see it.

It should come as no real surprise to hear that this movie is the culmination of a number of psychological and societal themes that have piled up over history. Wonder Woman is the first female superhero, right after Superman. This is in the early age of comic books, and was the result of the social climate of the times [Read more: The Man Behind Wonder Woman: The Secret History of the Bizarre (and Kinky) Life of William Moulton Marston]. Wonder Woman became an icon to girls, young and old, that women could do anything. She inspired other comic book creators to bring more amazing female characters to comicdom. Unfortunately, it would be more than 75 years before we would have a female superhero movie worthy of similarly inspiring new generations, and it is somehow fitting that it would be the Amazonian princess herself.

"The journey is the reward"
~Taoist proverb

Introducing Weekly Travel Polls!

I’m always fascinated to see how differently people react to the same question. In particular, I think it speaks to our motivations as a species, and how we follow or deviate from the herd (or pack, depending on your point-of-view). I am a bit of a scientist at heart, so I decided to conduct my own studies.

Each week by Tuesday, I’ll be posting a new travel or lifestyle poll in the right-hand column of the site. They’ll be easy questions, with some even allowing multiple answers, and completely anonymous! I can’t wait to see the different types of results these polls yield, including my own. Your opinion matters! (It really does)

Poll voting ends each Sunday night. I’ll write something up about the post for the following Tuesday and open it up to discussion. Let’s create some data! #imanerd 

Introduction to Ransomed Roads

Better Known As - "Finding my Trajectory"

Getting my Bearings

I'm delirious again. It's that heady sensation of accomplishment and sleep deprivation. That's what happens when you decide you're going to launch several different projects at once....and give yourself a two-week deadline. It's cool. Much of the work was already done, years of research just waiting to be implemented. But pondering and doing are two different things, and doing...well, that's how you get the sleep deprivation.

It's worth the pain. In fact, it's all been worth it: the last few weeks and months...and years. False starts, failed ambitions, faded relationships, poor physical and mental health, and a plethora of sleepless dark nights of the soul

At this point, you might, Dear Reader, be wondering when (oh, when!) this piece will say what it's going to be about. After all, any Google search will return scores of articles telling you to hook your reader immediately with what, exactly, the point of your post is (I would know, because research). This is the new normal. Gone are the days when one could write a flowery post without any concern for things like SEO. After all, how will you know if you want to read this if I don't tell you the ending immediately so that you don't have to read it? ...Hmmm....seems contrary. Cart before the horse. And that's fine. There will be posts like that. Still, to appease the Google Gods, this is an intro, hence the title.

But what am I to say in a "first ever" post on a blog that is, in its very essence, about doing things in a divergent manner, about going against "normal"? How about an anecdote...