breathtakebyways


About breathtakebyways

Ann Williams’ travel articles have appeared in publications all over the country including The Washington Post, Roads to Adventure, and Jack and Jill. Between researching and writing books, she specializes in creative lectures.


Stubborn Trees

Some trees just don’t know when to quit.   I have admired the tenacity of trees growing on rock cliffs and the walls of buildings.  We sometimes camp beside one that leans far out over a creek that undercut the bank that supported that side of the root system.  Tender new roots probe into the tiniest cracks then slowly bulk up to cleave rock and crumble cement.  Even metal pipes are no match for thirsty roots.  We can’t beat them, and the world will work way better if we join them already.  Sign me: Tree Hugger.   


Discovering Meaning II—Sotol

Mind boggling, the truths archeologists can tease out of an ancient glob. First inhabitants of Seminole Canyon in Texas used bulbs from a yucca-like plant called sotol to cook up portable, storable cakes. Raw sotol bulbs are soapy and painfully gut cleansing. Those problems were overcome by covering them with prickly pear leaves and hot coals to bake, letting them sit for a time before grinding them into meal, adding water and forming them into cakes to be seared on a hot rock. This painstaking process produced a  cake with a dirt/yam fusion flavor. Obviously food options were scarce in the west […]


Crustacean Liberation Cruise 2

“See the lady in the pink shirt? I think she’s from Colorado. She’s got a blog and everything.” I was actually wearing green, so I overheard Emily Ford, the event organizer, pointing a faux me out to her setup team. A retired Water Resources Director and lobbyist from Houston, was also awed that I’d come 1000 miles to the Texas gulf to rescue crabs from derelict traps. Well, excuse me, but Abandoned Lost and Discarded Fishing Gear (ALDFG) kills countless sea creatures every year including dolphins, whales, turtles, seals, and yeah, crabs. Why wouldn’t I want to help? An unexpected bonus came in my being assigned […]


Jungle Bowl

My favorite bowl game took place in the Amazon River basin in Peru. The ball was round, and the “crowd” didn’t speak much English, but they gave us the best seats in the house. We only heard about the game because our jungle guide mentioned it as we returned from an excursion to see monkeys, caimans, and medicinal plants–complete with instructions for making cocaine. The game might have been better if the field had been longer since the players generally kicked the ball from one end to the other.  We didn’t get to see much tricky dribbling. We also didn’t get to see anyone score. […]


R.E.M. Wisdom

In a dream, an oracle counsels: When you believe in your beliefs and doubt your doubts, you will forge forgiveness and find relief. But be wary… If you doubt your beliefs and believe your doubts, That is the path of grief. This jewel is by Maggie Honton who has been hosting our writing group for over ten years.  If only I could write like this in my sleep!


Northern Normality 2

Rode an ATV to tea Fresh from meeting Sam Magee. Grand digs and heirloom china too, All because “we like you”? We like you too and we might stay But oh, the winter’s cruel they say.   So dark and cold that fissures crack, Grit and grunt to fill them back. La, the stories locals tell Of artfully rebranding Hell. Engage the neurons, thrill and train Before the darkness drills your brain. Wouldst thou learn a sexy skill? Tassel twirling o’er the hill. Weaving, pickiin’, tossing ax, Write a memoir, make up facts. Ice worms dancing in the road? Sober […]


A Gift from the Orient 2

We needed souvenirs for ranching men, and what better than knives? But Chinese gift-shopkeepers carried no knives. A knife, given as a gift, would signify the giver’s wish to cut off the friendship. We walked the length of the Jiuzhaigou shopping street, asking for knives at each shop.  No one had a knife, but when we walked past those same shops on our way back to the hotel, the sellers met us on the sidewalk to offer knives of all kinds.  This one isn’t sturdy enough for ranch work, or much of anything else, and we were skeptical of the […]


Discovering Meaning

Who’d have thought an obscure canyon in west Texas shelters the oldest known writings in the Americas?  These icons were painted about the time the pyramids were going up in Egypt. I’d never fully connected primitive pictures with writing, but these images very likely hold a message. Over time the same basic symbols show a progression from confusingly detailed to simple and more symbolized, a slow tightening to letters. The exhibit’s explanation of that stripping down and stylizing tendency strikes a chord here. It’s what I do with every draft I write: enhance character while stripping out non-essential detail, words, even syllables. Since the meaning […]


The Haunting of John Wilkes’ Grave 2

John Wilkes Booth’s grave seems a likely top attraction for Baltimore’s Green Mount Cemetery.  The staff is happy to mark the location on a map, and that took us to the family plot, but even so, there was no finding J.W.  What we did find was actually more interesting–pennies.  I noticed a fair collection on an unmarked stone at the corner of the plot.  More were balanced amongst the raised “Booth” lettering on a central stone.  The more we looked, the more pennies we found infiltrating the plot. Where do they come from…and why?  It’s not hard to guess, but can anyone know for certain?


Blueberry Hill Thrills

Steve and I tried and tried to find our thrill on Blueberry Hill in Valdez, Alaska.  Turns out there’s a mosquito version of that song which goes on to extol “drinking our fill.”  The human chorus chimes in “kill, kill, kill!” Deet, don’t leave home without it.