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.


Biplane Ride!

While camping on Carlsbad Beach in California, I noticed an ad for a ride in a biplane.  Barnstormers! Wilbur and Orville!  Snoopy and Red Baron!  Two for the price of one! Janene revved high spirits as we opened our pickup doors, “You look like you came from Colorado!” Enthusiasm flowed as she briefed us, checking for hazards: “Are you wearing earrings, Ann? Tuck your hood in, so it won’t pull. I have a vest if you’re cold.” I especially appreciated these efforts because I was so nervous about getting airsick, I’d taken two pills, and they were making me slow […]


Enough Already?

A fellow traveler to China’s Himalayan foothills explained his disinterest: “I’ve seen mountains.” That was ten years ago, and I’m still horrified. Why did the man, who’d surely seen most everything there is to see, bother to wake each morning? As a native Coloradan and avid camper/traveler/hiker, I’ve seen some mountains. Many of them over and over, again and again. They still wow me with their wiles. The mere rumor of a waterfall sucks me in like a riptide. Before I toured China’s Jiuzhaigou National Park, I may have seen a thousand falls, but I’d never seen one that moved […]


Chinese Road Trip

In 2009 the only way to get from Chengdu to Hounglong National Park was to fly because the road had been wiped out by an earthquake two years earlier. While driving the final leg of the journey, our van stopped for a construction blockage, so I got out to look around. A young man pushed his girlfriend up to me, and she said: “Hello.” “Nin how.” (My rendition of “hello” in Chinese.) “You speak Chinese.” She was no doubt pretending to believe I had a handle on the language. “That’s all.” Not true, I could also say  “Jiuzhaigou” and “waiguoren,” […]


Pine Cones 101

A few years ago a pinecone dropped out of the top of a ridiculously tall tree and wacked me upside the head.  It didn’t need to do that.  I learned a long time ago that paying attention to pinecones pays off. I figured out how pine cones come into being when I noticed a few clumps of needles that had turned red.  Apparently cones don’t start from a special bud, just some co-opted needles. In biology lab I learned that tiny cones like these above are males.  If you spot one in spring, shake it and watch for yellow powder–pollen.  […]


Tenerife Lizards

Though Tenerife’s giant lizards are now extinct, many other types can still be found. Our tour guide has a gecko that patrols the ceilings for mosquitos at night then naps in the warm cubby behind a television set through the day.  In Colorado we once had a lizard quietly volunteer to clean out a housefly infestation in our sunroom. He did a fine job then disappeared. A Tenerife blog post painted a darker picture of living with lizards.  The poor little guys tended to lurk in dangerous places like door and window frames or underfoot and cause serious guilt issues.  […]


Baskets of Yore

On a transatlantic cruise, an unusual crafter caught my interest.  Ann Shaffer had taken up thread basketry to keep her hands busy while traveling. Ordinarily she uses stiffer materials to make Nantucket baskets. My ears pricked at the promise salty heritage, and Nantucket baskets didn’t disappoint. As Ann wove, she told of the men who operated light ships—brightly lit ships that anchored on dangerous shoals to keep passing vessels clear. They passed the time by weaving baskets, a skill settlers had learned from Native Americans.     Over time, the lightship men developed a specific style, using a form—a salvaged […]


Knots…Who’d Have Thought?

I pounced on an early arrival to my Culture of the Sea presentation, hoping to recruit people to join me in crafting souvenir knots later that day. Jan Hanley, it turned out, was once a knot-tist extraordinaire. As a full-time mom, she’d supplemented her family’s income by sculpting massive knot artworks for display in shows and as book illustrations. Huh? How many strapped mothers even consider knot tying as a possible money-maker? Jan seems to specialize in inspired paths less trodden, and I cannot wait to read her latest travel book: “Today We Bought a Cow.” Such a privilege to […]


What’s to be Grateful For?

For over 10 years I’ve been pushing, pulling, pleading, and praying to get a gig lecturing on cruise ships. With a whole lot of help from some priceless folks, THE day finally arrived. Except, thanks to an ice storm/flight delay, I missed the boat. I stood at the Denver airport customer service desk and watched my dream go Titanic. I couldn’t rebook a ticket to the next port without approval from the cruise line. I couldn’t hold up the crazy-long line while I tried to contact my agent, and she tried to contact her contact. I couldn’t even get my […]


Treasure Trees

Tenerife Island, one of Spain’s Canaries, gets almost no rain. Though the Canaries lie along the African Sahara coast, Tenerife enjoys wondrous pine forests and a generous underground reservoir. That’s because wind and water currents bring dense clouds, and the pine trees help themselves. Their needles are so adept at sucking in moisture, excess water drizzles out through their roots—enough to support cities, crop lands, even passing cruise ships. These pine trees are also exceptional in that their wood is dark and strong. Fortunately, Tenerife is blessed with exceptional wisdom as well as trees. The first agenda item for so […]