Banff in Eight Days

mountain with flowers

Mountain View from Banff Centre

“You want to go where?” I asked the husband. “We paid the bill for the upcoming river cruise for May. Now you want to go to someplace in August? Show me the itinerary. I don’t know if I’ll be ready to travel again that soon.” As I read the description in the Roadscholar catalog, I went to Google to search locate Banff. It’s about ninety miles from Calgary according to the map is in the province of Alberta, east of British Columbia on the Pacific Coast.

The description shouts at me like a barker at the Texas State Fair. The price appears reasonable as the fees cover airfare, a transfer to and from the airport, all meals, except two, rooms at the Banff Conference Centre, a local guide for the week and much more. August in the mountains? A local guide? Lectures on the local scenery and history? I’m ready to register!

My husband and I traveled with the Roadscholar organization several years ago to Lafayette, Louisiana and enjoyed it. We learned to dance, visited an accordion factory and listened to Zydeco music. A large, creaky boat slid through the swamps with alligators. Cajun food and sumptuous specialties added to our girth.

Within five minutes I decide that Banff might be cooler and more captivating than Texas in August. Not having to drive in the mountains meant far less stress in my life. Ted and I don’t always agree on speed limits in the mountains.

Emerald Lake

Our Group (the Bears) Overlooking Emerald Lake

Banff Conference Center

I knew little about Banff Centre, where we stayed, until after we arrived. In my own words, it’s a non-credit haven for artists who want to improve themselves, away from the drudgery of everyday life for classes and community with other artists.  Sculptors, painters, potters, actors, producers, video wizards and even mathematicians from around the world apply for limited openings in their classes. The Centre has ten or twelve buildings, a huge fitness center, restaurants, four small theaters, a large theater, and a film production center with one of those big green screens the “big boys” use in California.

If you only have a few minutes don’t visit their website. You need a minimum of half an hour to grasp the extent of the various programs, events, and variety of activities. We were privy to many of the short films for their upcoming Film Festival. Their audio-visual equipment is top-notch with the latest technology. They offer study and research in an extraordinary number of areas. I would love to attend an author’s program but not in the winter.


The staff at the Conference Centre where we stayed do not work for the RoadScholar organization, but a joint effort. The sleeping rooms are not fancy but comfortable. The water pressure works and the water runs hot and cold. (Texans rarely have cold water in the faucet in summertime). Although the beds are comfortable, we could have slept on rocks from fatigue at night.

The Roadscholar leadership impresses us. People in our group arrive from across the US. with a few from Canada and outside the US. We number 120 to 130 in the big group. Each of the four groups has its own local guide. Our guide was funny, knowledgeable and kept us moving from breakfast through dinner.


Ruth climbing

Ruth on the Rocks-Scary!

Both Ted and I hike from 10,000-15,000 steps a day. The guide instills confidence in our group. “No, it’s not too hilly. No, I’ve never lost anyone or had to carry anyone to the hospital from a fall.  Yes, it’s worth the hike to see the waterfall, but you might not want to take the time to walk to the larger one if you walk slowly.” He happened to snap a picture of me at the worst moment of the trip. I conquered the stony upward march to the top to view the stunning turquoise water in the lake below. Little pebbles, large rocks, and steep rock steps with no handrails keep me more alert than an eagle. One woman loses her cell phone but retraces her steps to the gift shop where a kind traveler had given it to the clerk.


Flowers bloom everywhere. My best moment arrived while gazing at the field of flowers climbing the mountainside at Emerald Lake. Lake Louise appears more often in brochures but I preferred Emerald Lake. The hill of flowers, produced by an avalanche, races toward the sky away from the pristine, turquoise water at the bottom of the mountain.

If you visit my FaceBook page for August 21-27 when I was there, you can see flower photos of my favorites that week. I try not to post photos when I’m out of town, as I’m told it may entice burglars to visit my home.


Bears, Geography, and Geology

brown bear

Angel Bear in a Lodge

Each group had an animal name. We were the Bears. I’m not sorry we didn’t run into bears as I’m fearless in front of dogs, but not around wild animals. The Bears enjoyed many lectures before trooping to the bus for excursions. My favorite lecture covered information on bears. A lady who works for the Canadian government gave us a lecture from her thirty years of experience living in the backcountry to study bears’ habits and protect them. Her long, curly hair reminded me of a hippy from the 70’s.  She engaged the audience with her stories of vegetation for pregnant bears and the night she spent in her car with bears hovering outside the windows. The archeological history brought the latest insights for the audience.  The geographer provided insight on the formation of the lakes, flooding, and related ecological challenges.

Several hilarious moments occurred along our path that week. I loved what happened when everyone on the bus was sleeping on a return to Banff. The guide wanted to show us something as we neared Banff and played roosters crowing. That woke everyone, even my husband, as we roared with laughter. Near the end of our trip, we hiked in a nearby park. Our group and the guide adhered to accurate schedules. That morning a few Bears lagged behind on the stony hillside. The guide, without thinking, yelled, “Bears. Come along now!” Although he shook with laughter, he realized what a mistake we witnessed as he called to us, his group of Bears. Only human Bears appeared on the trail that day.


I may write more about Banff for an upcoming travel anthology I’m thinking of compiling. I want feedback from you about this article to understand what I need to add or delete. I think I could write ten times the amount of information about Banff to share with you. Should I give more details about the food, the history or is this enough? Please send your feedback to

Next time you are puzzled about where to travel, think about Banff, regardless of the season. I’m told it is one of the most magnificent places in the world. And I agree.


Cool Place, Hot Location

Hotels are not the only place to stay! 

Quiet Moment

A Quiet Moment in the Midst of Christmas Week

We arrived in Houston on December 22 for our stay at the Domain at City Center  for eight days. The mammoth complex sits in the middle of Town and Country Village, as they call it. The price is about the same as a hotel room. We would be near our two sons and six grand-children. A son checked the model apartment beforehand to assure the reality of the online advertisement. “You’ll be claustrophobic in 750 square feet (not true), and the traffic, awful (true),” he reported. We signed the contract without knowing other aspects. The property is owned by an individual, not the leasing company.

Last year we stayed in Houston a month in a VRBO rental with three bedrooms and two baths. We thought the grand-children might visit us and stay overnight a few times. Didn’t happen.

Our dog presents an issue wherever we travel. Fargo is the perfect guest unless left alone. He’s quite good in a hotel room as long as we are with him. He barks incessantly with fear of abandonment if no one is with him. Over the six years we have owned him, we tried unsuccessful remedies to quiet his fierce barking. When he travels with us, we tend to eat in our hotel or motel room. If it’s cold enough, he stays in the car while we rush through dinners. In Houston we could deposit his blanket, dishes, leash, and bad habit with either family. The barking, little thirteen-pound beast, loves the grand-kids and grand-dogs.  On this trip we ate with family much of the time.

Watching cars

I wanna watch cars, Dad!

The Condo

The condo contained everything we needed, even a little balcony above a garden. The owner left coffee, salt, pepper, bottled water, garbage bags, soap for the dishwasher…even kitchen shears for us.  The furniture and decorations probably came from Ikea. Everything was comfortable, even the bed, which is not always the case with furnished rental properties.

Other positives included a parking place (quite small) on the same floor as our rental and a dog park! I didn’t think Fargo would like the phony grass but he loved it. He and I walked around the condo grounds and hiked the neighborhood of office and condo buildings. I never let him off-lease except in the dog park. One day he and I made 10,000+ steps according to my FIT. Other amenities in the building: a meeting area with coffee, an outdoor pool, an exercise room, and outdoor grills.

Shops and Restaurant

the plaza

The Plaza-food, music, strollers, shops

Gourmet restaurants line the streets, along with retail shops and other businesses. One night I purchased carry-out from a high-end Mexican restaurant a few steps outside our building. Another night we had designer pizza and salad from a restaurant by the plaza across from us. At night musicians performed there. Recognizable brands abound. How about Sur la Table, Abercrombie & Fitch, Ulta, and Barnes and Noble? A grocery and a pharmacy are “walkable,” although maybe not when it’s over 100 degrees. Christmas Day the temperature hit 82 degrees.

Other Properties

This is our fourth “VBRO” or Vacation Rental by Owner.* VRBOs are great for a long or short stay. They are not quite like home but certainly more exciting than a boring and expensive hotel. Our short stay this year will lead to more travel. It’s so much fun to try someone else’s home or condo, especially in such a hot place in a cool location.

*VRBO or Vacation Rental By Owner is part of the Homeaway conglomerate owned by Expedia.

Unleashed In Arkansas

“Some people talk to animals. Not many listen though. That’s the problem.”

A. A. Milne, Winnie-the-Poo

mountain view

Unleashed near Mountain View, AR

We took a short vacation to Mountain View, Arkansas last week to unleash from the city and electronic devices. Fargo, our six-year-old rescued dog, whose name evolved from “going far” with us, slept most of the eight hours on the road to the cabin in the mountains. We knew no internet service would be available at the lodge. Our abode for five days huddled in the foothills of a mountain about five miles outside the town near the White River. The Motorcycles and Music Festival happens mid-August in Mountain View. With a car show for my husband on Saturday morning and my love of music, we hit the road.

Unleashed from the City

Since we knew our arrival would be late, the owner and I agreed he would leave the key on the coffee table with the door unlocked. But we couldn’t find “our” property. The cell phones showed “no service.” Whoops! We returned to the village where 4G would help the tired and hungry threesome to call the owner. His kind, genteel manner helped assuage our discomfort; he met us at the office and we followed him to the location. The cabin had one large bedroom with two huge beds, a large living room with no couch but three theater chairs. Theater chairs? One for each of us. Fargo sat proudly on his pillow in the middle chair to watch television. The cabin, decorated in early Salvation Army, gave new meaning to “shabby chic.”

The motorcycle noise  on the nearby state route abated around 10:00 p.m. We sat on the porch in the double rocker each night, looking at the blanket of brilliant stars above. The Milky Way and Big Dipper appeared clearly with no neon or city lights for competition. The cicadas serenaded us with their strong voices. Peace surrounded us.


We bummed around Mountain View, viewing the ancient hardware store, the flea market, and the outstanding Arkansas Craft Guild, an artists’ cooperative. The drive to Heber Springs, ,through curvy roads with a few overlooks refreshed our souls. We ate our best meal in Calico Rock at the Print Shop Café. The café’s profits support their little museum. I loved the antiques shop where I found a lamp which needed a new home. The owner of the shop migrated from Wisconsin nine years ago.

Calico Roc

Ruth at Calico Rock cliffs in Arkansas

Calico Rock appealed to me: the White River, the railroad on a weathered trestle, the friendly shop keepers, the visit to their small, historical museum and the old dilapidated ghost town within the town. The Wisconsin lady gave us directions for a drive to see the colorful cliffs from the other side of the river.


If you like comfort food, the Mountain View area is a mecca of contentment. We ordered the best pepperoni pizza at Tommy’s Famous Pizza, south of town. The pizza caused me to ponder the hospital’s location, in case of a heart attack. The pound of mozzarella cheese added ten pounds of fat to my weight, but ummm-good! Tommy’s has no salads. Pizza without salad is like a race track with no fumes and noise.

Going to Walmart was like a bad comic strip circulating on Facebook. I was one of the thinnest people in the place and I’m not skinny.


Bluegrass music in Mountain View, AR


We loved the bluegrass music. Musicians played in all three gazebos in the park on Friday and Saturday night. One would say, “How about E flat for this one?” with the possible response, “Let’s try a different key.” The crowd and the musicians enjoyed every minute. I watched the blond who played the fiddle, the bass, the box as a drum, the guitar and, I think, she played the mandolin. Her “slap-the-bass” performance convinced me she played professionally for years. They traded instruments for different songs. The banjo player reminded me of my dad, whose primary instrument was a banjo. Many religious songs painted long ago memories. Drinking songs, Hank Williams favorites, love songs, and forlorn folk songs. Great fun!


The Happy Traveler

The Happy Traveler

The dog loved our escapade. We allowed him freedom to roam in all but the kitchen when we went out to eat or see the sites. At home he’s leashed for outdoor walks, as he is easily distracted by rabbits and other tantalizing creatures, like dogs and people. With hesitation, we let him go outside unleashed. Fargo streaked like fox on a mission, racing around and around the property. And then he returned to the front door, to my great amazement! He smiled broadly, very proud of his accomplishment.

Mountain View may never see us again as we rarely return to the same place twice, but travel allows relaxing and relishing a different reality. Take time to unleash for quiet moments of peace and new adventures.


straight road

The road is rarely straight.

Life is full of peaks and valleys. Get ready to depart your recliner, office or cubicle with inspiring stories to help you move forward. The eclectic array of articles offers places to visit and read about people who make a difference. Words, spoken or written, help us survive the daily grind and find new joy, as we learn and grow, despite our challenges.

My Books

Gift of the Suitcase starts when I graduated from Ohio State University. My parents gave me a large, gray suitcase and a round-trip ticket to France. The suitcase disappeared on a ferry when I crossed the Channel into France. The summer job in Lyon, France fizzled out like a tiny birthday candle. But the trip left an indelible affect on my life.

As we travel through life, we all suffer loss. This travel memoir takes the reader through unexpected life changes where international travel often played a role. Whether moving through marriage, divorce, illness or other events, we cope. The kindness of people shines on our lives.


I speak to groups, both small and large, on inspirational topics. If you need a speaker, please contact me. My presentations are interactive, taking from 60-90 minutes. The theme, of course, helps you move forward with your journey.

-Invest in Yourself: Write NOW (Educational)-for aspiring authors, writers and those who want to preserve their history

-The Pilgrimage (Spiritual)-excellent presentation for a religious group, including Bible verses and history

-Is Your Weight Valuable (Paperweights)- the art and science of paperweights

-Losing Your Baggage Is Not Always a Loss (Inspirational)- about writing Gift of the Suitcase and the story

Call for details.


Video on Jeff Crilley’s Show

In January 2017 Jeff Crilley, owner of Real News PR and former, local TV reporter asked me to talk about my book on his radio show. Click on the book cover below to listen to what I had to say. I enjoyed the experience.

video with Crilley

Click on the book cover to see Ruth on the Jeff Crilley Show




CMP party

Sara Owen, Darren McKnight and Ruth having fun.


4 HR people

Ruth, Joe, Vicki & Sarah at the CMP party








Larry Sherrell and Ruth

Larry Sherrell and Ruth

three friends

Former volunteers at the JOB Group at Custer Road UMC








Billy the Kid Rides Again in Hico

Billy the Kid has a long, notorious history in the Southwest.  Strong controversy among historians exists between the two Billy the Kid Museums, one in the central Texas town of Hico and the other in Fort Sumpter, New Mexico.  Since I’m a “naturalized” Texan, I want you to know about the guaranteed good time you and your family will experience, if you visit Hico this spring to see their museum and visit nearby sites.  We may not know if Billy is actually buried in Hico, but you’ll have more fun if you just “forgettabout it!”

red hot rod

One of 100+ cars in Hico last year.

Billy the Kid Event

Hico, teeming with cowboy culture, celebrates it’s 4th Annual Billy the Kid Rides Again on April 5, as 100+ hot rods and antique cars roar into town.  If you have a classic or vintage car you’d like to show, registration ends 3/28/14 with the cars parking outside the Billy the Kid Museum at 8:00 a.m. on event day.  See more details about the event at  Listen to the video to hear the southern drawls of the sweet ladies providing details.  Note the unusual, “classy country” leather jackets which will be rewarded to the best entries on the website. Does this mean the women will get “shabby chic” coats?


If you are a car “nut” or just want to watch the hullabaloo, you’ll need to make reservations for a place to stay.  Hico is small, with less than 1500 people.  Yet, Hico is home to at least three bed and breakfasts.  You may want to stay in a neighboring town if reservations are difficult to find.  Check out the Old Rock House Inn, Hico’s Nothin’ But Time, and the latest entry in the B&B lodging, The Upstairs Inn on Pecan Street.  Be sure to talk with owner, Jennifer Jones, who recently restored the old stone building mid-town with a drink shop on the lower level and  lovely bedrooms upstairs.  Visit the Hico Chamber of Commerce website for additional places to contact. Camping and RV camps are nearby.

Inside chocolate shop

Wiseman Chocolate House in Hico


You will find an abundance of fabulous Texas vittles, including everything from tacos to tenderloin and chicken fried chicken.  When my husband I stopped for a quick cup of coffee at the Koffee Kup Café, we ruined our “healthy eating habits” with biscuits and doughnuts.  We plan to return for the car show and try their glorious looking pies, famous throughout Texas.

Another discovery, next to the café is Wiseman House Chocolates, a fantastic treat.  I visited briefly with the sales lady, who commented, “Our chocolates made it to the last Inauguration Ball.  I don’t know if Obama actually ate any of our chocolates, but we are known world wide.”  Wiseman’s chocolates are in a beautiful, restored mansion, housing, selling not only critically acclaimed chocolate, but gift items and clever t-shirts.  I think I spent more money in that chocolate shop than at my destination.  Don’t plan on “rabbit food” in Hico!

Koffee Kup Cafe

Can you smell the coffee?

Where is Hico

Hico is located in Hill Country, where Highways 281 and 6 intersect.  This is your opportunity to enjoy the beauty of the flowers and cactus along the way.  From the Dallas-Fort Worth area, it will take from 90 minutes to 2 hours from Dallas-Fort Worth.  You could do a day trip, but staying overnight will help you relax and enjoy the day.  Hico is on the road to Fredericksburg (another fun venue), but if you are traveling with a car buff on April 5th, I don’t think you’ll go farther than Hico.  And you certainly won’t care whether Billy the Kid is buried there or in New Mexico!

Please check the previous article to read about the free offer and Ruth’s presentation on 4/1 at Frisco Connect!