Archives for posts with tag: traveling with dog

Wow! I had to go into hybernati0n to get back up to speed to even write about the last two days of my trip home! I didn’t feel like I was all that exhausted until I stopped! It’s like the old joke about the guy who keeps hitting his head against the wall and won’t stop. A fellow asks him why he doesn’t quit it and his reply is, “It doesn’t hurt until I stop!”

I knew I had a great deal to process once I got home and I understood I’d be tired but what caught me unawares was how mentally wiped out I’d become from all the hard work I’d done in pushing my way to a new level of grief healing. Don’t get me wrong! I loved every minute of my 2016 Great Adventure (except for the Lebanese LA restaurant thang and a couple of others) because I was focused, determined and motivated to my quest of how I wanted to live the rest of my life…or the third chapter. I’m still not sure of all the details as I’m still processing but going west annually is definitely in my future!

As this journey has been about contrasts…before and after Ava’s death; before and after my journey; west vs. east; desert mountains vs. Smokey Mountains; water vs. drought…I thought I’d post a couple of photos that struck me from my last day on the road that focus on the differences between the far west and the near east of US.

On the back roads in the west, I witnessed a great deal of drought; a great deal of wasted water irrigating to artificially stimulate growth with more moisture lost in evaporation than plants benefited in extreme arid climates; dry creek beds; river and lake levels atrociously low (Walker Lake in NV is 181 feet below normal per Wikipedia and Lake Mead is at a record low) yet Las Vegas continues to pump millions of gallons of water into artificial lakes, fountains and entertainment venues causing the drought to worsen; more strip mining than you’d ever think; outrageous heat (triple digits); very dry air; no green vegetation save cacti and succulents; 75 MPH speed limits and California’s aggressive drivers.

Walker Lake, NV

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Outside of Tonapah, NV

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On the back roads in the east, I found Tennessee to have the most aggressive drivers (mostly between Memphis and Nashville); not as much evidence of strip mining as I’d seen before; full rivers, creeks and lakes; moist air and normal temps (high 80’s) and lots of vegetation. I was even glad to see the Kudzu!

NC mountains close to home!

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My father raised us all to be very mindful of the earth and our need to protect it. I’m sad to say that my generation hasn’t appeared to do a very good job of that and it’s only going to get worse because society has moved into the instant gratification mindset and I’m afraid the new generation doesn’t care or understand  about the long term ramifications of such a lifestyle not only on them but on our precious earth.

As my children are gone and I have no grandchildren, it’s really up to those of you who do have them to teach the next generation to love Mother Earth and help resuscitate her back to a healthy normal!

HAPPY TAILS!

 

Today will be short and sweet…well, some not so sweet.

I stayed in a Motel 6 in Albuquerque last night in a very sketchy neighborhood. As I hadn’t eaten anything worth talking about, I needed to find some decent food. I turned right on the main street. Wrong! Even the hair salon had burglar bars on the windows! Really? Like the gangs are stealing hair goop now?

The good news is that I found a place to turn around and found the nicest Denny’s. Everyone was so nice and welcoming. Close call!

As far as New Mexico, there are only two pictures because I’m not in the exploring mode. I’m in the Get’er Done Donna mode. I hope to drive into my own driveway by Friday. That means I have about 1000 miles to go which, by my drive-aholic standards, ain’t all that bad.

Hasta la vista, New Mexico!

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The not-s0-sweet part is when I was sorely reminded of the thousands of wind turbines for about a hundred miles on each side of Amarillo, Texas. Driving out this time, I bailed off I-40 and hit the back roads so I really didn’t see as many then as I saw today.

I couldn’t help but wonder so many things…like the adverse effects on the herds of cattle feeding in those thousands of acres of wind turbines churning and transmitting energy underground. Or exactly how long it will take to make back on the investment  and will it be before the footfall field sized unit is obsolete. Or what is the effect of all this electricity in the ground on us? The questions ticked constantly in my head as I tried to guesstimate how many there were in my field of vision not to mention all the ones not. Or in Kansas, Nebraska, and so on.

I’m not sure I really want to know the answers, but my brain is so geared to ask the hard questions that I can’t stop it. Look at these.

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Tomorrow? Finish Oklahoma, cross Arkansas and get to Memphis or beyond.

HAPPY TAILS!

Traveling from Las Vegas on the end of my healing journey, crossing Arizona and New Mexico will always and forever remind me of Ava. In 2002, Ava and I went on our spiritual ancestral past in the Navajo Nation. We started at Window Rock and climbed Canyon de Chelly, hiked around the Four Corners and Monument Valley, visited the Grand Canyon, Flagstaff (to visit U of A), Sedona and the Petrified Forest in seven days.

In those days, traveling in the Navajo Nation was all back roads. We connected on a new level and she decided to not study at University of Arizona in Flagstaff and continue her opera training at Shorter College in Rome, Georgia (the Julliard of the south).

Staying in Flagstaff last night brought on a flood of memories. I digress here to share my healing journey…because this was/is the purpose of this 2016 Great Adventure. Flagstaff triggered memories of my son-of-another-mother, Mark M. was in school at U of A at the time when Ava and I were there to see if it was a good fit for her. However, it was my Georgia real estate expertise which brought him into my fold. I was the last person in the US to see him alive when he came to see me at the Southern Comfort Cabin in the summer of 2014. He came to tell me he was going to take his life. We talked thirteen hours straight until the wee hours. He said he felt better but I knew it was only a temporary fix because I could see his determination. My heart still breaks over his decision.

Ava decided to go to Shorter College (a Baptist college) which definitely didn’t fit Ava but it was her love of her early mentor, Madame Fiori, who was ninety when she started training eighteen year old Ava’s voice. Madame left everything to Shorter College when she died. It was for that reason Ava decided to go to that alien planet to study. It wasn’t until Ava went to UNLV (U of N, LV) when she found her kindred mentors.

Even though I avoided Flagstaff areas Ava and I had been in 2002, it was when I came across the brown national park sign announcing the Petrified Forest National Park that caused me to regress. I drove blindly into the park hoping to revisit those days to fell my girl and remembering how much fun we had on that trip. It worked.

I recommend taking your time immersing yourself in this beautiful, peaceful, magical geologic anomaly.

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Blue Mesa

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Painted rock

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Petrified Jasper forest

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It was too hot to actually get out of the car and look at Newspaper Rock. Look it up. So very historic and way cool.

 

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The many times I’ve driven the I-40 east and west, I never stopped in Gallup to check out a place my dear friend, Fred (owner of Prairie Trails in Sautee, GA) had traveled for years to buy items for his Native American centered store. The trip is just too hard for him any more and I promised this time to go to Richardson Trading Post in Gallup.

I guess I used up all my camera battery life on the Petrified Forest because it died as I was snapping photos. I couldn’t get a pic of the front of the shop nor the vast array of items for sale…both old and new. Here’s a taste. Beware, however, if you go onto what appears to be their “official” site, McAfee puts up an alert so don’t click on it as I have a feeling they still work with an abacus!

There was so much to take in but the neatest part for me was the stuffed white buffalo! I so would have bought that!

 

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HAPPY TAILS!

As I don’t drive over large dams or bridges, I go around Hoover Dam when I leave Vegas and plan to head east on I-40. Instead, I go South on Hwy 95 and cut across to Kingsland, AZ via Hwy. 153 to pick up either Route 66 or the 40. Today, I chose the historic route…Route 66.

The last time I was on this section of Route 66 (there’s a turn off for the Historic Route 66 Loop west near Kingsland), I was with my daughter, Ava, on s spiritual quest in 2001 or 2002 on the tail end of our trip and headed for the petrified forest. I should have remembered all the photo ops on it. It really should be savored and walked around in to enjoy the ambience of the diners and the early Americana history not to mention the magnificent landscape and geologic sights.

Here are a few that turned out good enough to publish. As the towns are few and far between, I’m posting them all together.

However, one must go through some amazing geologic formations in southwest Nevada along Hwy. 95 etc. before Arizona.

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Enjoy Route 66!

Oops! It looks like some of my best pictures of the historic buildings have disappeared. The scenic landscapes  below are between the historic towns which have survived.

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Dust Devil! Finally caught one!

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If you look closely, you’ll see a snow capped mountain range. Jenni and I kept seeing one similar to this in northern California and I thought, for a moment, this was the same one I called Kilimanjaro!

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The road we took coming from Auburn, CA to cross the state was Hwy. 299 which was gorgeous but had some road construction delays which were 45 minutes to an hour in 97 degree heat. However, the pay off before and after the wait was well worth it as you can see for yourself in my blog from last week.

Leaving started out well…but…

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And please note that after this point, there are no pictures of us on Hwy. 36 because it was a hundred times more challenging than how I started this trip on The Tail of the Dragon, for those of you who have followed me from the beginning. This wonderful, beautiful road turned into a double-fisted, gut wrenching, switchback road from hell with all the familiar names of rivers, etc. on Hwy. 299 but n0ne of the views! There was a house or two, a ranch or two and nothing else for 138 miles but curve after curve to the point we were ALL sick! No joke! Even Montana!

When we reached Auburn, we were most happy to be with a loving friend who took us in, made jokes, gave us great lodgings and helped us recover our humor before going to bed. It was rough and I’ve driven many a back road but this one ain’t driving that one again!

Today was another nine hour driving day. It was hot and tough but we made it back to 113 degrees outside and 96 inside! Jenni’s A/C kicked the bucket while we were gone! Ain’t that just the way it is!

I’ll keep washing and packing; she’ll keep doing all her stuff; Montana will still be Montana; Boo will still be Boo; and there promises to be a Southern Comfort Cabin in my near future and A/C in hers!

HAPPY TAILS!

 

Today we said our formal goodbyes to this amazing part of our country. Through it’s majesty, we experienced its magic. In its presence we felt peace. With its life we relived our own and we emerge renewed and reborn in our own ways. These redwoods…here…truly IS where God lives.

We hiked about 2-3 miles today in a grove I’d never before visited. I have been blessed to not only have the best travel buddy (and my daughter’s dearest friend), Jenni, with me to hike trails I’d not gone before in not only in my redwood adventure but where I’d not been able to go in my healing process by speaking openly about Ava. The whole week has been cathartic on many levels.

Here are photos from today’s adventure.

We decided to start our day at The Chart Room after reading their menu online last night. We’d enjoyed our seafood dinner there a few nights ago and it had a view of the bay. This morning, it was action packed with boats, seals, seagulls and great views.

 

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We hiked the Leiffer Grove trail and the Ellsworth Grove trail that branched off from Leiffer. It was , for me, at least, challenging because a great deal of it was some tricky up hill hiking with exposed roots, twists, turns low limbs coupled with great views you didn’t want to miss.

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What do you see in the burl? I see a lion’s head.

 

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A troll…

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What do you see?

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A Fraggle?

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This gives you perspective…Jenni with her trusty companion, Boo. He and Montana are best friends!

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Montana was just over the whole hiking thing at this point and glad for the rest. She was  ready to be in the car with the comforts of her bed, water and a chew bone.

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Tomorrow, we head back toward the desert and 111 degrees.

HAPPY TAILS!

It was one of those spontaneous ideas which happened when we missed the turn in the road. It was then that I realized we were just minutes from the Oregon Coast which Jenni had never seen and I hadn’t seen in twenty years! It was an indicator of how this whole trip has been for us…we’re true compatible travel buddies!

When I asked, “Have you ever seen the Oregon Coast?” and her reply was that she hadn’t, I knew then we needed to just do it so we did! It’s only a few minutes north on Hwy. 101 to get to Harris Beach where Jenni climbed rocks with her pup and Montana and I walked the beach.

If you know me, you know I love the beach, ocean, trees, rocks and art…especially Mother Nature’s!  Here it is! One stop shopping at Harris Beach, Oregon.

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Where’s Montana?

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The best art is Mother Nature’s! I couldn’t make a 3-D picture of this but wish I could have. If you go to this beach, look for this work showing the redwood rising out of the sand like a Sperm Whale and the huge blocks, intricately balanced, which reminds me of the break in the water as the whale surfaces for air!

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And, although these next pictures aren’t from Oregon, they are from a deep forest off road drive we took not far from there. Here again, it was tough getting a good shot of this moss covered mystical tree.

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HAPPY TAILS!

We explored a new section of the Jedediah Smith Redwood Forest today. It’s a one lane dirt road, and at times, barely wide enough for your car to fit between the redwoods! It’s a magnificent old growth area which has obviously withstood fire, pestilence and people for at least a thousand years. Let’s just pray it’ll be around another thousand if we don’t screw it all up with pollution, politics and people!

One of my favorite pictures from today is of course a burl piece resembling an orangutan! Maybe it looks like something else to you! Take a gander!

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Jenni will post the video from today’s drive on FB as WP seems to always give me heartburn when I try to upload it through here…probably because I haven’t upgraded from the “free” version as yet!

Our adventure began at the “Trees of Mystery” shop where we found Sasquatch and an authentic Indigenous Peoples (you may refer to them as Native Americans) museum. It was quite an impressive collection for such a small town!

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So, here are the still shots of the redwoods from today!

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Where’s Montana? She’s in the redwood forest!

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Conjoined triplets at the base with a twisted sistah in the middle! LOL

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Rare sighting of the Banana Slug! This one is a baby compared to the one I saw in this forest 20 years ago!

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Looks like an eagle with its wings spread. What does it look like to you?

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Nothing goes unused in the forest! Note that this young redwood germinated and is growing from a fallen one along with all the ferns in the next photo!

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Same fallen tree as the one immediately above!

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HAPPY TAILS!

At this time in my life, coming up with a topic concerning my best decision is quite the challenge because most of my “best” decisions are followed by strange, and, sometimes, tragic outcomes. This topic has catapulted me into a plethora of reflections this last month or so especially with the hallmark birthday which includes the number six at the beginning and the end of it.

First, I was sure it was when I was ten and my sister introduced to me of the Classics Section of the local library (specifically, Tess of the d’Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy) which spurned me onward to bigger-than-life European history such as that of Catherine the Great and, eventually, to biographies of other famous and infamous women in history. It was their stories that made my  ancestors’  journeys burst forth with life…resuscitating them to breathe again through me. Their struggles for religious freedom or desire to invent a better bicycle brake or to be the best American Impressionist artist was the cause and effect of my destiny to fall in love with writing and, eventually, travel the back roads of the US and Canada writing this blog, fromafriend7491.com!

Our first major road trip in 2009 together

Our first major road trip in 2009 together.

But, then I remember being twenty-eight when I was sure my best decision was marrying the man I was deaf-dumb-and-blind in love with which was only followed by horrific tragedy and unbelievable loss that I surely couldn’t include that as my best anything except what I shouldn’t have done.

With her beloved big brother, Carl. They loved each other so much!

Ava with her beloved big brother, Carl. They loved each other so much!

Now I’m down to the one decision for which I’m truly proud; however, to be totally truthful, it wasn’t even my decision. It was a directive from my reliable third party directly related to a tragedy…the suicide of my beautiful gypsy opera singing daughter who lived/worked in Las Vegas, Nevada with her estranged husband.

Belly dancing magic in 2002. She looks like she has wings. Maybe, now she does.

Belly dancing magic in 2002. She looks like she has wings. Maybe, now she does.

As I drove west from my home in Georgia to handle Ava’s final affairs in early April, 2012, my reliable third party (call it God, Higher Power or whatever you wish) spoke to me in clear directives as he always does. Yes, my reliable third party always speaks to me in a very authoritative male voice. “Create an internet site to help others,” was all that was said.

As I love to drive the open road and have been doing for several years writing blogs about camping my way west alone with my dog, I have a tendency to drive anywhere from twenty-four to thirty-six hours with only pit stops and short naps. My anxiety of seeing the steel-hearted devil who was married to my daughter kept me pushing forward so as to get to my daughter’s house, git ‘er done (“Git ‘er Done Donna” is what they call me) and hit the open road again to parts unknown.

As you can well understand, my focus was on my grief and was totally not interested in hearing any message from my reliable third party concerning a task so outside my realm of expertise or knowledge. I wanted to focus on my loss, grief and how to move through finalizing things in Las Vegas and spending time on the real open road healing.

I argued. I argued my best to a silent, unrelenting audience, “I don’t know anything about creating websites!” I might as well have never even made that argument as it went flat as a fritter. Nothing. No response, no guidance, nothing for over twenty-four hours!

Finally, somewhere west of Albuquerque, New Mexico, I screamed at the silence, “What  has my forty-six years of real estate law experience got to do with creating a website?”

Finally, a response, “It taught you how to do the impossible!”

Ya’ know, I couldn’t argue with that one so my only retort was, “Now what?”

“Ask,” was the response but I knew what the real message was. I was to ask Ava’s friends who live and work in the performance industry in Las Vegas. So, I did and they all were excited for me to jump into this turbulent, bottomless task.

I started beating the drums and doing my research. I discovered that Las Vegas has a suicide rate fifty percent (50%) higher than the national average and has over eighteen bipolar therapy clinics. I obviously needed to start right there in Las Vegas.

My daughter had over 150 professional performer friends show up for her Las Vegas memorial and more would have been there but couldn’t because they had to work. Ava  was so very loved there and not a single person knew of her pain or despair save me. That’s quite a daunting task for one person and I didn’t want another friend, family or loved one to feel like there wasn’t a better decision for them to make or website to go like those my daughter visited her last night.

From her Memorial service in Las Vegas

From her Memorial service in Las Vegas

After returning home, I sat down at the computer and outlined the design of the website in forty-five pages in thirty days. I turned it over to a friend of Ava’s who was a web designer in New York during the .com days and she said it was the most detailed design she had ever seen. I didn’t want there to be any confusion about what I was “told” it was going to look like! After all, I was just following orders…very specific ones at that. This website HAD to be personal because there is NOTHING about suicide that isn’t personal. It had to be called “Ava’s Corner,” it needed to be entertaining and it had to be launched on December 2, 2012.

With the love and support of her friends, we launched the Avascorner.org website in Las Vegas on December 2, 2012. We had performers and live feed for Ava’s friends all over the world to connect with us and Avascorner.org. It was the fledgling version of the vision I was given but it was a beginning. Later, my reliable third party reminded me the reason for that date (12/02/2012) because there are more suicides in December than any other month of the year…one very close to home.

We incorporated Ava’s Corner, Inc. right before the kickoff event in 2012 and we’ve just celebrated our first year and we are getting feedback from friends and strangers alike that we’re making a difference. We got our 501(c)3 IRS certification as a non-profit public charity, which I filed myself…a true miracle as  I hate dealing with any kind of government related paperwork; however, once again, I was told I could handle it. And, I did.

We have an all volunteer Board of Directors who have experience in finance, website building, law and professional performer…all the elements needed to make a team who loved Ava and who see the vision of saving lives and educating people in what I call brain malfunctions like Bipolar Disorders (BD), Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) as Ava had, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and others.

Ava singing

Ava singing

Our broader Mission Statement:  “Ava’s Corner is a website constructed to encourage healing through creative energy and shedding light into the dark corners of mental disorders.

All friends or family of those suffering from brain disorders are welcome to utilize our education and support tools as well as participate in Ava’s Corner forums.”

We’re actively raising money to catapult this site into the final phase wherein members can create their own cyber community of support, freely expressing their pain through art, writing, videos, singing or other artistic endeavors as my daughter did. We have posted all the ways she found to cope until she couldn’t overcome all the negative influences of being bullied at home and at work. We had her thirty-five years, six months and ten days and we are all blessed to have had this remarkable, loving woman in our lives.

Ava's last painting from late February, 2012. Fitting that it has stars and an exhausted blue being. She was all that...a star and an exhausted blue being.

Ava’s last painting from late February, 2012. Fitting that it has stars and an exhausted blue being. She was all that…a star and an exhausted blue being.

There are other remarkable, loving people in our lives who need help and we at Ava’s Corner, Inc. and avascorner.org hope we can be there for them worldwide before another year goes by.

Ava was not just my daughter but my best friend and confidant. I have struggled valiantly these past two years to regain functions prior to March 2, 2012 as rote. I suffered from stroke-like symptoms of loss of vocabulary, thought processing, coping and more. I have only recently felt “alive” again…actually on the wee hours of December 7, 2013. I guess I’ll find out some day why that day other than the day this article was due…or that Ava visited me that morning and gave me clarity. Yes, Ava comes to me but that’s being saved for a book.

So, as I said, pain and joy, joy and pain can’t be separated when you have lived, loved and listened when making a best decision. It’s something that comes directly from the soul.

Didn’t have a clue that eastern Colorado was such a cow palace! It resembled the cattle ranches I saw in Texas (yes, with holding pens).

Wide open country

Then comes Nowhere Nebraska which is ALL green and lush.

It’s really interesting how crossing a state line is so obvious because of terrain or rivers. You KNOW you’re in another state because everything looks so different.

There’s a great deal of agricultural areas in Nebraska. I sure hope they’re not all owned by large corporations. I hope there are still some Mom & Pops around.

Beautiful countryside but make sure you get gassed up before entering Nebraska on I-80! There just aren’t that many places for fuel here.

I thought all the long trains went through Nevada and Colorado! Here’s a neat perspective.

Although there’s some dirt on the car window, I still wanted to add this photo because of the river in the background. Just beautiful!

And, as always, it’s Motel 6 when I need a TV fix or drive too long and have gotten too tired to set up the camper. BTW, most campsites don’t have really fast internet service so it takes forever to download photos. I’m kinda’ liking this Motel 6 because it’s a franchise (instead of a chain) and, although it’s pricier, it’s definitely privately run because of the grounds, location (overlooking a river) and it’s internet service. It’s in Grand Island, Nebraska just in case you’re ever up this way!