Travel Archive

If I Can Just Make Cheyenne

Posted June 12, 2017 By Reba J. Hoffman, Ph.D.

On Wednesday I will turn 60. To celebrate, over the next few days, I’ll have a series of posts that will give you a rare look into the private life and heart of Reba. I hope you’ll stop by and celebrate with me.

I rounded the corner and ran north, excitement bubbling in my soul. Today I would see downtown Cheyenne. I passed underneath one of the two major interstate highways that intersect here and wasn’t surprised that it looked like most any interstate exit. Restaurants and hotels lined the road, begging for customers to drop some cash.

Within a mile I was taken back in time, although NOT to the days of the old west. Instead, I found myself squarely in the middle of the 1950’s. It looked as though someone discarded an entire town from decades ago and Cheyenne bought it. Old diners with spinning stools and red/white checkered table cloths. Cheap strip motels from a time when people stayed in them just to sleep, not to be pampered. Old “filling” stations that offered fuel and little else.

I continued running, hoping against hope that this was not all there is. I passed a biker bar and gazed in wonder as hundreds of grizzly characters showed off their black leather, drank beer and ate greasy hamburgers. But they did seem like a happy lot.

I climbed a small hill and downtown came into view. I passed homeless people who seemed devoid of any ambition. One of them sat on a bench reaching into a bag of edible goodies, no doubt deposited there by some do-gooder. I ran past dozens smelly young drifters with backpacks. I figured they’d come to Cheyenne for the same reason I had.

I finally reached the center of the town and down one street, I saw the gold dome of the state capitol. What I didn’t see was anything western. There were no gun slinging cowboys. No hitching posts or horses. No wagons or saloons. No old timey hotels. There were old buildings for sure but nothing resembling the wild, wild west. Some buildings had been refurbished into bars and restaurants, some into parking garages. Many stood empty, a memory of a time long ago, although not distant enough into the past to satisfy my craving for cowboys and Indians.

I turned around and began my trek back. Already I’d seen African American young ladies walking to work at the local steakhouse. I’d seen Chinese women making large wok-full’s of fried rice for the busy take-out dinner hours. I’d seen Mexican men riding bicycles, presumably to or from work. But no cowboys.

I gazed toward the intersection and saw a young woman in a very fancy dinner dress being escorted by a man in an expensive monochrome suit. They walked across the street and he opened the passenger door of the $70,000 SUV for her. She entered but not before casting me a wary look, as if this penguin of a grandma runner wanted to steal anything she had.

I ran back past the homeless man sitting on the bench. He’d been eating some of the things in his bag and had thrown the wrappers onto the sidewalk. I bent down, picked them up and ran to the trash can to toss them in.

As I ran back toward the truck stop on the outskirts of town, I marveled that Cheyenne is as diverse as Times Square. Rich, poor, multi-ethnic, those just passing through all came to this place. Some searching. I wondered if they found what they were looking for. I fought a twinge of disappointment that I did not find my western town. I’d painted a much more appealing one onto the canvas of my mind.

The anticipation long since faded, I forced myself through the last mile back to the truck stop. As I rounded the corner and Dillon came into view, I was grateful that I’d named my truck (and all my trucks) a name from the old west. Cheyenne may have not been what I expected, but it was quite an adventure and well worth the three-hour run.

I know that in the days and weeks to come and I remember Cheyenne, I’ll choose to remember the one I built, not the one I saw on my run. In my town, horses and wagons still clop up and down the streets. Long-legged cowboys wear guns on their hips and aren’t afraid of anything.

My journey started with me thinking with great anticipation, “If I can just make Cheyenne”. It ended with gratitude that I created a town in my mind that no one can take away. I thanked God for my wonderful imaginary town created by the amazing imagination He saw fit to give me. I DID make Cheyenne… just the way I wanted to remember it!

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Walking in Memphis

Posted February 8, 2016 By Reba J. Hoffman, Ph.D.

I sat with anticipation staring out the window as we thundered toward metropolitan Memphis. We passed old stone and brick houses that I desperately wished could talk and tell me their amazing history.

At long last we turned into the ornate grounds of the Pink Palace. The enormous home and thousands of pink field stones stood tall among the winter bare branched trees. Its lavish décor makes it every bit the coveted location as when it was built in the 1920’s.

After memorializing it with snapshots from every side, wwee wound our way through surface streets, past the airport where hundreds of FedEx jets sat on the tarmac. The tails towered over the small row houses nearby. The old. The new. The historical. The technological, all dwelling together on a street in Memphis.

We turned onto US 51 and parked in what appeared to be a strip mall. It turned out to be the mecca for The King. People from near and far flock here to see and purchase all things Elvis. One of my friends went to the café to buy Elvis’ favorite sandwich—peanut butter and banana—while I inspected his bell bottomed sequined costumes and autographed guitars.

As I stood in the shops completely surrounded by Elvis, his music and his fans screaming on the video loop playing on large screen TV’s, I pondered how difficult it had to have been for him to live a normal life. Though he clearly loved entertaining audiences, he had to come to a point when he just wanted to be normal… perhaps even anonymous.

After getting all shook up by the memorabilia, we drove another block and found the place where Elvis lived… and died. I couldn’t help but wonder what he thought about when he walked the grounds after flying home from a concert in Lisa Marie, one of two private jets he owned. She sat on display across the street from the home.

Graceland stands as a shrine in Memphis, the only thing in the neighborhood that remained untouched by time. People walk the nearby streets, weighted down by the burdens of life, while streets, curbs and buildings are worn down by years of hard labor. Yet the home of Elvis, like the King himself, lives on seemingly unscathed and unforgotten.

I still had questions for Graceland but they would have to wait. It wasn’t talking and I had other places to see. A short drive to downtown and THE River brought us right to the entrance of St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital.

Unlike Graceland, the patients who come here are very much alive. And the professionals here are using every ounce of their energy, skill and knowledge to keep them that way. Just miles away from where people make the pilgrimage to honor and remember someone who died four decades before, people here make a different sort of trip. No private jet. No fans or fanfare. Just a quiet arrival with hope against hope that a cure will be found and they will grow up, go to the prom, have their first kiss, graduate high school, get married, have a family and live happily ever after. Some of them would settle for living just another day.

We wound our way past the tall buildings down to The River… the Mighty Mississippi. How I desperately longed for it to talk. To tell me its stories that wrote history in our great nation. The streets were as old as the buildings, each one luring me into their moments of old. None of them telling the stories.

Memphis is a magical place where history and modern times walk arm in arm. The soul of the city runs deep in the hearts of those who live here. She sings the blues and people listen with open hearts that change moment by moment as the music of the city permeates their being.

I never thought my life would change by a city I avoided for decades but I now understand what the songwriter meant when he wrote:

 

     Walking in Memphis

     I was walking with my feet ten feet off of Beale (Street)

     Walking in Memphis

     But do I really feel the way I feel?

I’ve been asking myself that same question since Saturday. Memphis, you’ve changed me. Lured me into your embrace. Accepted me as one of your own. My heart beats with a different song, one I haven’t quite named yet. The melody is still evolving. The harmony is yet to be heard. One day it will be set to music and I will have my own song… one that was written upon the tables of my heart while walking in Memphis.

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The Heartbeat of America is Alive and Well!

Posted October 17, 2014 By Reba J. Hoffman, Ph.D.

Storm BrewingI wound through the gears headed eastbound from the Kansas-Oklahoma border as an enormous size storm brewed in my rear view mirror. With tons of beef in the back, it was unlikely I would outrun it, at least not for long. The wind increased in force, blowing tumbleweeds across the road as I lumbered along at a governed 58 miles per hour.

I watched as farmers and ranchers prepared for the torrent, while horses and cows nonchalantly munched on grass, completely uncaring that the storm was coming. Grannies in their Buicks hearts raced as they tapped the accelerator, trying desperately to make it home before their shampoo and set was ruined.

I drove and thought about these people, complete strangers with whom I shared a common bond. We are all Americans. I realizedButte in New Mexico that must be the focus of my blog moving forward. I’m a story teller and people are changed by the stories I tell. God has gifted me and I must tell the stories of those I meet along the way.

Last year on the Road to Freedom Bicycle Tour (thanks for riding with me!) I discovered a truth I may have never known had I not pedaled into the backroads of our great nation: the Heartbeat of America is Alive and Well! In this time in which we find ourselves breathing and living, it’s so easy to lose track of that fact.

I feel it my duty- and my privilege- to bring you encouragement by telling the stories of our fellow Americans all across our land. I hope you stay with me for the ride. I trust you will share these stories with those who need to be uplifted.

Cody and Troops Trailer in Small TownI have always been patriotic, proud to be an American. I salute the flag and stand any time I hear our National Anthem, regardless of where I am. My American roots run deep. Since June, I’ve criss crossed the US countless times. I share a wealth with thousands of others I’ve met. It’s the treasure of being American. By birth or by boat, we are Americans and yes, in 2014 the heartbeat of America is alive and well.

I hope you’ll join me as we get reacquainted with America and its amazing people.

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