How Not To Plan A Personal Writing Retreat

In blizzard and icy conditions, we keep the Elyminator in the hangar and opt for a seat on the bus. Over Christmas break, we chose Southwest Airlines. In better flying weather, we would fly ourselves into Finger Lakes Regional or the Penn Yan airport in upstate New York. But Southwest doesn’t fly there, so we bought tickets to Syracuse and borrowed from Avis to drive west. If you followed any of the hubbub over the holidays, you might know that employees from some of the air carriers had threatened to strike during that time. Southwest was not one of those, so we thought our trip might have better luck.

Unfortunately, they had somewhat of a system meltdown as flights were cancelling due to weather. It took them a few days to resuscitate their old scheduling infrastructure, but they did it. We were one of the fortunate ones in that none of our flights were affected in either direction. Sure, they have some work to do, and hopefully they won’t have a bean counter running the company ever again. Nothing against accountants, but they shouldn’t be running airlines. It’s not their forte. With a new CEO, we feel certain operations will improve dramatically, and Southwest will rise to the top again to regain the public’s “Luv.”

We had planned on having a winter writing retreat (and I wanted to make snow angels), but there’s so much to do in this part of the country that we had a hard time staying in the B&B. In a break from writing, we took a day to hike among frozen water falls at Watkins Glen State Park. Bundled in layers, we stepped gingerly across the snow and ice-covered paths surrounded with views of 19 falls that looked like opaque glass hanging from 200-foot cliffs. Summertime is peak tourist season, so we saw relatively few fellow hikers, and the air was filled with the sounds of burbling water where ice had thawed, snow-crunch footsteps, and an extra-large woodpecker whose hammering was surprisingly loud.

In the town of Watkins Glen are murals of vintage roadsters and portraits of acclaimed race drivers in honor of the city’s rich auto racing history. My dad used to talk of the famous Watkins Glen speedway when I was a child, and it was a treat to finally see it in person.

Back at the B&B, we rested to the sounds of Canada geese honking as they flapped their wings 500 feet above the center of Seneca Lake. The house was perfectly placed on the west side of the lake with a wall-full of windows facing east. Each morning, we woke to a stunning pre-sunrise sky gracefully glowing from deep red to pink to bright orange, then yellow, casting light on rabbit footprints on the snowy deck.

Only a bit of progress was made on a Scottish Renaissance novel and a book for flight instructors on teaching scenarios. Next time, we should plan our writing retreat at some place boring.

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