California Gold Rush Brings New Look to The Roads Traveled

Sonoma ValleyHistorians who say the California Gold Rush is over are misinformed, for I’ve struck it rich in the Golden State.

My gold isn’t the same metal whose discovery in the water wheel of a sawmill in the Sacramento Valley in 1848 launched the seminal California Gold Rush, bringing tens of thousands of eager prospectors to the storied West. I certainly wouldn’t have objected, though, if I had happened to kick up some loose nuggets the day I hiked along a stream in the Mayacamas Mountains.

The gold I’ve mined during my extended stay in Sonoma County wine country doesn’t need safekeeping in a bank. You won’t find it stored in Fort Knox. My gold is intangible, yet still precious.

Beginning to dig

There’s a saying that sometimes you have to lose yourself to find yourself. I wasn’t lost, at least not in the geographical sense, but I was stalled at a professional crossroads. I wanted to revamp and expand The Roads Traveled website and reinvigorate my freelance writing, and was uncertain how to proceed. I needed direction, focus – a proverbial kick in the pants to jumpstart the process.

Given my state of mind, I interpreted a few random occurrences in unlikely places as signs of impending change. I was receptive to their messages, and braced for impact.

·      I participated in a yoga class for the first time (look for more in an upcoming blog post). A small blackboard at the entry of the studio featured a quote by Lao Tsu: “ A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step.” Lesson: To complete anything, do something, even if it’s small and simple.

Lao Tsu quote

·      While walking with my friends Ter and Tania amid the serenity of giant, centuries-old coastal redwoods (the oldest, a whopping 1400 years) at Armstrong Woods State Natural Reserve, we actually stood inside a tree. Redwoods have remarkable fire resistance, thanks to their thick, fibrous bark containing tannin rather than resin, which keeps all but the hottest fire from penetrating the tree. The hollowed out area, called a goose pen, happens when fire does reach the core. The tree stabilizes itself by strengthening its base around the cavity. Lesson: Adapt to your environment.

Redwoods Ter2

Redwood goose pen

·      A sign on the road next to a church in Glen Ellen reads: “Always put off until tomorrow what you shouldn’t do at all.” I get that it’s a clever spin on the concept of avoiding temptations and sin, but my mind flipped it to the converse. Lesson: Never procrastinate about what you most want or need to do in life.

Church sign

Hitting the mother lode

My newfound wealth came from attending the 24th annual Book Passage Travel Writers & Photographers Conference in Corte Madera, just north of San Francisco. Book Passage is a world-renowned community bookstore that, excuse the pun, wrote the book on cultivating and nurturing relationships with authors and readers. Our conference chair was the esteemed author, editor, consummate global traveler, and affable Don George. To him, Book Passage is a “sacred place where magic happens,” and the event a yearly pilgrimage.

Book Passage

Don George

I get why.

For five stimulating days, our faculty of cream-of-the-cream writers, editors, and photographers shared their wisdom, passion, and insights about writing, travel, and life in general, whether during classes, panel discussions, meals, one-on-one consultations, or late-night karaoke sessions. The camaraderie generated between faculty and participants felt like summer camp in the best sense.

Don George

Don’s closing remarks were heartfelt, inspiring, emotional. Alternating between wiping tears from his eyes and perspiration from his forehead with a crumpled red bandana, Don urged us onward. “Take risks.” “Crack open your vulnerability and surrender yourself to it, and good things happen.” “Don’t be seduced by the easy thing.” “Fill the world with curiosity, respect and wonder, and it will transform the planet.” “Ripeness is all, so when it comes, let and make yourself be changed.”

The atmosphere in the room was charged. I’d never seen anyone speak so openly, profoundly, and expressively about his – our –profession, and I dissolved into tears, vowing to myself to heed his counsel.

I’d met Candace Rardon, conference faculty member, author, sketch artist, illustrator, and inveterate traveler (more on Candace in an upcoming blog post), and asked her to review my work. I was about to mention my interest in enhancing The Roads Traveled website when, out of the blue, she suggested it needed a new design theme. We were in sync. I followed my intuition and retained Candace to manage the makeover.

Mary Gilbert and Candace Rardon

My cache of gold growing more plentiful, I found my way through my crossroads.

So, I’m excited to announce the redesigned The Roads Traveled website! Please check out what’s new and improved:

·      Home page – Before, the blog was the first page you landed on. Now there’s a comprehensive home page that unites all the site’s elements in a more graphic, colorful, and readable way. Notice the new slider with transitioning images, new feature pages, and an easy sign-up to receive free email updates of new blog posts.

·      About page – More biographical information and photos, and continued wishes for your own meaningful travel and stories.

·      Portfolio page – Lists my print and online articles as a freelance writer.

·      Still featured are pages for Travel Resources and, most certainly, my Blog.

·      New social media icons so you can Like The Roads Traveled on Facebook, and Follow on Twitter and Instagram.


The Roads Traveled is switching to a new service to distribute free updates to followers via email.

If you originally signed up to follow The Roads Traveled using your email address, you will automatically continue to receive free email notifications of new blog posts. (Apologies if you received two email notices about this post, which was a one-time occurrence during the transition.)

On the other hand, if you follow The Roads Traveled as a user, you will not have notices of new blog posts, and new blog posts will no longer appear in your WordPress Reader. Please take this moment to sign up using your email address so you can receive free email notifications of new blog posts.

If you have questions, please contact me.

Thanks to current and new readers of The Roads Traveled for your support. As ever, I welcome your comments. And thanks to Candace for your creativity, guidance, and encouragement.

The travel writers and photographers conference was a potent reminder that writing and travel are pure gold to me. Gold does need polishing, though, to keep its luster. That’s why I’ve already registered for next year’s conference.

As a writer, there always are roads I want to travel and a world of stories to tell.



6 thoughts on “California Gold Rush Brings New Look to The Roads Traveled

  • September 14, 2015 at 2:43 pm

    Love the new website! As always love reading about your experiences with people and places on the road!

    • September 14, 2015 at 3:56 pm

      Hi, Kelly. Thanks so much! I appreciate your kind comment. Hope you have a trip planned!

  • September 12, 2015 at 9:08 am

    Mary- always enjoy reading your posts, and the new look is great! Congratulations, and keep your stories coming!

    • September 12, 2015 at 9:43 am

      Hi, Terri. Thanks so much for your comment. I’m glad you like the redesign. I need to catch up on your travels!

    • September 11, 2015 at 7:28 am

      Hi, Julie. Thanks for being my cheerleader! Happy travels to you and Pat on the East Coast!


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