Cross Country Day 1: From Rochester to Ohio

Published February 15, 2017 by Susan Woodward

The first day on the road was scary…and I hadn’t even left the garage yet!  Last minute jitters had me taking deep breaths, telling myself that I could do this.  I had planned and prepped and prayed.  I just had to believe and put it in gear.  I also looked at my passenger seat and remembered that Mom was with me for the long haul.

In order to make sure I would not chicken out, I made plans to meet a friend from high school in Erie, Pennsylvania for breakfast.  Nothing like having a commitment with a live person to motivate me to get on the road by 5 AM in order to get there by 9.  It was a beautiful day once the sun came up, and having the sun at my back, lighting my way westward, gave me confidence.  img_20160629_202748

It had been about ten years since seeing my friend, Greg.  It was great to sit, once again, in a diner drinking coffee and eating breakfast food!  Your Host was the diner where we hung out during our high school years (even though we went to two different schools).  It was like old times, and we had so much to catch up on.  Plus, Greg was just the person to give me that extra boost of confidence that everything was going to go perfectly for my trip and that I had nothing to fear.  Thanks, Greg!

From Erie, my next destination was Serpent Mound in Ohio.  Since anything to do with ancient peoples fascinates me (especially their myths/legends), when I learned that there was a quarter mile mound in the form of a giant snake nestled in the hills of Ohio, I had to go!

I had carefully calculated the mileage using Google Maps and the time estimates for getting to where I was going for the entire trip.  Let’s just say that the timing was NOT in alignment with the claim by at least two hours, even though I was doing the speed limits and following the maps.  But at least I got to where I was going!

Serpent Mound is most definitely NOT anywhere near any main highways, and the roads there wound through hills and forests. It was a beautiful drive, and I found myself sing20160629_175028ing “The Long and Winding Road” over and over.  It was early evening when I finally found the place, and I felt a sense of accomplishment just for getting there!

In order to best see the mound, there is a large tower to climb.  With my bad knee, I was terrified that it might give out while climbing.  Then I told myself that if I DIDN’T climb up there, I would always regret it by saying I had the chance and got too scared to do it.

So I climbed.

20160629_181113When I finally got to the top, I was glad I had gritted my teeth through the pain.


The view was wonderful, and the pictures do not do it justice.  I hiked along the path around then entire mound.  There were only a few others there, so I felt more or less totally alone in this peaceful place.  This park is where I placed the first of my crystals.  Every time I dropped or planted a crystal, I offered the following song:

By the Earth that is her body,

By the Air that is her breath,

By the Fire that is her bright spirit,

To the living Waters of her womb,

May the peace of the Goddess

Be forever in your heart!

The circle is open but unbroken,

Merry meet and merry part!

Once I was ready to leave Serpent Mound, it was time for me to find the campground I had booked nearby.   I was not at Rocky Forks State Park very long– only long enough to explore a little, fix my dinner, get a hot shower, and go to sleep– but it was a beautiful place.

20160629_201408 20160629_201419 20160629_205046On my first day on the road, I learned no to be afraid to to just trust that the Universe held me in its hand.  I needed to simply enjoy.  Sleeping in the van was surprisingly comfortable, and I felt blessed to have made it through that first day. If I can do one day, I can do any day!

Blessed Be!


Physical Preparation: Van Sweet Van!

Published February 15, 2017 by Susan Woodward

When planning to drive across the country alone, and camping in a van along the way, it is imperative to make sure that you have everything you need.  And trying to make sure that I had it all AND make room for myself to sleep in the van was like a giant puzzle.

I had a very large plastic tub to hold some food items and necessaries that would not be needed every single day (like my back pack, my extra shoes, books, plastic bags of all sizes, and things like that). That tub would also serve as a table when I was resting inside. It was big enough to hold my picnic set/dishes, my CPAP machine, and also act as a nightstand for my glasses and phone.

I had two large coolers: one filled with water bottles and the other held more water and my “refrigerated” foods (yogurt, lunch meats, cheeses, hard boiled eggs, and fruit).   I made sure that the food cooler was kept near the side door behind the wheel so that I had easy access to it, as well as easy opportunities to drain melted water and add new ice every day.

One of those small plastic “dressers” that has three drawers served as my medicine cabinet, a storage unit for small things that I would need access to easily, like hygiene items.

Two large water coolers in the event the engine needed a drink, or I needed to wash up without having a sink nearby.

Two suitcases for clothing, and I made sure I brought a variety so that I was prepared for any possibility, including dresses.

A single sized inflatable mattress with the pump, a set of sheets, my sleeping bag, and a set of towels.  I also remembered to have a 30 foot extension cord so that I could run it out the window at the campground and plugged it into a power strip in order to use my CPAP and to charge my phone.  If I had really been thinking, I realized I could have brought a coffee maker!

On top of ALL of this, I had promised that I would bring my ceramic Christmas village for my daughter who has a house big enough to set it up in.  Since I downsized to an apartment, I no longer had room to set it up.   That added five boxes to the stuff in the van!

When I told folks I was going to be sleeping in my van, I was warned to make sure that I had ventilation during the night, which would mean leaving a window open a bit.  I was not feeling that!  Especially since I did not want any creepy crawlies to get into the van while I was asleep!  After looking that van over, I realized that the rear vents opened outward.  They were also too small for any miscreant to reach in and unlock the van!  The only thing they needed was screening to keep out the bugs.  I went out and bought some cheap screening at KMart and a roll of duct tape.  That worked like a charm!  When I was at the campgrounds, I was able to get fresh air, listen to the night sounds, AND be bug free!

I even thought to buy a cheap plastic waste basket and some liners in the event of a bathroom emergency!  Happily, I never needed to use it, but I was glad I had thought of it!

The final touches included AAA travel books and maps, a GPS gift from my Aunt Nancy (Garmon was AWESOME), a selfie stick, a tripod for my camera, sun shades for all the windows, and my laptop.

Finally, everything was ready:

20160629_194019 20160629_194054 20160629_210249

With my mechanic’s blessing, saying he would take my vehicle anywhere, I was off!

Spiritual Preparation

Published February 14, 2017 by Susan Woodward

I have to admit that as the time to leave for my cross country trip neared, I was feeling nervous.  A 54 year old woman driving alone across the continent, and mostly sleeping in her van.  I am thankful that I fought back the fears and did it anyway!

The Summer Solstice was the perfect preparation day.  Not only was it the solstice, but there happened to be a full moon that night.  That would be the best for cleansing and charging my crystals with energy for distribution across the country.  My hope was not only for personal healing, but in healing our nation as well.  Let’s face it– things are not so great right now, and we need all the help we can get.

Anyhow, I had a reiki treatment20160620_164704 that afternoon, and my friend blessed my bag of crystals during the ritual. Afterwards, I took them to a nearby creek to be fully cleansed in running water.

Running water has always been soothing for me, and so I sat there thinking about all the places these crystals were going to be planted, and I became more and more excited about the trip.  I guess some element of fear is natural, and probably necessary so that I don’t become oblivious to my surroundings and get into trouble.  For ten days on the road alone, I needed to be sure to have my wits about me!

When I got home, I laid out a Tarot spread, which added to my confidence!

20160611_095815The last thing I did for spiritual preparation was to arrange my crystals on a platter and lay them out in the Solstice sun to absorb the energy of the Sun God.  Because it also happened to be a full moon that night, I left them out in the moonlight to absorb the Goddess energy as well.  In that way, I felt that my heart, mind, and soul were ready to take on the adventure of my lifetime!



It Has Been a Long Time Coming

Published February 14, 2017 by Susan Woodward

Two years.  I have had writer’s block for over two whole years.

I could tell myself that I was just too busy to write, but that isn’t the truth.  I just couldn’t do it. While nursing a long term knee injury that held me back quite a bit, I pulled away from everything that I had once been involved in.  Sad and angry with myself for the injury, I comforted myself with Netflix and just TV in general.

And then I turned 54.  That was a year ago, but in that year, I had lots of planning to do, moving to do, and traveling to do.  54 was a big wake up because that is the age my mother died from a blood clot after breaking her ankle.  I knew I was going in for a total knee replacement surgery, and my mind kept making all kinds of gloomy correlations.  However, I was determined to do something that I know my mother always wanted to do, and she never got the chance.

She wanted to travel.

I made it my mission that the summer of 2016 (the 20th anniversary of her passing) was going to be in her memory, and I planned to drive across the country in my van.  Of course, I had to buy a van, so I traded in my Elantra for a Town and Country, and I started planning.  I also decided that I needed this to be a healing experience for me, both spiritually and emotionally.  This gave me the idea to plant healing quartz crystals along the way; this was also my way of trying to add energy to heal our country because it sure needs it.

After months of planning, I came up with my itinerary:

Itinerary For Cross Country Sojourn 2016

June 29-August 12


  1. Rochester, NY to Erie, PA         163 miles      3 hours


  1. From Erie, PA to the Serpent Mound, Ohio         331 miles      5.5 hours
  2. From Serpent Mound to Rocky Fork State Park, OH       17 miles      25 minutes


        Rocky Fork St Park, OH to Kickapoo State Park, Illinois         266 miles      4.5 hours


        Kickapoo State Park, IL to Rockford, Illinois         208 Miles      3 hours


        Rockford, Illinois to Sioux City, Iowa         396 Miles      6.5 hours


  1.  Sioux City, Iowa to Chadron, Nebraska         383 Miles      6.5 hours
  2.  Chadron State Park to Alliance, Nebraska (Carhenge)     48 miles    1 hour



  • Chadron, Nebraska to Mt. Rushmore, South Dakota        115 Miles    2 hours
  • Return to Chadron State Park         115 Miles    2 Hours



        Chadron, NE to Salt Lake City, Utah        603 Miles       9.5 hours


        Salt Lake City, Utah to Lake Tahoe, CA       575 Miles      8.5 Hours


  1. Stateline, Nevada to San Francisco, California         190 Miles    3.5 hours


  1. San Francisco, CA to Modesto, CA        92 miles    1.5 hours
  2. Modesto, CA to Fresno, CA       96 miles    1.5 hours

FRIDAY, JULY 8 (stay in California till August)

        Fresno, CA to Murrieta, CA       300 Miles      5 hours


        Murrieta, CA to Las Vegas, Nevada       265 Miles      4 hours



  • Las Vegas, NV to Hoover Dam         35 miles    1 hour
  • Hoover Dam to Sedona, Arizona     356 miles    6 hours



        Sedona, AZ to Albuquerque, New Mexico      349 miles    5.5 hours


        Albuquerque, NM to Oklahoma City, OK      541 miles      8 hours


        Oklahoma City, OK to Memphis, Tennessee      467 miles    7 hours


        Memphis, Tennessee to N. Charleston, South Carolina    670 miles    10 hours



  • Charleston, SC to Foamhenge, Virginia      424 miles    6.5 hours
  • Foamhenge to Natural Bridge Caverns     1 mile    5 minutes
  • Natural Bridge Caverns to Lexington, VA      15 miles    16 minutes



        Lexington, VA to King of Prussia, PA       378 Miles     6 hours



  • King of Prussia, PA to Hershey, PA        95 miles     2 hours
  • Hershey PA to Penn’s Cave, PA       172 miles     4 hrs
  • Penn’s Cave to Rochester, NY       226 miles    5 hours


Along the way, I buried or dropped crystals that I had prepared for the journey.  Click on the map to see where I dropped them:

usa_flag_map-svgAfter making all the reservations at camp ground (where I camped in my van) and motels, I set about making personal preparations to prevent my scared self from bailing at the thought of driving across country alone for the first half of the journey. I knew that the time to do it HAD to be now, and so I pushed down my fears and kept planning.  I owed it to myself to just DO it, and I felt I owed it to my Mom who never got the chance.  This was for both of us, and I couldn’t back out.

The Hero’s Journey

Published June 13, 2016 by Susan Woodward

When beginning our work with the Cultural Mythology tales, we started with Joseph Campbell and The Hero’s Journey.

Using the following PowerPoint presentation, I walked them through the steps of The Hero’s Journey as they were taught to me.

The Hero’s Journey

After discussing the outline of the monomyth, the students worked to apply what they understood to their stories about Greek and Roman Heroes.  They talked about the ideas in their groups, and then each member focused on one of the three stages of the Hero’s Journey (Departure, Initiation, or Return). Each person’s job was to apply what they understood about that stage to the story they had read.

In an attempt to appeal to my more creative students who love to draw, each group created a poster for its chosen hero.  The posters were comprised of four parts:

  • a white sheet (at the top)- This was an “introduction” and contained the hero’s name, a brief synopsis of his journey, and three character traits (with supportive evidence) that the hero exhibited throughout his journey;
  • either a green (for growth) or a yellow (for knowledge) sheet- This represented the Departure stage. Students outlined the steps of the Departure as they understood them from the story; how did he need to grow? What knowledge was he attempting to attain?
  • either a red (for passion) or an orange (for creative ingenuity) sheet- This was to represent the Initiation state.  Again, students depicted the elements of the Initiation as they understood them on this sheet; how did he solve problems? What motivated him to continue?
  • either a blue (for truth) or a purple (for valor) sheet- This was to represent the Return stage.  And like the others, the students attempted to outline the Return stage as they understood it; what truth does he bring back to his people? How does he prove himself worthy of the title of hero? What has he accomplished for the good of all?

This is a few of their posters:

Aeneas EDITEDHercules EDITEDHercules Labors EDITEDOdysseus 2 EDITEDOdysseus EDITEDTheseus EDITED

Because many of the Greek heroes stories are intertwined, When I displayed them on the bulletin board, I fit them together like a puzzle. Each hero poster was taped together so that the finished product was almost diamond shaped; it made for easy jigsaw.

Greek Heroes Collage

Being Thankful: Mom’s Bragging Rights!

Published November 28, 2014 by Susan Woodward

While I am grateful for everything in my life all year long, I feel especially blessed as we enter the winter holiday season. Here is a picture of what I am most grateful for:

The Woodward/Everson ClanThis is my family…four generations of us! It includes my dad and step-mom, my children’s grandmother on their father’s side, and Preston’s grandmother. My generation is represented by my brother-in-law, the father of my children and his partner, and Preston’s mom. All five of my children are there with their spouses/significant others, as well as all six of my grandchildren!

I feel truly blessed to have all these people in my life, but I am feeling even more blessed after getting this picture on Thanksgiving Day:

Everson FamilyThe bride and groom from the above picture announced that they are expecting a new arrival this summer! And it just so happens I already have travel plans to visit at that time with my eldest and her daughter…so now I hope to be there for the arrival of grandchild #7!

The people in my life are my greatest gifts, and I vow never to lose sight of that. They give me purpose and validate that, in spite of the multitude of mistakes I have made, my life is pretty damned wonderful. We tease each other mercilessly, but that just gives testament to the bond we have.

In case I don’t say it enough, I LOVE my kids!

My Illy: 1503846_874529102591995_1346509648119248359_n

Phlebotomist by day, aerial artist by night! I do have to say, though, that she looks like a superhero here…as right she should! She works hard to care for her beautiful daughter, Jordan.

I am thankful for my strong, creative eldest daughter.

Oh, and she decorates cakes on the side and cooks up a storm!





10562999_10152553310770983_326930046283169411_n 1800378_10152553311185983_5718664153321845430_n 1528474_10152555126685983_1275118210356311864_n

And now Jordan is getting into the act!

JimMy Jim:

For someone who had such a rough start at arriving nine weeks early and very ill, I am so blessed to have this loving, compassionate man as my son. I am so proud of him for accepting his girlfriend Lisa’s children into his heart and for helping to raise them as his own.

He is also a great keyboard player!


Jim, Lisa and the kids close up

1901804_10154694748580431_6627833825943590068_nRobin Bills Fan

My Robin:

Dr. Robin… I am so proud of you! She and her husband Sean work hard to make a home with their little Dolly.

Not only is she compassionate and knowledgeable in her field, she is a terrific mom who loves to keep things simple. She cooks, cans, and sews like a pro. They are also staunch Buffalo Bills fans who love the outdoors!!

Happy Family

Robin and Sean



She looks like a sweet little girl, but this is one tough US Marine who also had no fear when playing women’s rugby in high school. I would think she’d be the Corps’ secret weapon because she you wouldn’t think she could lay you out flat without batting an eye.  That’s my Sarah Bear!

I am so proud of how much she has accomplished, although I miss her all the way on the other side of the continent. She has stepped in to love not only her husband Preston, but his daughter Chloe. And now they are expecting a wee one of their own!


Sarah USMC marching

Sarah USMC

Sarah Preston Chloe

Sarah and Preston USMC ball

My Joe:Joe graduatioon

Strong, smart, and incredibly sweet when it comes to his nieces and nephew! He scares me sometimes because it seems he has no fear, whether it is playing football, rugby, lacrosse, soccer…or his latest sport, longboarding! That is the one that scares me the most, although I cannot help but admire his fearlessness and his strength! He is also self-taught on the guitar, and I love to hear him play.

Joe training

joe longboarding

JoeWell, maybe Dolly’s not such a fan of the guitar…

Joe and Jojo

To my wonderful children and grandchildren, thank you for who you are and all that you do. I love you all so much, and am especially thankful to have you in my life.

Age of Social Consent

Published November 20, 2014 by Susan Woodward

I was honored to be cast in my friend, Louie Podlaski’s one act play, “Age of Social Consent.” It was produced by Everyone’s Theatre Company, Inc., and was directed by Billy DeMetsenaere. I played the role of Erin, a woman suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder who is haunted by a particularly painful event in her life involving her teenage daughter. The role of Erin’s daughter, Dana, was played by Katie Guy.

I was thrilled when the show earned awards from the Theatre Association of New York State (TANYS): Meritorious Award in Direction to Billy DeMetsenaere, and I received Excellence in Acting.

TANYS award

Actually, the role seemed less like acting and more an element of catharsis. It helped to release pent up emotions and resentment, allowing me to voice things I wish I could have said in other situations. When I first heard about the play, I could not wait to see the script, and when I did, I saw myself in Louie’s words. The situations may not have been the same, but the emotions and the reactions to the words of others was dead on.

Thank you, Louie, for Erin’s words.

Thank you, ETC, for the opportunity.

Thank you, Billy, for the guidance through the journey.

Thank you, Katie, for being a companion on the journey.

This 16 minutes meant so much to me on so many levels, and I am grateful.

The TANYS Festival 2014: Much Ado About TANYS was so much fun! A weekend of theatre productions, the awards banquet, and catching up with people across the state in thespian fellowship made it a weekend to remember!

ETC group photoBoard Members and Actors from Everyone’s Theatre Company

etc girlsLadies of the Board: Everyone’s Theatre Company

with LouiePlaywright Louie Podlaski of “Age of Social Consent.” Sadly, neither our director nor my castmate could make it to TANYS as they were performing in other shows elsewhere…break legs, Billy and Katie!

with LarryLarry just happened to be wearing a tie that matched my costume!

With JeffAnd it is always a pleasure to see Jeff!

It was a wonderful weekend, and I am thankful for being a member of both Everyone’s Theatre Company and TANYS!

We’re All in Myth Together

Published November 20, 2014 by Susan Woodward

ujun20.v008.i04.cover I am so excited to hear that my article, “We’re All in Myth Together” has been published in Culture and Psyche, the Jung Journal of San Francisco! Click on the Journal cover to see the article.

The article is based on a presentation that I did at the Symposium on Mythology in Santa Barbara, California in September 2012.

The following is the video featuring students who were published in four of the, now six, short story anthologies that my students wrote for English 9 Enriched between 2009 and 2014.

This is so thrilling for me!!

Awesome Autumn Color 5K-and-Then-Some Race!

Published October 19, 2014 by Susan Woodward

10660273_10204330380954699_8082479894260167140_nAnd I came in FIRST! Yes, the Awesomeness of Autumn was in the air, and the only other competitor was the sedentary-couch me who had been catching up on Sam and Dean episodes while waiting for Rumple and Hook later tonight.

‘Twas a bit nippy out there, but with my hoodie and fleece jacket, along with the fire of watching Sam and Dean do what they do, I was plenty warm. The sun was shining, and it seems that this must be peak weekend (or darn near close) from all the vibrant color out there. Lovely day!

10703718_10204330380834696_5737243792115223303_nSomeone painted a series of murals beneath the bridge along the Erie Canal, and I do have to admit that I did break into the Erie Canal song, but I wasn’t going fifteen miles today. 5k+ was good enough for me!

10641246_10204330380514688_7167262468720902420_nAs I was looking at the canal remembering the song’s lyrics “from Albany to Buffalo,” I thought about the immigrants that picked up shovels and dug that canal. I complain when my elbows still act up from my tendonitis injury during silks a year and a half ago; I am sure the men who dug this canal didn’t have the luxury of Epsom Salts and ibuprofen.

10636101_10204330380354684_3667839456017222033_nToday I was thankful for the men who dug the canal because it provided me with a beautiful place to challenge myself, and to do more than watch fictional characters flex their brawn. Muscles and sweat made this place a reality.

10511334_10204330381314708_6118131472149777104_nNot to mention Mother Nature’s artistry.

What a lovely day for the Awesome Autumn Color 5k-and-then-some!

I hiked with MapMyWalk! Distance: 3.49mi, time: 01:03:28, pace: 18:11min/mi, speed: 3.30mi/h.

%d bloggers like this: