To travel 23 hours, going through 2 different time zones half way across the globe for a holiday with friends and family is quite a normal thing BUT to travel alone, meet and stay with people whom I only know through social media is an adventure!
Some say it is a risk I am taking, considering that I am already a 45 years old woman, adventure time should be way over. Now, how did this came about? Well, I can proudly say that it is all because of colour pencil art. Strange but true, because I live to tell….
The story begins with the Colored Pencil Society of America (CPSA) where I am a member of since 2014. I have participated in their 22nd Annual CPSA International 2014 and was very fortunate to have my art work selected for the exhibition in Florida. After seeing all the photos of the convention where so many colour pencil artists having a great time posted on Facebook, I truly wish that I would be able to at least attend one of the conventions in my life time. This year, CPSA is holding their 23rd Annual CPSA International Exhibition convention in Atlanta, GA and it is their 25th Anniversary celebration.
When Dianne Peters Gruber, a fellow colour pencil artist friend of mine, from Glen Rose, Texas came to know of my wish, she generously offered me her home to stay during my trip. She even insisted on a road trip, with her driving to Atlanta so that I could see the real United States the American way. I was both excited with the idea but also a bit skeptic because she had just recovered from 3 back surgeries. The drive to and fro Atlanta from Glen Rose, Texas is about 1,710 miles (2,752 KM) and it will take an average of 16 hours of driving in a day. But after much consideration and assurance from Dianne, I decided that I will take up her offer and just do it. I will attend the convention even if my art work was not selected this year. All I really wanted was to meet up with as many fellow colour pencil artist friends I can.
I had all my travel reservations done when I received the news that my entry “Contemplation” was juried and accepted into the 23rd Annual CPSA International Exhibition 2015. And to top that, a week before my trip; I received an email from CPSA informing me that “Contemplation” has won an award! They could not disclose the award as it will only be announced during the banquet dinner. This has to be a secret, no one must know and I can only tell my immediate family about it. All I can say that, this was to be a trip of a lifetime for me.
The minute the door to the arrival hall at Dallas Fort Worth Airport opened, I saw Dianne standing right in front of the crowd, we almost ran into each other because we were both so excited to finally see each other in the flesh. People must have thought we were long lost friends but in fact, that was the first time we met in person. I was so happy because we did not feel like strangers at all; in fact, we got on talking like we have known each other for ages.
Pete, Dianne’s husband has been so accommodating, kind and helpful. Both of them went all out of their way to make me feel so welcome and comfortable, which I did. Pete, who is a Glen Rose Lion’s Club committee even invited me to the Lion’s Club lunch meeting. It was truly a wonderful experience. He made me my first Key Lime Pie, it was delicious, washed it down with Rolling Rock beer.
After 2 nights in Glen Rose, Texas, I took a flight to Portland Oregon. It was another 3 hours flight but nothing compared to the 23 hours from home. It was a short trip to visit my husband’s great grand aunt, whom I have not met for almost 5 years.
Portland was like a breath of fresh air compared to Texas. The weather was sunny, windy and cooler. This trip was also to visit my grand uncle who was admitted in hospital for bowel cancer operation. He looked fine and doing great after the operation. I was glad I made the trip to visit.
Even though it was a short trip, I managed to experience Portland’s superb TriMet and POINT Thruway intercity transportation. I paid only USD5 for the whole day transportation, whether it was bus or train. And guess what, nobody bothered to check for tickets, people there were so honest, like most of the Americans that I have met. So different from home, how cool is that? Everywhere I go, I see abundance of colourful flowers and trees, what a sight. It was a very hip and artistic city. Would probably make another visit with my family in the near future.
I have also visited a couple of art gallery i.e. The Bosque Art Centre in Clifton and The White Buffalo Art Gallery in Glen Rose. Dianne had also arranged for a art league in the Glen Rose community centre where I got to meet up with some very talented local artists, Vickie Williams Guthrie, Dina Gregory to name a few, and surprising I have also met up with a another colour pencil artist, Linda L. Phillabaum and her husband, who have just moved to Texas a couple of months ago.
Within the 6 days I was in Glen Rose, before our road trip to Atlanta, I covered quite a lot of activities. I am truly blessed to have such lovely friends like Dianne and Pete because of their generosities, I get to see Texas like the locals. I will never get this opportunity if I was on a tour or travelling on my own.
26th July, Sunday, was when the road trip begun. Our 1st stop was to Lindale, east of Texas to put up a night and meet up with Maureen Riddle Killaby in her studio. Maureen managed to gathered a few colour pencil artists, Janet Prouty Morrison, Tanja Gant and Vicki Swords to meet up with us. Tanja came with her husband, Paul and also the famous ‘model’ of her drawing, her stepson, Galen. I had a blasts getting to know all of them. Did not managed to get any drawings done because we were so busy yakking away.
The next day, both Dianne and I were off to our next stop before Atlanta. We drove on about 7 hours to Mississippi.
She was quite a superhuman, drove all the way, refusing to let me drive because according to her, I drive on the wrong side of the road ……
We took the I 20 all the way and made quite a few stops along the way for me to savour the southern hospitality and food. Tried the famous southern fried chicken and grits at Cracker Barrel. Chicken was fine but the grits is something to get used to. Not too bad, at least I know what it tasted like.
We got home to Glen Rose, Texas on the 3rd August, Monday evening. Dianne had done incredible well considering that she was still recovering from her operations. All these opportunities that I had been given were priceless, I bet not many could have the same experience the way I did, in just 3 weeks!I am blessed to have friends, wonderful friends, that I have only known through Facebook. This trip to the United States strengthened my friendship even more with my American friends that I have finally came to meet in person.I shall be missing all the lovely and friendly people of Glen Rose, Texas, where men still hold the door for women, no matter what age they are. To be called “Ma’am” with the tilt of the cowboy hat and not to mentioned, had my hand kissed in an old fashioned way by the wonderful gentleman in the Lion’s club meeting.Every where I went, whether it was Texas, Mississippi, Alabama, Atlanta and Portland, people were kind and friendly, I felt right very at ease. Nobody lift an eyebrow when they knew where I came from, in fact they were fascinated to know that Malaysia is a multicultural/multi-religion nation and we understand and speak the English language quite well. And all these would not have been possible for me, if I am not a colour pencil artist, ironic…. but so true.