2019 Highlights of travel and discovery
I promise to put down my pen and paper for Christmas but before I do, I’d like to share with you my 2019 highlights whilst creating the Gemstone Detective travel guide series.
With three of my books published on the same day, January certainly wasn’t dull. I’m not usually one to blow my own trumpet but how many authors can say they did that!?
February saw me turn 50 while on a research trip to the USA. My birthday was unforgettable for many reasons, but the best gift of all was my husband flying to Las Vegas to celebrate with me. One helicopter ride down the Grand Canyon followed by a rather fine dinner at Hell’s Kitchen and we were ready to be transported and mesmerised by David Copperfield’s magic show.
My husband and I flew into the Grand Canyon by helicopter
After Las Vegas, I embarked on a six-week epic adventure travelling around Arizona, Nevada and New Mexico. My whole trip, travelling solo, was booked using Airbnb and a 4×4 hire car to get around. It won’t come as a surprise that my first stop was the Tucson Gem Show. One of the world’s most famous shows, it’s a must-visit for any gem enthusiast. Be prepared to be blown away!
The Tucson Gem Show
One of the quirkiest and most memorable places I have stayed this year was in a retro caravan parked in the middle of nowhere (or so it felt like) in San Antonio, where I stayed for five days, touring the local area.
I stayed in this rather lovely retro-caravan
I drove up to Magdelena, where I met Kimberly Nesvig at The Trading Post who told me about the Kelly Mine and introduced me to all the right people, including Dean and Connie Crane, a lovely couple who spent the afternoon showing me their stunning handmade jewellery collection.
I visited the Kelly mine in Magdalena, New Mexico
Susan and Scott, who run the Airbnb I stayed at in Rio Rancho, were outstanding hosts. Their hospitality was second to none and they went out of their way to cook a wonderful buffet so I’d get a flavour of the real New Mexico. They definitely deserve a place on my 2019 highlights list.
In Albuquerque, I popped into the Rattle Snake Museum where I met the owner, Bob Myers. Bob put me in touch with Joe Dan, the owner of the new Turquoise Museum in Albuquerque which, at the time, was still under construction. Joe Dan very kindly gave me a sneak-preview of the museum. By the time I left, understanding more about turquoise, I had completely changed the way I felt about the blue gemstone. The museum is an eye-opener and must-see for any turquoise enthusiast.
I learned a lot about Turquoise jewellery
It wasn’t all easy, though – the biggest challenge of travelling alone is the driving. I usually love driving but I felt completely overwhelmed by the eight lane motorways. I drove back from Tucson in the torrential rain in an unwieldy 4×4 with blacked-out windows and huge lorries on all sides. I kid you not, I was driving blind! The journey back to Tucson took me nearly nine hours and it was one of the most terrifying experiences of my life!
I returned to the USA two months later, to research family holiday experiences with gemstones. This time, I flew into Boston on the east side and made my way west to Dallas Fort Worth in Texas.
It was wonderful to discover that the USA has so many great places for families to enjoy gemstone, rock and mineral collecting, digging for diamonds and gold panning.
One of my 2019 highlights was spend digging for quartz crystals
My base was the KOA resort located between Boston and New York, in Herkimer County. I discovered that when trying to find the KOA resort, I had in fact navigated myself to a different Herkimer Diamond mine than the one I’d intended. It turns out that there are a few other Herkimer diamond mines in the area. Having found the right one, I spent an exhilarating two days digging for Herkimer Diamonds. It’s an amazing place with all the facilities for a great family holiday!
At the top of my 2019 highlights – meeting Dr. Renee‘ Scialdo-Shevat
In fact, my road trip around the USA was full of similar discoveries and I came across tons of places where tourists can have an ‘authentic’ hands-on gemstone hunting experience. I met a few young families having a whale of a time digging around. It goes to show that it’s never too early to get kids interested in gemstones!
A first-time experience for me was panning for gold. Liz McCormick, the owner of the Lucky Strike Mine is happy to show anyone how it’s done properly. After a demonstration from Liz, I spent a few hours panning before my arms were ready to drop off. You need a lot of strength and patience, but it’s fun once you’ve got the knack! Naturally, I was able to keep my gold to take home as a reward for all that hard labour.
I waited my turn for a gold-panning lesson with Liz McCormick
Buying Gemstones & Jewellery in the USA was published in September 2019, on the same day I was in Kimberley, South Africa, visiting the Big Hole. Yes, I completely forgot about my own book launch and booked another flight! But my excuse is a good one: I was starting my research for the sub-Sahara Africa book!