It’s easy to forget sometimes just how lucky you are and even easier to get lost in the hustle and bustle of every day life. Every day life can be tedious; there’s coffee to be had because you didn’t sleep enough the night before, it’s too hot out and you’re complaining too much about it and work is stressful and the phone won’t stop ringing (goddamnit), and your knees really hurt after last night’s run. Nothing major, nothing really depression-inducing but it’s not fireworks either. It’s oh so easy to get caught circling that drain, acknowledging that things are happening to you from the outside but not really taking it in.
Then life throws you on top of a mountain and makes you take notice, makes you stop and smell those goddamn proverbial amazing roses and you realize oh yeah, my life is fucking amazing.
I have had an incredible summer. I would love to recap my whole summer but since that will take several posts and time I don’t really have, here’s the short version: I’ve hiked a lot, I’ve brewed my own beer, trained for a half marathon (that is 5 days away. EEEEEK!), I’ve taken road trips and attended some really awesome concerts and have just enjoyed the shit out of myself. I’ve also been stressed and sometimes even sad and yet, despite all that, I can look back and say the summer of 2013 was phenomenal. I have started to feel like Colorado really is my home and that’s a big thing.
I was thrown a couple curveballs this summer and I was feeling a little sad towards the end of August. Not depressed; but sad just the same. I entered September with mixed emotions but mostly I had hope that things would turn around. It only took a couple days before things started looking up and on the spur of the moment on a Thursday night, I decided to take a trip up to Breckenridge, my favorite mountain town.
I had no idea what to expect but when the jeep I was in bounced over the rocks and up a windy, narrow trail to the top of this mountain with this killer 360 degree panorama of amazingness, I was speechless. And I couldn’t stop smiling. In fact, I think I smiled for four hours straight, despite the fact that,based on every past experience I’ve had with heights, I should have been scared out of my mind. It was the most amazing experience I’ve had here in Colorado so far and it was something that had completely missed my radar, tossed to the side because it was something that I considered panic attack worthy. Too risky.
For some reason this former city girl jumped at the idea on that Saturday morning and let someone else take control–control I do not relinquish easily–and drive me up a crazy jeep trail. I did something out of my comfort zone and suddenly I found myself staring off over peaks feeling like the luckiest girl alive. If there’s anything Colorado is good at, it’s taking your breathe away and making you take notice of life. Take a look at all this sexiness and tell me you don’t feel inspired.
We drove through pine forests and fields and over large rocks and right along the edges of terrifying cliffs far above the tree line and I loved every single second of it. (Even when I was
clinging holding onto the oh shit! bar.) That smile was plastered to my face long after we refilled the Jeep’s tires with air on the pavement and I eventually drove back to Denver. I am pretty sure I was still smiling as I walked through the Highlands in Denver after dinner with a friend. All it took was one weekend to remind me that my life is interesting, my life is really fun and I am so, so lucky to experience all that I do.
What is that saying? When one door closes, another opens? Could not agree more.
I’ve been a little slow to embrace the Boulder lifestyle, I will admit. I don’t know what was holding me back but for some reason I have resisted a lot of things that make Boulder what it is. After all, what makes Boulder what it is flies in the face of what I have lived over the past decade and it’s hard to just shove that aside and fully embrace something different. It’s not that I don’t love it here, in fact I love the Colorado lifestyle and I do want to live it fully but the stubborn city girl inside of me has dug in her heels quite a bit.
During my trip to Europe the times I was happiest, when I felt most alive stand out in great numbers but they all had one thing in common. I was on the Isle of Skye in Scotland the first time it happened. I was soaking wet all the way down to my shoes, the only pair of semi-decent wilderness-type shoes I brought with me and the same pair of shoes the bartender at the pub at the trailhead had rolled her eyes at. I didn’t care, I was out in the middle of these two mountain ranges, the sun finally had shown it’s face and damn it if Scotland wasn’t the most gorgeous. I was practically skipping down the trail, drunk on being outdoors and with adventure and doing it all by myself and I thought, wow. THIS is what happiness feels like.
Whether it was wandering the woods in Scotland, or walking the beaches in San Sebastian in Spain, or hiking through the Atlas Mountains in Morocco, there was one thing that all of this crazy happiness had in common: I was outside, immersed in the wilderness, and with the exception of Scotland, bathed in sunlight. I wasn’t in front of a computer, I wasn’t sitting inside a coffee shop killing hours (although I do have fond memories of many hours, and cappuccinos, spent at a small cafe in Barcelona), I was outside being active.
Saturday I woke up and after a couple lazy hours I put on my hiking boots and headed south of town towards Eldorado Canyon. I first initially set out on one trail, a flat trail that snaked it’s way over the plains. My first thought was This would make for a great trail run. A thought that was most unlike the old me. This trail had amazing views of the flatirons but there wasn’t a tree in sight. I wasn’t loving this hike, didn’t find it challenging enough, and when I found out part of it was closed due to mud, I turned around. I wound up walking across the street from that trailhead and just like that, found myself on another trail totally immersed in the woods. Colorado is awesome like that–whatever kind of hike you like, it has. Often within just feet of each other.
I spent three and a half hours hiking up steep hills, descending through pine trees, and picnicking in the middle of a field. I could have kept going, and almost did since there were so many trails to explore, but I was getting a blister and I was burning in random places where sunscreen had managed to miss, so I headed home.
Hiking is not something new to me and I know I love it, but I’m often held back by my desire to go with other people. I’m slowly finding the courage to do things on my own and I think I’ve finally mastered my fear of hiking alone, a hurdle that really wasn’t that hard. One of a couple things I usually balk at is trail running. I used to see people running these same trails I was huffing and puffing up while walking and refer to them as Crazy Boulder People. I could not see the appeal to it. I mean, WHY?
Well, those Crazy Boulder People now have a new member to add to their society. Ironically, and I’m sure you’ve guessed it, that would be me. My friend Katie of Sensing Self has organized a women’s run here in Boulder that goes out on Friday and Sunday mornings. Since I am a 9-5er, I can only make the Sunday runs and last weekend was my first. It was up this gorgeous canyon alongside a creek and OMG I GET IT NOW. I loved running it! I still bow down to the concrete running gods but I will definitely be throwing in a beautiful trail run every weekend. It’s gorgeous, and while I run the risk of twisting my ankle on every rock and root, I just enjoy it so much more.
This morning Katie and I went up Flagstaff Mountain to the smaller, less intense sister trail of my absolute favorite eight mile treck that’s just across the street from it. (See? Trails for everyone!) We had intentions of running this one but sometimes I have off running days and today happened to be one of them. I just couldn’t get myself out of my head and into the run, not to mention that being at that altitude was kicking some fierce butt. It did turn into more of a hike than a run, but it was amazing to get out into the sun all weekend.
I have made a promise to myself that I will be outside, as much as possible, every single weekend this summer. I’m also going to try new hikes and not just stick with my standards. I’m going to push myself, explore and do really fun things like maybe learn how to golf, go kayaking at Gross Reservoir, and go camping. I always have lofty goals every summer and have been fairly good about achieving them. This year, it is on. I found my happiness and I intend to keep it, no matter how lazy my city girl side wants to be.
One of the recurring themes of my childhood, from what I can remember, was taking long walks in the woods with my father. They were expeditions; looking at different plants and wildlife, jumping off rocks and splashing in streams. No matter where we lived, we had these adventures, even if we had no woods to get lost in. When I was probably five or six, we lived in Newtown, Connecticut, a town now infamous for some devastating events that happened there not too long ago. But at the time it was a peaceful place and I didn’t know how bad the world could be. It was a magical time and most of it was spent wandering the woods with my dad and little brother behind our house.
I don’t remember my childhood. I’m not talking about not remembering details; like, I don’t remember ANYTHING. I will look at photos of events up until the age of probably 8 or 9 and it’s like looking at a stranger’s pictures. Yes, that’s definitely me in the picture, but I don’t remember being there. I do have small fragments of memories that I’m not 100%–not even 50%–sure aren’t total byproducts from the videos my parents took of us. We even have endless amount of footage of my father and us roaming the woods so I can’t even be sure I really have any true remembrance of that either. But I remember flashes. I remember my dad telling us there was poison ivy in this one patch of green that I’m pretty sure he just didn’t want us disturbing. I remember being happy. And I remember the cabins.
They were these abandoned cabins with collapsing roofs and ivy covered walls. With abandoned rocking chairs and moss all over the floor. I remember being enthralled with them, wondering who lived there, what their lives had been like and why they didn’t live there anymore. I believe this was the start of my fascination with the abandoned and I’m glad it’s one of the very few memories that my brain clung onto that wasn’t caused by the pain of my brother throwing a metal truck at my head or involving the many moves we made.
Have you ever noticed that buildings are seldom just abandoned empty? It’s almost like they were left mid-life. One day people were there, doing normal every day things and then, poof! They vanished, leaving their belongings behind and nature then took over. It’s almost like catching a glimpse of what would happen if we as humans just disappeared and someone came by 50 years later and saw what remnants of what we created.
When I was in Granada, Spain, I went on this walking tour through old Arabic baths and the medinas so similar to Morocco where I had just been traveling. At the end we wound up on this rooftop drinking beer and chatting with our hosts. There was talk of this abandoned monastery located a couple hours hike outside of town. I was intrigued but I was leaving the next day and didn’t have the time to think about it at that point so I put it out of my mind. It wasn’t until the next morning when some of the other guys who were on the walking tour with me and who happened to be staying at the same hostel as me, mentioned they were hiking out to this monastery and that I should come. I was practicing the “say yes to everything” lesson I was taught shortly after landing in Europe and so I set out on this adventure with them instead of leaving for Barcelona.
The hike out there alone was a blast; chatting with these young Canadians, an older Australian and an American my own age and proceeding to get lost in the gorgeous countryside with little more than a crudely drawn map. It was moments like these I had come on this trip for and I was relishing every minute of it. We finally came to this abandoned building and while the architect in me was screaming at me about how un-structurally sound the building was, the dork in me was having a field day. It was a jumbled mess, the floor littered with building debris, a randomly placed bathtub and graffiti all over the walls, and it was beautiful the way life went on all around this building and yet, it remained in some form.
I often look back at my trip and land on that adventure as one of the highlights of my trip. I still secretly try to stumble upon ghosts of buildings, ghosts of lives everywhere I go. Lately, I want to go to the abandoned island off the coast of Manhattan that I never knew existed until last week and now it’s like I have no other purpose in life but to get on this island. Who’s coming with me?
I’m just going to come out and say this right now: this post is going to be filled with a lot of design geekery and gushing over said design. You’ve been warned.
Two weeks ago I headed to Los Angeles with Nintendo to check out their newest product, the WiiU. Thanks to my personal blog, Ashalah, and the lovely ladies at Brand About Town, I am a Brand Ambassador for Nintendo. I get to do fun things like have ice cream socials, take fitness challenges and have tennis competitions that involve a lot of trash talk on Twitter when I get to play my local friends (who also are ambassadors). The irony of all this is I never owned a single video game until I was 29–when I accepted the Brand Ambassadorship from Justine. I’m still not sure how I snagged this amazing opportunity but it’s been a LOT of fun.
So there’s the backstory of how I ended up in LA two weekends ago. It was my first trip to Los Angeles and only my second trip to California, something that still baffles me. It was also a very short trip; I flew in early Saturday morning and left Sunday night. Which was unfortunate if only because the hotel was awesome. I stayed at The Standard Hotel in West Hollywood on Sunset Boulevard; not only a trendy, young boutique hotel but a designers dream. If I were still designing, it would be hotels, restaurants, bars and other hospitality projects–the creativity and detail that can be given to these projects is just so fun. I was like a kid in a candy store at this place. The designers had not spared any details, something that is super important in a very minimalist style (my preferred design, even though it is not my own personal style).
The silver beanbag chairs, the tiny cactus in a white pot on a simple white desk, the orange bathroom fixtures, the slanted white trash cans and the simple modern lights. Everything was done just right. But my designer self had it’s biggest field day with the bathroom. I was standing under the large orange shower head when I realized that the penny mosaics were not ceramic as they appeared, but cork. Yes, cork has been used for years as a sustainable material, a little too much in my opinion, but this new-to-me application kind of blew my mind.
Not to mention they had the smarts to put a hole in the shower’s glass enclosure so that you could turn on the shower without having to go into the shower. It’s the little things that always get me, since those are always the things that can be overlooked. A great design for me isn’t one that smacks you in the face with it’s obviousness but in the things that are barely noticed, that improve your experience subtly.
Los Angeles was a whirlwind; I had dinners and lunches planned with friends, a quick tour of the top attractions all seen from the backseat of my friend Alex’s car and I got to meet some fabulous people, like the man who owns a vegan soul food stall (fittingly called Surprisingly Vegan) at the Hollywood Farmer’s Market who greeted me with a big hug and the best mac and cheese I have ever had (no joke. I do not take mac and cheese lightly). And it was vegan. No cream, no cheese, just amazingness. The BBQ tofu, the kale salad…everything that I tried was incredible. If you’re in LA make your way to this stand, it will be so worth your time!
After touring the farmer’s market and a ginormous flea market that made me wish I had a truck and more time in LA, I went to Cafe Gratitude for lunch, another Vegan spot. My friend Alex happens to be Vegan and while I love my meat, everything I had with her was incredible. Cafe Gratitude screams Boulder, so of course I felt right at home. It was such a cute spot, with dishes like I AM VIVID or I AM FULFILLED and the design of it did not disappoint. Both the exterior and interior sparkled. The food also was delicious. I had I AM GUAPA, along with bruschetta with cashew cheese and an avocado key lime pie for dessert. I love everything avocado and this was no exception. SO GOOD. I also spotted Jason Bateman while dining so I got the full LA experience, I think. I might not have stopped to see any hand prints or stepped foot in any of the big theaters you always hear about, but I saw a celebrity so that counts right?
I can’t wait to go back and really explore the city (maybe when it’s a little cooler) but for the brief time I spent in Los Angeles, it treated me very well.
*Disclaimer: I am a Brand Ambassador for Nintendo, who hosted the WiiU event and all opinions and recaps are my own. Nintendo oh-so-awesomely flew me out and put me up at the Standard Hotel Hollywood and for that I am so thankful!
It’s October 1st and in 19 days, probably less, I am leaving on my first solo trip in three years. THREE YEARS! To top this off, it’s my first time traveling solo through the US. For some reason, this is a lot more intimidating than traveling through Europe. I can’t even properly explain it, the idea so ludicrous that I could be nervous about traveling around the country I hold a passport from, whose language is the only one I’m fluent in. I mean, I’ve even BEEN to these cities before. I was BORN in one of them. Yet, here I am. Nerves and all.
This trip west has not felt real until this past weekend. October 20th seemed light years away, a date so far in the future that I haven’t given it much thought. I had Georgia, I had New Orleans, I had Los Angeles to worry about. And now, BAM, all those have past and what is looming is this eight day trip up the west coast. A trip that is mostly unplanned. A trip that up until Saturday, had nothing more than two nights at a hotel and two plane tickets booked.
I start in San Francisco–Livermore, to be exact. I am spending two nights in wine country celebrating my best friend’s wedding before heading into the heart of San Francisco for another two nights, this time spent at the USA Hostel San Francisco. I was in San Fran for New Years Eve two years ago but didn’t really get to see much of the city. It’s my goal to spend these two days exploring as much of the city as I can. I’m a little hesitant to stay in a hostel, especially after being spoiled with the hotel in Los Angeles but I’m trading in two nights at a hostel so that I can stay two nights at a hotel for the wedding and three nights in a hotel in Seattle.
On the evening of the 24th, I board an Amtrak train called the Coastal Starlight and head up the coast on a 23 hour ride to Seattle. I get to Seattle the night of the 25th and check into the Ace Hotel. After an overnight train where I’m pretty positive I will get little to no sleep, I know I will appreciate the big bed in my very own room. From there, I have three days to explore. Hotels, planes and trains have been booked; now I just have to fill in the holes in between. Figure out what I’m going to see, what I’m going to do there.
I’m planning in small, baby steps but I’m pretty sure what’s to come is going to be pretty awesome.
You know what’s harder than packing for a week long trip? Packing for a two day, one night trip.
Tomorrow morning I board a plane bound for Los Angeles for one of the shortest trips I’ve ever been on. I’ve been on long weekends, ten day stints and even three months. The ten day stints are my bread and butter, I can successfully pack and have everything I need–but not too much–for those ten days. I’ve even mastered doing that trip out of a small carry on. Yet it’s the ones on opposite ends of the spectrum that I struggle with.
The three month trip to Europe was the first time I had traveled more than two weeks. I had no idea what I should pack, the biggest part of the problem being that I was traveling through two seasons–summer and fall. Not only did I have the temperature changes to consider (90+ in Southern Germany and 40s in Northern Scotland), but this trip also coincided with my move out of New York. I had to pack my bags for Europe a full month before I left, as all my stuff was shipped back to Michigan in boxes when I moved out of my apartment early to save money.
To put it bluntly, I overpacked. I filled my backpack and also a second duffle bag. That second duffel was unnecessary and really put a stress on my trip. The three weeks I was without it, when I was blessed to find myself Couchsurfing with Elena and her fiancé in Barcelona and they let me leave it with them while I went to Morocco and Southern Spain, were the best three weeks. I felt so light and unburdened! I did not miss that bag and it’s contents one bit.
If I could offer one piece of advice about packing for a long term trip is this: do your initial packing and then cut it in half. This is what I did. Now, take that smaller pile and cut it in half again. You might think you’ll need all that stuff, it seems like its necessary and how can you survive with just three t-shirts, a cover up, a dress, a pair of shorts and a pair of jeans?! Trust me, you can. The last thing you want to be doing is lugging around a second bag. If anything, your back and shoulders will thank you!
The best thing about this modern world of ours is that you can buy things you may forget at the places you are going. I bought a bathing suit for Spain, gloves for Scotland and a winter coat for Paris while traveling and all my toiletries were purchased, travel sized, while abroad.
Thinking that since I have travelled quite a bit, I shouldn’t have any more problems with packing, I was surprised to find myself faced with a new dilemma: the two day, one night trip. Seems easy right? Two outfits! How much more simple could that be?! If you’re anything like me, you change your mind about your outfit at least ten times on a typical morning. Traveling does not discriminate on whether I will like my outfit on those days. So I have to consider that the cute outfit I put together on a Thursday evening in Boulder might not work for me on Saturday night in Los Angeles. There’s a good chance I have over packed. By a lot.
Plus, if LA is anything like NYC, there’s a lot of humidity. I live in wonderfully dry Colorado and from my experience since moving, humidity and me do not get along. I take several showers a day, I change often and I am more likely than not a disgusting mess 89% of the day.
So you’re seeing my dilemma right?!
I should be showing up with just a duffel bag but instead I have a carry on that has three pairs of shoes, at least five outfits, a flat iron, my Nintendo 3DS (can’t show up without it!), my Kindle (which I will NOT leave on an airplane) and all the plugs that go with all these electronic gadgets, plus all my toiletries.
Let’s hope I can lift the bag over my head into the overhead compartment.
What are your tricks for packing?
If you would like to follow my adventures this weekend in LA, make sure you are following me on twitter and look for the hashtag #WiiU!
When I left New England, I thought I’d never experience as spectacular a fall as I had there. Everyone knows New England is the best place to view fall but I’m here to tell you–Colorado gives New England a good run for it’s money. If you haven’t experienced fall in Colorado, I’m about to give you some good evidence as to why you need to get your butt out here in late September.
This past weekend was Breckenridge’s 18th Annual Oktoberfest, held right along Main Street in downtown. Breck, as it’s known by everyone here in Colorado, is about a two hour drive from Boulder (about an hour and a half from Denver) and is definitely worth a day trip, if not an overnight stay. The drive alone is worth it through the mountains, especially if you take a detour and go up Loveland Pass. It’s a tad terrifying but the view from 12,000 feet is one of the best you can get.
I haven’t been to many mountain towns but of the few that I’ve been to, Breck is one of my favorites. It’s got the character that Vail tries to manufacture in it’s faux-Swiss village but fails at (Vail is beautiful but reminds me of one of the worlds at Epcot), and feels much more small town than the resort town that it actually is. Granted, when you are standing among thousands of drunk locals and tourists it sure doesn’t feel like a small town.
Oktoberfest was a last minute adventure; I hadn’t found out about it until the Tuesday before (which was an improvement on my usual Tuesday after) and after a flurry of texts, I convinced my friend Margot to take the road trip up into the mountains to drink some German beer, eat brats with sauerkraut and enjoy the fall colors. As much as I love planning trips, the spontaneous ones tend to be my favorites and I was like a kid on Christmas Eve Friday night. Oktoberfest didn’t disappoint.
We grabbed our steins (we opted for the full liter since it was only $5 more) and our drink tickets and got started with some currywurst and hefeweizen–in my stein, of course. We got there close to opening at 10 and we were glad we did. It wasn’t crowded, it was easy to check out each tent and just enjoy Main Street, with no lines for the tents. Once noon hit it was PACKED and lines were what seemed like blocks long to get beer and food. We entertained ourselves by going in and out of the shops lining Main Street, trying on goofy glasses, ridiculous hats and trying not to spend all our money on cute jewelry.
The highlight? The people watching. By far. Who knew that a pirate wench costume also doubled as a German barmaid outfit? Or lederhosen were that short and so tight it leaves absolutely nothing to the imagination? There were people in the traditional dress but there were a lot of interesting takes on it as well.
Once we’d had a couple beers (I also tried the Oktoberfest Marzen) and a couple pretzels the size of our heads, we were ready to get lost in the woods with very few people around. Especially since the colors were peaking this weekend, thanks to a very dry, hot summer. We headed out of town down a road lined with old mines to a particular trail to the Sallie Barber Mine, touted as one of the best to see the colors. It was a relatively easy hike with more of a gradual climb but it still felt like a ton of effort thanks to the altitude. Even living at 5400 feet I was winded!
What can I say? Colorado knows how to do fall. The mountains, full of pine trees, were ablaze with aspen bursts of gold and orange that just glowed in the sun. It was incredible. Breath-taking. Stunning. You get the picture. Actually, let me give you a picture, or two, just in case you can’t get the full visual.
At one point we wandered off the trail and just stood amongst all that gold. It really was magical. After a wonderful, long day playing in the mountains we were exhausted and ready to go home. This weekend was quite possibly one of my favorite weekends in Colorado so far. I have been craving fall for the past month and the thought of all things fall has made me slightly giddy. Being up in Breck, where fall was in full swing, was the best way to kick off my fall.
Tell me about where your favorite place to experience fall is.
I don’t know about the rest of you but this summer has completely gotten away from me. I had big plans, not only for my travels and adventures, but for this blog and for Ashalah. I seem to have done quite a bit of adventuring but the actual blogging part has fallen to the wayside.
It’s the middle of September and if my travel plans had stayed the same, I would have been leaving in 3 short weeks for China. I’m a little sad that I am not able to go but I have many more exciting things happening that it’s not too hard of a loss. I will make it there eventually.
So what is new on the adventure front?
This weekend is Breckinridge’s Oktoberfest. I found out kind of last minute, like I usually do, so I’ve been trying to scrounge up a few friends for a beautiful mountain drive, a hike to see the changing colors and good beer and brats, of course. Fall if my favorite season and while New England really can’t be beat, Colorado puts on a pretty stellar show.
In a little over a week I head to Los Angeles with Brand About Town and #NintendoEnthused for two days of WiiU fun. So far my itinerary only has an afternoon and evening of plans and I have a day and a half to play around LA! I’ve never been before and while it’s not a city I would choose for a vacation, I’m so thankful I get to check it out, even if just briefly. Plus, I’ll get to see an old college girlfriend who is about to get married and meet a few bloggers I’ve only known online for the past five years!
Early October is pretty empty as of right now but on October 20th I’m flying to San Francisco for my best friend’s wedding. I still have a ton of planning left to do but I know I will be taking the coastal starlight Amtrak train up the coast, eventually landing in Seattle where I fly back to Denver on the 28th. So from between October 22nd and 28th, my schedule is a wide open book and I’m looking forward to mapping it out. It will be the first time I’ve traveled solo since Europe three years ago and traveling alone in the US is somehow feeling much different than traveling alone in Europe. I do know that I’ll get to meet some pretty fabulous bloggers along my route and I’m looking forward to connecting with everyone! If you have traveled through the Pacific Northwest, I’d love some recommendations!
Aside from a trip home to Michigan for Christmas and hopefully being able to squeeze a trip to NYC somewhere amongst all this, I have no other big adventure plans. Going to try to keep it local to Colorado for smaller weekend trips. Oh, and win the lottery. I haven’t been back to NYC in a year now and it makes me sad to think I might not be able to make it back this year.
What’s on your travel reel this fall?
When I first went to Wyoming to visit my friend Kira three years ago I took a plane from New York City to Billings, Montana, not knowing that within six months of that trip I would also be living out west. It was on that plane ride back from Wyoming that I made my decision to leave New York and the life I knew so well there and five months later I would make the decision to move to Boulder, Colorado.
Now, every year, I make the eight hour car trip north to Cody, Wyoming, which is just south of Yellowstone National Park. Cody is a gorgeous place, full of interesting landscapes and different mountain ranges as far as the eye can see. It’s exactly how you’d picture the west–they even have tumbleweeds. It’s a different kind of West than the West I live in, and it is chock full of tourists all on their way to Yellowstone who want to see where Buffalo Bill Cody stomped around. I go there to visit with an old friend from my hometown of Ridgefield, Connecticut, and her family. To sit on their front porch and gawk at the beautiful scenery, to see how life is lead in their version of the West.
To get up there, though, you have to drive through seven hours of painfully boring landscapes with an hour of gorgeous canyons and vistas to break up the monotony. I’m talking middle of nowhere flat land with brown grass and the occasional “town,” population: 8. I have always driven this alone and have had to discover new ways to entertain myself so as to not fall asleep behind the wheel. (Granted, I’m pretty sure if I did, I’d still end up home safely. I might just take a shortcut through a field or something.) Most of the entertainment comes from performing concerts to Billy Joel, Mumford and Sons or showtunes. Luckily I’m usually the only one on the road so no one but the occasional rabbit has to hear my horrible singing.
It’s amazing what your brain can come up with to ponder while driving. Here is my list of some of the things that went through my brain on the ride up, and subsequent drive back, from my weekend in Cody over Labor Day.
- The cows have all this vast, wide open space to roam around in. Miles of land without a single soul to see yet they choose all hang out right by the side of the road. I wonder if they think that we are really fast moving cows and they are trying to learn our ways so they can become fast cows too?
- How this part of the world used to look like millions of years ago and how all the mountains were formed. There was a LOT of movement going on in Wyoming to form all these fascinating rock formations.
- My windshield inevitably becomes a bug graveyard. What is it about bugs that they aim only for the driver’s side of the windshield, though? Why is the passenger side practically bug-free?
- There are no such things as frequent rest stops, especially since there are no towns, no gas stations, no nothing, for miles. So what happens when you are probably 60 miles away from a toilet and there are no shrubs, no rocks, not even tall grass, and you really have to pee? Will the cop who catches you with your pants down understand that you really had to go and had no choice but to flash EVERYONE because sage brush is only so high?
- Most of the roads past I-25 are two lane highways–meaning, only one going in each direction. So therefore, you must pass those who choose to go 20 under the speed limit (or the speed limit, since my version of the speed limit is the actual speed limit plus five. Always.). The problem is, while fairly easy to do since there is no one around, people don’t have good passing etiquette. It’s simple: if someone wants to pass you, you slow down so that they are not suddenly finding themselves in a race and playing chicken with oncoming traffic. I cannot tell you how many times I was trying to pass someone only to have them speed up while I’m next to them! Also, if there is someone trying to pass you and there happens to be another slowpoke in front of you, give them enough room to squeeze in between the two of you. Most likely there’s going to be an unforeseen car coming in the other lane and they’ll have to make a quick maneuver in. Don’t be the asshole who rides so far up their tail that it feels like you just acquired a trailer. ESPECIALLY if both of you are massive RVs.
- Speaking of passing, don’t you hate it that after passing like ten slow cars and trailers, you suddenly come across that elusive rest room and since you really have to pee, you have to get off the highway? And let all those slow cars get back in front of you? I seriously have debated how long my bladder can make it so that I don’t have to re-pass all those cars. Because I really hate passing.
- I love loud music, I really do. Especially while driving. It helps pass the time, it forces me to stay awake and I don’t have to hear my own voice singing. But there comes a time, a few hours into the drive, where you start to wonder at what point do you go deaf from hours of really, really loud music?
- Why is it that I never snack at home but put me in a car and I have to constantly be eating or drinking something?
- I often wonder why people would want to live in a state where the weather conditions can be so bad that they frequently close the highway. There are several stopping points where you have to either exit the highway or turn around and go back to the city that is closest if the roads happen to be closed. Last year’s trip was the most terrifying trip of my life. I went up in early November for my friend’s daughter’s birthday and on the way back ran into 60mph+ winds in the pitch black of the night and nearly ran into something the size of my car that was lying in the middle of the road. I had to pull off to the side to scream it out because I was shaking so badly. You literally can get stranded in your state.
- Why can’t my car drive itself? It’s 2012, it should be able to do this by now. That way I can nap and take pictures of the pretty scenery without risking driving off into said scenery.
There’s many more things that run through my mind while driving but those are the most recent ones since. Focusing on driving is very easy, it’s keeping myself entertained that is the hard part! How do you make road trips go by smoothly?
My name is Ashley and I blog at Writing To Reach You. When I asked for opportunities to guest blog, Ashley was the first person to offer me some space, and I knew immediately what I wanted to write about. You see, before I had ever met her, Ashley was this girl I knew from the internet who quit her job and took off to travel alone. I didn’t understand it at the time. I was in a financial situation where I didn’t have the freedom to do anything, so it was beyond me how anyone could afford to travel. It also didn’t appeal to me as an idea. I didn’t identify with whatever it was in Ashley that decided to go on this adventure.
But obviously I was intrigued because I was certainly paying attention even though Ashley and I weren’t really friends at the time. I remember when she disappeared from the internet for a while and I wondered how things were going over there. It wasn’t when she returned, but some time later that I was suddenly hit with the overwhelming desire to travel and what Ashley had done finally made sense to me.
At the time, I was climbing my way out of debt, so even though I wanted to travel, I had to put it off. This was convenient. It gave me some time to think about it. Once I had paid off my debt, I started taking trips to different places around the United States. The first was to San Francisco where I spent New Year’s Eve with Ashley and five other blog friends.
A year ago, I decided that I wanted to go to Germany and last Fall I declared that I would make it happen in 2012. The details, I told myself, I would figure out later, but I knew that I wanted to go alone. The biggest problem was money, and as the months passed, I kept taking small trips that made it hard to stop and save. Again, this was convenient, because the truth was that I was scared to travel outside of the country, especially by myself.
I really do not like the way that sounds. I like being alone–more than most people I know. I live alone. I don’t have any problems taking care of myself. I think it’s just the total unknown of going to Europe that makes me nervous. I’ve never traveled outside of the United States and Canada. I am confident in my own life where I know what to expect, but this is something completely new. And I like new, but I don’t take to it immediately. I worry that it won’t be as awesome or magical as I want it to be, and I will blame myself for that, because it takes me too long to get comfortable in a place and meet people.
Those are my fears, and they aren’t enough to stop me, but they have made me hesitate. Now, though, my convenient money excuse no longer stands, and I know that it’s time to go. I realize that everything that makes me nervous is also what excites me. I have no idea what to expect. I could end up crying into my beer. But that’s also really exciting. And it wouldn’t be the first time I cried over beer.
I’m going to read all that I can find. I’m going to talk to as many people as possible. And then I’m going to take off for the unknown. At the very least, it will be something to write about. At the most, I could become best friends with a bear and move into a castle and never come back to California. Obviously, I have my expectations in check.