Friday, December 18, 2009

Denver or Bust!


Sitting in Atlanta International Airport. Smells of fast food and floor cleaner flood my nostrils and a kid clips my elbow as he works on some resistance running skills against the leash his mother has committed him to. On the upside, gobs of military men and women are traveling too, most going home for the holidays. Felt really great to see so many getting the chance and made me think about all the others who aren’t able to connect this year.

We left Moab after two chilly days and made the final 7-hour push to Denver where Peace Corps alumni Tara and Lizzie were waiting with booze and food. The Moab Red Stone Inn had great winter rates and was conveniently located next to the Moab Micro-Brewery. Turns out, superstar Tara is running the Canyonlands half-marathon next year. Congrats and would love to make it out to see her run again.

Having never been to Colorado, I was constantly aware of the not-so-bland landscape. Rocky wasn’t “jaded” per-se but he was definitely amused with my frequent outbursts of wonder at the constant glory of nature. The drive included many passes and several ups and downs. It is the Rockies after-all. Gorgeous as it was, the stress factor was a little high. As I mentioned before, we’re driving a vintage Subaru. Until we hit the passes, she was great. We sang her praises all along the way and then knocked very loudly on any nearby wood. After Vail pass, where we’d been gunning it all the way and never really getting past 50 mph, we hit another incline and the little red bandit simply quit. Now, I’ve never owned a car. It’s a special point of pride having reached a quarter of a century…though that’s mostly due to the generosity of my parents and others. This was a great crash course in fluids, smells, noises, and feel. Perhaps this can be likened to puppy sitting before actually making the leap to that new spunky Labrador in a studio apartment.

After the DOT guy came and hollered a few things at us about fluid on the side of an 8-lane highway, he bumper-car-ed us off to a (thankfully) nearby service vehicle lot. Rocky quickly drew the conclusion he was tipsy, which I quickly seconded after he spit his chew out and left a sizeable amount in his teeth... the DOT guy, not Rocky. An angel of a tow-truck driver (I know, oxymoron) showed up out of thin air and towed us back down to Silverthorn, a good 2,000 feet lower. I went into a bookstore for a potty break and come out to Rocky zipping around the parking lot in the red bandit herself! Apparently, she just wasn’t acclimatizing well. Oh my, did I have a field day in my head with that one.

Our diesel-fueled angel then towed us back over the pass and down to the next town, in hopes it would be low enough to keep the car moving. We limped her the rest of the way to Lizzie’s, just outside of Denver and it was time for Margaritas! A great night out with Tara, Lizzie and Lizzie’s beaux were exactly what we needed. The next few days were spent recovering from that first night and just relaxing. It was my first time in both a Patagonia AND Prana store. Had to check my wallet at the door, no wonder those outdoorsy folk always look so put together! The best part was seeing my girls in the US, though I think it will always be a shocker to see volunteers I served with, outside of Benin.

Rocky dropped me off at the airport in Denver and we said our goodbyes for the next 4 months. Great road trip, great friends, and even better, great things to look forward to in the not-so-distant future.

Friday, December 11, 2009

the Wild Wild West

Currently in Moab. (12/10) Didn't really see myself getting to much of the country this winter but turns out the opportunity presented itself. Last week I flew to Washington State and started the drive out to Denver. What a great section of the country! The landscape is wildly different from the lush autumn of Ohio that I left. Endless skies, different color schemes, and significantly higher speed limits have all been pleasant surprises.

Speaking of speed limits, we're currently at the mercy of an '87 Subaru. I'm sold. It had some issues before we took off, obliging us to stay in Washington an extra day or two but for a car that's almost as old as I am, she's doing great. And mom and dad can rest easy knowing we couldn't max out in Idaho where 85 was slow.

Moab is a great town! Winter rates on everything and the snow gives a great contrast to the rust red sandstone that attracts fat tire enthusiasts and climbers. Rafting and touring companies abound and I'd love to get back in the fall when it's not too hot to really use the landscape. Arches National Park is here and we took a day to check out another one of Mother Nature's wonders. What an incredible sight to behold. Pieces of rock have simply fallen or melted away leaving gardens of rock formations and graceful forms framing the sky. Wish we had more time but we're on a bit of a time crunch to get to Denver where Peace Corps friends and famous margaritas await. Speaking of bevys, Moab microbrewery is recommended as much for the food as the booze. A hummus plate, beer cheese soup, black bean soup and house salads more than filled us up. On to Denver!

Sunday, December 6, 2009

on the road again!!

Finally, it's been a while fellow bloggers eh? It's been a wild couple of months. Just so we're clear, I am STILL occupying my sister's lovely twin bed on Casement Island in Paine Falls, Ohio...since September. Though time at home has been well punctuated with much needed excursions. Since my last whirlwind road-trip down south and back north, job hunting has become something of an obsession, not necessarily applying for everything I see but learning more about what's out there. It's been really interesting to see how helpful people have been when they hear I'm on the hunt. Even my flight instructor with whom I'd met only a few times hooked me up with some contacts. The more resumes I send out the more I learn about how to present myself. Apparently even time on a fishing boat has its merits and it's consistently surprising what employers will ask me about from my letter and resume.

Right before Thanksgiving, the Miller household had a visitor. Rocky the raft guide, whom I met in Alaska, came out from Washington to meet the family. Turkeys were brined, fires sat around, friends invited, and the Cleveland area explored. Great time was had by all and made me once again appreciate my friends and family as the most important thing I have.

Rocky is snowmobile guiding in Colorado this winter and needed a fellow road warrior to tame the pavement. I flew to Seattle two days ago and we're currently gearing up in the small SMALL town of Ephrata to make the drive. The landscape here is wildly different and beautiful. Big sky, sunshine, cut out rock canyons, and rolling hills make for some picturesque days, if a bit monochromatic. Currently freezing here and everyone who walks back in the house looks like they've been slapped in the face by mother nature a few times. Hitting the road Monday, we'll be taking the southern most route to hopefully avoid snow and bitter cold...though it's supposed to drop to 8, yes eight, degrees tonight. Going through Oregon and Utah while forgoing Montana and northern Idaho should be slightly kinder on our bodies and the car.

Friends await in Denver, the dynamic duo of Lizzie, Tara, and maybe another Tara are on standby for a night of reminiscing and introductions. Look out D-town, could get slightly out of control.

That's the post for now, feels good to have something to write about. As it stands, I'll be getting back on the fishing boat Jan 7th until April then back to the frontier land of Alaska to guide. That real world I keep hearing about manages yet again to elude me.