Thursday, October 28, 2010

Thelma and Louise RIDE

The last time mom and I hit the interstates in a massive way, I was 15 and we were crammed in a little 5-speed Toyota Tacoma. This time – 11 years later, I could drive and it was a little 5-speed Subaru. Amongst the clutter, 2 pairs of X-country skis and poles went INSIDE the car, as I didn’t want to invest in those locking roof things. I’m pretty over the expense of a car but that’s a totally different post (I’m writing this while sitting at my fourth mechanic.) Mom was a great sport about getting crammed in with the rest of my junk show and after a slight panic attack that everything I had did NOT fit on my back, we pulled out of the driveway Thursday afternoon.

After an emergency stop in Cleveland to get smokies (such good little Hungarians!), we were westward bound. Couldn’t help but feel the need to settle in for the winter and I may have left flaming skid marks on I-80. This is a big country. Amazing there is no currency or language change throughout the thousands of miles we drove! Slept for a few hours at a rest stop and powered through until Friday night. As much as I detest what Wal-Mart stands for, we were able to feed ourselves for 5 days on $40. Apples, bagels, sardines, and peanut butter...oh and some goose liver for a treat. We also camped rather than hotel-ed it. No bed bugs and smells way better. And there is NO better feeling than changing one's underpants beneath a full moon!

Mom took most of the pics but the ones I did take were of the prairie and us. Lots and lots of prairie. The big sky factor totally caught me off-guard. Amber waves of grain and

everything else we learned about our country in those elementary school song rituals. One of many highlights of this trip was mom conceding that I was right in retrospect about map proximity. I kept saying we should shoot through South Dakota to see Mt Rushmore and the badlands. After seeing nothing but feedlots and chicken processing plants through Nebraska, we were dying to see something with a wow factor before I loaded her on a plane. "Gee Rachael, you know, South Dakota really isn't that far away." Pedal to the metal, NORTH!

After having spent a night in the car, we were ready to be horizontal. Chadron State Park was the perfect second night stop. Free hot showers and super helpful office folk. NW Nebraska was actually beautiful. Dollar cones at McDonalds and hot water for our Starbucks VIE coffee. Life was rich.

This is where we hatched our genius plan to tear through as much of Wind Cave Park and Rushmore before turning and burning to Denver...then promptly passed out at 7:30pm.

It was a lovely drive north, punctuated by gale force winds and intermittent spells of soupy fog. However, upon arrival at Wind Cave, we immediately saw bison, and mule deer, and prairie dogs. OH MY! Bison are HUGE and so much better adapted to the western way of living than cattle. They're native after all! A quick tour of the visitor's center, and it was off to Rushmore. Really, it was only an hour north so well worth it. Elevation was starting to wear on mom and I could almost see her head expanding as we reached 5,000 feet. By-passing the Crazy Horse Monument (total tourist trap!), we began the steady gain upwards. The drive was amazing. The rock formations and aspen groves within the pines were breathtaking. No wonder it inspired the task of Rushmore!

Some poor guy couldn't take a picture to save his life but you get the idea here. We hiked all around the base, mellow but significantly less oxygen. After sucking our lungs back into our bodies and taking one last snap of this truly glorious feat, it was time for coffee. Little break to write postcards and people-watch then on to Jewel Cave where we didn't get into the underground tour (just fine for those claustrophobic folks) but did get to watch the chipmunks enjoy our bagel crumbs.

Camping that night at Two Moons in Wyoming's Glendo State Park was probably one of the most hilarious/nerve-racking nights I've passed in my tent. Getting off the freeway in darkness, lit only be the full moon...and the 10 bars lining Main Street, we followed signs to the park, further into the darkness. We made jokes through gritted teeth when we pulled up to Whisky Gulch CG and narrowly avoided getting stuck in a mud pit AND hitting a roadside cow. Finally pulled into a site at Two Moons, abandoned for the season (with locked bathrooms) and listened to the cows moo, screech owls banter, and trains chug along all night. There was literally not a soul for miles so any snapping of branches was slightly disconcerting.

Awoke to near frost, broke camp and pushed on to the Sierra Trading Post outlet. Holy gear store! Drooled for a spell then made it to Fort Collins for lunch with Tara and to introduce mom to the Colorado State Univ. campus. Lovely day and fabulous lunch :) Later, arrived at Lizzy's to crash for the night and up early to send mom on her way. Whirlwind as per usual but I'd say we wet our pants laughing at least once a day. My full album is on facebook and more to come from the mom, who after this trip, I've dubbed mama-razzi. Can't wait to take another interstate by force but am so happy to be one huge step closer to stopping the transition for a few months.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

A Seasonal Lifestyle

Before departing for the season, 4 other ladies and I decided it was high time for a girls' weekend! I've heard nothing but praises about the town of Homer. Clear skies, beautiful ocean views, and great camping and local shopping on the spit.
Realizing it was the end of the season, we braced ourselves for minimal crowds and sales. Turns out we missed most of the shops by a day. This may be because we spent the previous day at the Ring of Fire Meadery taste-testing and then perusing a used book store for hours. We grabbed some dinner at the wildly overpriced and equally cheesy Crabbie's...they played the Indiana Jones soundtrack folks. On a budget after dinner and still recovering from a "staff meeting" the night before, we looked for a spot to hole up for the night. It was cold, windy, and not so "leisure sport friendly". Camping is usually the go-to move for visitors but the fog was so dense, it was literally like driving in soup. Too bad hotels are outrageous, even in the off season. Braving the elements, we set up our tents and passed out by 9pm, a little soggy but listening to the ocean waves crash nonetheless.
Morning brought the sound of cars zooming up the road so we packed up, shook the sand out of our tents and went in search of caffeine. Everything on the spit was boarded up except a great gas-station type store that sold AK pins for $2! They shut the water down so people vacate, except for the Land's End hotel. Again, the gas-station store to the rescue, and a cup was only 80-cents!!!!! Best deal in years! Downed the coffee and decided bloody mary's could make this ladies' adventures perfect. Just so happens the Salty Dog Saloon was right in front of us. After forgetting about daylight for a bit, we ate sandwiches on our tailgate and headed to Seaside Farms. How adorable! I highly recommend going to, at the very least, the website. It is a for SURE stop next year. Farmers Market for some jalapeno jam and headed home. Love my ladies and was so happy I got one last weekend with these great girls!
This panoramic is of Nicole checking out some glaciers across the bay. Almost surreal.

Since beginning my winter transition, it's been nothing but packing, unpacking, and winter job searching. This six month cycle is really just never ending displacement. I still find it curious how I can sleep in my sister's twin bed, put my laundry in and out of my backpack but find the most peace of mind back in Painesville. Maybe it's the yellow lab who is at my side "helping" with everything.

Leaving for Leadville, CO in a few days. Making the drive across country with all my belongings, mom, and a plug in water boiler so we don't even have to stop for coffee. Look out Nebraska, we're blowin' through! No idea what I'll be doing this winter but it will probably involve skis, wine, and good friends. Stay tuned!