Thursday, April 30, 2009

Traveled to Vail, CO - off season

   It was a lovely day in Colorado, so Jey-hu and I determined that an extended drive up over Vail Pass would be scenic and give us both a chance to see a place we'd dreaming about skiing "back in the days..." Vail sits on the other side of a pass that is over 10,000 feet in elevation. While it was definitely "slack" season - no one was skiing and few people were in the village, except for maintenance workers - we managed to find a real steal in mid-season jackets labeled "Vail" so we can have something to remember the day by.
   The drive up from Boulder through the canyons to Idaho Springs and Georgetown was a curvy road through deep, deep rocky walls with Clear Creek running briskly down to the plains. It was also pretty windy with gusts approaching 25-35 m.p.h. at times, but my overloaded Murano held its ground through it all.
   The bird is quickly becoming spoiled with a constant change of scenery and when we had to stop for a latte, he was complaining about how long we took because he had to wait in the car which obviously wasn't moving for about 15 minutes. 
   Tomorrow the agenda is to meet up with Jey-hu's friends for dinner in Colorado Springs, stay overnight and head off to Park City, Utah, to meet up with a dear friend of mine from St. Augustine, FL, who is now living in Bountiful, Utah. Then we will jaunt on to Boise, ID, so I can catch up with more friends - probably just overnight - and arriving in Washington State the next day.
   I am so grateful to have a special friend to share this journey with me... it's been a blast since we connected in Boulder.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Rocky Mountain high...

   Waking up to snow in April is definitely a high for this Florida girl!! My excitement at seeing "white stuff" on the ground was only maximized when my new driving companion, hereinafter to be known as "Jeh-yu," agreed we should take a drive higher up the Front Range to see Estes Park, CO. So here's a shot of what we saw as we took that drive. This was actually outside of Estes Park on Route 7, returning to Boulder.
   I have a lot more pictures above the clouds and a few taken alongside the road just as it began to sleet - yikes! Thank goodness I brought along my ski jacket... not enough snow for skiing where we were, though.... Jeh-yu suggested 'rock skis' might be a good bet.  Stay tuned for more adventures.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Three days to cross to Colorado!

    By the grace of God and good weather, I avoided any disasters and made it to Boulder, CO, by 7:30 p.m. on Friday! The shot to the left is the early a.m. capture of Missouri - as you can see I pretty much had the highway to myself.
   I had a very near miss of an accident in Kansas. That state is so long and such a dull drive that I believe the driver on the other side of the highway who shot off into the median, spun around twice and stopped within feet of where I was traveling (at over 70 mph) on the other side, may have fallen asleep. As I sped through the dust cloud his accident created, I wondered briefly if I should stop and see what caused it. But as a single woman traveling alone, considering the possibility that my stopping could also cause an accident and not knowing who was in the other car, I decided discretion was the better part of valor and I drove on.
   Still, the suddenness of it all, the realization that any number of outcomes could have been disastrous for all concerned made me realize again how tentative a hold we all have. Did it slow me down? Not at all. But it did make me pay closer attention to the oncoming traffic.
   This historical marker at one of the rest stops pointed out that Fort Riley has been a military stop since Kansas was first opened up and it is a huge Army operation today.
   With more time I would have liked to stop to see the Custer museum. Talk about someone who was unwilling to listen to reason! And in conversation with my son as I was taking my rest stops, we both concluded that if the Europeans coming to this country had been "honorable" with the native dwellers, the outcome of history could have been very different.
   Kansas, as seen from I-70, is not what Kansas is all about I am certain. But to visitors to the US, this has to look like acres and acres of nothingness abandoned because of the constant wind and dryness. The wind was really ripping on Thursday - about 35-40 m.p.h on average - during the first five hours of driving. Later on, well past Topeka, it lightened up to gusts up to 25 m.p.h. It was hard to drive with such high winds crossing the highway, and it required a lot of attention on many levels. By the time I reached Colby, KS, I was ready to take a long break. Thankfully they had a NebulaDeer coffee place (originated in Seattle, you really do know the name of it but I'm not giving them free advertising here) and I took a good half hour to talk to my family and special friend while sitting in a comfy chair and sipping a latte.
   It was all I needed to convince me that I could make the remaining 185 miles to Boulder, CO. Feeling refreshed and fueled up, I started out and the winds were now minimal and more southeasterly so I had a bit of a push. I actually got over 26 m.p.g. for that last bit! 
   Soon I was passing Stapleton (Denver International Airport) and had the Front Range well in sight! I arrived at my younger daughter's home by 7:30 p.m. making it a 12-hour 'work' day for me, and completing over 1500 miles in three days. I have had the joy of seeing the country from a different route (I have driven I-40 several times.) and accomplished my goal of doing it alone. Not as much fun as sharing it with someone, but better than just sitting at home wishing things were different. Message to my readers: if you want your life to be different than what it is, take some action - any action - and see what happens. It really is all about the journey.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Second day gets me past the Mississsippi

    I got an early start today (7:30 a.m.) after a quick but pretty good breakfast. I felt a little bit like some OCD type when I asked the server to toast my Ezekiel bread. But I can't eat (and don't want to) all-white wheat bread anymore. With high clouds in Chattanooga at 54 degrees (brrrrr) and the first part of the drive up through some mountains north of Lookout up near Sewanee, it was a pretty drive down the other side to Kentucky.
   But early on I stopped at the rest area about ten minutes from Chattanooga to do some rearranging of CDs and drinks. What a glorious surprise to see such a beautiful rest area! I hated to leave this serene location, but the road needed to be chewed up.
   This area is probably spectacular in the fall. I'd like to come back and do some drives around in the mountains again. I could only imagine what it must have been like for the soldiers - on both sides! - during the Civil War to be running up and down or around all these elevations.
   No major traffic issues until I got to the outskirts of Nashville and then several jam-ups occurred. But I didn't really lose much time after all.
   Before long I was past Nashville (which was a lot larger than I imagined it to be) and followed I-24 up near Hopkinsville, Kentucky. This area has rolling hills, wonderful old barns perched on grassy mounds, and while Kentucky is noted for its horses, I actually didn't see any out in pastures near the roadway. I just kept on driving and slowly the miles rolled away. I ended up eating the rest of the steak from last night while finishing up Kentucky / Paducah.
   Then I was in Illinois, but still heading North!!! I was feeling discouraged that after two days of driving I hadn't made much western progress. According to my estimate, it seemed like I could make St. Louis, Missouri, by early afternoon. Fortunately the road work on the lower part of I-57 was not much of a delay factor. And soon I was on I-64 heading west at last!
   I tried to take a picture of the Gateway Arch, but it didn't come out... hard to drive and focus on the camera, too.
   By 4:30 p.m. I was driving into the parking lot of the motel... unfortunately the pool was not heated, even though it is under a roof. I decided I wasn't feeling brave enough for cool water and got settled in. Tomorrow, Friday, I can push to get to Boulder, CO for the night, or split it up into two 6-hour days. I'll decide tomorrow.

Easy first day of driving

I got a good start at 8:15 a.m. on Wednesday and the drive up I-75 was uneventful. I made it to Chattanooga, TN by 3:30 p.m. Made several stops for gas and just a break in driving and feel like it was an easy day's trip. (The gas in Georgia and TN is about 1.82 per gallon.) On the map, it looks like Chattanooga is a lot farther than it apparently is from Atlanta. I stopped at the Tennessee Visitor Center to get a map and I listened to the woman at the desk trying to explain opening and closing times to a hearing-impaired couple. I asked if I could help. She asked if I knew American Sign Language, and I replied that I thought I could remember how to interpret times of day... so I did, and the couple was appreciative. 
    Well, it turned out that I was telling them when the scenic Ruby Falls cave in Lookout Mountain was open and I decided to go and see it as well. Big surprise was that while down inside on the tour, I saw the couple again coming back up from their visit and the woman recognized me from the center and we greeted each other. A nice circle of connection.
    The Ruby Falls are named for the discoverer's wife, found by accident when he was trying to open up the long-closed main cave which had been used by both Confederate and Union armies as hospitals during the Civil War. (If you click on the link, you can see what I saw and learn all about it from their web site.) It was well worth having some extra time to stop and see this.
    Before I did the tour,  I checked in at the motel. I asked about a place to eat and was recommended to "Modern Dave's" and so before going to Ruby Falls I decided to drive by and see both where it was and what it was. I wasn't impressed by the outside appearance. But it was recommended, and after trekking about underground I was hungry.
    BIG surprise! Dave was the chef, and the kitchen is right inside the front door. You walk in and immediately feel welcome. They have over 50 (!) beers, both national and international, and an impressive menu for a daily delivery. The only thing I wasn't tickled about was the use of a microwave to warm up the saffron rice and beans that came with a top notch steak covered with a Cabernet wine sauce, because the rice wasn't fully warm and it wrinkled the beans. But the delivery was very appealing, as you can see here.

 This was a good find and I can really recommend it to anyone traveling through this area. Now I've got to get dressed and get another day underway. (I'm going to attempt to get past St.Louis, MO today.) Tune in tomorrow for the next update.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Tuesday and counting down...

I leave tomorrow. I am happily spending today getting a few last minute things done, but the car is nearly packed, the computer is ready to go, I've cleaned up my home office and I've nearly got the necessary outside work finished. The picture shown here only proves how chaotic things were last week when I was trying to sort out what needed to be attended to and what could wait, what I was taking and what I ought to file away. Amazing, even to me, is that by picking at it a day at a time, I managed to finally make order out of the mess.

I made contact with two old friends in Boise, Idaho, who are both as excited as I am for us to get together again. My former next-door neighbor, "D," and I had a good conversation on the phone and it was so good to hear her laugh again! I was so excited to make contact with my former boss, "J," that I called her too early and woke her up, but we've exchanged a few e-mails and I can tell that sharing time with her is going to be lively and fun as well. 

"Old" in this case, referring to my friends, is that they comprise my longest and dearest friendships. They were part and parcel of my Idaho experience and "D" was my chauffeur and a part of the "pacer" group when I went to the hospital in July of 1981 to give birth to The Little Whopper, who is now 6'4" tall! (He got the nickname because the first time we rushed to St. Luke's, it was a false alarm and the Pacers and I all adjourned to Burger King for lunch.)

I first met "J" when in Sun Valley in 1973 (I think) and interviewed for a position at the newly formed Sun Valley Magazine office. I was recently divorced, had moved to the area with dreams of becoming a writer and had been writing for the Ketchum newspaper. I sold her on my skills, which I had surely overrated, so she was largely responsible for turning me into the writer I needed to become and we had many challenges as I grew under her direction. We also became great friends and she exposed this New Hampshire girl to western country music, especially Tom T. Hall. I still smile when I hear his recording of "Sneaky Snake."

So pondering our reunion has provided some meanderings in my mind about our past and made the drudgery of cleaning up slightly more entertaining.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Next week I start a new adventure...

In just one week I will heading to Colorado by car, making a cross-country trip to catch up with old friends and meet new ones. The trip does have a purpose and some direction beyond the Front Range, and it may even include getting up to Vancouver or farther into Canada, depending. Depending on what, you ask? My sense of whether or not I feel called to go there.

The decision to go was actually easier than packing up... asking myself, "Should I take this jacket? Can I do without that item?" I'm also spending some time in-between packing reading a story which makes my choosing seem terribly indulgent: "Sarah's Key" is about a Jewish girl in 1936 Paris who is pulled from her house, sent to a concentration camp, escapes and.... but you'll have to read it yourself. Her survival with less than nothing keeps bringing me back to this message: try to simplify and take less.

Nevertheless, I am taking all my cameras, my laptop and a printer because I do have some ideas for generating some stories and possibly some income while on this journey. It's a wonderful treat to be able to have both time and resources to create this adventure and I hope to share a lot of it with those readers who care to come along.

The photo is of one of the red-tailed hawks that can be found shrieking around in my neighborhood like teenagers peeling out in old cars. They are nearly grown now and while I will miss their calls, I feel good that I got to watch another batch get launched this spring. We're all off to higher ground.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Do, Re, Mi on a marble floor - what fun!

Long ago, I set myself the goal that I would learn to tap dance and when I was good enough I wanted to do a tap routine (to music) on the marble steps inside the Idaho statehouse in Boise. I did actually achieve that goal back in 1982, just before I moved away. And when I see something that reminds me of that particular goal, I can't help smiling. Here is a charming little video that I hope has that same effect on you! and if you don't smile, perhaps you had to be there - I wish I had been!

We've had a lot of rain recently and some flooding of the local rivers is progressing. To the left is a shot off my porch as the rain pours off the roof.

I've been a little preoccupied the past week or so... my life has done a complete 180 and I've got some major activities relating to re-arranging it so I haven't been blogging or surfing at all. It's all good and looks like I am going to get to do a lot of things I want to do because of it.

Also, I had some houseguests last night and they brought their little 'dustmop' Yorkie by the name of "Puffy," and I just had to include his picture in here! 
He's a cute little creature, and was all the more amusing for thinking he could be menacing, trying to growl enough to scare a 6'4" child of mine who was also here to visit.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

The days rush by...

   When I was in Arizona in April, my daughter and I took a walk and did a different sort of self-portrait. (She's the skinnier and taller one on the left!
   The walk was lovely and that night we watched "Mamma Mia" (the movie) but she was tired and went to bed before hearing the song I always associated with her when she was growing up, "Schoolbags in hand." I listened once again and reflected on how quickly we went from mother and daughter to mother without daughter... and now here we are mother and daughter again, but with tons of life changes in between.