Monthly Archives: August 2011

Summing up the last week; Exploring Big Sky Country & avoiding Big RV’s

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So, here I am in the final week of my cross country extravaganza.   I can’t believe it’s coming to a close.  Despite the raindrops falling outside I’m resolved to enjoy the final stretch.  And here’s the wrap-up of the past week.

After a jam-packed time in Washington state I made my way over to Idaho, into Montana and back into Idaho.  Montana truly is big sky country as they say.  Big sky, big mountains, big trucks with big dogs.  I’ve never felt so odd (wo)man out.  I was also completely exhausted from all the activity in Washington so I decided to chill with the ‘rents on their ranch somewhere in the middle of nowhere in Idaho.  I’d heard it was beautiful and I’d heard it was in the middle of nowhere.  Nowhere as in, no cell reception and directions that included mile markers and ‘look for the mail boxes on the left’.  In fact they did end up having to chase me down when I still couldn’t find it, but they found me. LOL!  “Put a city girl in the back country…” they joked.  It was exactly what I needed.  A warm cozy bed, hot showers, home cooked meals…  Hummingbirds the size of a bonbon buzzed around.  I saw a white-tail bunny rabbit and 2 cyotes running outside.  Nature au-natural for sure.  The Salmon river was just a few hundred yards away with fly-fishermen dotting the landscape.  The Sawtooth Mountains also framed the horizon.  Geez!  Who knew Idaho was such a gem!  Ssshh!!

After 2 days of much needed respite it was time to hit the road again and I headed off to Yellowstone Park.  I was SO excited to finally see ‘America’s National Park’.  And I have to say my experience there has left me perplexed.  For sure the wildlife was amazing!!  I saw more Bison than I can count.  Elk, Antelope & even a Grizzly Bear.  I also saw Old Faithful erupt.  Although after seeing geysers in New Zealand and Iceland…well sorry old lady, but you don’t quite rival their steam.  However the anticipation of waiting for her does.  How many times did I hear “What time is she scheduled to erupt?” or “Do you know how much longer?” or “What time was the last eruption”.  After hearing that over and over for half an hour….well you get the picture.  The funny thing is as she erupted the wind direction changed and we all got sprayed with steam and sulfur.  No the thing about Yellowstone that will stick with me is how stupid, obnoxious, annoying, etc….people can be!!  Honestly I’ve never seen such a concentration of stupid annoying people.  #1 I noticed; The max speed limit in Yellowstone is 45 mph.  Yet I saw countless people in BIG Diesel engine trucks and SUV’s speed around other vehicles.  HELLO! This is a nature reserve.  Wild animals live here and cross the street at any given time.  It’s not a free way. WTF?! #2; once again people, these are wild animals.  So why were people walking off the path, with their small children, to get up close & personal with the Bison. #3; There are people in this country that had NO BUSINESS driving RV’s!!!  I saw things that absolutely astounded me.  An RV, in the car section that had no business being there, side-swiped a car and then spend several minutes trying to dis-lodge the 2 vehicles.  In another parking lot an RV towing a car couldn’t quite fit it all in 3 parking spaces, so he just left the car hanging out in the middle of the lane.  Really?!?!  One of the gift shop guys made the assessment that to get a trucker’s license you have to take several tests and go thru an intensive training program.  But to get an RV all you need is $80,000!  And most of the drivers are over 60! #4; anyone that knows me well knows there are certain things I can’t keep my mouth shut about.  And not being nice to animals is one of them.  As sun was beginning to set the Elk were coming out to feed on the bank on the other side of the river.  I stopped to take pictures.  There was a family a few hundred yards down from me and a 10 yr. old girl took a big rock and threw it in the river just across from them.  I couldn’t believe it and after a long day being surrounded by stupid tourists it just jumped out of me…”Don’t be a jerk to the animals!!” I shouted.  Obviously everyone was taken by surprise at my outburst.  Then the mom responded “She wasn’t trying to hurt the animals”.  Well obviously not since they were not close enough to hit, but still.  “It’s just obnoxious!” I said. “Would you want someone throwing rocks at you while you were trying to eat?!?!”  Well no one had a response to that and the stalemate ended.  I continued taking pictures and not long after the baby started screeching and the Elk ran off.  I don’t blame them.

After that exhausting experience the next day I decided I couldn’t take another day of it and instead headed south to the Grand Tetons.  It wasn’t on my itinerary, but I’m so glad I went.  I got a much better campground, the weather was better, it was much less congested and there were lots of hiking trails.  All that driving made me anxious to get out and get moving.  The mountain range is absolutely stunning!  Over a course of 2 days I hiked two 5 hour hikes.  I really enjoyed this, but not the dozens of mosquito bites I received.  On my second hike, which I might add was pretty heavily trafficked, I was pretty shocked to see 30 yards in front of me a mama black bear and her 2 cubs.  I completely froze.  I know enough to know nothing is more dangerous than being close to a mama bear.  So I waited patiently until they made their way down the other side of the trail.  I spent the rest of the hike clapping my hands.  My only other wildlife encounter was a Marmont.  He came waddling around a rock and seemed as surprised to see me as I was him.  I waited for him to decide which way to go and moved on.  The day had started off picture perfect, but half way along the hike a torrential storm blew in.  Just as I was reaching the peak point high winds surged in, along with the largest raindrops I have ever seen!  What could I do?  I saw a lot of people crouching under trees and rocks for cover but my mantra is I’d just rather keep going and get to the end.  And when I did get to the end there was no sign of rain there.

2 days in the Tetons was amazing, even with all the itchy bites and an aggravated knee injury.  But like I said, now it’s the big push.  Yesterday was a long day of driving through Wyoming and into South Dakota.  I saw remnants of the Grand Canyon up here.  And then vast open spaces of nothing and all I could think was about those pioneers back from the days of Manifest Destiny.  Looking at these wide open spaces of nothing I wondered, who decided THIS was the place to stop?  If they had known what lay a few hundred miles ahead would they still have stopped there?  What a time that must’ve been.  I’m here in Spearfish, South Dakota ready to see Mt. Rushmore and explore the Badlands.  But there’s nothing but grey sky and raindrops outside…so instead I’m here with you, telling my tale and hoping when I’m back at home in NYC next week she will have recovered from Irene and I will have survived the next 1,000 miles!

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Exploring the Pacific Northwest & learning to travel solo (again)

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Hello once again dear readers.

So I actually did it, I actually left Sausalito.  Exactly one week ago tonight.  I have to admit I felt a bit dizzy and short of breathe when I pulled out.  A mile down the road I allowed myself one tear and then dried it off.  I made the drive up to Ashland for the second time, but it wasn’t quite the same this time.  Still, I adore Ashland!  I challenge you to find a lovelier city.  And I’m not just saying that because it has TWO bead stores. 🙂  I went out for a few drinks that night before I  called it a night and was engaged in a conversation with a local guy.  We were talking about how great Oregon is. And specifically Ashland.  After more than an hour of talking I just had to ask, because of what I had heard, ‘What do you do for work here?’  His response was classic…’Oh we don’t talk about work/jobs here’. ROFL! I’d heard the job market was bad there, even if the quality of life was really good.

After putzing around a little too much the next morning (and of course paying another visit to the Bead Store) I finally made my way up to Portland via the Oregon coastline.  I’ve heard how stunning the Oregon coast is and it’s definitely true.  Steep cliffs and crashing drops with giant rocks in the sea.  It reminded me a lot of Ireland.  And onto Portland.  Oh yeah, I’d been trying to make it up to Portland for quite a while.  And because I putzed so much I got there right at evening rush hour!  I was actually a bit surprised that a city that is known for it’s environmental progressiveness would have such a horrible rush hour…and such inconvenient interchanges, and roads and layout!  Or maybe it’s just me but I found it to be a complete clusterf&*k getting into.  I also hadn’t done enough research about where to stay.  I mean there was camping, but it wasn’t convenient.  So I had to resort to something I haven’t done in forever!!!  Stay in a hostel.  And not just a hostel but a dorm room. UGH!  It’s true what they say, you get to a certain point in life where a little extra is worth having your own space.  However I am no longer in that position and I do still like to scrimp on accommodation.  So I sucked it up and payed the $30.  The hostel, I discovered, has won an award from the city for the most creative water solution.  They have a rain collection bin on the roof that collects all that fantastic Portland rain water and they use it to flush the toilets.  I have to admit it is clever since they get so much rain, even if it does have a lingering odor in the bowl.  Still, great idea.

One of the funny/interesting things about this trip has been seeing things and going to towns that I’ve been hearing about for years…and finally seeing them first-hand.  Portland is one such place and unfortunately it did not exceed, but rather feel short of my expectations.  I will preface this by saying that I didn’t have a buddy to show me around or lend a couch and that I do believe it’s the kind of town you need to get to know in order to fully appreciate.  That being said, Portland and I did not hit it off the way I had thought.  12 years ago I had actually considered moving there because I had heard it was the only other city in the states besides New York where you could live without a car.  I’d also heard it was very progressive, hippy friendly and had a good quality of life.  Hmmm….well the reason you don’t need a car is because there is a bicycle mafia over-taking the city.  OK, maybe that’s a bit harsh.  I myself am an avid bike rider and think it is a great way to get around.  However all this “Share the Road” shit is just that!  There is no sharing of the road when the bikes are completely in the car lane and not allowing traffic to pass them!  Hippy friendly?  More like hipster.  I lost count of all the “posers” I encountered.  Quality of life?  Portland is quickly becoming the Meth capitol of the states and has more titty bars per capita than any other city.  Oh calm down!  I’m not hating on Portland, I’m just saying it seems to have a bit of an identity crisis.  I did go out for a drink with a mutual friend who was in town and kept picking up on that weird vibe I just couldn’t place.

The next day I was walking around downtown enjoying the fabulous August sunshine, trying to redeem my image of Portland when I got a text from my friend Andrew.  I originally met Andrew last year when I was in Iceland.  We were both at the Blue Lagoon wading thru soothing hot water when I overheard him talking to another group about the Gili Islands….a TINY island chain way out Indonesia.  That was the start of our extensive conversation about world travel, which lasted a good few hours all the way to the airport. He was returning to Seattle after 2 years of being away traveling, and I knew exactly how he felt.  We exchanged information and stayed in touch.  He ended up moving out to the DC area and I got to visit him at the beginning of my trip.  But he told me if I ever made it to Seattle to hit him up and he would set me up with some peeps.  Which is exactly what he did.  ‘Quick and call my friend Christy. She’s gonna take you out tonight’.  Sweet!  So I got in touch with her and ditched Portland.  Maybe another time…

On the drive from Portland to Tacoma I took a little detour…up to Mt. St. Helens.  Honestly I never really thought I would get to see it in person.  I vaguely remember when it happened and when I was at the Visitor Center I overheard the information lady and a guy talking about it.  “Yeah I remember when that happened” he said. “I was 7”.  I really should’ve kept my mouth shut, but he was just so….well…old looking!  No, I didn’t say that I just said ‘Wow, yeah I remember that too. I was 8’.  Yeah I really should’ve kept my mouth shut on that one.  Driving up to the top to see it was really cool though.  She is incredibly beautiful! But as you get to the top there are still (31 years later) remnants of that day back in ’80 when she blew her top.  I’d like to think that she was unhappy about the Reagan era beginning 🙂

Back on the road I went to head to Tacoma to meet up with Christy.  We decided to meet up at a coffee shop in downtown Tacoma.  Here’s the really funny part!  Andrew had called her up that morning saying that “his friend from Iceland was coming to town and needed a place to stay.”  So she’s totally expecting this intriguing Icelandic woman to meet her….and it’s just me!  haha, this was the running joke of the week; that Icelandic women look and sound just like ‘us’. hahaha! After that we then headed over to the bay where she told me she had a friend with a boat that we could go out on for sunset.  It sounded like a great way to spend the evening.  So we parked at a little restaurant there in the harbor to have a drink or 2 before we met up with him.  That’s when we started getting to know each other better and she told me that the friend was actually a guy she had recently started dating and she wasn’t really sure where it was going or if he was her type.  But that’s really all.  She was curious on my reading of him and them together.  An hour or so later we finally met up with him and headed over to his boat.  At first all I could think was that he was wearing way too much cologne and had a bit of a Jersey Shore look going.  Strange for the west coast but what ev.  His boat was really cool, and luckily enclosed cos it was getting pretty cold.  The sunset was amazing!  We went around the Gig Harbor area taking it all in.  I will say that she and he definitely had very different communicating styles and I didn’t think it was so necessary for him to constantly try making out with her right in front of me.  Cue insecurity perhaps.  So we headed over to The Tides, which is a local favorite restaurant.  Almost from the start there were problems.  They couldn’t decide on what to eat.  He wanted to order shots that she didn’t want.  Then she was calling her best friend Pat to come over and meet up with us and he was talking over her conversation on the phone.  She had already warned me that there were jealousy issues from the guy about her friendship with Pat and I could definitely see that he was controlling.  So they continued to fight and then she said they should take it outside because it was very uncomfortable sitting right there with it.  When they went outside to “discuss” things further the waiter came over to talk to me about what was going on and we both decided to laugh it off.  Not long later Pat and his friend  Chris arrived, excited to meet the “Icelandic Girl”.  While we were chatting and getting to know each other Christy and the guy were continuing to fight and then I heard her say “I can’t take this anymore!” and stormed off to the bathroom.  Pat and I noticed this and then sort of talked about it.   The guy walked off, but what we didn’t know was that he was trying to get into the ladies restroom where Christy was.  After 2 times I think, the waiter reprimanded him about it.  Christy calls Pat, who is sitting next to me, telling him this and that she has asked him repeatedly to leave and he won’t.  When Christy is on the phone with Pat, the guy is totally hovering over him, with his chest all puffed up like a peacock…which was really bizarre but unfortunately I have seen this behavior before too many times.  When Pat gets off the phone, the guy had walked over to the bar to talk to the waiter, Pat turns to his friend Chris and says ‘We need to take care of this’.  I remain at the table and watch the 2 of them walk over to where the guy is.  Chris was sort of standing in front of the bathroom and Pat is at the end of the bar and says to the guy “Dude she doesn’t want you here”.  The guy turns like he’s going to leave and then just lunges right at Pat and goes nuts!  I couldn’t believe it.  It happened so fast and cudos to the waiter that he went right after the guy and took him down to the ground.  But the guy continued to fight him and 2 other patrons jumped in to help.  I mean, this is a restaurant!  Not some sleezy bar where fights happen regularly.  It was very fast, but very rough.  I sent Christy a text telling her there was a fight outside and when it seemed safe I went in to check on her.  When we came out of the bathroom poor Pat’s face was covered in blood!!  In fact there was so much blood that I checked his mouth to make sure all his teeth were still there.  Somehow in that 30 sec brawl the guy managed to completely split poor Pat’s lip.  The restaurant called the cops who soon came.  Taking pictures, taking statements, etc etc…  The guy had taken off on his boat so the Harbor patrol went after him and within an hour I was asked to go outside and identify him.  Seriously?!?!  How do I get involved in these situations?!  Several of us had to write down witness accounts.  The FD paramedics came and everyone told Pat he needed stitches.  I felt his pain when he explained he didn’t have insurance, but in this case he could totally sue and after 2 hours when his lip started to swell and separate I told him he was way too young to have a screwed up lip for the rest of his life.  The restaurant was very helpful and we finally headed off to the ER.  Yay I just love going to ER’s in the middle of the night.  At least this time it wasn’t me!  But if I ever were going to go to an ER at 2am, the one in Gig Harbor is where I’d want to be.  An hour and a half later we walked out, with Pat having 8 stitches put in his lip.  For sure we spent the rest of the night hashing it out.  Luckily the next morning we checked online to see that he was still in jail, cos all of us had worried about that.  And I started to wonder what the hell I had gotten myself into!

After finally getting my car, which was all the way on the other side of the harbor, we headed over to Patty’s house.  Patty is my friend Andrew’s godmother and one of the coolest women I’ve ever met.  Originally from New York she moved out here 40 years ago and built up a really sweet spot right on the water.  We picked berries from her garden and told funny stories.  I absolutely adored her!!

Then I was off to Seattle to meet up with another woman named Susan.  Susan is a good friend of my friend’s Jim & CJ and I had hung out with her one night back in college, 17 years ago!!  They had said if I made it to Seattle I should meet up with her.  And so I did.  It’s so funny to meet someone once, spend a night partying together, and then meet up again nearly 2 decades later on the other side of the country.  But it was totally cool!  Susan has a sweet place in West Seattle with a deck that overlooks the sound and affords fantastic sunset views.  We had a fun night hanging out in Capital Hill (which looks just like San Fran to me).  And for the second time on this trip my hostess said “I think I’ll call in sick tomorrow”.  Yay!!  A play buddy 🙂  I know Seattle is known for it’s dreary rain, but in August it could not have been a more picture perfect day!  We decided to take the bus into the city and explore.  True Pike’s Place Market can be touristy, but I still loved it.  It sort of reminded me of some of the Asian markets I’ve been to, only different.  I had no idea what she was talking about when she said ‘this is where they throw the fish’. But I soon found out.  That is where they throw the fish, and somehow they make fish throwing entertaining.  We ate and grazed our way thru the entire market and when that was done we headed over to Bell Town for happy hour.  Funny, it was also Hemp fest in Seattle and all the cops seemed to be cashing in on that.  I’ve never seen so many cop cars whiz around for no reason.  That being said, I really enjoyed Seattle…far more than I ever would have imagined.  I guess I didn’t expect to find it so, well ‘European’.  And of course all the sunshine didn’t hurt either.  After a full day we headed back because we both had early mornings ahead of us.

Hard to believe, but I agreed to meet up again with Pat and Christy.  I think they were just as surprised as me that I agreed to meet up with them on Saturday in Ellensburg…but the offer was too good to refuse.  A day of river floating down the Yakama River and then a concert that night at The Gorge.  I’ve been hearing for years what a great venue The Gorge is and even though country music is not my thing, I just really felt I had to do this.  So I had to get up really early Sat. morning to make the 2 hour drive to meet  them in time for river floating.  There were probably about 20 of us.  The river was flowing fast and it was damn cold!!  But wow was it fun!  So much better than any of the floating I’ve done on the east coast.  Several hours later we overshot our dismount point and had to hitch back to where the cars were.  We got to the concert about 10 mins too late for that ‘perfect’ sunset moment but I still got the full effect.  It is a gorgeous ampitheatre I have to say.  Toby Keith was the performer and I have to say his ‘patriotism’ goes way over the top and borders on obnoxious ‘nationalism’.  The constant Ford advertisments in the background were beyond obnoxious.  So I just laid back and watched all the beautiful stars and ‘thought’ about things for a while.  I was really glad I came out and gave them a second chance.  They were good kids and I had an amazing time with them.  The next morning it was time to say goodbye and move on.

As lush and beautiful as Western Washington is, Eastern Washington is the exact opposite.  Dry desert grasslands.  There is nothing for the eye to see.  Then you get into Idaho and all of the sudden it starts getting pretty again.  Idaho into Montana, even better…which is where I am writing you from now.   And now I must plan out the final push.  I can’t believe that in 2 weeks I’ll be driving over the George Washington Bridge…:(

Catching Up; the last 3 weeks!!!

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Well hello hello! Look who it is.  Re-emerging from the abyss here I am to recount my adventures.

When last we spoke I was headed to Telluride.  OMG! If you ever take the drive from Santa Fe to Telly on Route 84, can I just tell you that it was by far one of the most scenically beautiful and yet stressful drives I’ve ever made.  A windy road climbing up and up and up and around and around and around. My 4-cylinder car was more often in 3rd gear. But oh it was amazing! Unfortunately I encountered a few GPS errors and got to Telly later than I planned.  I drove into a campsite about 10 miles outside of the resort and was told by Bruce, the manager of the campground, that he had just given away his last campsite an hour ago. GREAT! Ugh! I was not happy because the GPS error cost me nearly 2 hours.   But he said, he just couldn’t turn a woman away and had a weakness for blondes, so he let me set my little tent up on his plot…and wouldn’t even accept any money.  That was music to my ears.  After setting up camp and sharing a glass of wine with him and another friend I decided to head into Telly and check out the place I’ve been wanting to see for ages.  Shame I had to check it out in the dark. 😦  This old mining town turned ski resort is a small one-street town but it offers FREE gondola rides over the town to the resort and back again.  For sure I would have preferred to do it at 10 AM instead of PM but whatev.  The other thing that also stood out to me was that for the first time on this trip I was COLD! Which was a nice change of pace in July.  There was another female camper next to me.  Since turning 62 she had traded in her corporate life for life on the road in her car.  “Where will you head next?”  I asked.  ‘Oh I just go with the wind and the weather’ she replied.  I loved it.

The next morning I was up early to prepare to pick up my special travel guest in Grand Junction.  Unfortunately I was ou in the middle of the mountains with no reception and didn’t get the message until I was ten mins away from the airport that he had missed his flight…and now I had to pick him up in Denver…at 6pm, not 11am.  This was not music to my ears! Funny how after 3 months of separation an extra 6 hours can feel like an eternity.  Especially when you have to drive to the other side of the state, and then back where you came from.  So I did finally pick him up at Denver Airport, which is 30 mins outside of Denver (on the other side).  The reunion was sweet but I had no idea what was in store for me.

It’s overwhelming enough to start a new relationship long distance.  It’s even more overwhelming to have a reunion while being surrounded by a whole crew of his guy friends.  And I don’t mean just guy friends, I mean fishing guide friends.  There was a big party that night, a sort of  fishing guides reunion and it was full on.  The next day yours truly went fly fishing down the Colorado River with my man and 6 of  his fishing buddies.  Oh yeah! It was a full-on testosterone fling…with me…who has never gone fly-fishing.  Yeah it was indeed overwhelming!  That being said, all of the guys were super nice and went out of their way to make me feel comfortable and give me fishing tips.  The river was flowing full and it was a perfect day.  Interestingly enough, I was the first one to hook a fish, though he was small and I lost him, I still hooked one 🙂 It was a good first day and good to see him so happy being reunited with his best friends in his favorite place on earth.

The next morning we headed off for Flaming Gorge Utah.  It was a beautiful drive.  Thru Colorado, Utah, into Wyoming, out of Wyoming and back into Utah.  We ended up camping in a place so far out of the way and removed from everything that I would have never even known it was a campsite. $5 a night for tenting, you can’t beat it.  The man and I actually quickly fell into a camping routine that we used again and again and worked.  As soon as we would arrive at a campsite he would start building the fire and I would start building the tent.  This spot in particular was amazing because we were the only ones out there….us and a few hundred mosquitoes!  Luckily the fire kept them away while we ate dinner.  Mosie’s weren’t the only wildlife out there.  We passed hundreds of Pronghorns out there.  I still can’t figure out if there are an elk, an antelope or what…but they are stunning.  I still can’t figure out why I didn’t pull my camera out when there were 3 within 10 feet of us, I think I was just really in the moment since we almost hit one of them.

As much as it was a great camping experience being out in the absolute middle of nowhere, it was also hardcore camping…for those same reasons.  I didn’t get the best night’s sleep and there were no amenities to freshen up the next morning.  We drove out and headed west thru Utah.

There are parts of Utah that are absolutely beautiful, and then there are other parts that….well are just worth driving thru.  This day ended up being alot of driving.  But the most interesting part of the drive was going thru the Bonnerville Salt Flats.  Wow!!!  So weird and so interesting!  We stopped off and had a look.  It’s surreal. Very quiet but very windy.

We pushed thru the salts of Utah and finally arrived in Elko, Nevada.  Boy oh boy!  What a strange and funny town!  Elko was pretty much put on the map as a mining town.  Gold mostly.  But I also heard one of the waitresses talking about the pipeline bringing in a lot of work as well.  For sure a trip to Elko was like a step back in time.  It is most definitely an old Western style town.  After a long day in the car we decided to search out a little bar for a beer and a shot and we found exactly that.  An old wooden bar with an old, surly female bar-tender.  It matched the rows of neon-signed motels on the (only) strip.  The next morning we searched out a good local spot for breakfast….Oh yeah, it was the diner…inside of the Casino.  There’s nothing like walking into cigarette smoke with fat asses in lycra playing slot machines.   It really was one of the weirdest breakfast experiences I’ve ever had.  I mean honestly, the ugly stick just set up camp in that town and left a permanent mark!

After a sub-par breakfast (how can you screw up eggs?) we decided it was time to get the hell out of dodge and hit the road.  The man had done some research on Black Opal Mines up in Northwestern Nevada so we were making our way in that direction.  We took Route 80 over to Winnemucca and then the real adventure began.  From major interstates, to paved county roads and eventually to a dirt road.  We were once again in the middle of nowhere and not completely sure of where we were going.  But the company was good and we had road trip goodies to snack on along the way.  After several hours of driving and seeing nothing we arrived at a junction in the middle of nothing.  And like an oasis, at this junction there was a building.  We weren’t sure what we would find, but I was desperate for a pee break.  When we walked in we truly did find an oasis!  The diviest of dive bars that you could find in the west.  You could practically expect to see Sam Elliot walk through the door.  An old oak bar with  big stools and elk heads adorning the walls. Yeah, not my favorite thing to see but I am traveling with a hunter,  so it’s not like I can ignore them.  This oasis dive bar had the coldest beer I’ve ever had, and a surprise…Strawberry Blonde Ale.  It was the perfectly refreshing beverage after a long, hot drive.  It’s so strange but that little dive bar in the middle of nowhere is one of my favorite memories of this trip.  Too bad I didn’t take a photo. 😦

The lady behind the bar had given us directions to the opal mines and we made our way over there.  Too bad we didn’t do more research….all the mines close at 4:00 pm, and it was 4:20!  We hopped on one of the dryest, roughest dirt road I have ever been on in the states.  It took us over an hour to go 35 miles and the car was completely covered in dust.  When we finally crossed into California it was cause for celebration! 🙂  We ended up camping just outside of Burney.  While the company was great as usual, and the dinner he cooked for me superb, the campgrounds itself was yuppy-ville!  Ugh! You know, those campgrounds where you’re right on top of each other.  I mean, it was beautiful, but way to cramped.  And seeing as how we had gotten used to being out in wide open spaces, it was a tough adjustment.  In fact we almost got kicked out for being too loud…at 10 pm. (cue multiple flashlights being pointed in our direction).

The next morning we got up as soon as possible and made our way down the 5 and into Sausalito.  This is where the next phase of the trip began…life on the houseboat at Yellow Ferry Dock.  It felt good to have a place to settle into for a bit after not having more than 2 nights in a row at the same place for the last 3.5 weeks.  It felt good.  That was 2 weeks ago and it’s been a special time of learning and growing.

In that time we also had another little road trip that involved a drive up to Southern Oregon where I met the parents.  They live on a beautiful 4 acre spread just outside of Ashland.  Asparagus, lavender, berry patches you can eat off.  It was just beautiful.  Something was pointed out to me in the back yard. “What the hell is that?”  I asked.  Oh it’s their pet Llama that hangs out in the pasture with the cows.  The parents were very nice and we enjoyed a relaxed dinner out on the back deck while we watched a stunning sunset reflection on the mountain.  It truly was a piece of paradise.  The next day, after a late start we made our way over to the coast, which truly is as beautiful as I’ve heard.  The next morning we made our way down the coast back into California into the Redwoods.  I could’ve spent the whole day there. Humboldt County, truly one of the most beautiful places I’ve been.  We walked mesmerized through the Avenue of the Giants, smelling the smells, hearing the sounds and feeling the energy of the trees.

Like I said,  I could’ve stayed there all day, but we were on a time limit.  So we made our way down towards Ukiah to go camping near Clear Lake.  Chris and I have said that we are ‘futzers’.  We truly can futz better than anyone.  But because of this we seem to always end up setting up camp right at dark.  Oh well, good thing we have our system down.  Another excellent campfire dinner, it was a great night.

So here I am, at the end of 3 weeks together.  I’ve stayed a week to 3 days longer than I planned.   But tomorrow I will get back in the travel groove and make the most of the next 3.5 weeks I have left to explore this country.