Beaching it…

UNADJUSTEDNONRAW_thumb_86c3After a wonderful stop outside Minneapolis, Minnesota to visit family we are back on the road to get to Mackinac Island on Lake Huron. Just about an hour outside of Lake Ham, MN, we finally saw a bear! A darling black bear was crossing the road and after he got across, he turned to look at us and showed us his darling brown snout as if he was posing for a picture. Unfortunately, I wasn’t quick enough to grab my phone.

UNADJUSTEDNONRAW_thumb_86c2We made it to a small town, Munising, Michigan, on Lake Superior and walked on the beach near Pictured Rocks before hitting the sheets. Being in the car for so many hours a day is taking its toll and we are both starting to wear down. But the beach was rejuvenating and it was enjoyable to watch Audrey climbing driftwood.

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Little bighorn sheep and prairie puppies…

UNADJUSTEDNONRAW_thumb_86b6Today I decided to get myself to the doctor to check out my ears and dizziness. And as I surmised, I have a myriad of things happening in my ears because of the virus and was prescribed nose spray and anti-nausea meds and more over-the-counter decongestants. But all is well, I am feeling much, much better and glad to have had a doctor take a look just to rule out anything that might hurt my hearing.

UNADJUSTEDNONRAW_thumb_86b9But the trip to the urgent care had us leaving a bit later than we wanted. I was sorry to say good-bye to Deadwood and the sweet hotel and the even sweeter people we encountered all over the area. I chatted with a couple from Minnesota over breakfast and we swapped road trip stories. It is very satisfying to meet fellow travelers that enjoy the open road as much as I do and are eager to share delightful finds.

UNADJUSTEDNONRAW_thumb_86b1One such man was sharing with us his sighting of bighorn sheep at Badlands National Park so we eagerly pulled into the park in search of the surreal landscape dotted with wild sheep. And we weren’t disappointed! There they were walking along the road,  and perching beautifully on rock pinnacles as if they had been waiting for our arrival.

UNADJUSTEDNONRAW_thumb_86b4We also laughed at the prairie dogs that watched us on their hind legs and then like puppies, flopped all the way flat on their bellies on their dirt mounds, legs splayed out, and tiny tails wagging.

We drove the circle of the park, trying not to stop too often as we had another long day of driving to get across South Dakota. Going from west to east we are aware that we keep losing an hour and instead of arriving for the night at 7pm, to our dismay, it is 8pm. 

UNADJUSTEDNONRAW_thumb_86bbBut we can feel the pull of home and we must be over halfway there now. Driving this vast country is incredible, the scope, the landscape variety, the magnitude of beauty, it’s downright incredible. Good night from Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

Lovebug

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In Custer, Wyoming

I’m feeling like a Queen Bee sitting in our luxury room at the Celebrity Hotel, with Herbie the original Lovebug (from Disney movie fame) a few walls away. It has been a super day and I’m feeling extremely lucky. First off we had many belly laughs, so I know I am feeling better. It was a lovely drive to Crazy Horse Monument. Sharing this area with Audrey has been special. She loved Crazy Horse too, and we both like it more than Mount Rushmore, even though it is not going to be finished for a hundred years or more. The non-profit nature of it, the heart behind honoring the Native Americans, plus the shear gumption of one man taking on such a legacy while knowing he would die before seeing it even close to being finished. (read more in my blog from 2012, Lost my heart in the Black Hills…)  But we did see a shaggy mountain goat at Mount Rushmore so that added to the presidential fun.

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Crazy Horse

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Mt Rushmore

After getting our fill of rock sculptures in the beautiful Black Hills we pulled into Deadwood, South Dakota, our destination for the night.

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In checking into our hotel, we were asked if we would like to be in the main building rather than the cheaper annex that I booked and the wonderful gal at the desk handed us the key and pointed the way for us to check out the room. Now let me explain, the hotel is also a tiny casino, one of the reasons I chose the annex building, but in passing the bright and noisy slot machines we went through a door into another world. It was quiet and beautiful and the room immaculate, with a bathtub and glass shower to the ceiling. We were sold and did an about-face and went back through the casino to tell the gal that yes, we would love the room.

 

Deadwood is the quintessential wild west town and dates back to the 1800’s and the crazy gun-slinging days of Wild Bill Hickok. We explored the town and went into cutest and oldest saloon which held the chair that Wild Bill was shot in. Yep, that’s this town and it was crazy fun to sit and imagine the days of Annie Oakley, gold mining, sheriffs, cheating at poker and horses tied to hitching posts, while sipping a beer.

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Tearing ourselves out of the old-time reverie we went back to our hotel and each got $5 to put in the penny slot machines. That lasted us about 45 minutes and then we were back to this moment of me feeling like a queen in my fancy hotel room that only cost 79 bucks! It’s been a day to etch in the memory banks.

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Finesse and wiggle…

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Good bye to Yellowstone

Each day I keep hoping to wake up and feel back to my normal happy, healthy self. We had to move on from Yellowstone, whether I felt up for it or not, we have a large country to cross. So I was up early, feeling not so dizzy or nauseous, but not up to par either. We had a long day of driving and such beautiful scenery and thank goodness we are listening to a great audio book called The Book Thief. And as lousy as I felt, the book was a reminder that my troubles are worthless when compared to the plight of the Jews in WWII.

Audrey did the bulk of the driving out of the park and I felt good enough to take over later. But I was trusting my gps and not at the top of my game and we ended up on a road that was closed and had to retrace back about 20 miles and miss Big Horn National Park.

Then we were sent over the Big Horn Mountains and what a long and winding road that was, complete with dense fog for 10 minutes. We finally started to laugh at the ridiculousness of it all! The road closure, the two major mountain passes, rain, me being sick, now the fog to deal with, this was not the adventure I had hoped to share with my darling daughter. But I must say, it will be memorable!

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We limped into Gillette and found a place to crawl into bed and lick our wounds, only the  electronic keys wouldn’t open the door to our room. Standing there with all our luggage we had just lugged up the stairs since they had no elevator, we tried both keys several times back and forth getting ready to wander our weary way back to the front desk, when two gals exit the room next door. One said “You just gotta finesse and wiggle it a little, like a man.” I guffawed and thanked them as Audrey magically opened the door with a finesse and wiggle.

I think I am feeling better and am determined to awaken tomorrow with new vigor. 

The travel bug…

IMG_20180518_150434601_HDRSometimes you have all the luck and your life is charmed, sometimes you hit a large pothole in the road. Today I was at the pothole. I woke up with the room spinning wildly around while my eyes were closed. Thanks to Mr. Hitchcock we all know the word VERTIGO and I was gripping the side of the bed while it spinned. Welcome to my morning. I did a quick google search and deduced that I most likely have an inner ear infection brought on by the virus I have been fighting off.

I did my best to climb out of bed and grip the walls to stay upright. Getting dressed was an effort but I took my time, after all I am in Yellowstone National Park, I can’t stay in bed!!! Audrey and I walked toward the visitors center for some advice on road closures and halfway there, I sadly turned to Audrey gave her a hug and said, I can go no further, please continue on without me.

Back in my room I took Advil to bring down my fever and I slept and pouted in fitful bouts, while the room continued to spin. Audrey returned after half a day out on her own and I decided I might be ok for a drive to Canyon Falls, it was the one place I really wanted to see this time around as I missed it on my first visit.

On our way to the gorgeous falls we saw many buffalo, elk and the surreal beauty of the park and it’s steaming wonders. But I was still feeling miserable which made me sad.IMG_20180518_182139792

I’m goin’ to Jackson

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The gnome made his proud appearance as the small builder of this gateway of antlers in Jackson Hole, WY

I contracted a cold somewhere along our travels and have been fending off succumbing to it’s persistent annoyance. But today I was dragging around  feeling sorry for myself that for my favorite part of the trip I felt rotten.

Audrey downloaded a Johnny Cash playlist and we heard him singing on our way into Jackson, Wyoming…

 I’m goin’ to Jackson, I’m gonna mess around,                                                                           Yeah, I’m goin’ to Jackson,                                                                                                             Look out Jackson town.

Even though it’s not quite the same town that Mr Cash was singing about, we stopped for a quick lunch while sitting on the bar saddles at the Million Dollar Cowboy Saloon. We have been wanting to do some horseback riding, but this is as close as we have gotten to a horse thus far. And though still smiling, I was definitely not in the spirit to mess around.

The weather was overcast and cloudy so the Grand Tetons weren’t shining their usual brilliance today, kind of like me, but they are still such a stunning range to behold. We kept driving to get to Yellowstone and were surprised at the amount of snow still in the park. We did watch the obligatory Old Faithful Geyser spout and wandered around the beautiful Old Faithful Inn.

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Yellowstone

We met a couple at dinner who had been forced out of their first dinner venue, called The Bear’s Den which was evacuated when someone inadvertently set off their bear spray canister. Can you say irony? Bear spray in the Bear’s Den? I guess the smell was awful.

We are hitting the sheets early tonight in hopes of resting up my virus-infected body. We are looking forward to seeing some wild beasts tomorrow.

Roadside falls

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Kathy, Lori and Audrey happy to see each other!

One of the best things about road travel is the people you meet along the way, some old friends and some new. Today was full of old friends in Reno, Nevada, Kathy and Grandma Blume. After wonderful visits we packed the car and set out for destination Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming.

We had about 7 hours of driving and while filling up the gas tank the spout spit gasoline onto my leggings and as much as possible I soaped it off in the public restroom. I smelled of gasoline the rest of the day. We didn’t have time to do the trip in one day so we stopped for the night in Twin Falls, Idaho, under a beautiful rainbow.

UNADJUSTEDNONRAW_thumb_865fAfter checking into a roadside hotel we went in search of Shoshone Falls outside of town., taking along the gnome from my mom. Definitely a wonderful view at sunset and a recommended place to lay our heads for the night and I look forward to the mountains tomorrow.

 

The boots are back!

IMG_7490The fringe boots are back as I am making the transition from winter to summer and kicking off the season with another cross-country road trip. The boots are somehow synonymous with my road trips, so that, like Pavlov’s dog, I am starting to drool for adventure and they make me imagine I am Sacagawea exploring the wild pioneer tundra. I wrote about these boots in one of my very first blogs (What’s with the boots?), and they still get comments daily in my travels.

Normally I am a solo traveler but this time I am taking the west to east ride with my youngest daughter to drive her car back to our small Western Massachusetts town from Seattle. We started with a quick detour to California to see my mom for Mother’s Day. She gave us a garden gnome that will accompany us in the car and may end up on a few adventures as well. We are on a time schedule so our meandering will have more structure than I prefer, but we are looking for fun and unexpected delights.

5ApjBrk5RKuiWgheGK13EA_thumb_85d2Our first National Park stop will be at Yellowstone. Audrey has never been there and so it’s at the top of our list of places to see. I am interested to compare traveling with a daughter to traveling alone and am hoping for many adventures to waddle across our path and have you all join us too!

3 states, 5 towns, 10 days & 25 people

I’m just back from a whirlwind trip to the West Coast. Having moved to the eastern edge of the USA it is difficult to see all of the people and places that mean a lot to me in one trip, but this time I can say that I came close!

IMG_6485I flew into Seattle to connect with my daughters. I met a new grand-kitty, celebrated a birthday, saw a new apartment, walked to the beach, ate some amazing food, extolled the virtues, and adorableness, of Seattle’s plethora of little free libraries and watched one daughter in a dance performance at University of Washington. This was a last-minute addition to my trip west and I can’t even explain how important it was to my own well-being. Seeing my daughters and their friends in the midst of their living is a tangible delight and more than necessary, even if only for a few days.

Next I flew to Reno, hopped in a rental car to drive up to Squaw Valley, CA to attend the wedding of a niece from my ex-husband’s family. It was SO GREAT to see this side of the family that I was a part of for 30 years. They welcomed me with open arms and asked about my life and I left feeling tremendously loved after a short 24 hours. I started feeling ill the morning of my departure and assume it was altitude sickness, even though Squaw is only at 6200 ft in elevation. I don’t know if it was the exhaustion and lack of sleep from two very early morning flights within a few days, but I booked it back downhill to Reno and the warm embrace of one of my oldest friends, Kathy. She led me into her spare room and told me to sleep while she bustled around in the kitchen preparing food. What a gift. I woke up an hour later, feeling a bit better and not wanting to miss anymore time with this special human being.

18950974_10212767423918505_2079909680474970963_nKathy is one of my heroines. I really admire and gravitate toward women that are no-nonsense, badass, and confident. She is all of these in spades! She is a straight activist for the LGBT community and travels the world speaking and giving workshops, marshalls pride parades and gets called horrible things by fundamentalist Christians for her acceptance of the gay community. She works her butt off and is so full of life and laughter (see Meet Kathy). She hikes every day with her dog Cali and I joined them for a light hike. It was a glorious 19 hour inoculation of inspiration for me to make the most of my life and not give a hoot about what people think.

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Lake Tahoe through my passenger window

Keeping Kathy in my heart, I drove up over Mt. Rose highway to Lake Tahoe. I always forget just how beautiful this sparking alpine lake is but I was only getting a brief glimpse passing by on my way to Hwy 50 and my mom’s cabin on the American River.

IMG_6556On the steep grade out of South Tahoe I had a “check tire pressure” light come on in the rental car. I was in traffic going 5-10 miles per hour and I passed a sign that said “Wagon train traffic ahead.” Not a sign you see everyday. Well, come to find out, I was following the 68th Annual Wagon Train that reenacts the famous trek that wagons made along this stretch of road during the California gold rush.

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There was nowhere to check the tire pressure but I pulled over just to make sure the tires were not flat and they looked fine so I kept going to the cabin. I have written about this cabin (see The cabin that built me…  ) and it is always delightful to return and spend time there. There has been a lot of snow in the Sierra Nevada mountains this year and the rivers were gushing and it was especially beautiful to see and hear and still too early for any bugs to annoy us. My mom and sister were there when I arrived and we cooked out on the lovely wood-fired griddle, soaked our toes in the freezing river and walked in the pine-scented air.

IMG_6628Back in the car the next day to drive to Napa, CA with my Mom, we passed the unhitched wagon train resting for the night by the side of the road. I was able to put air in my tire and get Mom home without incident.

She lives in a beautiful gated community on the Napa River, each house has a dock and boats, even if only a paddle boat or kayak. It is always a pleasure to spend time in her spotlessly, well-decorated home. I hopped in the guest room shower feeling especially grimy after being in the dusty, tree-pitched outdoors at the cabin. I turned on the water, stepped into the tub and **bang*rattle*klunk** off blew the shower-head and down tumbled the shower caddy and soap. With a strong blasting stream of water in my face I quickly shut off the tap and plunked the shower head back on the spigot. Turning the water on a second time, it all blew off again. I went through this routine about 4-5 times before deciding that it was not going to stay connected. I had water everywhere, even on the ceiling of Mom’s pristine bathroom.

After swabbing everything down, I spent the rest of the evening googling shower heads and watched the video “How to install a shower head for dummies.” I felt fully informed and the next day Mom and I went to Home Depot and bought a new shower head and I am proud to report that I replaced it without too much difficulty. Just to challenge my new-found prowess I also put an extension arm on the shower head in Mom’s master bath so she can reach the controls easier. I have NEVER done anything like this before and I felt so accomplished. All hail, King YOUTUBE!

IMG_6625 2While in Napa I got to see more family and my wonderful mentor/friends Lowell and Christie Young. They tap me into my spiritual roots and infuse me with hope, youthful memories, and ply me with piles of wonderful books, which are stacked on my desk in beautiful array, calling me to read-read-read, like a siren lulling me to crash on their spiny reefs.

I had contact with about 25 special people on this quick 10 day jaunt. Connections. It’s all about connections for me. I feel satisfied if I have looked into someone’s eyes, heard their heart and their latest escapades. I can come home, look back and picture them, where they are and how they smile and laugh, what moves them to tears, how their voice conveys their emotions. Yes, I can miss them more, but with the knowledge that there will be a next time to reconnect. Just tapping into their souls and lives for a moment keeps me attached to them until we meet again. Make sure you find the time to connect with those that you love.

“Connection is why we’re here. It’s what gives meaning and purpose to our lives.” (Brene Brown- watch her awesome TED talk here…The Power of Vulnerability)

Before Panorama and after Panorama…

I’ve been ignoring my blog. This happens. As much as I love to write, I become entrenched in my daily life, ignore the tugs of the blank page, and take to filling my days with teaching, acting and reading soul-stirring writing. Well, I’m back, for a moment, to check in and connect with my own writer’s soul.

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Girls Road Trip!

In the fall, I took a road trip from Seattle to California bringing along all three of my incredible daughters. It was hands-down the best thing to happen in 2016. We left Seattle heading south, our first stop a night in Ashland, Oregon to take in a play at the popular Oregon Shakespeare Festival. Our plans were in constant flux so we arrived without tickets with the intention of getting them on sight. Continue reading