Category Archives: US Road Trip

heliolatry.

[hee-lee-oluh-tree]

noun

  1. worship of the sun.

After leaving a highly air conditioned restaurant, I went outside, stood in the sun, and closed my eyes and savored how the sun felt as my goosebumps diminished. I then checked the Word of the Day and laughed when I read the meaning. The weather in Colorado has been so lovely; the sun warms at the same time the breeze cools. I do not think I’ve adjusted to Mountain Time yet so I still wake with the sun and go to bed when it does.

My cousins and I caught the Perseids meteor shower, seeing at least a dozen within the hour. We gasped, our smiles lighting up the night like the stars.

Early morning hikes full of wildflowers and chipmunks start my day off right. I bring my morning coffee along; my Yeti cup is heavy but my coffee remains hot and I take my time and bask and sip and repeat.

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A lady going down the mountain while I was going up asked, “Are you alone?” I told her yes and she replied in a shockingly demeaning way, “Well, good luck!” I looked at her leather purse, sandals, and lack of preparation and wanted to reply, “I have three bottles of water, my trusty Merrells, a stun gun, a map, a knife, a raincoat, matches, a compass, a fleece, a protein shake, cashews, peanut butter, a journal to write about people like you, etc.” but instead I replied, “Thank you.”

Estes Park receives afternoon showers which force you to rest and get ready for tomorrow’s hike. I have been worshiping the sun for sure, and respecting the clouds and trying to get off the mountains before the thunder rolls. I’m thankful and I’m tanned.

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saxicoline.

[sak-sikuh-lin, -lahyn]

adjective, Botany, Zoology

  1. living or growing among rocks.

I sat in the sunshine at a coffee shop called The Daily Dose in Crested Butte and enjoyed about half my daily dose of caffeine. I shared a campsite with a father and his son last night and I could not have enjoyed myself more. The campground was full and they took pity on me and if you want to hear the whole story, you’ll have to buy my next book about making friends!

I have to really plan ahead and not rely on internet because the prettiest places don’t have a connection, so I started making some calls and taking screenshots of directions. My new friend, Garrett, recommended I see the canyon at Glenwood Springs so I called the campground on the river and said, “I might be dreaming, but do you have a tent site available for tonight?”

She laughed and said, “I might have ONE available right by the river!”

I booked it quickly and spent too much money.

The Hanging Lake is only six miles away from the campground. I have been warned that you have to get there at around 5am to even get a parking spot. And when I read reviews about how it’s like Disney World because of all the people, I immediately think “Eh, I don’t need to see that.” Then I see a photo and I think, “Well, I could wake up at 5…”

I set up camp and then learned they have showers! The last several places haven’t had running water, so this is a real treat. I feel like a million bucks. I will say though, it was nice making friends while filthy because I felt like they really liked me for me, not because I smelled nice or had pretty hair.

I sat down to eat the rest of my freeze-dried chili from yesterday that I had in my cooler which didn’t have ice in it. I also poured some Woop Woop red wine. I sipped and waved to the rafters floating by. I checked the weather and saw that rain might be headed my way. It was about 4:30pm. Then it hit me, I bet everyone else in the area was sitting down to their dinner and their Woop Woop wine and would not be hiking the steep climb to Hanging Lake. I grabbed my keys and headed out. I was right.

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The parking lot was nearly empty and I scurried up the trail. The signs were correct about labeling the hike “difficult”, but my Americano was still working in my favor. It started to rain and it wet my already wet hair and cooled me off. The whole trail was beautifully green and full of chipmunks mocking my slower pace. The creek running from the Hanging Lake made its appearance every few hundred yards, so taking breaks made sense for several reasons: a break from severe elevation gain, to gaze, to notice the saxicoline wildflowers, and to throw up a prayer about how grateful you are to be alive and to be part of this breathtaking creation. It’s overwhelming.

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Please note the rain drops on the lake. So peaceful.

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I would’ve stayed longer and taken it all in, but I was afraid the rocks were getting slippery from the rain. I went up to every family or group of friends and asked, “Want a picture all together?” because I’m a lot like my cousin, Julie. (I hope I am in a lot of ways actually.)

argonaut.

noun. [ahr-guh-nawt, -not]

  1. A person in quest of something dangerous but rewarding; adventurer.
  2. Classical Mythology. A member of the band of men who sailed to Colchis with Jason in the ship Argo in search of the Golden Fleece.
  3. A person who moved to California during the gold rush of 1849.
  4. Paper nautilus.

I’m in Nebraska covered in a down sleeping bag in the Walmart parking lot that I’ll be sleeping in tonight. It’s been a long couple of days driving through Indiana, Illinois, and Iowa. I, I, I…you’d think I’d be in need of a little people time. Maybe these folks in the parking lot will come out of their RVs and we can make s’mores. I guess I should’ve found a campground.

Last night, I stayed with a new friend’s favorite aunt in Iowa. I was welcomed so warmly, even though she didn’t know me. Her lovely house smelled of roast and potatoes in the crock pot. She opened a delicious Malbec and even a huckleberry salad dressing from Montana. I felt as if I was her guest of honor and our conversation was easy, encouraging, and enjoyable. I slept like a rock with a full belly. In the morning, my new friend had a note on the counter telling me to pack myself a lunch and take whatever snacks I wanted; the note was next to the coffee, peanut butter, almond butter, granola, etc. She’s my friend’s favorite aunt, too!

I didn’t pack Sangria Kia while thinking about sleeping in the backseat, like I did on the last trip. And I could’ve reorganized, but I was tired and I thought, “Oh my driver seat reclined will be fine.” This is what I’ll tell my nephew about when he’s older…I will tell him a reclined car seat is never comfortable for eight hours of sleep, especially after driving for eight hours that day. You will need to stretch out. I will tell him how nice people can be, but unfortunately, you can’t trust everyone, and finding the balance is tricky. I will tell him that going on adventures alone is 80% refreshing and 20% lonely, so always take your Auntie Beth with you, little Jack Grady. I will tell him how his auntie was kind of an argonaut, not seeking danger, but rewarding adventure.

The next day, I chose a campground so in the middle of nowhere in Colorado, that now when I look it up online, it’s not associated with a city that I can find. I did let my mom and dad know the name of the campground and I did sleep with my stun gun (from brother John) and pocket knife under my pillow.

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I have much of what I own in the back of Sangria Kia, but no where can I find a spoon or a fork or a spork. I’ve checked about five different spots that Beth a few weeks ago would’ve thought, “Oh I’ll put my spork here so I’ll know where it is.” But no!

My middle school gifted teacher, Mrs. Englert, SAVED the day by gifting a pair of beautiful chopsticks when I had lunch with her last month.

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I was famished by the time I found a place to stop and I ate a vegetable stew with the chopsticks and was so thankful my dad wouldn’t let us use forks at Arigatos growing up, because I could scoop the black beans adequately. I then stirred my French press coffee with them in the morning. And I also ate my peanut butter breakfast with their help, very, very slowly. Thank you, SLE!! This argonaut is off to find bigger mountains than she saw yesterday.

nabob.

[ney-bob]

noun

  1. any very wealthy, influential, or powerful person.
  2. Also, nawab. a person, especially a European, who has made a large fortune in India or another country of the East.

I was fortunate to be accepted back at the Outfitters to work a couple months while I was home meeting my amazing nephew, Jack. While I was folding a bright pink Patagonia t-shirt, a customer sauntered in and asked his friend, my manager, “Have you ever been to Ketchum, Idaho?” I stopped folding. Ketchum is teeny tiny and I had never heard folks talking about it. My manager said, “No.” And I interrupted, “I’m moving to Ketchum in two weeks!” The customer I’d come to know as Kevin said, “No way! You have to call my buddy, Randy. He’s like the mayor of Ketchum. Go by the saloon and he’ll help you get a job, find a place to live, and show you around!”

I was shocked. A real life Ketchum nabob! I told Kevin my name and he said he’d prepare Randy for my call. I left work that day feeling confident that I had chosen the right random quaint town.

I called and left possibly the world’s most awkward voicemail. I thanked him too much for his return call that he hadn’t made yet. And perhaps he felt bad for me, because he called a couple days later. We talked for about 45 minutes; he mentioned he could check on a job at the saloon, and I said, “That’d be awesome. I think I’d really enjoy that. I have spoken with the ski resort about working with them because they provide housing.”

He replied, “Well my neighbor across the street is moving out of her little cabin five days before you plan to arrive. I’ll chat with her.”

“Excellent! I sold all of my furniture before I went to New Zealand, so the resort was tempting because of the fancy dorm furniture.”

“Well, Beth, I make furniture. I have a table and a desk and chairs you can have. We’ll get you dialed in. No doubt about it.”

I imagine he could hear my smile across the phone as I said, “Gosh, I really appreciate all of this.”

He said, “Any friend of Kevin’s is a friend of mine!”

This cracked me up. I literally spoke to Kevin for three minutes.

accouterment.

or (especially Britishaccoutrement

[uhkoo-ter-muh nt, -truh-]

noun

  1. personal clothing, accessories, etc.
  2. the equipment, excluding weapons and clothing, of a soldier.

I loaded up Sangria Kia with accouterment galore, including wool base layers, bamboo leggings, my coffee maker, and hats full of buttons. I put an “Asheville” sticker on Sangria’s dupa and she seemed to be glowing, knowing an adventure was on the horizon.

There’s not much I love more than catching up with old friends and family members in a new place full of new local beverages. Sangria found her way to my dear high school/softball/yearbook friend, Erin’s, new house in Atlanta and we shared stories with our other high school/softball yearbook friend, Kelly, until the stars shone high in the sky and the earlier-excited dog got sleepy.

Then Sangria felt at home in Asheville and I could almost feel her relax a little bit. I think she wished we were staying, but she has a lot more work to do to get us out to Ketchum, ID. Asheville holds my heart. Sometimes our hearts don’t get what they want though. Timing has to work out and that’s not in our favor right now where Asheville is concerned. We didn’t see everyone we wanted to and the time went by too quickly. I gave her a pep talk, loaded up the accouterment again, and patted her dashboard as we headed north via college friends, Aaron, Carlee, and baby Holden’s house. It was a weekend full of cuddles, smiles, pool time, and diaper changes. I couldn’t have enjoyed it more. Even the diapers.

I’m now in Cincinnati, OH with my mom’s oldest brother’s family. They are salt of the earth, cream of the crop, tip of the top, and the cat’s meow. I’m serious. I leave each conversation inspired to love more deeply. My Aunt made monster cookies upon my arrival, my favorite recipe from my Grandma Doris, who passed away five years ago this Monday. We sit around in dusters that Grandma loved, drink coffee from her old frog mugs, and share stories and memories. I thought I’d stay a couple days but now a week does not seem long enough. It’s funny how that happens.

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tenderfoot.

[ten-der-foo t]
noun, plural tenderfoots, tenderfeet [ten-der-feet] 
1. a raw, inexperienced person; novice.

2. a newcomer to the ranching and mining regions of the western U.S., unused to hardships.

Idaho was covered in mountains which were covered in evergreens which were covered in snow.

It looked like Narnia from the comfort of my heated Kia. We stayed in a lodge that was almost as affordable as a campsite because we got the “Winter Special.” Nothing else in town was open except the restaurant next to the lodge. Included in the special were coupons for free drinks and 10% off our meals. We also received a free hour in the personal hot spring down the mountain. It was a win, win, win situation. Stanley, ID was quaint with a population of 63. I loved Idaho but I wasn’t sure I could be number 64.

On our way to Utah, we drove into the next town full of outfitters, countless coffee shops, and a ski lodge. Once I had my coffee in hand, I gazed up at the Sawtooths and said, “I could live here.” Ever since, I’ve been counting Sawtooth mountains instead of sheep when I can’t sleep. I think this feeling is rare, so I have to investigate it.

(Photo by http://hubhomedesign.com/ketchum-id)

But look at this photo I didn’t take! Unreal. I head out as a tenderfoot to Ketchum, ID, population of 2,689, in a couple weeks. I will work on a tree farm for a month doing help exchange while I find an apartment and job. Part of the intrigue is that I will not know anyone; this will be a crucial part of my “Making Friends After Your Twenties” book. I will write down my attempts to make myself part of their community. I will be a tenderfoot cross country skier and I hope to be employed as a barista or bartender, but I’m pretty open to whatever may come as number 2,690.

logy.

[loh-gee] adjective, logier, logiest.

  1. lacking physical or mental energy or vitality; sluggish; dull; lethargic.

I have had a logy heaviness lately. I think it started in Denver due to allergies and traffic and what was left of my energy faded away with every mile on the drive to Oklahoma City. My stay there was lovely, though I wish I had been more entertaining to my four favorite kiddos. My logy state continued as I drove from Oklahoma to a rest area in Tennessee, where I slept soundly in the back of my Kia. Then I progressed to Asheville and on to Raleigh. I drove the long way home to avoid a storm on the coast and slept at a rest area in Georgia. I woke up drenched in sweat and was reminded I was close to my Florida home. I no longer needed my 15 degree down sleeping bag. This made me sad.

I got an hour and nine minutes away from home where Mom had peanut butter pie in the freezer, and my car started acting funny. I pulled over and then she wouldn’t start up again. I had déjà vu from Utah and didn’t want to get her towed since they didn’t find anything wrong with her last time. So I waited. Maybe Sangria Kia had logy herself, she would have more reason than I.

I stared off into space. I wasn’t frustrated yet. I actually wasn’t feeling much at all. I had a lot of emotions on this trip and perhaps I ran plum out. I felt like a robot. Maybe a robot would know how to fix the car. I ate some homemade granola from my cousin. I cleaned my passenger seat that had been overtaken with gloves, hats, and books. I checked the fluids. I ate some more granola. Then I tried to start the car again and had no luck. I called my car insurance’s roadside assistance and they sent a tow truck. After about two hours in the Florida heat on the side of I75, the truck pulled up. I am sure I looked lovely after sleeping in my car in the same clothes and having a few layers of sweaty grime all over me. I smiled and said, “Hello.” I don’t think he responded.

Whilst traveling, I’ve learned to have a “this will make a better story” perspective when things go wrong. So I knew I had to make friends with this tow truck driver. I asked the usual questions. He might’ve been sluggish and logy as well so the conversation started slowly. His name is Robbie and he grew up in the area. I know some fine fellas in Brooksville that I play poker with so I asked if he knew them.

“I do. Their kids, too.”

“Oh, wow. Small world,” I said.

“I rented a house from them for twelve years,” he mentioned.

“Very small world!” Then we spoke about how great they are and I didn’t tell him I tend to beat them in poker. Mostly because that’s not true.

I ran into Firestone and explained my situation. I told the mechanic about Utah and how the car stopped working but all the diagnostic codes were clear. He said, “Might be your gas sensor…think your driver has a gas can?” He did and he said he’d drive me up the road to get gas and then back to try it.

“If it’s out of gas, I’ll be embarrassed. The gauge says I have a quarter of a tank. I’ve never run out of gas before,” I said.

He laughed.  “Oh you shouldn’t be embarrassed. There’s a girl we bring gas to at least once a week.”

“You’re kidding…”

“I am not. Every time she says ‘I just put $3 in!'” he shook his head.

We laughed. “Do you like beer?” I asked. Robbie raised his eyebrows. “I have Graham Cracker Porter from Denver Beer Company that was so delicious. My dad might not notice if one is gone…”

He took the hot beer and thanked me. We put the gas in and the car started right up. After 12,000 miles, I ran out of gas sixty miles from home.