Sunday, August 6, 2017

Wyoming Road Trip.

I have just returned from a three day adventure around Wyoming. When I decided that I was going to move, I started to think about the places and things that I would never see again, as I likely would never make it back out here in the future. I put these things on a list to weigh how much they meant to me. The downside to my list was that the places I cared about were quite far away from both Laramie, and each other, however I did not want to regret not seeing them again, so off I went. I had planned on taking Georgia, which would have meant it would have been quick drive by visits, as she doesn't like to get out and hike, and it is too hot to leave her in the car. The night before I left I made arrangements with my former co-worker Jessie to stay at my house and take care of her, which left me open to do more on my trip.

Wednesday morning I headed out of Laramie towards Devil's Tower. I collect the Great American Road Trip Stickers that are given away at Welcome Centers around the state, so I stopped in Wheatland and got stickers and talked about their plans for the eclipse and what they are expecting as far as traffic. I then visited Douglas, which has a cool mini train museum with historic train cars that you can walk around inside of. I was fascinated by the sleeping car, and the dining and commuter cars were cool as well. I've never been much of a train aficionado, but I can see why people love them so after visiting this place. My next stop was Gillette, where I learned about coal mining and it was recommended I drive the Spirit Highway and visit the Vole Buffalo Jump, which was on my route because of the Welcome Center in Beulah. I went round that way first to make sure I got there before they closed. The Vole Buffalo Jump was a good historical stop, and I am glad that I went there and learned about it. When I got to Devil's Tower, I regretted not spending the night here, as it was even more majestic than I had remembered. It's just a big rock formation, but it is so much more, and I think I really cool just look at it forever. I laid back on a big flat rock at the base and stared up for longer than I had intended before hitting the road again on my way to Buffalo.

Having planned my trip to have Georgia, I had planned on being in Buffalo for dinner, and wanted to spend time at Mishap Brewery, which belongs to my friend Emily's brother. I did not make it into town until 9pm, and all but one restaurant was closed for the night. I had dinner there and then went back to the Indian Campground where I'd rented a cabin for the night. Harold at Indian Campground is wonderful, and I would recommend staying there without hesitation. He remembered me from two years ago, and that I worked for Christa, which is how I heard about them in the first place. They've also got a more than decent shop with knick-knacks and souvenirs galore.

Thursday morning I got up and went to the visitor's center where I chatted with the lady that works there for way longer than I had planned. She's from Arkansas, and we talked about the weather and history, Longmire, and the stickers that I was collecting. After that I had breakfast at the Busy Bee Cafe. It's next door to The Occidental Hotel, and is mentioned on the Longmire TV show, based on the Longmire books by Craig Johnson. The author is from Buffalo, and his fictional town is based on the city of Buffalo. It really is a lovely place with lots of history. I had just finished breakfast and was wandering through the Occidental again when Emily texted that she was at the brewery if I wanted to stop by. I was about 60 feet from there, so I quickly found a geocache that was right next door practically, and popped in to see her. She gave me a tour and showed me how everything works in the beer making process. Mishap Brewery is a darling business and is just the kind of place that I would enjoy spending time in after work.

I left Buffalo right about 11am, and headed to Thermopolis. There was crazy fog all the way from Buffalo to the highest point of the Bighorn Mountains, but the rest of the drive was pretty clear, through Ten Sleep (where I have previously found a geocache in the back room of a bar – it was a once in a lifetime find, that's for sure), and into Thermopolis. My first stop was the visitor's center where I got my stickers and then I went to the State Bath House where I had my free soak in the public mineral hot spring pool. The temperature is kept at 104 degrees and it is soothing and relaxing. I left there and drove up the hill to where the state buffalo herd lives in Hot Springs State Park. I had a good view of them as I picnicked in the sun and dried out my swimsuit. From there I drove through the Wind River Canyon to Shoshoni, where I met a lovely couple that ran the visitor's center which is also the town library. They were wonderful to chat with I wished I had more time to get to know them. I made a mad dash for the Tetons and crossed the Togwotee Pass right as the sun was setting. I was disappointed to see the haze, which was from fires in Idaho, but the mountains are still impressive. I descended down and got to watch the sun set from a pull off just North of Jackson. I drove just South of Jackson and found a pull off where I could sleep for the night. It was quite late by the time I found the right spot, and I was knackered, which meant I got a very good night sleep.

Friday morning I woke up at 6am, when traffic increased on the road I was next to, so I got up and headed to the nearest grocery store in Jackson to use the restroom and get a coffee. I was in the city center taking photos of the antler arches and finding a geocache before there were many people out and about. I had an amazing breakfast at the Silver Dollar Grill, another historic business. From there I went to the visitor's center and got a map of the Jenny Lake area. In discussing my plan with the man at the desk I forgot to get stickers (!). I headed to Jenny Lake, took the shuttle boat across the lake (it saved me a two mile hike each way), and headed up to the falls a half mile up the trail. They were gorgeous and the temperature was mystically cooler than even 50 feet away from them. I continued up another third of a mile to the Lower Inspiration Point (the original Inspiration Point was unreachable from this trail due to maintenance, and the alternative trail would have added about three miles onto my hike and I just did not have the time). The view was still magical, and I am very glad that I did it.

I took the boat back across and at that point remembered the stickers. I could not believe that I had forgotten them. I debated with myself, but decided to go back, as I needed the Salt To Stone, and I knew Jackson had a cool one for the town as well. Twenty minutes back into town, nearly thirty minutes back up to Jenny Lake (traffic was getting crazy at that point), and then on the way to Dubois. I got my stickers there and took some photos on the Jackalopes at a gas station in town. I'd meant to do it the last several years when I'd gone, and forgot each time, so this time I had to get it done. I was in Lander just before 5pm, and my only bad experiences on my trip happened at this point. First, the lady at the visitor's center was rude when I asked about the stickers and told me I had to go to the Commerce Bureau or whatever it's called. She was way more testy than she needed to be. Second, I went to the building she directed me to and there was a sign on the door saying they were closed for the weekend. It wasn't even the weekend yet, and I feel like the visitor's center should maybe have known that they were closed. Third, I went up to Sinks Canyon and they were out of stickers. So three disappointments on my entire trip, and they were all in Lander. Those of you who know me will know why this is significant, and why it figures, to be honest. I still took time to sit at the Sinks and let the sounds of the water surround me, and then I fed the fishes at the Rise. On my way I went. I was well after closing time before I got to Rawlins, so no stickers there, but I did take some photos with the Sinclair Dinosaur in Sinclair. There are other Dinosaurs, but I wanted mine with the one in actual Sinclair (I was probably delirious at that point). I got home just after 9pm, brought my things inside, showered, and literally fell into bed.

It was a fantastic trip overall, and I am so glad that I made the decision (with some help from friends) to do it. I am grateful to Jessie for being able to stay with Georgia so that I could actually do things on my trip. I collected a great number of stickers, met some great people, collected rocks (apparently that's my new thing, I guess it could be worse), and saw again all the places that I have loved since I've been out here.
 I have not added lot of photos to this post, but my complete collection of photos can be seen on my Shutterfly page HERE.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Yard Sale.

I didn't have a yard sale because I'm moving. I'm moving because I had a yard sale. This might not make sense at first, however it really does make perfect sense.

I have been pondering moving for about a year. Things changed with my job and it was no longer enough to keep me happy here in Laramie. Starting over again is scary, however, so I was putting off making the decision. One of the factors in my delay was my stuff. I got rid of 90% of my belongings when I moved to Laramie, because I could only tow a small U-Haul trailer with my car. I was okay with that, because starting over is cathartic. Since I have been here I have acquired so much stuff! All of it was low cost or free, but most of it was very good quality. I hated to get rid of things I'd had such a short time, and also who knows if I would find things this nice again after I moved, and most likely not at the excellent price I had gotten these items for.

I had a book on my Amazon wish list for years called The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing. I had wanted the book for a long time (and to get copies for my family members who also collect too many things), but never did it. I was watching a TV show a few months ago and it mentioned the book, and I paused the show, pulled up Amazon and ordered the Kindle book. I read the first few pages and paid extra for the audio narration. Before it was even done with chapter one I was already pulling out my clothes to sort them. Now, this book has some steps that I did not do. I did not personally thank each item for the joy it brought me before discarding. I did, however, take every item of a kind and lay it out on the floor or the bed. I touched every item, held every article of clothing, and really did think, do I “love” it, or does it bring me joy? I was able to discard so many things that either never did, or no longer brought me joy. I was able to get rid of clothes because I wanted to love them or fit in them. I discarded books that I knew I'd never read again, even though seeing them brought me joyful memories of a time (college!), or where I was in life when I read them. I realize that I probably had an easier time of this than some (or possibly most) people because I was ready to do this, I was ready to clean out my life again. There is a joy that downsizing brings, and it brought me great joy to discard what I did not need. I used to love making meatloaf, and I had this great meatloaf pan with the drip tray. I spent decent money on this pan, but I have not made meatloaf in over four years. I did not need this pan sitting in the cupboard taking up space, because the longer I go without making it, the less likely I am to make it.

I listed to the audio book for three days straight, before work, at lunch, all night until I fell asleep. By the end of the first week I had over half of my wardrobe in the donate pile, three quarters of my dishes and cooking utensils, and one quarter of my books set aside. At first I was going to donate my items because I didn't think I would have enough for a sale, but by the end of the second week I had filled my entire dining room with all the items I decided to get rid of, including nearly all of my furniture. I moved out here with a bed and a dresser, and I will be returning to Virginia with a bed frame, two dressers, and a locker. I realized that while I loved my roll top desk and hated the idea of getting rid of it, I also loved my six foot metal desk that I had to leave when I moved here. I bought the roll top desk at an estate sale, and the metal desk at a second hand shop. If I loved both of those desks, I'll find another that I will love. And if I don't, it's not the end of the world.

By the end of the third week I decided that since I was okay discarding another 90% of my belongings, I could afford to move. I did not want a giant U-Haul or a storage unit when I moved. That was a waste of money until I found a place to live. Now with my smaller amount of belongings I can more easily store my things, so now I am ready to go. When I started this downsizing project, I had every intention of staying in Laramie until sometime after March of next year. My yard sale literally made it so that I can move earlier.

The one sad thing about my sale was that I met some very lovely people. I had several long conversations with two sort of neighbors, one that had just moved here from Texas and was in culture shock, and one from Arizona that preferred Wyoming to the heat of the South. I met one gentleman that commented about how I didn't sound Southern, so we had a nice discussion about accents. One nice gentleman gave made some Wyoming Jade that he carried with him, because I gave him such a good deal. I must have had truly excellent prices, because almost everyone told me to keep the change on what they gave me for their purchases. I sold almost everything, and left the rest out for free, and the only item I am having to haul away is my old mattress that I wanted to get rid of anyway. It was a very successful event and I am glad that I bothered with it, as I made a good deal of money to use for the move.


Saturday, July 15, 2017

I'm Moving On.This Southern Girl Is Headed Home.

I'm movin' on
At last I can see life has been patiently waiting for me
And I know there's no guarantees, but I'm not alone
There comes a time in everyone's life
When all you can see are the years passing by
And I have made up my mind that those days are gone

I sold what I could and packed what I couldn't
Stopped to fill up on my way out of town
I've loved like I should but lived like I shouldn't
I had to lose everything to find out
Maybe forgiveness will find me somewhere down this road
I'm movin' on
- I'm Movin' On, Rascal Flatts

The time has come to move on. When I moved to Laramie, I never expected to stay here forever. I planned to come so that I could watch my children grow up, and when they were adults, I would move on. I had always planned to move to Boise, Idaho, where my best friend Jenny lived. I thought that's what I would do right up until last year when she got married and moved to the San Fransisco, California area. I am still welcome there, but after some research I'm just not interested in California, though her daily photos of the beauty and sea life do have me jealous.

Since I have been in Laramie, I have had four people that meant a lot to me pass away, and I was unable to afford to go back to Virginia for their services. Thankfully, I visited my Great Aunt Margaret and Granny Jane my last trip back to Virginia, right before each of them took a downturn in their health. As I get older, so do all my loved ones, and I don't want to miss any more time with those I love.

I came out here for a reason. I got to spend a year living with Briony and seeing Cale one to two times a week for family dinners. After Briony left, Cale was cut off from my life by his father, and I have stayed hoping that as he got older he would go against whatever he was told and want to see me again. I will never fault Cale for doing what his father told him, or for choosing his father over me. There has been a lot of guilt put on Briony for "choosing" me over her real, blood family. I never asked her to make a choice. In fact, I desperately wanted her father to want her in his life after she moved in with me. In the same way that Cale came over regularly, I would have loved for her to be invited to their house regularly, but that was not what happened and that cannot be changed now. I would never want Cale to chose me over anyone, I only wish he would chosen to have me as a part of his life.

I have stayed until Cale has been of legal age for over a year. I remain hopeful that one day, whether in the near future or many years from now, he will want to rekindle our relationship. I will never stop being his mother, and never stop loving him and missing him. I think of him every single day and nothing will ever change that. But I cannot stay here for the hope of him contacting me.

Wyoming has been good to me. I have worked for four and a half years at the best veterinary clinic in town, first Snowy Range under Christa, and now at Gem City (they bought Snowy Range last Sept) under Crystal and Jacque. I have been taken care of financially by this job and have cared for some amazing pets. I cried as I said goodbye to my favourite cats, Gabby, and his wonderful mother invited me to visit her in Texas (she winters there, and is hoping to get there full time soon). I have met some amazing people that I will be friends with long after this. Tia, April, Maria, Christa, and Amanda have been there for me through thick and thin.  Baend and Janel, I'm so glad I know Tia so I can also count you as friends. And my new Gem City co-workers and friends, it has been a pleasure working with you.

I am going to miss so many people when I go. But thankfully, through social media and texting, I will be able to keep in touch with these wonderful people who have become my family away from home.

I am grateful that I was able to see so many things out here: Mount Rushmore, the geographic center of the US, the actual center of Wyoming, the Tetons, Yellowstone, and Devils Tower. I was kissed by a wolf! I have had a good four years, but I am ready to go back to Virgina, to the Blue Ridge Mountains, I have forgotten what it's like to experience FALL! I want to put my feet in the ocean again. There are things and people that I will miss when I leave, but what I will be gaining is what my heart needs right now.

So thank you, Wyoming, for showing me your wonders. I am a better person for having come here, but it's time to go HOME.

I will let everyone know when I am back in the Commonwealth.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Run Into The Wild 5K.

In 2011 my friend Jenny and I spent Labor Day weekend with Briony and Cale in Denver. One of the things we did before returning them to Laramie was to visit the Wild Animal Sanctuary in Keenesburg, Colorado.  The facility was amazing, and they were in the process of building their Mile Into The Wild walkway, which allows visitors to walk above the animal enclosures so that the animals do not get stressed. They have since completed their walkway, which is now 1.5 miles long. I am looking forward to going back to visit this year.




My friend April and I are participating in the Wild Animal Sanctuary's Run Into The Wild 5K on June 3rd.

Please help us support the animals 450+ animals at The Wild Animal Sanctuary in Colorado, by making a donation through my page. The process is fast, easy and secure. Thanks so much for your support... and please don't forget to send this link to any friends you think might be interested in donating!

You can sponsor us by clicking this link HERE. No amount is too small, if you have a dollar or two, please consider donating to our fundraiser page. Thank you.


Here are some of the photos I took during our visit in 2011.





Steamboat Springs.

A couple of years ago I drove through Steamboat Springs on my way home from geocaching in Utah. I only had time to drive through at that time, but thought it was a lovely city that I'd like to go back to visit. Last year I planned a weekend getaway, but didn't ended up going. I will still do that one day. The Steamboat Grand has rooms with hot tubs, fireplaces, and private balconies. I want to get one of those rooms on a snowy weekend, and spend some quality time in the hot springs.

This weekend I went down to do some geocaching. I drove down Friday after work, and Georgia and I slept in the car for the first time. I wouldn't call it comfortable in the 4Runner, but it was more comfortable than in the Rogue. I think it will be better when it's actually warm enough to put the windows down. It dropped to the low 40s, and I was fine in my sleeping bag, but Georgia was cold, so she crowded me the whole night.


I was at Winona's for breakfast when they opened at 7am. I got a waffle with bacon cooked inside of it, and fresh fruit. It was so good. Then I headed to some geocaches and to see some sights.




I found eight caches, which isn't a big number. There were three I couldn't find, and one that I found but didn't have a wrench to get it off. Georgia and I met a nice lady out walking that told me about the Fish Creek Falls, so we went on a short hike to see them from above and below.
 

There was some fun art that had geocaches hidden in, on, and around.





Breakfast was so good that I went back to Winona's and got lunch on my way home. I was exhausted by the time we got home, and Georgia and I crashed for the rest of the day.



Sunday, April 23, 2017

Six Years of Geocaching.

Six years ago today I logged my first Geocache. My sister started taking me out with her when she went caching as a way to get me out of the house after my marriage ended. Since then I have far exceeded her in the amount of time I spend caching and the number of caches that I have found. It gets me out of the house, it takes me to places that I'd likely never see otherwise, and it has allowed me to meet some great people. I honestly do not know where I would be right now if I hadn't discovered the game.

*You've found 842 cache(s) since your first cache find on 04/23/2011.
*You find the most caches in June and usually on Saturday.
Find Rate
0.3838 caches/day
Longest Streak
18 consecutive days with finds from 08/01/2013 to 08/18/2013
Longest Slump
115 consecutive days without a find from 10/31/2011 to 02/23/2012
Best Day
63 caches in one day on 09/04/2016
Best Month
72 caches in September of 2016
Best Year
276 caches in 2013
There are many challenges that one can try to complete within the Geocaching realm. All of these challenges are optional, of course, but they bring me joy to attempt.

Some of my challenges that I have started (and some I have finished):

Find a cache in every county in the state of Wyoming.


Find a cache on every page of the DeLorme map book for the state of Wyoming.
Find a cache on every single day of the year. This is a major work in progress, and finding caches in Wyoming in winter can really be a challenge.
 

Find a cache that was placed in every month since since Geocaching started, and one that was placed on every day of the year. I'm not exactly trying to do this challenge, but it would be cool if I accidentally completed them.

Find a cache in every difficulty/terrain rating. This one I'm not trying to complete, because I know that I won't be scuba diving or rappelling to get the most difficult caches that are out there. 

Find a cache in every state/county/country, etc. This one is obviously more involved, and I have been gradually marking off states as I plan trips. When I took the children to Washington DC, we popped into Maryland and West Virginia for a cache in each. When I visited Jenny in Idaho we popped over to Oregon just for a cache. When I drove to Wyoming, I planned my trip to get a cache in Ohio, Kentucky, Indiana, Illinois, Missouri, Iowa, Kansas, and Nebraska. One weekend I drove to Utah for a cache, and another I drove to South Dakota, North Dakota, and Montana for a cache. One crazy weekend I drove to New Mexico, Texas, and Oklahoma for a cache in each.

I've been to almost every state on the East coast, but will have to get back to them to find caches, and I'll knock out California, Nevada, and Arizona this fall on a trip I have planned. I'll eventually get them all, and I'll get back to Tijuana one day to add Mexico. In a few years I'll be back in the UK, and am already planning which countries I can get on that trip.



Last week I went to Seattle and Vancouver Island, adding a Washington state and Canada to my tally.
Seattle is the birthplace of Groundspeak, the company that started Geocaching. I ultimately decided on Seattle for a vacation for that reason, and because it was a quick jump across the water to Canada.

I arrived in Seattle on Wednesday evening and took a train and a bus to my hotel. The airport is quite a ways South of the downtown area and my hotel was North, but the public transportation is good, and very inexpensive. I checked into my hotel and walked to a little Mediterranean restaurant for dinner. It was an early to bed night.

Thursday morning I was up at 5am, and had already packed my bag for the day. I took a bus as close to the dock where I was to catch my ferry as I could. With no traffic I got dropped off earlier than I had thought I would, so I took a detour to the Space Needle, which is where I was when the sun started to light the sky. From there I unsuccessfully tried to find a geocache on my way to the dock, but did find my first amazing cup of coffee. I am a relative coffee newbie, but boy, coffee really is better in Seattle. I got a window seat for the three hour ride, with a table between myself and a lovely couple from Australia. 

My plan for Victoria, B.C. was to wander around the downtown area all day. I had mapped out caches and there is a castle and several museums. At the last minute I decided to rent a bicycle. Now, I am an insecure bike rider, made all the worse after having broken my arm during a tumble I took in Leicester. I was able to get this bike fitted just right for me, and the town is extremely bike friendly, and after a little while I was fairly confident in my skill. I rode close to 20 miles, first along the coast, then back through a busier commercial area. One of the caches I got was a webcam cache that I was lucky was on the Eastern portion of Victoria, as I was able to access the webcam on my phone to get the required screenshot (no cellular service in the downtown area). I got to Chinatown (oldest Chinatown in Canada and second oldest in North America - San Fransisco's is oldest) right as the rain started, and I took a break and got a takeaway for the ferry ride back to Seattle. I also walked down Fan Tan Alley, the narrowest street in Canada, which at it's narrowest it only 35 inches across.

I did manage to visit the mammoth at the Royal B.C. Museum before I had to be back to check into customs. There is a lot that I would like to see one day on a trip back to Victoria. I don't regret that I took the bike ride, but I do wish that I'd been able to see more in the downtown area. I got back to Seattle at almost 10pm, and took an Uber back to my hotel. The Uber rates are so much less than I've experienced in Colorado, which is fantastic for when you're just too tired to walk and walk and take buses. 







Friday morning I did not like the route the buses took to get to Geocaching HQ, so I took an Uber there. I spent about half an hour exploring the lobby/gift shop. By finding the cache hidden in the room, I got a souvenir for visiting HQ, and I picked up a passport for the GeoTour. I also got to take photos in the photo booth. It printed two copies, one to put in the HQ cache, and one to keep for a souvenir. I left there and headed to find the nine caches in the Tour. I tried to group the caches by farthest away first, but should have done the two mystery caches first, as they had me backtracking quite a bit to places I'd already been. The weather was good, though it was a bit chilly with the wind coming off the water. The Fremont neighborhood is a cool place. I visited a troll and ended my Tour with a phone booth cache at the front door to a Turkish cafe, so I had lunch there before hiking to the bus that would take me downtown.


It was on the bus that a man asked me, "do you geocache?" I thought I had forgotten to take my GPSr that I wear around my neck off, but when I looked down I realized I was wearing my Geocaching HQ hoodie that I'd bought that morning when it was chillier than I'd planned for. We talked for a few minutes until the bus got too busy to do so. He works in PR at Geocaching HQ. He'd been an avid cacher, and took a job at Geocaching HQ to be more involved. I regretted not asking his name, but later on the Wyoming associating FB page, a conversation was started about the GeoTour and I mentioned I'd met someone from the company, and it turns out that I met Chris, aka Rock Chalk (he'd given me a travel bug that said Rock Chalk, which at the time didn't mean anything to me).


When I got to Pike Place Market it was early afternoon. I walked all around, and there are some cool shops on the many floors. I saw the fish throw and wished there was a way to transport the some of amazing tulips back to Wyoming. I really wanted fish and chips from a place I found, but I wasn't really hungry yet. I debated getting it to go, but the restaurant had three stories of water views, so I went ahead and ate there, looking out of the third floor windows. On my way out of downtown I visited the Gum Wall (there is a cache hidden there but I did not try for it). I passed the original Starbucks, and could not help but laugh at the line half way down the block of people waiting to get in. The bus took me back to the hotel, and I crashed hard after my two days of walking in the fresh air.

Saturday morning I got packed up and walked a really long way to a bus that would take me to the Woodland Park Zoo. I did not have time to go there and back to the hotel, so I had my suitcase carry-on on my back, and my day pack on my front. The zoo isn't too large, so I was able to see everything in about an hour. I waited in line for 55 minutes to feed the penguins, when they got full and turned us away with only one person left in front of me. I was so tired at that point that I left and got an Uber to the airport. I got back to Denver on time, and picked up Georgia at her boarding facility in Fort Collins at 9pm. By the time I got home an hour and a half later, I was exhausted, but happy to have gotten so much done and explored so many cool places.
I couldn't go on my trips if I didn't know Georgia was well taken care of. She does so well at Four Paws Pet Hotel in Fort Collins. She gets her own toddler bed, and four 20 minute potty breaks/play sessions. I love that they have webcams so I can check on her while I'm away, though I only ever see her sleeping, since that's really all she ever does. They posted a few photos of her on their FB page, and surprise, surprise, she's being lazy! I love this silly girl.