Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Road Trippin' Day 4 and 5

Monday's activities included the zoo and the Denver nature and science museum. The zoo was wonderful, as usual, although not quite as large or as nice as the St. Louis zoo. But still a zoo. And I love them, so it was equally fun and exhausting. 

After that, I made my parents eat somewhere because I was starving and their breakfast choices were slim. Chik-fil-A for the win.

Then it was on to the museum, which was huge. Tons of exhibits (and an IMAX movie) but my favorite exhibit was one about health because it was interactive. Before we walked in, we were given a card to be used throughout the exhibit. When we put it in the machine to "sign in," we created a profile (age, sex, etc.) and were able to walk through and try all the different pieces of the exhibit. One machine allowed you to put your hand under a green light and showed you the veins underneath. Another measured your heart rate, while another measured your arm span and another measured your stride. There were more than that but you get the idea. 

For those wondering, my arm span and height form a perfect square: 5'10 1/2" x 5'10 1/2" (but we'll just round all that up to 6ft x 6ft). My normal, walking stride is 3ft 2inches and my speed is 3.4 mph. For reference, my mom's stride was over 4 feet. 

Anyway, this exhibit even printed out a card at the end with your profile on it, which is how I was able to remember my stride and arm span and all that. Pretty cool! 

The museum was 3 floors, and with us getting there at 2pm, we still weren't able to finish everything before they closed at 5. And since it had been a long day, we called it and went back to the campground for the night. 

Tuesday, the Georgetown Loop was on our schedule for the afternoon. So we got up early and drove to Dillon, CO first (we would hit Georgetown on our way back) to check out my stepdad's old stomping grounds. He lived in Denver for four years when he was in high school, and his family would go camping in Dillon on the lake. 

The drive took a little over an hour (everything seems so far away here!) and was straight into the mountains, which I was excited about. Maybe we would see some snow-capped mountains!

Turns out, we did see snow. On the drive back from Dillon, a really cute town with a Swiss Alps vibe, we took the long way around the mountain we originally took a tunnel through to get to. This was apparently the "old" way before they built the tunnel that my stepdad and his family took to get there. I am assuming it is the longer way, but we stopped so many times to take pictures that I have no idea exactly how much longer it takes to drive around vs through. We even ran into an elk minding his own business on the side of the road eating at the Leaf Buffet. There was a crowd of people, so we stopped to check it out (I have learned from my time at zoos that usually, if there is a crowd, there is an animal somewhere close). Mr. Elk was very cooperative and let us take his picture. He even still had fur on his horns. 

And finally, we made it to Georgetown with time to spare! We did a little shopping in Georgetown proper and ate brunch at a place called The Happy Cooker. Super cute place and really good food. 

After brunch, it was time for the Georgetown Loop, which is a ride on a railroad miners used back in the day. Included with our train ride was also a tour of the Everett mine, during which we learned how to pan for gold. And those of us who weren't too cool for school still have our gold in a vile at home!
The scenery from this whole day was breathtaking. So much so that, like I said, we had to stop and take pictures often. Some of which are below. This place is absolutely gorgeous!

By the time we got home, we were tired and hungry. While we waited for the weather to cool off enough for David to start a fire, my mom and I went to do some laundry. After that, we got back to the camper and were fishing around for food to eat like little mice waiting on burgers to cook. My mom picked up the bag of Takis I'd bought on the road (to keep me awake) and asked if I wanted them. I said no because they weren't the flavor I wanted (Nitro vs the yummy Fuego I usually get). She wondered aloud why, "they're just tortilla chips" and promptly put one in her mouth at the exact time I shouted, "WAIT!!" 

Too late. 

Almost instantly, a look of regret formed on her face as she realized her mistake. 

"Those are hot," I say. 

"Yeah, I see that now."


I must give her some credit. She bravely finished the chip, put down the bag and didn't even need to go after the milk in the fridge to neutralize her mouth. 

To say I was impressed is an understatement.  

And I think this is enough for today. I'll write more later! 

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Road Trippin' Day 3

Today's blog is going to be written less like a story and more of a play-by-play. It may take less effort. May take more. We'll see how it goes and how long it lasts. I'm getting tired. 

Captain's Log. Day 3. Hour 3. 
The wind that felt so good earlier has now kept me up until at least 3am. It has been gusting through my tent so hard that the one time I did doze off, I had a dream about a tornado (which turned out to be the Tasmanian Devil, but not before getting my heart rate up). 

I am afraid if I go to sleep that I'll wake up to a sideways tent. But so far, the stakes are holding. Thank goodness. 

Day 3. Hour 6.5
Friendly neighbor came over while we were all packing up and voiced her concern about me blowing away during the night. I informed her I had the same concerns and am happy none of us had any experiences with that. 

Day 3. Hour 7.5
Back on the road. 412 miles on I-70W. May be the longest I've ever driven on one interstate. And on very little sleep. God help me. 

Day 3. Hour 11. 
I get word that the puppy I'd found and was getting in a couple of weeks has died. A puppy dead at 6 weeks. Poor thing. And so the search will begin again. I refuse to let it ruin my trip. 3 more hours to Denver and I'm almost out of Kansas. So. Much. Farmland. Bring on the mountains! 

Day 3. Hour 13. (1pm central time, 12pm Mountain time and 2pm eastern — this is too many time zones to keep up with) 
I'm finally in Colorado. Still nothing but farmland and nothing for miles and miles but the occasional cattle herd. It's totally flat. The only difference between KS and CO so far are the trains I've seen in the farmland distance. 

Hour 14. 
I arrive at my destination. Or at least close to it. There's a huge line at the park gate and I have to wait about 15 minutes before I'm able to get a pass to get in. My mom meets me at the gate and hops in the car and we are reunited once again! Chatfield State Park is huge and beautiful. Set against a backdrop on mountains and next to a lake. I foresee a kayaking adventure sometime in my near future. 

Hour 15. 
After about an hour out of the car (and a shower), we hop back in the car and head to Dinosaur Ridge where I am told there are actual fossils in the ground. It did not disappoint. Apparently this part of Denver (Littleton) was partly under the Mississippi River at one point and there is a mountainside made entirely of shale from being underwater millions of years ago. 

Hour 21. 
We sit around the campfire as the weather cools down and listen to the Spanish music the people next to us are blaring. At this point I'm so tired from not sleeping last night that it sounds like the same song over and over and over again. Make it stop. Everything is irritating me. I'm more than ready for bed. 

Hour 21.5. 
The music stopped!! 15 minutes before the noise ordinance went into effect. I'm going to bed. 

Aquafina bottle update: still unopened but it's found a new home in my parent's camper refrigerator. It's their problem now! And I do solemnly swear toneber but another bottle of Aquafina ever again. 

Friday, June 16, 2017

Road Trippin' Day 2

Well, the sun comes up awful early over here in the central time zone, and with it, the birds. So, I was up at the ass-crack of dawn packing up. Which was fine because I wanted to get to the zoo early. It opened at 8am and I was paying for that $15 parking spot by 8:20. 

Anyway, the zoo was great. Totally worth making the effort and getting up early for. It was huge and full of animals (that were actually outside) and I almost didn't mind all the children everywhere. I actually got to see a polar bear up close and personal, which I've never seen before. Those things are enormous and graceful and if I wasn't so enthralled by zoos I'd feel sorry for it being cooped up in captivity. 

I got through the zoo in about two hours and was back on the road to Salina, KS by 11am. I was hoping to eat lunch at a cool spot in St. Louis but wasn't hungry yet, so I skipped it. When I finally did get hungry, I was close to Topeka, so I decided to eat there. 

I looked up places on TripAdvisor and settled on a place called The Brick in downtown that seemed to have decent reviews and was on my way. Seemed legit. Until I got there. The windows were dark and I didn't immediately see a door but there was an 'Open' sign in one of the dark windows, so I kept looking until I found a door. Just a plain wooden door with no window in it and peeling paint. It actually looked like the back door, but there were no trash cans indicating I was at the back door. And it was in the middle of a city block, so I couldn't imagine that it actually was the back door. I guessed it was the entrance, took a chance and walked in the door, which took me into a tiny room with another door in front of me and a curtain to the right. I took another chance and went through the second door instead of the curtain. Turned out to be the correct door, and finally I was inside. 

The girl who greeted me told me to sit anywhere, so I did. I didn't have long to check the menu since the server was on top of me the second I sat down, and since I immediately wanted to leave but thought it would be rude, I ordered the tater tots appetizer. I glanced at the description and saw that it was topped with cheese and just went with it. When it came, I was disappointed. It was basically nachos toppings with tots underneath. Black beans, sour cream, tomatoes, etc. doesn't sound terrible but it tastes how it looked. And it looked bad. I was in and out of that place in 15 minutes. 

The rest of the trip was fairly uneventful minus the toll road in BFKansas and the 75mph speed limits (yes, please!). Oh. And the wind. My lord, the wind was constant and made even my little car difficult to keep on the road. I couldn't even ride with my windows down because the beating of the wind against my head actually gave me a headache. 

When I finally got to the KOA campground in Salina, I was more than ready to sit down and relax. I was hoping for some shade and trees close enough to hang my hammock and just have some peace and quiet and not have to think about anything for a while. 

When I got out of the car, the heat and the wind hit me like a slap in the face. 92° and serious wind. Damnit. But no humidity! I can feel my skin drying out as I type. 

Once again the sites are on top of each other and my neighbor is an RVer. An older couple who immediately came out to help me set up since the wind was so bad. I'm so grateful for them because it would've taken me forever to do it by myself. They were very quiet despite my efforts to small talk them during setup. But what I was able to get out of them is that they were on their way to Vegas. Been here since yesterday and headed out tomorrow. When I got the stakes in the ground, I thanked them profusely and they went back to their RV. 

As I was blowing up my air mattress, the couple on the other side of me came barreling in like a herd of buffalo. They have not one, not two, but THREE children in tow. All boys and one with a cast on his arm (an American flag which makes me a little jealous because they certainly never gave me that option either time I broke my arm when I was a kid). I think, "There is no way these people are tent camping with all those kids," and go about my merry way airing up my mattress and assuming they aren't the ones in the site next to me. These people then proceeded to roll out their enormous tent right next to mine, and I almost regretted coming here completely. Especially since I'd already staked my tent into the ground to keep it from literally blowing away and the entrance was, of course, facing directly into their side. 

Heavy sigh. 

Irritated, I finished blowing up my mattress and went outside and pulled every single stake out of the ground and turned my tent to face another direction. I also pulled it a little farther away from their tent in the process. They were seriously right on top of me. 

When I finally got all my stuff set up, I decided to get some more ice for my cooler from the registration building and pour myself a glass of wine. I did offer my leftover ice to my neighbors in an attempt to open communication with them though, which opened the door for a little conversation. If you can't beat em, join em, right?! 

The woman was very nice and said they did need the extra nice and offered to help me with whatever I need. My mind immediately went to the still unopened Aquafina bottle sitting on the picnic table. I look at it and, for a split second consider asking them right then and there to give it a try, but I interrupted their setting up, and wanted to let them get back to it and made a note to ask them later. 

Well, it's later and I still have an unopened bottle of water because I just don't have the mental capacity to go over there and ask them (driving all day takes a lot out of me). That would require more small talk that I just don't have the energy for. But the blisters developing on my right hand from trying to open it are starting to concern me. I'll just get my parents to do it tomorrow. 

Anyway, I finally got everything set up, got a shower, put on clean clothes and poured myself a glass of wine. Went to sit on my air mattress and noticed it didn't seem as firm as I prefer it to be, so I put some more air in it and sat down again. As I caught up on text messages to those who were curious to hear how the trip is going so far, I noticed that I was sinking. Eventually my butt ended up on the ground and, once again, I found myself irritated. The mattress had somehow, between St. Louis, MO and Salina, KS — a 6 hour drive, gotten a hole in it! You have GOT to be kidding! 

So, I got up, got back in the car and went to Dick's. Thank goodness I figured this out before they closed. I was able to replace my mattress with the same one I had before. It was on sale. Can't imagine why! 

I am now back in my tent, safe and sound, lying on the new mattress. It seems that I am back in business and don't have to sleep on the ground tonight. Now, if the weather could cool off a little bit, the wind would die down and those trees could scooch a little closer to each other so my hammock would fit between them, this night would be perfect. 

Oh well, I'll just watch one of the movies I saved on my iPad instead. Because I still like my city comforts despite sleeping in a tent. 

Denver tomorrow! 

Monday, June 12, 2017

Road Trippin' Day 1

Today (Friday) marked Day 1 of my road trip to Colorado. Well, technically it was Day 1.2(ish). But I'll get to that later. 

For those of you going, "Why in the hell would someone DRIVE to Colorado?!" It's actually been on my bucket list for a long time. I've wanted to drive, by myself, halfway across America and take my time getting there, seeing the sites and camping along the way. So, lucky for me, my parents both retired about a month ago and had planned a two week long trip to Littleton, a small town outside of Denver. Timing is everything, folks. This opportunity not only gives me the chance to set out (albeit partly) on my own and cross this off my bucket list, but I also get the title of "Favorite Daughter" for a little while for making the effort to visit my parents. (Sorry, Erin!)

Win. Win. 

Long story short: I've now been planning this trip for months. I even invited J to come, but he's getting his Dietitian license and couldn't afford to miss over a week of school. Can't blame him there! Which brings me back to why this is Day 1.2. 

Since J wasn't able to come with me, and since he lives about an hour outside of Asheville, and I literally had to drive through Asheville on my road trip, I decided to leave Thursday night and camp in Asheville and have him meet me there when he got off work that afternoon. That way we got to see each other one last time before not seeing each other for two weeks.

J is a personal trainer and he offered to let me come work out at his gym on my way to Asheville Thursday night. And here is the first mistake I've made so far on this trip: I took him up on it. He said I could do whatever I wanted: cardio (he knows I love me some of that elliptical machine), the HIIT class one of his coworkers was teaching (he also knows I've been going to 9Round classes), OR I could come to his Crossfit class. 

"Oh, I've never done Crossfit before, can I do that?!"

Famous last words. 

Sure, he said. It'll be fun, he said. I'll scale down it for you, he said. (I was worried about not being able to do it at all.) 

Well, like I said, this was my first EVER cross fit class and needless to say, less than 24 hours later, I'm having a hard time sitting down. Getting in and out of my car on this trip has been... difficult. To say the least. Especially since I've now reached the age where I get fairly stiff anyway after sitting down for a certain amount of time, adding soreness to that has not been fun. So far, I've avoided stopping until I absolutely have to. 

But, despite all this (or perhaps because of it), I would probably do another Crossfit class because it was actually really fun. And despite not feeling like I did much during the exercise (because I didn't sweat like I do at 9Round), I HURT today. Which is ultimately a good thing. 

Anyway, we had a good time last night. Ate at Standard Pizza in Asheville which broadened my pizza horizons, believe it or not. I got a slice of the "Cuban," which is banana, bacon, jalapeƱos and ricotta cheese toppings. And, while it may sound disgusting, this is actually their most popular slice, and I agree wholeheartedly! It was one of the best pizza slices I've ever eaten. I may even give that kind with pineapple and ham another chance. Whatever it's called. 

This morning came too soon, and we packed everything up and got ready to say our goodbyes. But first, breakfast. 

Since it's a 9 hour drive from Asheville, J and I went to an Ingles on crack that had a Starbucks, fresh donuts, an entire lunch/dinner hot bar (at 8am), AND a hot breakfast bar. It was like Whole Foods but with a crap ton more calories. And I'm a fan of calories. We walked straight to the donuts and, after quite some deliberation, picked out 3 of them and headed toward Starbucks for some coffee. As we were walking toward Starbucks, J saw the hot breakfast bar and we both knew we were putting those donuts back. Immediately. 

And it was worth it. 

After that huge breakfast, I wasn't hungry the entire 9-hour trip. But what I did get was thirsty. So, when I stopped for gas, I got a huge bottle of Aquafina and a double shot espresso. This gas station also just-so-happened to be attached to a DQ (not done on purpose, whatsoever on my part), so I decided to get a dipped cone. For old time's sake. You know. To remind me of my skinnier days. Or something. 

While sitting in the drive thru line, I tried to open the bottle of water I got. 

And I tried. 

And I tried. 

I tried with my hand, I tried with a towel for leverage, I tried with a sweater. I even took a break and tried again. 

It would. Not. Budge! What the hell?! 

So, of course, all of a sudden, I'm having a thirst emergency. I tried to get that bottle open the entire time I was waiting in the drive thru and it wouldn't move. So I Macgiver'd the situation (if you can call it that) and got a cup of ice from DQ and used water from the gallon jug I had in my trunk. Problem solved for now, but trying to open that water bottle almost made my hand too sore to screw off the cap of the bottle of wine I got later that night, and those who know me know how serious an issue that is. 

Anyway, back to the actual subject. Y'all. Cahokia, IL is TINY. 15,000 it said on the sign coming in. It's also rather sketchy, which former campers failed to mention on their TripAdvisor reviews of this place. I've heard horror stories about females traveling alone, and let me just say, I wouldn't stay here again. Not only because of that, but because there might be 6 trees in this entire campground. NO shade and no place to hang up my hammock. Not to mention the spots are super close together. Me, my tent, my propane stove and my car are literally sandwiched between two RVs. And there's another [empty] tent spot right next to me in between those. 

I'm pretty sure no less than 3 families watched me set up my tent. So, because of this, I brought out the hatchet my boyfriend gave to me earlier today that can also be used as a hammer. And I used it to hammer in every stake in my tent. I did this partly because the ground is about 50% rock and stomping them in with my shoe wasn't cutting it and partly because I wanted those people staring to think I'm a crazy solo camper and DON'T MESS WITH ME. 

I can't wait to get stared at while cooking my hotdogs later. 

After I set up my tent in the blazing hot sun, I took a quick, cool shower and left the campground in search of wine. This being a rough looking area, I didn't want to leave my tent for long, so I went about .5 miles down the road to a gas station. Thank goodness you can buy wine at gas stations in IL because I wasn't about to go further than that. I got in and got out as quickly as possible with the whole expedition being made easier because of the total of 7 wines I had to choose from (that were cold). I got the one with the highest alcohol content (10.5%) and got the hell out of there. 

Now I'm sitting in my tent, drinking wine and writing this post. And getting hungrier every minute. 

And I STILL haven't gotten that bottle of water open. Seriously. What the hell, Aquafina?!

Now, if you'll excuse me, I've got hotdogs to cook, people to entertain while I do it, and Z, The Beginning of Everything saved on my iPad to keep me entertained tonight. 

St. Louis zoo tomorrow morning!