Catching Up: A Quick Review of 2015.

Dear Cyber-Friends,

My first non-book-review post of 2016! I know it’s been a while since I’ve written about my own physical life adventures, so I thought I should take a moment today to write a post I’ve been putting off.

2015 was really hard. I started out last year having really high hopes. I was living and working in a beautiful snow-covered Rocky Mountains winter wonderland, learning and loving to cross-country ski, and having a job I pretty much enjoyed. All that fell apart pretty quick; the snow melted early, I stopped having the time and energy to ski, my housemates were mostly various kinds of awful, and I worked with half of them on a daily basis. I tried to make the best of it, but depression hits pretty thoroughly sometimes, and I spent the rest of the time basically gritting my teeth and waiting to escape at the end of the season. It sucked, because I wanted so hard to be able to appreciate the amazing place I happened to live it at the time, but all I wanted to do was hide until I could run away.

My spring road trip has been, eventually, fully detailed in the blog, as have parts of the following summer drama in Colorado. Suffice it to say, summer was basically a repeat of winter, but with added “fun” of getting injured in my right shoulder and unable to work the majority of my time on the ranch. Cue depression and alienation, with the side bonus of lost wages and extra paperwork.

I clung to plans of escape when the season was over, and left as soon as I could, leaving the ranch for the final time in the early dawn light and not looking back. Shortly after my return to the Northwest Coast, the region I’d been daydreaming about with nostalgic feelings of being as close to home as I can get these days, Mum came over from Hawaii to visit.

As glad as I was to escape the people and politics of the Mid-West, seeing my Mum was incomparably better. I played the driver, and took Mum up and down the northern part of the Washington coastal region while we visited her parents. We got to spend the last few days together, just the two of us, and getting to spend all that time with Mum…well, my heart is aching and I’m getting an about-to-cry feeling again just thinking about it, I miss her so much. If I could stand the bugs and the weather and the job market and the housing issue and all the rest of the stuff that comes from living in one of the poorest parts of the jungle side of an island in the middle of the biggest ocean, well, I won’t hesitate to be closer to my Mum. My sister is pretty astonishingly lucky that she managed to make it work.

Anyway. Mum left and according to my plan I should have started immediately to figure out the details of moving to Portland. I didn’t. I tried, but my heart wasn’t in it. I wanted to be in Portland eventually, but over the course of about a week I realized what I need to do first was give myself time and permission to just STOP for a while. Stop running from one thing to the next, stop pushing myself to keep going so I can’t feel how burnt out I’m getting, stop trying to fake being okay so hard. I needed time to wallow, to hurt, to distract myself, to be lazy and indulgent, to get to do all those things in a place where I was safe and not judged for it. I needed to let myself let go of the past year so I could finally start to process and heal from all of it. I needed to do those things before I could have my fresh start.

So now it’s 2016. I just left Seattle finally, and am staying with an Aunt and Uncle in Tacoma while I gear myself back up to really actually for-sure-this-time start to act on my plans for Portland. I’m less hurt emotionally than I was before I took time off from being a “responsible adult”. I still feel the wounds of the past year, still have the new battle-scars, the aches and wariness, the depression and lingering suspicion. But I also feel more confident, more self-possessed, more me. It’s not perfect, but then, life never is perfect. The trick is to learn how to embrace the messy bits and make them into a new kind of perfect. Not the all-encompassing kind; the quiet contented kind that creeps in during the little moments.

I’m typing this upstairs in the guest bedroom, warm orange-red walls reflecting the soft yellow glow of the overhead light down onto the desk. Outside it’s overcast and has started to rain enough to hear it through the window and on the roof. This morning I woke to the smell of baking bread. Right now I can hear the rain, and muffled traffic, and the music I’m playing very quietly, and voices from whatever my aunt is listening to downstairs. The house has a faint and constant scent of incense and essential oils that’s saturated into the walls and the paint and the rugs over the years. There’s nothing big or flashing about this moment. But when I stop to notice it, I feel a sense contentment and home-y-ness that’s as close to perfection as I ever really need out of life.

Now I just need to figure out how to create and support this for myself in Portland…

Wish me luck, my friends, as I wish you luck in finding your own kind of perfect in the New Year.

Love,

GeGi.

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Trip Log: Destination, eventually.

Dear Cyber-Friends,

The end is in sight! Last post was pretty much it for photos, as I said, but clearly the trip doesn’t finish with my driving off into the sunrise on my way to Texas, since I’m currently in Colorado. So, despite not having pictures, I’m still going to complete the story.

After spending the day in Carlsbad and the night in a motel room, I headed off towards Fort Worth. I had two days to get there, but decided that one night in an actual bed wasn’t nearly enough, so I found a cheap motel to spend the night on my own, which was just as luxurious as it sounds after weeks of car-camping in the desert.

The next day, I finally arrived at my friend’s, and could actually and completely relax for a while. It was super fun, of course; I got to go to a geek girl meet-up at a comic book store, read stacks of comics, eat real food, visit with new friends, have internet without finding a library first (shout-out to the awesomeness of libraries having free wi-fi, fyi), and to top it all off, spend the weekend going to Scarborough Renaissance Festival! I had a fantastic time, saw wonderful performances, buy cool stuff, eat faire food, the whole nine. It was perfect.

But all too soon, it was time to head out again so I wouldn’t be late to my summer job. I considered more road-trip camping, but spending a long weekend sleeping on a comfy couch ruined me, and I decided to spend a loooooong day of driving to go straight to Fort Collins, CO, where I booked a bed at an international hostel for a couple days.

On the way, I accidentally locked my keys in the car at a rest stop and was rescued by a very sweet old couple in a huge camper van. Thank goodness for my AAA membership and the kindness of strangers taking pity on a very freaked out panicking young woman. (That’s all I have to say about that. It was highly embarrassing.)

Eventually I made it safely to the hostel, which was in a fabulous building literally built around a huge plant-filled conservatory. Apparently had been designed and owned as a private home for a photographer who liked a natural-light studio. Now it’s owned by a mother-daughter duo who are very welcoming and nice, and have lots of coffee and waffles in the morning for their guests.

I got to explore Fort Collins a bit, which was really fun, and stock up on various supplies I’d need for the upcoming summer — like my very first pair of actually grown-up cowboy boots! (I had a pair I wore a lot as a kid, but never as an adult until now.) Eventually the day arrived to get to the ranch, and I headed out yet again. I took a detour to drive through part of Rocky Mountain National Park (totally gorgeous, but at that point still snowed in at the top), and then at long last I started reaching familiar places from my previous summer on the ranch.

The time had come to stop moving for a while and actually settle in for a few months of work.

One last photo, of my area of the shared bedroom:

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And that, my friends, brings this tale of travel to an end. I hope you all enjoyed the photos and stories.

Until next time,

Love,

GeGi.

Trip Log: Photo Album, part nine.

Dear Cyber-Friends,

I promised more words and fewer photos this time, and I meant it.

At this point in my trip, I had been camping outside Island In The Sky district for nearly a week. I was actually starting to get a little burnt out on this part of my trip, mostly because I’d reached a place where everything was reminding me of my family and how much fun we’d had doing family vacation road trips like this, and how much I wanted to share this experience with them by having them there, and how much better everything would be if they were with me.

In short, I was ready to move on to something new and distracting.

But before I did that, there was one overlook in Island In The Sky that I hadn’t been to yet:

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I have to admit, seeing this really made me want to be on that river, having an Edward Abbey’s Desert Solitaire experience of my own…

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Finally I headed out for good. I was so glad to be on the road again, that I very nearly didn’t want to stop for anything. However, I knew I couldn’t just pass somewhere as incredible as Mesa Verde without at least a peek at the famous cliff-dwellings.

There’s just one photo I really want to share of that; mostly it’s a you-gotta-be-there kind of place. There’s so many sites with so much information — honestly I just kept thinking of how much my Mum needed to come there.

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I continued on to New Mexico, camping overnight before reaching Santa Fe, heading down to see Billy The Kid’s grave, and finally stopping for a couple days in Roswell. Those last two were primarily to make my sister envious; in her words — Billy the Kid and aliens = so her. Someday, she and I will have to road trip in New Mexico together.

I had pretty much stopped taking photos for this part of the trip. I was getting exhausted, honestly, and I just wanted to take a break. I was putting in long days of driving broken up with days of doing pretty much nothing. I was focused on the goal of this entire trip: reaching Fort Worth in time to meet up and stay with a Twitter-Friend, and go to a Renaissance Festival with her. Not doing a lot of exploring of the places I was passing through meant I was actually ahead of schedule and had a few extra days before I had to be there — hence my last-minute addition of Roswell, and Carlsbad Caverns, to my trip plans.

I had grown up in a place that lacked natural cavern systems, but I had read about them and dreamed about exploring them since I was a little kid, and one of my favorite things about living in Hawaii was getting to explore lava tubes. I love being underground, in caves and caverns. When I get in them, I want to never leave. There’s something so peaceful and reassuring and exciting and right about being surrounded by total darkness and utter quiet stillness. I feel safe there, embraced and welcomed by earth. I never get claustrophobia or even a little bit nervous or scare, even when I’m squeezing through a tiny space in a lava tube or in complete pitch black. It’s probably weird, but I always feel totally fine when I’m underground.

All that said, when I checked out my road map and figured out timing, I realized I had plenty of time to take a detour to Carlsbad. Obviously, there was NO. WAY. I was going to miss this chance. A day exploring a famous huge cavern system? That sounded like a perfect way to relax and recover, something just for me.

Next Time on Geek Girl Travels, see part one of the approximately 60 photos of being in caves that I’ve narrowed down from probably over a hundred I took.

Love,

GeGi.

Trip Log: Photo Album, part two.

Dear Cyber-Friends,

I’m being smart and getting this post ready ahead of time. Yay for the “schedule posts” feature! Anyway, I’m continuing the photo-album-by-location thing. This time, it’s the photos I took along the Colorado River as I drove back into Utah.

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Wow, amiright? Seriously, I am so hard-core in love with this scenery…

Love,

GeGi.

Trip Log: Photo Album, part one.

Dear Cyber-Friends,

I promised you photos, and I intend to follow through on that promise. I’ve got the pictures from my trip on the computer (finally), and have been intermittently trying to sort through them to pick the very best to share with all of you — rather than overwhelming you with hundreds of views of scenery.

HOWEVER. This attempt is being stalled by the fact that the scenery in question is very beautiful, and very unique, and I really can’t decide because it’s all so gorgeous. So I’ve decided on an alternative plan. I’ll be posting the photos in batches, by location, in chronological order. First up: Colorado National Monument.

The first scenic overlook I stopped at...

The first scenic overlook I stopped at…

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(I did warn you there were a lot of photos, right?)

The second overlook...

The second overlook…

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I’ve uploaded these in large batches, so they might be slightly out of order, but you get the gist: Freaking. Beautiful.

Anyway, that’s the first “photo album” location. Stay tuned for more to come… and there may be regular wordy posts in-between once in a while, if I have something to say. I probably do, but I currently have the last bits of a lingering head cold as well, so I can’t think of word-type-stuff right now.

Enjoy the scenery!

Love,

GeGi.

Trip Log: Catching Up… So Much Catching Up.

Dear Cyber-Friends,

Clearly, I overestimated my updating frequency while on the road. This will be the “words” post; later I will do the “photos” post. This is because 1) I’m too lazy to go get the cable for my camera right now; B) It’ll be faster to update those things seperately; Cat) This is my blog and I do what I want.

[Note: thanks to my favorite community Snark Squad for both the unique and fun counting system, and the motto I’ve borrowed at the end of the list.]

Moving on…

When last I left you, I was spending a day relaxing in Colorado with a friend before heading out to the Canyonlands. Thanks to said friend, I took a couple detours when I hit the road again. First, I drove through the Colorado National Monument, occasionally stopping to photograph the stunning views each new corner and turn revealed along the edge of the mesa. Next, I abandoned the freeway again to drive a twisty-turny highway that followed part of the Colorado River — again, every new bend showed landscape even more beautiful than the last. This is about the time I also started noticing a lot of classic cars on the road.

When I reached the town of Moab that afternoon, I soon realized why I was seeing so many classic cars: there was a car show in town for the weekend. Needless to say, the place was super packed and there were no campsites or rooms left anywhere. Clearly, I rock at planning.

Long story short, this is how I ended up spending the weekend camping in the small town of Green River, about an hour north of my intended destination. It actually worked out just fine; I got to test out my camping setup for the first time, while in a place I could get supplies close by, and I even got a free upgrade to sleep in a cabin the second night. It gave me a much-needed day of doing nothing, and I could drive down to Arches National Park and spend some time exploring. That day, I drove to the end of the road in Arches, and hiked out to Landscape Arch, then took the “primitive trail” all the way out through Devil’s Garden to Black Angel and back. It was about seven miles, I think, and completely gorgeous.

On Monday I figured things had probably calmed down a bit back in Moab. I packed up my campsite, and headed south. I ended up renting a pretty nice site in Horse Thief Campground, part of the way up the road towards the Island In the Sky entrance to Canyonlands National Park. It actually worked out much to my advantage — the higher elevation meant cooler temperatures, and being on the edge of the mesa meant there was usually a refreshing breeze. This was all to the good, because the weather had finally cleared up, and it was SUNNY in the desert, and getting hotter every day. Have I mentioned I’m not good at handling the heat? I get pretty tired and cranky very quickly…which makes me think I must have failed a sanity check when I decided a trip to the Southwest would be a great idea. Again, I really got this whole “planning” thing down, right?

Anyway, with my new campsite set up, and no intention of leaving for the rest of the week, I was free to explore the surrounding area at my leisure. I attended a couple very interesting ranger talks at Island In The Sky, took a hike out past the Grand Overlook to the very edge of the mesa, poked around in Arches a bit more, drove out to the Needles Overlook area, saw Newspaper Rock, and drove through the Needles district of Canyonlands. There’s lots of photos, and I totally fell in love with a lot of the areas, but especially towards the end of the week I just couldn’t stop thinking how much I wished my family — and in particular my Mum — were there too, and how much more fun it would have been to be exploring together. I had a lot of wistful remembering about the family camping trips we used to have, and the road trips Mum and I took.

Eventually the time came to move on again. I headed out to New Mexico, by way of Mesa Verde. It was as fascinating as I’d imagined to see the cliff-dwellings there, though I didn’t spend much time in the park. Northern New Mexico reminded me a surprising amount of the Inland Northwest, except everything was smaller (trees, hills, etc). I ended up spending the night in Carson National Park, at a campsite next to a natural amphitheater.

The next day I headed into Santa Fe, where I was impressed by the number of people who showed up at the exact time the library was supposed to open, and waited the ten-to-fifteen minutes it took before the librarians actually unlocked the doors. I’ve been using libraries the whole trip for their free wi-fi, their clean bathrooms, and their book-sales. Books and audio-cds have pretty much been the one “souvenir” type things I’ve been getting on this trip — library sales are awesome that way, and super affordable. Plus the audio-cds make long driving days go by much faster.

After the library, I wandered about the streets of Santa Fe for a little while, but after a week of being in one place I was still antsy to hit the road more. I drove through some neighborhoods on my way out of town, and between those two things I saw enough of Santa Fe to make me want to go back someday. It is BEAUTIFUL there, and I adore the architecture style.

After that, I headed down to Fort Sumner to see Billy The Kid’s grave and museum. This is because when I was first planning my trip, I noticed it on a map and mentioned it jokingly to my sister, and she was so excited and jealous it became something I HAD to do. Obviously.

It was actually very cool to be there, and kind of heart-touchingly sad — the headstone is for Billy and two of his ‘pals’ (as it says on the engraving), and all three are buried side-by-side. The “unofficial” museum in Fort Sumner was also worth checking out; they have a lot of historical artifacts from various eras, not just Billy The Kid stuff, but they also have some very cool Billy stuff that you wouldn’t see elsewhere — like his gun, and a photo of him playing croquet with some friends. The video about the Lincoln County War and Billy’s life was really interesting, too. I sent my sister a lot of pictures.

After that, I kept heading south. Destination: Roswell, NM. This was another “for my sister” thing, really. As she texted me at one point, “Aliens and Cowboys – New Mexico sounds perfect for me!” (this statement is entirely accurate). I camped outside of Roswell for a couple nights at Bottomless Lakes State Park — if there were any aliens around, they failed to abduct me or even show up — and wandered through the town a bit. I couldn’t help thinking how much more fun it would be to explore it with my sister. Plus, the weather and the location were conspiring to be very desert-like with the whole hot-and-sunny thing, and I’ve mentioned already what a fan of that I am.

When I moved on, I headed down to Carlsbad Caverns. I spend pretty much the entire day deep underground, which is one of my happy-places. Seriously, every time I’m in a cavern/cave/lava tube, I want to just live there. Without all the other people. Anyway, there was a storm warning in effect that day, so only two parts of the cavern were open in case of flooding. There will be lots of photos from here.

While in the caverns, I ended up conversing with another traveler/seasonal-worker — she was also heading to Colorado for the summer, though to a different place — and we ended up deciding to split a motel room since neither of us felt like camping in the rain. It turned out to be pretty fun, and of course the lure of a real bed and a hot shower (and a hot-tub! And we split a pizza for dinner!) was quite the siren-song to begin with. We went our separate ways in the morning; I headed into Texas.

Now, given that the ENTIRE REGION was apparently covered by this particular storm, I’m pretty sure I didn’t have the most typical of Texas experiences, weather-wise. Anyway, due to the rain and the being spoiled by sleeping a bed again, I spent the night in a motel again, and then the next day, I finally, at long last, reached my ultimate destination/reason/excuse for this whole trip: my twitter friend’s home in Fort Worth, she of the Renaissance Faire and homemade cheesecake temptations.

It was fantastic getting to meet her for the first time, finally getting to put face and voice and mannerisms to the person I’d been friends with for so long. The first night we went to a Girl’s Night at one of her local comic book stores, which was super fun, of course. I got to read through much of her comics collection (with regular updates via twitter to a mutual friend and fellow comic book enthusiast in France). There was, indeed, a cheesecake to be eaten. And, as if all that wasn’t reason enough to visit and have an amazing time, there was the Scarborough Renaissance Festival itself.

I had bought a weekend pass prior to leaving Montana, so that helped take the pressure off of trying to see everything in one day. The weather was pretty cooperative the first day, alternating clouds and sun, and we wandered about and watched performances and poked in various shops. I bought a longbow so I can start practicing my archery again this summer. We ate funnel cake (my first time with that particular treat). I drooled over all the pretty clothes and weapons. We went home exhausted from a full day of fun.

The next day, the weather was less cooperative, alternating darker clouds with occasional downpours. There were far fewer patrons to the faire, which meant a lot of personal attention from everyone working and trying to sell stuff. But it also meant we always got great seats to the shows! I bought a leather wrist cuff, and we split a turkey leg (which was rumored to actually be an emu leg) for lunch. The shows were great, but ultimately the faire ended up closing an hour or two early due to possible tornado/severe downpour warnings. Despite that, I still have a great day, and was marginally less exhausted (though I did end up falling asleep in the car).

I took an extra day in Fort Worth to just recover and regroup, before heading out early yesterday. I decided I was ready to call it good on the camping front, and on the driving-every-day front, so I spent the entire day on the road to make it all the way up to a great-sounding hostel in Fort Collins, CO for my last days of freedom before I go back to work.

At this point in my tale, I have to pause to give a shout-out to K/Cathy and Trevor, a couple of very kind random strangers I met at a random Rest Stop. The reason for this is because I had an extremely embarrassing and panic-inducing “oh shit” moment, where I locked my keys in my car. After the first wave of denial (“No way did I just do that”) and freaking out (“I’ll break into it somehow!”), I got my rational brain back in gear and flagged down passing said random strangers to ask if I could use their phone. Never have I been happier to have good triple-A coverage. C/Kathy and Trevor not only let me use their phone, but invited me to wait with them in their RV. They even fed me, and were totally cool about having a total stranger hanging out with them for the hour-long wait.

Anyway, my car finally got unlocked (for free! Sort of. Yay for having coverage, anyway.), and I got back on the road. I arrived at the hostel late last night, and immediately went to bed after that far-too-long drive. By the way, this particular hostel has tempur-pedic mattresses on their beds, and tropical-plant-filled covered courtyard in the middle of the house, and waffles for breakfast, and wi-fi everywhere. So I’ll be spending the next couple days here.

On Friday I’ll head out for my last three hours on the road, to go back to my summer guest ranch and begin pre-season work. It’ll be nice to have some money coming in again — though amazingly, I think I’ve managed to stay under-budget this trip! — , and to finally unpack and organize all the stuff in my car, but I’m wondering how hard it’ll be to adjust to staying in one place for months. This road trip has been, at the heart, some real fantasy-fulfillment for me; the ultimate dream of being able to just jump in the car and take off whenever I feel like it, to where-ever I feel like, never having to backtrack or be anywhere at a certain time, never having to stop when I still feel like driving, never having to be answerable to other people…

On the other hand, transient life can wear you down after a while. Taking a break from it, like with most things, will give it meaning and a specialness when I start traveling again. And a guest ranch really isn’t that bad of a place to spend a summer, after all.

Safe travels, everyone.

Love,

GeGi.

Trip Log: So Much Driving, So Many Photos.

Dear Cyber-Friends,

After leaving my brother’s in Oregon, I crossed the state and entered Nevada for the first time.

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I spent the day driving, listening to “The Hot Zone”, one of the audiobooks I’d bought in Portland. When it started getting dark and I started getting tired, I pulled into a convenient and empty rest stop to spend the night in the middle of nowhere.

My First Nevada Sunset.

My First Nevada Sunset.

The next day I reached a town where I was supposed to meet up with a friend from Idaho, but that turned into a missed connection. I spent a few hours wandering around, though, which felt pretty good after so long in the car. And I got to recharge my laptop at the local library, which was a bonus.

Further into Nevada, I stopped to walk around again at a Recreational Area with a petroglyph interpretive trail, and took a lot of pictures…and even made a new lizard-friend!

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I continued on, again driving until the day was almost over and I was getting tired. Near the border with Utah, I stopped at Great Basin National Park to spend the night in one of their campgrounds. I drove up the road a bit in the morning, and had a great view into the basin from the foothills.

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Crossing into Utah, I really started to fall in love with the southwest. Here’s a great example of why:

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Photos do not do it justice. Around almost every corner it felt like there was a new sweeping vista of cliffs and valleys to take my breath away with sheer awe. Intellectually, I knew what to expect from this area; I was not prepared at all for the actual experience.

I crossed Utah pretty quickly, despite stopping multiple times just to take in the sights. By evening, I’d reached a different friend’s house just over the border in Palisade, Colorado. I spent yesterday there; visiting, relaxing, planning my next leg of the trip, going to a winery, and walking through Riverbend Park where I took more pictures.

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Today I’m hitting the road again. For the next couple weeks, I’ll be exploring Arches, Moab, Canyonlands, Mesa Verde, and various surrounding areas, before heading down into New Mexico and on to Texas.

Updates may be a bit sporadic for a while, but rest assured I’ll have some impressive photos to share once I’m online again! I’ve finally gotten around to getting my actual camera out (as opposed to my phone, which is what I’ve been using for all these photos), and I even made sure both sets of batteries are fully charged.

The desert awaits!

Love,

GeGi.