Montana and The Weber Family!!!!!

So before really getting into my time with the Webers I need to post the other two collages of sky pictures I have….

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Wyoming….

I left Denver by rideshare on a beautiful morning headed for Cody, Wyoming. I was in for a treat as I moved north in the heartland of the USA. I have never been to Wyoming or Montana even though I have wanted to since I was in my mid twenties. I should have taken the kids here camping while they were growing up.

I have been amazed with the skies!!! Simply breath taking.

My friend in Denver, Richard, did not really get couch surfing so ride-sharing was way beyond him. He was a nervous wreck about me going into a person’s car I had never met. I had found a ride-share through Craigslist. I am an aware enough traveler to check the references on my rides. Still Richard insisted on driving me to meet him. I think Richard finally calmed down when he realized I was going to be in the car with the sheriff of Cody. Actually so was I. I had a great time on the ride and he was great about telling me all about the history of the places we drove through. Just before getting to my couch surfing place in Cody we stopped at a very old (like a couple of hundred years old) saloon. What a hoot. I loved it. Met a guy, the one sitting next to me in the pictures below, who grew up there and the entire town seems to take care of since he is a bit dependent on them after his parents have died. There were several books written by the owner on Cowboy Economics to which I learned a bit. After a couple of beer it was on to my couch surfers….

Couch surfing at the Pollocks. Such a treat. Robbin had just had surgery (yet she was still planning on going camping that upcoming weekend) and was set to be resting on the couch. But nope. She moved around the kitchen setting out food stuff and making sure everyone was comfortable. There was another set of csers there too from back east on their way to Yellowstone. It is always so much fun to be sharing a host. That way not only do you meet the host, but also someone who is traveling too.

Jim cooked a wonderful fish dinner and I sat with the daughter still at home and her friends on the couch. We all had a really nice time. That night Jim called me out to show me the incredible sky with all the stars in it. I have no words. I just loved talking with this family. They are so warm and loving. I feel very blessed that they accepted my request. I know I will see them again in the future.

This family is big into camping and go all the time. They live at the mouth of Yellowstone so that’s convenient. Anyway, Jim is in construction and has this fantastic outdoor fireplace and chimney they have built with rocks from the adventures. I want one!!!

I needed to get to Billings, Montana to meet my friend for a ride to Great Falls. Normally I would have been able to ride there with Robbin because she is a nurse in a hospital there and commutes, but since she was on leave she kindly found me another nurse going that way. YEAH!!!

Next time I go to Cody I hope they will take me with them on a trip to Yellowstone. 😀

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Denver

Woke up to iced coffee and a sausage McMuffin for nourishment on my travels to Denver (thanks Melissa). Got my back pack and my carry on into Jessie’s car and we were off by 8:15 am. I have really not done all that much traveling by air during this journey so it is always a luxury.
Once at the airport I got thru to get my ticket and since I already had my seat assigned I was off to the gate with no hassles.
It was so cool to be on the inaugural flight of Frontier from Knoxville to Denver. There were lots of animals from the Knoxville Zoo on display, Starbucks was there with coffee and treats, news crews were there and they gave away free t-shirts. Also they gave us ear phones b/c we were given free access to the TV. Nice treat.
Our flight arrived 25 minute early. I have never been on a plane that was anywhere near that early before! AWESOME!!
The other incredible thing is flying without ANY checked luggage. As I mentioned those benefits in an earlier post.
I went straight to eat something and then see a bit of what is becoming an anomaly, the Denver Airport. Very strange airport and goings on reported at this airport. But something I haven’t spent much time researching. There were a lot of odd murals that is for sure.  I took the express bus costing $9 with a free transfer for any of the public transportation options downtown. I had read that Denver was extremely commuter friendly and it didn’t disappoint.

I was in Denver for two weeks and during that time I stayed at four different couch surfing hosts and with a high school friend, Richard Ybarra, so I was moving around a lot.

The first couple of nights I stayed with a really nice family in a great area just outside downtown Denver. They had the coolest dog ever. An Alaskan Malamute who I swear can say “I love you”. I immediately got a headache and had to go to bed. I was really weak. I guess I didn’t give enough credence to the mile high tips as I should have. It was a great place to relax and to get used to the altitude. We had some wonderful meals and lots of good conversation.

I went fishing with Richard and his son and grandson while I was with my first hosts. It was a really hard concept, this couch surfing, for my friend to take in. I had an interesting time convincing him and his family (all of whom have relocated from Southern California to Denver) that it was safe and that I am not totally crazy. Since they have known me since I was in the third grade though they have always known I was a bit off any way. 🙂

Richard and his niece,  Alyssa, dropped me off at Orin’s and Liz’s who were my next hosts for a three day stay. It was there that my backpack broke. Both of my hosts are well-traveled hikers and Orin told me that part of the weight that was hurting my back so much was from the metal all over my backpack. All of the latches, zippers, handles, and pullies on it are hard metal. Weighing it down considerably before I even got anything in it. He gave the backpack a quick fix till I could go in the next day or two to get another one.

At Paula’s, my next host, I started looking up packs online. Then we went to several stores. I finally found the one that I wanted. Also black with grey and white added. I am happier with them aesthetically and with less weight it is much much easier.

Paula and I had such a nice time relaxing and talking she has an AMAZING view of Denver from her window and we cooked meals to eat with glasses of wine on the balcony and just enjoy the views. She was just getting ready at 66 yrs old to embark on a really grand trip herself and we shared lots of tips.

The last couch surfing place I stayed in Denver was Annikah’s. I actually stayed with her for two nights before she left on a volunteering trip of her own in upper state New York for a month. See, it really seems like there are a lot of people that are like-minded to me in Denver!

I have to say I love Denver so much. The architecture blows me away. It is so beautiful. The city is so bicycle friendly. In downtown where one has to go up steps there is a slot to put the bike wheels so you can walk it along side of you up the steps. I loved that where there was a chain link fence a group had gotten together and knitted a floral design right into the chain links to make is so much prettier. All over downtown there were these random pianos. Wildly painted for anyone and everyone to just play. There is a creek that runs through it with bike paths literally everywhere.

The food was good and the beer even better.

Have I mentioned I really like DENVER?

Some of the best times I had while in Denver was fishing with the Ybarras. Lots of laughs, lots of relaxation, but alas no fish. HA

 

The other really cool outing I did while I was there was with my host, Paula. She took me to the famous Red Rock Amphitheater: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Red_Rocks_Amphitheatre. WOW!! The history, the acoustics and the views. Anyone who goes to Denver and doesn’t make this place a number one thing to see with or without a concert is a fool.

I know that Denver is on my short list of places to live when I am done. The only thing it doesn’t have is a beach. Although it might be smart for me to try to visit a bit in say January before making a permanent decision. Time will tell…..

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Hassles of Luggage…..

After a few weeks being back in Knoxville I left TN again the first of June 2011. I was so glad to be back on the road again. It seems its in my blood to travel. Even more so than I had originally thought. I knew from a very early age that I wanted to just be “going”, but didn’t have any idea how deep that ran within me. I have traveled with my kids their entire lives, but this is so different. The ability to change plans and go where I am drawn is just incredible.

One of the BIGGEST mistakes I made in the beginning was too much luggage. I’ve learned this lesson and am benefiting from learning it BEFORE leaving the USA.

When I Started the Journey 2011

Luggage I left Knoxville with June 2011. Colors don't match, but still a lot better...

Current Luggage!! Now I Match and Can Move About At Will....

SO…..

There are many lessons I am learning. One of the main ones has been how little material things I need. This is beginning to sound like such a cliché in our society (and so few people really do it), but life is a lot more enjoyable the more we simplify.

I took several months before I began my current journey getting rid of almost everything I owned. I have roughly 15 boxes in a friend’s attic back in Tennessee, but the rest of my things are gone.

The first time I took a cruise with my family in 1996 we over packed even though I thought we had done so well. I heard from many seasoned cruisers on that trip that the trick most adhere to is to pack everything you “think” you might need about a week before the cruise. Two days later take out half of the stuff you packed. Two days after that reduce the remaining stuff by half and then the day before you leave do it once more. Still one will certainly still have too much stuff after all the reducing. The wisdom of that rule proved itself to me on later cruises.

Well I made the same mistake (even though I would have sworn I had mastered packing for trips) in April 2010. I took along so much more than I ever needed. And it caused a lot of issues. From the aches of pulling, dragging and hauling all this stuff to not being able to enjoy several last-minute opportunities because of luggage…

I rely on public transportation and ride shares to travel everywhere. I am a solo traveler without any help so this is the one area I have to be sensible and I sure wasn’t in the beginning. The thing is I THOUGHT I had really done so well. I was wrong.

After I was burglarized I got a new lesson in doing without for a bit. But since I lived with South Beach models for a few weeks I soon had more than enough clothes again. I’d made a decision that when I stopped back in Tennessee to see Marley and friends I would pack only a very small carry on and a day backpack. Ideally I would love to be able to travel with only a day pack. I doubt it will ever happen, but this is good too.

So when I flew out of Knoxville on my way to Denver I had no luggage that had to be checked in! It was wonderful to fly without that hassle included. Although when I went through security at the airport I was not happy that I they took my new toothpaste, lotion and conditioner I had bought but forgot that they would be carried on with me so I hadn’t thought to look into the size allowances. It was a small price to pay for all the advantages.

The backpack I left Knoxville with this year was the same one that has been with me since the beginning. My dear and special friend, Jessica Young, gave me hers. It is a UT-K college backpack. It has been through a lot with me. I got the pink carry on from my other great friend, Callie Spears.

For convenience and ease I was set. Aesthetically I was not. I do not like purple and red together nor do I like orange and pink together. Those that know me know if something is bugging me I get a bit obsessive about it. So having two of the things that have to be with me all the time such an awful mixture of colors drove me crazy.

It worked out that once in Denver a week apart both my backpack and then my carry-on broke from all the wear and tear. I replaced both in black. All was right with the luggage.

Lesson learned and action taken


What a difference it makes having just two really small and light pieces of external stuff to take with me everywhere. I can get up and go when I have an opportunity I want to take. I can walk, get on buses and move around with no problems!

I pull behind me the carry-on (or lift when needed by the Velcro handle) with most of my clothes, the electrical plugs and toiletries inside. Then in the backpack I have a set of clothes, a spare pair of shoes, my netbook, camera, iPod, phone and beach reading. Plus it has a place for wallet and ID in the front pouch. When I am on the go I usually put the backpack on top of the carry on and secure it to the pull bar and just use the wheels.

It has been such better way to travel. I don’t think that I will ever get down to just the backpack as I would have liked, but this is definitely the next best thing.

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Way way to long since last post…

Seems that the last time I put up a live post was 5 months ago. This upsets me.

After I left New Orléans for Florida I was so haunted by my visits and what I had learned about the still ongoing aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and wanted to really try to put into words what my heart felt about all the sadness. As I was working on that post offline on my desktop I also wrote offline posts about what I was experiencing in Florida. I had about 5 offline posts and a plethora of pictures that I lost when I was burglarized.

I had everything that was with me taken. This is fine. I actually knew at some point stuff might be taken or lost and made sure I only have things with me that are replaceable. BUT, having it ALL taken at the same time was a bit overkill!

One of the real hassles of this (and there were several considering all my legal papers were among the stolen) was the frustration of my computer being taken as I have already mentioned.

Sooo…

I have finally replaced my computer and will be working on catching up, but until then I am going to start from Tuesday June 7, 2011, when I begin the next part of my journey, posting a blog AT LEAST once a week. This will make me happier!! Which is whats important right? HAHAHAHA…..

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My Wonderful Adventures in New Orleans, Louisiana

My time in New OrlĂ©ans ended the third week of December. I learned so much, saw so much and laughed so much that I am in love with this city. I usually blog about an entire place in one post, but I’m not going to do that with my time in New OrlĂ©ans aka NOLA. I want to post about my adventures first and then I will post my blog on what I have learned about the people and their hearts and perseverance since the devastation of  Hurricane Katrina. I had previously visited The French Quarter three times in the 1990s. I was told, and found out for myself on this trip, that visiting The French Quarter is in no way really visiting New OrlĂ©ans. That is why I chose to spend some real quality time all over New OrlĂ©ans this trip. I am so glad I did.

The food!!!! OMGosh, the food!!!!!

I had an idea of some of the food stuffs that I wanted before I got there… Muffuletta (most amazing sandwich ever), chicory coffee and alligator bites. But I had no idea the culinary treats I would get to enjoy… I was lucky enough to couchsurf with a great guy, Vince. Between him and his neighbors I was treated to many many culinary delights. They also were kind enough to take me to all their favorite local pubs.  People in NOLA are apparently as serious about their football as the rest of the south and we spent each Sunday at a different pub watching the games. One of these Sundays two of my friends joined us from Knoxville, TN. Patrick and Will Horton are two of my favorite Downtown Knoxville people. Seeing them always puts a huge smile on my face and they give the best hugs ever.

There were two other couchsurfers with me and we all had a blast. I think the pictures below are worth all the words I could say… We laughed and reveled all day. Finn McCool’s, http://finnmccools.com/,  is by far my favorite of the pubs. The owners are so kind and fun. After meeting the owners,  Pauline and Stephen Patterson, the night before at a private party we went to the pub’s Christmas party that Saturday night. This is a bar full of locals with lots of Irish flare. The owners are from Belfast and had owned the neighborhood bar in Mid City New OrlĂ©ans for several years before Hurricane Katrina hit. Once they were allowed back to their place they saw that there was extensive damage that left them questioning if they should even reopen. With the help of their many loyal customers they took 6 months and rebuilt.  I am so glad they did…

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Oakland Organic Farm, Gurley, Louisiana

After Melissa got to feeling better after her surgery I put a Craigslist post for a rideshare to New Orléans, LA. I had flexible dates of about a week and decided to be ready when a ride came through. Yesterday I checked my email to find an offer of a ride for 11pm to go straight through to New Orléans. I wrote back that I would take it.

That gave me little time to get completely ready. With Melissa’s help I packed and got ready.

At 11pm my rideshare, Brian, showed up. We loaded up and headed off. I will say I am afraid of all night driving. I only had a couple of times where I got a bit nervous, but for the most part it was a very easy ride and went by really fast. Brian didn’t take any money towards gas from me. He said it was just really nice to have the company on a long trip. He is a chemist and was on his way to a conference.

Once in New Orléans I made my way, via the post Katrina shuttle bus (only $5), from New Orléans to Baton Rouge. It was a very comfortable luxury bus with free WiFi, but I was wayyyyyyy to tired to get online.

After I got to Baton Rouge I had to call the farm. Being Thanksgiving weekend there was no one to answer the phone when I had called the day before to say I was coming three days early. So I sat in the bus station putting quarters in the pay phone (I had not done that in years). Finally after several calls and messages I was told Prentiss, the owner with her husband of the farm, would be out to pick me up.

She is so funny and spunky. She showed up with all four of her kids. All of whom are under the age of 7. It is a beautiful drive back from Baton Rouge to the farm in East Feliciana Parish (this particular Parish is not considered part of the USA, because it and a few others were not bought as part of the Louisiana Purchase). She came into the bus station and held up a sign that said “HERE 4 MONDAY”.

Once back at the farm I got the tour. We, the WWOOFers, are housed in the former slave’s quarters. Very cool. This place is over 200 years old. And met all the current WWOOFers. All but one are leaving in the next few days and the next wave wont be here till the beginning of January. Prentiss then gave me a beer and sent me upstairs to take a nap. I had been up over 27 hours by that time. I was ready. I only slept about an hour and a half, but it was good.

I came downstairs and hung out talking with everyone before dinner. Dinner was amazing. Hutch made venison stew with Deer he had hunted himself with carrots and onions from the garden. Freshly made bread with garlic butter and homemade grits. incredible!!! That and a glass of wine and I was ready to go back to bed. Happy!

The next day I woke up to see how really pretty all the property is. I spent the next two weeks doing everything from Farmer’s Markets to laying drip irrigation. This is a property that is antebellum (pre civil war). So amazing. The WWOOFers are housed in the attic of the former slave’s quarters now refered to as the bunkhouse.

The entire two weeks I was here I ate the most wonderful freshest food available. Meat hunted from the land and vegetables from the garden with the dairy from a farm up the road.

The propierter took all of us to dinner and dancing at the Magnolia. A place in St. Francisville. So fun and such a family place to go.

Oakland Organic Farm, Gurley, Louisiana

On my one full Sunday there I went with a French WWOOFer named Karine. We borrowed the farm bus and went exploring. It was so fun to see her drive the large (especially by France’s standards) van. We went to the Mississippi River ferry then to Clinton and finally to St. Francisville, Louisiana where we visited a two hundred year old to present day cemetery. It is by far one of the most beautiful cemeteries I have ever seen. It is at Grace Episcopal Church and has Live Oak Trees with Spanish Moss everywhere. There are gates and statutes for full family areas. I just couldn’t get over with the haunting beauty of this place. I still get chills when I think of it.

Grace Episcopal Cemetery in St. Francisville

Next stop a couple of weeks playing in New Orleans before heading to Miami…

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Visit to Knoxville November 2010

I left Knoxville, Tennessee after a visit that was supposed to be about 10 days and ended up being exactly a month. I wanted to see Marley mostly and then see a few friends as time permitted. Well I got to see Marley only twice in that entire time, but I did see many friends. That part was great.
It was very hard to say “goodbye” both times to Marley. She thought I was home to stay. She has gotten so big since I’ve been gone. She is a busy girl and played with my friend’s 7 year old boy for most of my Welcome Home Party, but that was fine. I just loved seeing her and hugging her. The second time I saw her we painted a picture I had started for her of under the ocean. It was wonderful just spending one on one time together. We painted and talked about everything. Plus the picture came out really good. It is going her room. Marley and my ocean painting


The way to Knoxville was via Nashville. The original plan in Nashville fell through at the last-minute. Literally. I was boarding the plane in San Francisco and found out by text that the friend I was meeting there had to go to Atlanta instead.

That left me getting on a plane with no plan. Luckily I sat in the very front (the best leg room too) and got to talking with the stewards while I wrote out a sign saying I needed a ride. They let me make an announcement. Although I found out later that many of the passengers thought it was a joke. No one came up during the flight so upon landing instructions the very kind stewardess made the same announcement.

At the baggage claim a couple of people made various offers. Sadly I picked the unknowingly chose the “conspiracy theories” guy. Could have been interesting conversation if he wasn’t a bit nuts. Gave me lots to talk about when my friend, Melissa, met us in Crossville, TN.
It was wonderful to see my great friend Melissa. She is at such a happy and fulfilling time in her life. It made me so happy. I stayed most of the time at her house with her and her daughter, Megan. We spent so much time laughing and playing it was awesome.

Now the reason I stayed longer than I intended was first the WWOOF property I was going to work at in Georgia fell through at the last-minute. I searched WWOOFing hosts in several southern states and I received an offer to WWOOF at Oakland Organic Plantation in Gurley, Louisiana. I told them I would be there on November 20th. With that time frame in mind I was free to enjoy Knoxville for an extra week in a half and see most of the people I wanted to and make some extra money cleaning houses.
I was cleaning Melissa’s mom and dad’s house and her mom had to go to the doctor because she was having intense pains in her chest and back. I was left to the house cleaning. She was upset when she came home, because she found out she had shingles. Not only did that mean weeks of pain it meant that she couldn’t help Melissa after her major surgery, which was the reason they had me cleaning their home to begin with. The decision was made that I would stay for a couple more weeks and take care of her. Her mom was not happy and inundated me (and everyone else) with instructions for how to take care of her baby.
That left me leaving at the end of the month. But with that I had plenty of time to hang out and relax.
My dear friend, Louise, and her lovely husband, Pierre, welcomed me at their home for several nights also. This gave me plenty of time with them. They are from Canada and relish in relaxation. I loved it. I went back while Pierre was in Canada on a business trip and stayed for two more nights with Louise. We went to the movies, took a walk thru Ijam’s Nature Park, and Market Square. It was so nice and so relaxing I also spent Thanksgiving with Louise and Pierre at their wonderful friend’s home. It was so fun and such a beautiful place out in the country. I was the youngest so I got the children’s table since there was not enough room for me :). We played Canadian Rummy. I have to get that card game. I have so amazing and loving friends. I am very blessed.



I took many many baths while I was in Knoxville. I hadn’t had any while I was in California.
I had two welcome home parties (one Marley with Marley and one with great friends), I went dancing with Melissa and our friends, played for Halloween, went to a male revue, several movies, and lots of walks. It was a lot of fun to go to the downtown YMCA and see all my former guests. I adore them and they seem to adore me!

I knew when I left Knoxville that it was time for me to leave. Being back knew it even more strongly.  I felt such a huge disconnect while there. I certainly miss people from Knoxville. I loved getting all the warm welcomes and hugs. They meant so much to me. There is just a lot of  memories but no future for me there. The entire time I felt restless and anxious to be going again.
Melissa recovered really quickly from her surgery and I was able to leave on the 28th of November for the next farm in Gurley, Louisiana.

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My Trip to The Gold Mine Areas of Northern California

FRENCH GULCH, CALIFORNIA

Salmon Swimming Up Stream

My trip to California was so diverse. I have done everything from Disneyland to marking off seeing salmon swim upstream from my bucketlist. I have worked and played hard and met so many wonderful people. Even though I grew up in California I had never been much past north San Francisco. So it was through new eyes that I went on to Redding below the southern tip of the Cascade Mountain Range. Beautiful.

I was very lucky to have my aunt, Patty, as a tour guide through this gold mining country. We went to French Gulch where we saw all the old mining establishments. My aunt took me to a local bar. This place has been in business since the civil war. The proprietor was so nice and showed us all kinds of stuff including ancient log books with bar tabs dated all the way to the day Lincoln was shot . The bar has been in his wife’s family the entire time and the memorabilia is everywhere and MUCH more extensive than most museums. I took my brother back when he came up a few days later.

We also did the surrounding lakes and trails. It struck me

Redding California

how much it all reminded me of East Tennessee. I wanted to go to Lassen and the hot springs there but didn’t get the chance.

I did get to go with my cousins on a bike ride to the newish Sundial Bridge in Redding. So cool with all kinds of trails around the river. We rode and rode. Stopped to sight see a Bald Eagles nest, watch fly fishermen, and just walk a bit. I took my brother here too when he came over.

Whiskey Town and Bandy Creek

Sundial Bridge with Sean

These pictures are all great memories…

Sundial Bridge and Bike Ride with My Cousins

Next a bit on time with family after a very long time…..

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