Heading South to Northern California and Some Family Time…

My ride-share from Seattle to Redding, CA  picked me up about 3pm. We had to stop and pick up a few other riders in Portland ( I really wanted to stay in Portland but it just didn’t work out this time. I will for sure when I come back.),which actually got us lost so that was an extra two hours on the ride.

The ride was smooth enough and I got to my Aunt Patty’s home about 4am. My Uncle Viv was up waiting for me and helped get me settled. I went right to sleep. Got up the next morning to my cousins being at the house doing some home repairs. I said my hellos and went back to bed for several more hours.

I had a good time with my cousins. We went hiking in Lassen and kayaking in Wiskeytown. I loved it. Such beautiful views. I did a bit of work at my aunt’s house and helped her with her garden. I enjoyed my time with family, but was ready to head south.

I went by ride-share from Redding to Benecia, CA right outside of San Fransisco to stay with my other cousin for about a week. Then on to Southern California.

Hiking around Shasta Lake with the Cousins

There is an amazing Ranger program in Wiskeytown where one can go (as many times as they want) on a guided kayaking tour of the lake for free. To experience the wildlife and the scenery. We were so lucky and went during a light rain so not only did we have a blast we got to kayak through rainbows. Spectacular!!

My Aunt Patty’s Garden

Cool sites for the area:

http://www.nps.gov/whis/planyourvisit/programes.htm  Free Ranger Led Programs

http://www.tripadvisor.com/Tourism-g143042-Lassen_Volcanic_National_Park_California-Vacations.html

http://www.whiskeytownmarinas.com/

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Seattle for the Fourth of July 2011

There is so much to say about Seattle. Weather was perfect (Yep not a drop of rain nor a cloud. I got a terrible sunburn.), people are kind and generous and the views are spectacular. Denis, my couch surfing host, picked me up right near the Fish Market and we headed that way. Got to mark that off my bucket list. I thought it was crazy and fun. We saw them slinging fish and invoking the crowd. Cool.

Denis had taken me as a last minute couch surfer so he already had plans for the afternoon. After settling me in at his home and showing me how to use the public transit he was off and I went exploring. The next day he had scored an extra ticket for the beer fest and took me along. Right under the Space Needle. I had a blast.

Denis is a full-time single father and works a full schedule so he doesn’t have a lot of time to work on the garden. So I did some landscaping for him to say thank you for his generosity. I have to say his front yard looked impressive by the time I left. He was happy and so was I.

For the fourth of July we went to his friend’s home. It was incredible to see the fireworks on the bay from their home in the Capitol Hill District. WOW

Next stop California 2011…

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Leaving Montana, Driving through Idaho, Stop Over in Spokane, Drive to Seattle…

After a week in Montana I headed to Spokane, WA. Another ride-share with a very sweet college student from Missoula. She was fun and the conversation kept us alert and enjoying all the scenery. She was going home to Spokane for a few days of family time and I was going to my next couch surfing hosts.

The Callahan home. Loved it there. Such a great positive energy. Lots of kids and smiles. Food and drink and lots of goings ons. I felt a kindred spirit with this family right away. It was my first experience sleeping on a massage table and I could not have been more comfortable. We made so many plans to make so many cool things and never had a chance to do any of them so if they will have me I will be going back. 😀

I ended up leaving in the middle of the night the second night, because I got a last minute ride-share from a guy who was driving overnight to get to a rainbow festival in Washington. It was a long ride but with another ride share in the back there was time for each of us to take turns sleeping.

I got to Seattle at about 7 am and my host Denis came a short time later to pick me up at a Starbucks. How appropriate.

Next my time in Seattle….

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The Montana Weber’s….

These are four amazing men. I went to high school with Sam Weber in Bellflower, California. We really didn’t know one another. He was a year between my brother and me. I knew who he was and think he knew my brother, but we really got to know each other through Facebook. Do I hear a collective sigh?

I wanted so much to visit him and to see the Montana he so loves. Because Sam is one of the most kind and generous men I have ever met I should not have been so surprised that he would drive a couple of hundred miles to come get me to take me back to his house in Great Falls.

We, well I, have been out of school 29 years. So it had been awhile. I don’t remember any weirdness between us from the welcoming hug to the sad goodbye hug.

The night before I was to come in Sam asked me if I wanted to join him and his friends and parents for an outdoor concert. I did! We literally drove (talking and laughing the whole way) to Great Falls in time for me to meet the boys and set down my stuff in the basement bedroom they had gotten ready for me and we were off to the concert.

First stop the liquor store. A liquor store in a casino. I was shocked and amused. The concert was so fun. Under the beautiful sky that I will never stop being in awe of. Dancing, drinking, and laughing. I was happy and exhausted.

Back at the house I chatted with the boys for a while before heading to bed.

I will do a separate post about learning to shoot a gun while in Montana with the Weber’s as it was a huge deal for me, but here I will say that this family of hunters went to great lengths to ease me of my fear of guns. There are several guns in the home and all went out of their way to make me feel safe. I will ALWAYS love them for this.

I found out how much I like Kokanne beer. Actually it is my favorite too bad it is Canadian and hard to find everywhere but up there. How much like a hobbit I apparently look like (I had never seen any of the Lord of the Rings movies so I we had a marathon and Garrett pointed out that I did not need to wait till Halloween to be a Hobbit as all I was really missing now is the hair on my feet). How to spot a decoy moose. And to make 3 large boys like me!!

One day we planned a trip to Ft Bennett. Sam, his parents, his son, Jonathan and me. Sam’s dad, Lowen scared the beegeebees out of me with his driving which was culminated when he abruptly pulled to the side of the ridge and pointed out this huge bull moose. Poor Jonathan woke up from his slumber next to me in the part of the truck that was still hanging precariously in the road whilst Sam and Louanne (Sam’s mom) took pictures of it. Everyone was amazed (well I didn’t know enough to be amazed) at the size especially so early in the year. I could not stop laughing when Jonathan quipped, “Really a moose in Montana who the hell could imagine?” he was obviously not at all happy about being the possible target if anyone happened around the corner of this ridge to find the truck just sitting there.

The real amusement came that evening when Sam, Louanne and Lowen as soon as we were home put all the photos they had taken of the bull on Facebook and within seconds one of the comments noted they had also seen the DECOY there!!! AHAHAHAAHA

Then Garrett, who seems always ready with a TOLD YOU SO MOMENT, tells his dad that yeah um there is only three legs and asked if no one noticed that the whole time we were there the bull never ever moved? HA

Ft. Benton itself was cool too. It is known as the Birthplace of Montana: http://www.fortbenton.com/. Just a really neat place with tepees and memorabilia everywhere. Especially interesting was the info on outlaws from the area. Cool.

The night before I left for Spokane, Sam and his friend, Kari, took me to the famous Sip and Dip Tiki Lounge. I want so much to take my son here some time. It is a bar that faces a mermaid tank. Mermaids swim while you drink while a 90 year old woman plays the piano and sings. Where else can you have THAT kind of entertainment all in one place???????????????????????

http://www.ohairemotorinn.com/?p=sip-n-dip

I had some of the best times in Montana with these guys. I hope to go back when I get back to the states. I think Sam will be willing to show me around some more!!!

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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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