Sunday, July 19, 2015

Big damn road trip part 3

In foster years, I'm 26 years old.

If this is new to you, you can get a bit of a catch up here.

The final leg of our trip was the reason the trip was created, my cousin (foster) was getting married in Boise, ID. Once we left Yellowstone, we took the 6 hour drive through southern Idaho. I have to say there isn't much to southern Idaho. We did hit a huge rain storm, which was probably the most exciting part of the trip. It was nice seeing part of a state for the very first time, which is why I love road trips. You can't take in your surroundings from a plane.

Driving into Boise felt vaguely familiar, even though  I have never visited before. After a few moments I figured it out, it felt like home. No, not nostalgic "home." Gilbert, Arizona home, with some Tempe sprinkled in (Boise is a college town). Only greener and slightly cooler. Bret described it as "a combination of southwest and midwest. That's accurate.

It was nice to be in a place for a couple of days without an agenda, or having to do dishes or laundry (the downside of renting a home, no room service or free breakfasts in the lobby). We had dinner that evening, and the next morning my brother (foster) and I hit the hotel gym. My girls noticed there was a Dutch Bros. and a Chipotle in town, so I guess that gave them an agenda for the day. I hung out in the hotel room, watched an awful and hateful speech by Donald Trump and relaxed until it was time to head to the wedding.
Boise Botanical Garden is gorgeous. I love being in climates where beautiful lush, green things can actually grow! A perfect setting for a wedding, and the thunderstorm held off until after the ceremony. I'm not kidding. Immediately after the ceremony the storm hit, and stuck around for a good 45 minutes. Once the storm moved on, it was nice and cool, and the rest of the reception could commence. Amazing food, a bluegrass band, walks around the gardens. Just lovely. Anna and Wayland are a perfect fit, even though I met her at the wedding it was obvious.

I'm always so thankful for these moments in my life. It's always a little weird too. It shouldn't be, after 26 years of being part of this extended family. Sometimes I have quick flashes of "I don't belong." It's silly and the thought goes as quickly as it comes. I'm always grateful that not just my immediate foster family, but the extended family took me in and accepted me too, and that my children see them as their family. I write "foster" to eliminate confusion with the many beautiful branches of my family tree, but there really is no need to say it.

They are family.

*Big damn road trip Part 1
*Big damn road trip Part 2

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Big damn road trip part 2

You know what the worst part of a National Park is?

The tourists.

The past week was spent exploring Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming. I was beyond excited to get there, a peek of the explorer in me coming to the surface. The Nation's first National Park! Old Faithful! Bison casually walking by!

Plus, a week with my Massachusetts (and CA) family! We found a wonderful cabin that holds 10 about 10 minutes away from the park entrance. It was lovely, although very dated. I believe the oven was the original one, from the 70's. Either way, it had its charm and we weren't in a cramped hotel room. It was a perfect home base.

Day 1: Old Faithful. I understand why it's such an attraction, since it is the most predictable of the geysers. After seeing her we walked along the path and looked at all of the other geysers in the area. It was a warm day, and smelly. Yes I made several jokes about demons in the area (if you're a Supernatural fan you'll understand). I think my niece Audrey captured how it smelled perfectly.

We probably hiked a good three miles around the geyser area, and everyone was exhausted and sunburned by the end. We desert rats forget that higher elevation brings a different type of sun!

Day 2: Mammoth Springs. This day did not begin well. Some construction was happening in West
Yellowstone (the town right outside the park entrance), so you had hundreds of people merging into one lane and trying to get to the park. It was terrible, and by the time we made it to the springs, which was about 50 miles away, 3 hours had passed. We were all happy to get out of the car at that point, and we had plenty of elk to entertain us.

Mammoth Springs were bigger spaces of geyser activity, and the formations created are beautiful. What was most interesting to me are the different climates all in one place. You feel like you're in the desert, then the mountains, and there were spots that reminded me of the ocean due to the smell of salt in the air. It was very confusing.

Construction aside, traffic is crazy in this park. It's understandable, it is summer and everyone is on vacation. The park has one main road and it's a 45. Several times we were stopped or going at a crawl because wildlife was seen. There's not much you can do about it, but on this particular day is was hard to stay positive.

Day 3: No park day! Grandma took us all on a horseback riding tour. I'm pretty sure this is due to our niece Audrey's love of horses, but either way it was a wonderful morning. Overcast, cool, and riding through the mountains. It was fabulous. After that we decided to stay out of the park, and just hung out at the cabin all afternoon.

So if you are ever out in the Yellowstone area and want a break from the crowds, I highly recommend The Diamond P Ranch. Lots of fun, and they can handle even the most inexperienced riders. That was me.

Day 4: Last day in the park. I think this was my favorite day. We went up to see the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone, and the upper and lower falls. It was beautiful and rainy all day long. It did clear enough to take a few hikes down into the canyon a bit for better views of the falls. We had a bear sighting, very close by. Slightly freaky, but we just stayed on the path and it moved on.

After that we drove on to see Yellowstone Lake, which is the largest high-elevation lake in North America. We almost turned back, as we were stopped once again by wildlife. We didn't see it, but my sister's family did. A mother bear and her cubs were feeding off of a bison carcass just off the road, and had been there for several days as the mother bear was guarding their food supply. Traffic was backed up for a good hour, and we learned this has been the third day. I think my nephew got some good photos, so I can't wait to see them!

We also had a bison walk by.

Then we saw the entire herd, which was amazing.

By the time we made it to Yellowstone Lake, the girls were pretty finished for the day, so I got out momentarily to take it in, then we drove around it to start our trek back to the cabin. I loved it, so beautiful. Would have loved to stay longer. This day was probably my favorite sight-seeing day.

Day 5: Souvenirs! The girls really wanted to walk through West Yellowstone and browse around in the shops. So after we checked out at the cabin we headed there and found some knick knacks.

After that, we headed through Idaho to Boise, for what is currently a very relaxing day before our cousin's wedding this evening at the Botanical Garden. Right now, I'm heading down to the pool, but I leave you with the cutest thing I saw in a gift shop.

*Big damn road trip Part 1

Wednesday, July 08, 2015

Big damn road trip part 1

I haven't worn make-up since July 2nd, because it was my last day at work.

I haven't put a flat iron to my hair in just about the same amount of time. It's been under a hat.

I read a book, and have begun a second one. Neither are about marketing, self-improvement, or politics.

I'm blogging!

These are the things that make a vacation for me. Some might say, "lounging in a hammock having young, beautiful people bring me fruity drinks with umbrellas in them" is their definition of vacation. This would be my definition too, but not this time.

We began our road trip on July 3. The entire reason for this vacation is due to a cousin getting married in Boise, ID. Our first official stop was the north rim of the Grand Canyon, because we've never seen it from that side. Our first unofficial stop was the Navajo Bridge. We just happened to be driving by, and pulled over and had lunch. A nice surprise. The north rim was also a nice surprise. Completely different than the south rim. Cooler. Greener. Less populated. I don't think I ever want to see the south rim again, I'm spoiled.

We spent the night in a town right on the AZ/UT border (I can't remember the name right now). The next morning we were up and out the door and onward to Zion National Park. Our time was limited, which was regrettable since Zion is amazing. We only drove until they stopped allowing cars, we just didn't have time to take the shuttle around the park. We will certainly return.

Our next stop was Bryce Canyon, and we did have time to stop there, have some lunch, and then
explore Sunset Point. There was a mile-long loop down into the canyon. I braved it. A mile hike might not seem like much, but when you have a bad back and are at 8000' elevation, it was quite the jaunt. It was worth the huffing and puffing- so majestic! After the hike we needed to keep going to our destination for the evening, Nephi. It's a one-light town south of Provo, and where Allison and Bret would be skydiving the next morning.

Yes, skydiving. Ever since Allison saw her father skydive 5 years ago, she had wanted to do the same. Unfortunately you have to wait until you are 18. We gave her a jump for her 18th birthday. We woke up to rain, but after a couple hours wait they were able to take off. Was absolutely worth it. She was nervous, but so excited that trumped any fears. Her tandem was great, and lots of fun. I'm so happy she has this adventure bug. I never had it, so I always want to foster it in her. I hope she never loses the desire to explore and try amazing things!

After the jump, we continued our trek north to our destination for the next four days, Yellowstone, meeting up with family and a lovely rented cabin about 10 minutes from the park. More on that in the next post.

My definition of vacation this time around is undiscovered country (to me). Everywhere we have ventured so far has been new to me. I've now been in 4 more states (Utah, Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming). It's been busy, but I haven't worn make up and have been reading books for pleasure. I'll take it.

What is vacation to you?