I would walk 500 hundred miles….

In the last month, over three different weekends, we’ve hiked 55+ miles. Do you have any idea how many steps that is? Neither do I, but I assure you, it’s a lot.

Over Memorial Day weekend, we honored the fallen soldiers by enjoying the freedom for which they so bravely fought by hiking and “camping” in Yosemite. Or as Olga calls it, phonetically, Yose-might.” We (Olga, Alex, Gates, me and our favorite fifth wheel, Meg) set our expectations appropriately about the impending crowds. These guys:

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Our accommodations: Evergreen Lodge. One cabin. One room. 5 people. One bed. One blowup mattress. One pullout couch.

Our plan: try to have as authentic of a National Park experience as possible. Think National Lampoons Griswald family vacation.

Day one, after check in and a thorough scan of our Evergreen community, which included a tavern and bar, ping-pong table, bocce court, pool, hot tub, fire bit and game room (real hard core camping, ya know?), we headed into Yosemite Valley for a late afternoon hike up to Misty Falls (3.6 miles round trip).We drove past the smooth and enormous El Capitan, a popular destination for intense rock climbers around the world. I climbed up in less than two hours, taking a short nap in my cantilevering hammock mid way through.

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Yep, just scrambled right up that.

Misty Falls is called Misty Falls because once you get within sight of the waterfall, you get soaked by the mist coming from the falls. Appropriate name. The highlight was an incredibly crisp and colorful rainbow at the base of the waterfall:

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Here we are at the top:

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Next morning we woke bright and early, and then waited patiently, and then not so patiently for our breakfast sandwiches to be made. Despite the fact that they were cold, wrongly labeled and just generally bad, they fueled us up nicely for our 10 mile round trip hike up to Glacier Point. The rigorous nature of the hike filtered a lot of the Asians, ahhemm, I mean other tourists, which was nice. Problem is, you can also drive up to Glacier Point, which means the lack of crowds on the trail is balanced out by the tour busses full of fanny pack and visor wearing folks waiting for you in the parking lot up top.

We enjoyed the incredible views of the Valley while eating a lunch of PB&J’s, power bars and of course, a few boiled eggs that I’d trucked up with me : )

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We tried to stop at The Ahwahnee, an historic lodge in the valley, for a drink on our way out but were basically laughed at by the security guard/traffic director and told to keep moving. This disappointed me quite a bit because I have a real thing for old lodges, not to mention this particular old lodge was used in the filming of The Shining…. I know.. bummer. But also kindof understandable that they didn’t want riffraff like us coming in, making a racket and disturbing all of their fine guests.

Monday. Alex, Olga and Meg hit the road back to SF while Gates and I took advantage of one more morning of hiking: a completely untrodden trail leading to a lookout point that gave us a different view of the park, and a nice stroll into q Sequoia grove with over 25 giant, hundred year old trees. I can now say I’ve seen the two biggest types of trees in the world, and they are quite impressive beasts.

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We climbed through the belly of this one:

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The weekend after Memorial Day, Gates and I decided to wake up at the crack of freakin’ dawn on Saturday and drive down to Big Sur, where we’d heard of a nice long trail leading into Sykes Hot Springs. We prepared the day before by making chicken salad, tracking down some water purifying tablets, buying a bunch of power bars and other little munchies and, of course, boiled eggs and a small box of wine. This was our first camping trip together, and my first camping trip in as long as I can remember…. Maybe ever. Luckily Gates knows what he’s doing.

Anyway, we arrived at the trailhead around 10am only to discover that somebody didn’t screw the top of the camel back bladder on correctly (can’t imagine who that might’ve been….) so we let my pack dry out in the morning sun for a bit while lathering on sunscreen. Pack dried out and secured, and with plenty of energy leftover from the delicious 5am egg veggie scramble breakfast that Gates made for me, we started off on the 10 mile hike.

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Long story short, because I’m getting tired of writing, we found a perfect spot, set up camp, and went to find the hot springs, which were somewhat crowded (obligatory naked man included) but very nice and relaxing after the 10 miles in. A few hours of soaking and we were rejuvenated enough to make dinner: Annie’s mac and cheese + leftover mayo soaked chicken salad + avocado + tomatoes = why I can hike endlessly without losing any weight : ) A chocolate bar and bottle of wine later and we were playing cards and settling into bed. I wasn’t that comfortable, but after a day of hiking, I can sleep almost anywhere, anytime (I guess that’s similar to a day without hiking…)

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Next morning we ate breakfast, packed up and hiked the 10 miles back to our car. It just so happened that the Sykes Hot Spring trailhead is only a few miles north of two luxurious hotels/watering holes built into the craggy cliffs overlooking the Pacific Ocean. We couldn’t decide which one to go to, so we went to both. After an al fresco lunch at the Ventana Inn, we drove across the street to the Post Ranch Inn for post hike beverage. Bourbon for Gates, wine for me. Here’s the view. There’s water out there.

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And that was that. Back in SF by nightfall.

Finally, our most recent jaunt in the woods was Crater Lake, where we would celebrate the birthday of this great nation. We left Thursday afternoon to avoid 4th of July traffic, but ended up not avoiding 4th of July traffic at all because apparently this idea wasn’t that unique and everyone else in the Bay Area was leaving Thursday as well. We arrived at the Prospect Historic Inn late Thursday evening and rested up for a full day of exploration.

Crater Lake might just very well be one of the most spectacular national parks I’ve been to, so I’m very glad we left Thursday, giving us two full days to explore. The lake is an old volcano, Mount Wazama, which erupted 7,700 years ago, and under the weight of the pumice and ash, imploded and became a huge hole, which eventually filled up with run-off water from the 500+ inches of snow that the park gets every year.

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Friday morning we ate breakfast at the Crater Lake Lodge, which is a big old rustic Inn located right on the rim of the lake (pictured above). We fueled up on mediocre food and panoramic views and set off and up two and a half miles to a vista point overlooking the lake. We then drove, well actually, we put the car in neutral and coasted (we were low on gas and there were still a few sights to be seen before fuel was within reach) to a canyon to check out the Pinnacles. Pinnacles are weird phallic mud spikes sticking straight up from the earth, caused by gas tunnels from the molten hot lava of the volcano (or something along those lines – I’m no Volcanologist!). Look it up.

After a quick look, we used some more gas to get us partially around the lake to Mount Scott, where we scurried up 2.5 quick miles, got a different lake view, then scurried back down and straight to the gas station.

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Dinner at the Historic Inn was Tantalizing and Hearth, or so that’s how it was advertised online. I’d advertise it as decent. 

Saturday morning we ate breakfast at the Inn, then headed back into the park for an 11.5 mile hike into Stuart Falls. Can you find me in one of the pictures?

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Whereas the day before we were passing families of Indians (the Eastern kind) left and right, today we passed only two other people for the entire 11 miles. The hike was pretty flat, which was leisurely, but the sun was beating down on us and roasting our faces and shoulders. It was a relief to finally walk into some shade and dip our hands into the freezing cold water at the base of the waterfall. We had lunch sitting on a log downstream.

We had only one final thing to do before retiring for the night and leaving the next morning: leap from the jumping rock into the frigid 38 degree lake. So we drove around to the swimming hole, changed into our patriotic American flag bathing suits, hiked a mile down to the rock, held hands and flew. I’ve never experienced anything so cold in my entire life, except for that time when Gates thought nothing of leaving me standing on a frozen-over lake in Vermont in December in negative degree temps while he played pick up pond hockey with his shirt off…. Anyway, the jump was exhilarating and the ice-cold impact was torture. But a few great pictures were snapped and we were told that we won the Patriotic award because of our bathing suits.

The leap:

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The fall:

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The impact:

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And here’s one that really shows our suits:

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One wet mile later we were back at the car. On the way home, Gates sledded down a snowy hill on his raincoat (because he’s an Eskimo), we stopped at a BBQ truck on the side of the road for “take out,” ate dinner on the patio at the Inn, and watched an episode of Game of Thrones before turning in.

Before leaving Prospect on Sunday, we took a short stroll over to the Avenue of the Boulders, where enormous rocks flew over 25 miles when Mt. Wazama exploded:

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On our way back to SF, we had lunch in a hippy town called Mt. Shasta, where we purchased this lovely wall hanging pottery of a bear eating a fish:

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Our very first housewarming gift for our very first home together.

And so there you have it, over 55 miles since the end of May. And many more to go!

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So, now that y’all’re all caught up on where I am and how all of my furniture is hand built, let’s get to the good stuff.

My absolute favorite part of living in San Francisco are the countless day/weekend trip options closely available to the city. National Parks, coastal hiking trails and lost highways abound. Time to briefly brag about, ahhemm, share my last few months worth of adventures.

There was Tahoe, where it was 65 degrees in February – not quite what I had envisioned the snowy winter wonderland to look like, but beautiful nonetheless.  We rented a cabin in a town called Stateline because it’s literally located on the state line separating California and Nevada. Our cabin was conveniently situated at the base of a small mound of boulders which could easily be scampered up to enjoy this view:

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And here’s one at sunset:

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We drank and ate and played Jenga and had some dance parties and couldn’t quite decide if it was winter or spring. Gates and my roommate Meg and a few other folks went skiing and got sunburned while Olga and I and a few other folks hiked to the lake wearing shorts. Despite the uncharacteristic weather, it was a nice introduction to the popular California getaway. Here’s a photo of the lake:

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Next.

Devils Slide – a portion of Highway 1 that used to constantly crumble due to landslide, therefore, they closed it permanently and made an alternate (and much safer) route: a tunnel through a nearby mountain. I initially stumbled upon this abandoned strip of highway during an ill planned hike in Pacifica with Olga. But good things often come out of getting lost, like this little piece of California coastal history. What is it about abandoned things and forbidden places? I just can’t stay away. It’s like an invitation with big flashing lights that beckons “Come on in and poke around.” Gates and I did a little trespassing and some semi-dangerous and ultra thrilling coastal trail traversing.

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The highway is being turned into a pedestrian/biking trail. Opening soon if not already. But I imagine now it’s not nearly as cool because it’s A) no longer forbidden, and B) filled with people.

Next.

In April, we drove up to Redwood National Park/Arcata, which is about 5 hours north of SF. We walked among the giants, saw a movie at the country’s oldest, continuously operating movie theater that was actually built for the purpose of movie viewing (lots of qualifiers!), paid $5 to drive through a tree (worth every penny), came face to face with some bears (while in our car, luckily), hiked a little bit of the lost coast (where I found a piece of driftwood that perfectly resembled a door knocker, which was later stolen, along with my ukelele, from my car), and discovered another portion of an abandoned highway (apparently I have an eye for finding lost highways). We stayed at an old historic home that had been converted into a B&B, run by a lovely couple whose names I’ve forgotten. The man wouldn’t shut up (a guaranteed and necessary quality of a B&B owner, as well as a quality I’ve become quite accustomed to since meeting Gates) while his wife stayed in the kitchen in her bathrobe. The Mr. yacked on for a half hour at breakfast one morning while having pancake batter all over his face. Awkward.

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Next.

The Marin Headlands, right in our backyard (just over the GG Bridge). A go-to spot for SF views, old missile launch pads and abandoned forts. I take everyone here when they visit because it’s very close and very beautiful and everyone very much loves to drive over that dammed bridge. So if you visit, you’ll see this:

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Yes, Gates and I have matching raincoats. We also have matching gold iPhone cases. So?

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Next.

Last weekend we drove up to Fort Bragg, which is about 5 hours north of SF, just up from Mendocino in Humbolt county, aka the Emerald Triangle, aka the region where the most cannabis is grown in the US. Weed had nothing to do with why we decided to spend the weekend there. We went up with Gates’ brother Owen and his lovely girlfriend Quincy (who both live in SF) to check out the site of an architectural project that Gates’ dad, Jim (who refuses to call me Caroline and insists on calling me Sloan) has been working on for the past few years. The project is a coastal Inn which is built on the site of an old town called Newport –  big during the early Redwood logging years. We stayed at the owners house which is a short walk away from the Inn. Here are some photos of the house and the views that we gawked at all weekend:

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And here’s a picture of the Inn, to be completed in May 2015

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The area is so amazingly remote and tranquil. I never wanted to leave. A few highlights: Watching whales leisurely meander by on their journey north (sorry no picture), eating freshly caught Sea Urchin (still moving), which Jim broke into and prepared right in front of us (if this thing doesn’t scream “don’t eat me!” I don’t know what does):

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Holy Uni. YUM!

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Seeing this dead and totally dried out cow:

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Climbing down into a mussel patch to record some intros for a Warren Vermont radio station (Jim loves the way I say “five” and can’t get over the fact that I frequently use the word “y’all’re”):

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And lots and lots of quality time with people I like a whole lot:

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A few additional photos because why the hell not?

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Next.

And finally, there’ve been more than a few trips to nearby Sonoma/Napa.

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My second favorite thing about living in San Francisco is that people come visit (unlike Boston). In the past month I’ve had three of my dearest friends stop through, as well as my mom, brother and his girlfriend.

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In other news, I’m now 29 years old and I no longer have bangs, and here’s a picture of my skeleton:

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Many adventures to come in the next few months, including an Indiana farm wedding, Crater Lake, Yosemite, Amagansett, Boston, Vermont and maybe Australia (if my brand new boss approves….) Yeeeehhawww.

-Sloan

Pump up the Jam

From San Francisco, with love

Hi! I’ve recently been asked if I’m still writing my blog, both by my dear friend Tommy and my favorite cousin Sara. It only takes a slight nudge to turn me on so I signed onto WordPress for the first time in I don’t even know how long, and discovered an old draft from when I first moved out to California. Although slightly dated (I’ll correct things when necessary), I figured I might as well post it, so here goes.

As all* of you know, I’m now living in San Francisco with two of my very dear friends. We’re finally settled in our lovely apartment and ready to take on this beautiful, wonderful city.

* all 5 of you.

Upon arrival, Olga and I were so kindly hosted by my friend Margaret and her husband, Larry, who have a lovely home in Cow Hollow. This was our neighborhood:

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The two weeks we spent there were incredible. An enormous thanks to both of them for their hospitality. But as not to overstay our welcome, we hit the ground runnin’ in search of an apartment, which we’d heard would be nearly impossible at our price range. We lucked out and landed a great pad, within our budget, in no time.

Quickly, a little about our apartment: Meg’s been working her butt off since before Olga and I arrived, so we decided to take it upon ourselves to try and get the whole apartment in order so that our little breadwinner didn’t have anything to fret about. This meant that Olga and I would be spending an, at first, uncomfortable amount of time at IKEA. I say “at first” because after our second or third visit, Olga and I got to the point where we would long for the mammoth warehouse if we missed a day. On one particularly ambitious back to back two-day string of visits, we had dinner in the IKEA cafeteria (their famous Swedish meatballs, mushroom crepe, salad and smoked salmon plate), contemplated snuggling up in the bedroom section, decided against it, went home and then headed right back the next morning to find ourselves, once again, in the cafeteria. Breakfast.  We needed fuel: eggs, cinnamon role, home fries and French toast strips. Here is a picture of dinner and breakfast:

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Yum…. er, eeeww. Not sure.

By day four the employees were referring to us by name and high-fiving us on our way in. Anyways, sorry, this was supposed to be a brief synopsis of our apartment. I’m bad with summaries.

Long story short (too late), we literally built every single piece of furniture in our entire apartment. We built the beds. We built the chests of drawers. We built the coffee tables and the shelves and the TV stands. We built the kitchen table and the patio table and the chairs. We built the couch. We even built the largest and most complicated armoire that IKEA has to offer – hey, we needed a challenge.  We built everything except for a chair that was donated to us by a friend, and I’m even considering taking that apart and putting it back together. I am 100% confident I could do this.

If you can’t tell, I’m mighty proud of our accomplishments. And the place looks great. Meg, proclaiming that she was over the “college student, thrown together hodgepodge” look, pulled everything together nicely with some throw pillows, wall art and shelf decorations. Here is a picture of the outside.

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Our apartment stretches the whole length of the top floor on one side. It’s quite spacious. I refuse to post pictures of the interior because I told dad and Deb that they’d have to come visit if they wanted to see it.

 

Now that I’m settled, and true to my semi nomadic nature, I can start thinking about my next move.

It’s time to switch gears. Perhaps you remember me subtly mentioning a studly gentleman in Boston, just weeks before my Western voyage, who was trying to convince me to stay and save money before we head off on our trip around the world…? Well, despite the 3,000 miles that are now between us*, and the very minimal time we’ve actually, physically spent together, we’ve become an item (conventionality has never been my forte). And I must admit, we’re doing exceptionally well.

*There are no longer miles between us. In a twisted turn of fate, he moved to San Francisco, where everyone knows it’s impossible to save money. He is my new partner in crime. Meet Gates Atterbury Sanford, the man with a super WASPy name and just enough game to convince me to go out on a second date with him despite the fact that I thought he was gay. Turns out he isn’t at all gay. He’s the most incredibly weird and wonderful person I’ve ever met:

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Obviously I’m not dating that naked (sorry, he’s wearing a collar and a hat…) old man in the forefront of the photo. I’m talking about the one behind grandpa; the one wearing jeans and that leather strappy thing around his midriff.

Okay sorry, that’s not true either. But I couldn’t resist. That photo was actually taken at the Folsom Street fair last weekend. Folsom is a fair where anything goes – especially if “anything” involves nudity, bondage and bazaar homoerotic fetishes, my favorite of which was “puppy play time,” where men rolled around in a pin playing with squeaky toys and humping each other…

Here are a few other random photos for your enjoyment:

 

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More current post coming soon. Lots of adventures to recap!

-csc

Boston to San Francisco via every state in between – the final leg

From Yellowstone to Salt Lake, we tried to find something, anything, to explore on Roadside America, but alas, there is no cell service in Idaho… just potatoes, which we ate for lunch at a gas station. Because that’s what you’re supposed to do when you’re in Idaho. During this drive, we also happened upon the Pioneer Historic Scenic Byway, which was curvy and beautiful and completely deserted.

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taken through the windshield: notice the splattered bug….

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We arrived in SLC and wondered what on earth we oughta do…. We decided that the only suitable first thing to do in Salt Lake was to go to the massive Temple of Jesus Christ and Latter Day Saints.

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But once we got there, we weren’t quite sure what to do, so we took some pictures, brushed off a sweet old woman who wanted to tell us all about Mormonism, and hit the road. We also wanted to get into the Great Salt lake, but were warned against it by a hotel concierge who said we’d get eaten by flies…So we found a nice little hiking trail that bordered the city, and took advantage of the opportunity to stretch our legs.

As the sun went down over the city, we drove to our lodging for the evening. Here is how we got linked to this wonderful family. Olga’s friend has a friend in SLC. This SLC friend was not in town, but was telling her friends about us. Among those friends there became a bidding war. And the mother of the family who so graciously took us in argued that since she had three sons, and wants some girl time, so she gets us for the night. She won. Worked for us. Olga and I completely fell in love with Mary and Jeff and their adorable son Sam. They weren’t there when we arrived, so we freshened up to walk to a nearby restaurant. As we were about to leave, Mary walked in, exploding with excitement and enthusiasm, had curry chicken salad, cheese and wine laid out in an instant, and before we knew it, we were staying in, drinking wine and telling each other our life stories. They pulled out the map of the US and we described our trip. They pulled out the map of the Bay Area and told us which areas to avoid.

After our night sleeping on the ground, the long drive and lovely evening with our adopted family for the night, Olga and I couldn’t have been happier to jump into a real bed with a real mattress in a really dark room. We slept like babies.

Tuesday morning we woke up, had coffee and breakfast with our new friends and prepared ourselves for our looong haul to Lake Tahoe: 9 hours…

There isn’t a whole lot between Salt Lake and Tahoe, besides the Bonneville Salt Flats, which were cool, and Reno.

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But Roadside America was going wild. We deicded that we just simply couldn’t pass up the world’s largest dead polar bear, and we figured we’d have lunch while we were at it. So we stopped in Elko, NV for a Basque, family style lunch of cabbage soup, salad, and thinly sliced beef, then skipped across the street to the Commercial Casino, where White King stood towering over us all in his majestic glory.

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Two thousand pounds of muscle, fur and claw, 10 foot 4 inches tall, he should have commanded the attention of the few afternoon gamblers, but they were worried about other things, like their smoldering cigarettes and the coins going into the slot machines. Anyway, White King was killed by an Eskimo back in the 50’s. WELL worth the pit stop.

Even with frequent stops and driver switches, at about hour 8 we hit our mental limit. But there was only a half hour to go… We started to get loopy. Olga hit the bottle. Shit started to get weird. We exhausted all of our car games: played guess who? and Would You Rather and ate twirlers and various other sugar loaded treats and voila, we were crossing the border into our new home states and entering our resort in Lake Tahoe. Yes, I said resort. A studly sweetheart we’d met, one of the friends of a friend, took a serious liking to Olga. He was driving back to San Francisco from Jackson and “coincidentally” decided to stop in Tahoe. He treated us to a suite at the Village at Squaw Valley Inn, and accompanied us out for an evening of dinner and drinks.

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Tahoe is beautiful. I woke up early and hiked a little solo hike on the series of trails behind the lodge. Ain’t no better place to get lost in your head than in the woods.

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I took in my wilderness surroundings while daydreaming and considering the offers of a handsome gentleman back east who is very strategically trying to convince me to stay and live with him in Boston in order to save money for our journey around the world….. Travel…. He’s a cunning little bastard, and has figured out the way to my heart. I’ll take the world wide trip, but I’ve set something in motion with this move out west, and I’ll be dammed if I don’t see it through.

Snap out of it.

This quick trip to Tahoe was just enough to really whet our appetites. It’s a popular destination for people living in San Francisco, so we’ve vowed to come back often. We hit the road on our final, short leg to San Francisco.

Pulling into the city, over the Golden Gate Bridge, a sense of jubilation came over us. Here we were, finally, two and a half weeks, 3,560 miles, 18 states, and countless new friends later, in our new city, crossing the most notable feature of beautiful San Francisco. Success.

Here’s our route. Click to enlarge.

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Someone asked me this shortly after our trip was complete: “What was your Aha! moment? What did you realize during this journey?”

My answer: Most importantly, that people are good. I think back on, and am moved by, all the gracious accommodations made on our behalf (the Petras-Gardeners in Pittsburgh, Lauren in Chicago, my brother for hooking us up with the discounted room at the Hampton in Fargo, Peter in the Badlands for helping with tent set up, Darryl in Nederland, Pam in Jackson, Frank and JoAnne for tent set up advice and fire starting in Yellowstone, Mary and Jeff in Salt Lake, David for our suite in Tahoe, and Pappa J, once again, for housing us in the Bay Area)

I also realized, over and over and over again, how vast and incredibly beautiful our great country is. The beauty and diversity of the US almost rivals the kindness of it’s people.

A special note to Olga: I couldn’t have hoped for a more easy-going, open, willing, curious and enjoyable travel companion. Thanks for putting up with me. I look forward to living in a tiny bunk-bedded room together in San Francisco.

And now guess where I am?

Less than 24 hours after I arrived in the Bay Area, I boarded a plane back to New England. What can I say? I have things to do and people to see on the east coast before I head back to San Francisco “for good” in mid-August : )

Happy summer, y’all.

Boston to San Francisco via every state in between – part five: Jackson

From the most interesting Hampton in the world to Jackson Hole, WY was a relatively short and effortless trip, besides my windshield being broken by a rogue rock and my ‘check engine’ light coming on. It was time for an oil change, and the correlation between frequent oil changes and the longevity of a car had been drilled into my head by a former beau, so I knew it was not something to take lightly. I resolved to have it changed before I left Jackson.

We rolled into Jackson Hole around 2pm, dropped our bags of at our friend Pam’s house, who grew up with Meg, and set off to Moose WY for a late lunch at Dornan’s. I had been given a million recommendations from friends on things to do in Jackson, and Dornan’s was one of them. It sits at the foot of the Tetons, which accounts for an amazing view.

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We trekked back to town, poked around and then decided to have a drink. First stop, the upstairs patio of town Square Tavern overlooking central park, where Olga and I sat in the shade of a large umbrella while sipping drinks that weren’t very satisfying.

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Since the drinks weren’t good, our next stop was Local, another recommendation of a friend. Now these were worthy cocktails: huckleberry margarita, Moscow Mule, huckleberry Bellini. There are a lot of huckleberries in this area of the country. By the time sweet Pam arrived, Olga and I were sufficiently liquored up and hungry, so we ordered the Bison tartar and some sort of fish, which was all delish. By this time it was nearly 10 (not to mention midnight on the east coast, which is how we’ve been justifying our early bedtime) and Olga and I were both pooped, so we made a quick stop by Moo for some ice cream and then hit the hay.

Next day we woke rested and refreshed and ready for a day full of hiking. Again on the recommendation of a friend, we drove into Teton National Park and found the Death Canyon and Phelps Lake trail. Of course we were unprepared for this 4-hour hike with only one bottle of water each and no sunscreen. Every other hiker we passed had a pack and hiking poles and hefty gear.  Luckily we came across a small waterfall and filled our bottles up with fresh water, otherwise we very well may have died of dehydration. This hike inspired me to buy a small camel back pack thing. I’m excited to make the purchase, but decided to wait until I get settled in San Francisco since I’m literally carrying everything I own in my car at the moment and I don’t need to add to the clutter.

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Death Canyon was gorgeous. Teton Park may be the most breathtaking place in the country. Not sure yet but it felt like heaven. We hiked up and down and then around Phelps Lake, in search for a large boulder that we’d been told to jump off of (not like “hey ladies, go jump off a boulder” but more like “oh! You have to find this big boulder on Phelps Lake. Jumping off of it is incredible!”)

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When we found it I stripped down to my shorts and sports bra, climbed the rock and prepared to jump. It’s always harder that you think it’ll be to jump once you’re on top and looking over…. It was terrifying and exhilarating and I wanted to keep doing it over and over again.  I’m giving partial credit to the teenage girls who gave me the encouragement I needed to take the dive. And wow, what a feeling! I can’t begin to describe it.

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After another jump, we power hiked back to the car, soaking wet, to head into Teton Village to meet Pam at the tram for mountain top happy hour. Olga and I were a bit parched and not quite ready for those cocktails, so we stuck with H20 while enjoying the incredible views of the village and surrounding mountains. A nice relaxing evening after our long exhausting hike.

Then the evening became not so relaxing. Olga’s friend Bubba works at a restaurant called Rendezvous, and a few of his friends, whom we’d never met, were also in town, so we all met for dinner to have him wait on us. After dinner we headed to Cowboy Bar in the center of town, which was great fun, with a live country band, saddles for seats and a dance floor. Sounds cheesy I know, and in fact, we’d walked in the previous day and walked right back out, but once the tourists leave and the cowboys walk in, it transforms into a western hoe-down. We danced…. with guys who actually knew how to dance. I’m extremely impressed by these Jackson men who can lead and twirl and dip. It must be a requirement for all men born in or moving to Jackson, because they all looked good, even the unassuming ones…

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And just when I thought the night was over, we ended up continuing the party at Bubba’s house, with The Saltine Challenge, which I thought was 2 in a minute, not 4, and “Would You Rather,” which I prompted using the same questions that entertained Olga and me on our long hauls. Three AM had come and gone before we finally retired to Pam’s guest room. And we’d been convinced to stay one more day to float on the river with the boys..

Next morning was not a pleasant one. With my old age, I require a lot of sleep. I’m also incapable of sleeping in, so just because I go to sleep at 3:30, doesn’t mean I’m going to make up for the hours on the other side. I woke up at 8:30 very grumpy. Luckily I’d stopped drinking pretty early on the night before, otherwise I’d’ve been a monster.

Anyway, I took a walk into town for breakfast and waited for Olga to get up, and for the boys to call about where to meet them for the float.

Well, not surprisingly at all, the boys slept all day and there was no boat action. No matter. We had an extremely relaxing day in Jackson.

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We moseyed around, popped into some shops, had a macrobiotic dinner at The Lotus Café and then met Pam briefly at a party before callin it a night.

Sunday we woke up, packed our bags, had brunch with Pam, stocked up on gear from Bubba’s clothing company, Give’r, and rejected attempts from the guys to convince us to stay for an actual float/fishing day…. Off to Yellowstone we cruised. This was going to be the night we camped. We were determined!

Despite all the negative reviews we’d heard about Yellowstone and Old Faithful (swarming with tourists, “you can find better hiked and views from Jackson,“ etc), we thoroughly enjoyed our trip up to the oldest national park in the country. Step one: set up tent to insure we didn’t come across any bouts of bad luck that would later prevent us from doing so. We found all the components of the tent, which had been haphazardly thrown into the Rav after our first failed attempt at the Badlands, and began construction. Upon completion, we judged that we may have possibly gone wrong somewhere along the line, but F it, the tent was standing and it would be perfectly suitable….

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Luckily though, our friendly neighbors, Frank and JoAnne, an older couple who was celebrating their 25th anniversary by taking the US by storm, suggested that if it rains, we’d probably get wet since our rain fly was lopsided. They offered to help, aka, took the whole thing apart and rebuilt it. This time is looked lovely.

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Olga and I couldn’t help by notice that nearly everyone in the entire campsite had blowup mattresses…. We failed to think of this. Everyone else will get much better sleep than us… Damn.

Our friendly “neighborhood” looked like this:

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As we left for the 17-mile scenic drive to Ole faithful, it began to rain.  Thanks Frank and JoAnne : )

We’d be sopping wet without you.

By the time we arrived at the Old Faithful site, it was still raining, which was a blessing because it kept the mega bus loads of Japanese tourists from blocking our view of the famous geyser.

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It was a pretty incredible sight. And to think, all of this stuff was built up around a big geyser that went off every 90 minutes.

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And here’s a nicely instagrammed photo, thanks to Olga’s Galaxy:

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The Old Faithful Inn was equally as impressive as the geyser itself. Built in 1903, it was an architectural masterpiece (to someone who knows nothing about architecture). Anyway, it was beautiful, and we devoured a bison burger and a bison sausage in the bar area before heading back to camp.

On our way back to camp, we saw what we thought was a moose, but later found out was an elk.

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We also stopped for some beach/sunset, Give’r clad selfies. Here’s one:

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Once back at camp, we attempted to start a fire with wood that was much too big, according to another fire-expert neighbor. Again, Frank and JoAnne came to the recue by supplying us with lighter fluid and smaller kindling. They stood around our blazing fire pit and socialized for a bit before turning in. It got cold and we were finally able to wear our coonskin caps. In fact, my coonskin kept me from hypothermia that night. After burning all of our wood and some cardboard boxes, drinking most of our cheap bottle of wine and gazing pensively at the wide open sky for awhile, we settled into our blow-up mattress-less tent for shitty night’s sleep.

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We woke Monday morning, sleepy from waking up throughout the night to chills, the sound of a downpour, and the discomfort of rocks stabbing into our sides. After a silent tent deconstruction, we headed out of Yellowstone and down to Salt Lake City. But before we left, we had breakfast at a lakeside café. As we were pulling into the parking lot, a Winnebago slowly backed up into the front grill of the Rav. I laid on the horn and he finally stopped. We assumed he’d come over to check on the car, but instead he hid in the back of his Winnebago with his family. Coward. No damage was done so no biggie, but what a jerk!? Then, as luck would have it, he and his family were seated right beside us at breakfast. We glared but said nothing. Nope, we were feeling much too passive aggressive to confront him. As we left though, Olga tucked this little note into his windshield wiper:

“Dear Sir,

Next time you back into someone, you should check to see if they are okay and if there was any damage. Set a good example for your children.”

This is what she wanted to write:

“Hey shit-fuck,

You’re an asshole”

Luckily for him, Olga is a sweetheart.

 

Off to the land of Mormons.

Boston to San Francisco via every state in between – part four: The Nederlands

Okay, so it’s really Nederland, Colorado, not “the Nederlands,” but that just rolls of the tongue so much more smoothly. Plus I feel like I’m in Europe when I say it that way.

Anyway, man were we relieved to pull into Boulder. Civilization. Phone service. Wifi. Little of note on the drive from Rapid City to Colorado, besides the incredibly flat and monotonous Nebraska, where we stopped in a random town for a steak lunch. We also forgot about Roadside America because we were so feverishly trying to keep up with the plot of a more-obscure-than-normal Murakami audio book. 

We kept right on going through the college town of boulder to Nederland, Colorado where we’d be staying for two nights. A friend of Olga’s had so graciously invited us to his mountainside home, complete with wrap around deck, into which a hot tub and full sized trampoline were built. Heaven. The first thing I did after introducing myself and throwin my bags down was jump on that trampoline. And boy was it satisfying. Ain’t nothing like bouncing high while gazing out over the crystal clear lake and craggy mountains.

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Darryl, our host, was a singer/songwriter originally from California, and he had one really important thing he wanted to show us in the tiny town of Nederland, Co: The Carousel of Happiness. He was so excited that he clapped his hands as he explained that we simply must go take a ride. So we did. The Carousel of Happiness is a handmade wooden marry-go-round in the center of town. It’s beautiful. And for the second time that day, I’d felt as if I’d been transported back to childhood (trampoline was the first). I chose the dolphin and Olga chose the camel. We went ’round and ’round while giggling like school girls, until the carousel slowly came to a stop and we were 28 again…

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Then we went for a leisurely hike around Barker Reservoir, which was a welcome use of muscle strength after a long trip from South Dakota. This is when Darryl told us about Frozen Dead Guy Day Festival in Nederland. Apparently there was once a Swede who was obsessed with cryogenics and subsequently froze his recently deceased grandfather. Then this Swede got deported for saying inappropriate things at the airport, leaving his cryogenically frozen grandpa all alone, frozen in time and in Colorado. Still to this day, the old man is just chillin up in some garage near Darryl’s house. Every year there’s a celebration on his behalf, complete with frozen turkey bowling, coffin races and the elegant Blue Ball. Sorry we missed that….

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On our way back from the hike, Darryl, Olga and I settled at the local brewery for a refreshing beverage and some grub. We decided that it has been a long day, and Olga and I wanted nothing more than to go home and soak in the hot tub while gazing at the wide open Colorado sky, so we headed home to do just that. The stars sure are bright and abundant out west. “Not far from the city lights, but we can see the stars at night, baby, baaabbyyy,” as the Avett Brothers say, and as I’d someday like to live…

Next morning I walked into town for a much needed and much anticipated yoga session at Tadasana Mountain studio, where I met some lovely people and really stretched and lengthened my muscles. This was my first practice since the beginning of the road trip, and it felt sooooo good. Olga met me after for a light breakfast before we headed to Red Rocks for a hot and scenic hike, which took a few hours out of our afternoon, followed by happy hour and an early evening snack in Boulder.

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I found boulder to be an interesting town. Great people watching. More barefoot folks than folks wearing shoes. More dreads than neatly combed manes. And we determined that more people were high than were not high… which is totally fine by me, unless they’re trying to give you directions or take your order. After a brief 1000 degree tour of the college town, we made the short trip back to Nederland to rest and recuperate before walking into town for dinner. All we wanted was a glass of wine and a small snack, and although Nederland has a surprising amount of options for such a miniscule little town, there weren’t many options for fine wine… so we went back to the brewery, got a glass of mediocre vino, the caprese salad and a scoop of ice cream, and headed home to bed.

I woke up early again to do yoga and then again, met Olga for breakfast and coffee. We bid Darryl and his lovely home farewell before hitting the road to a nearby trail, the Arapaho Pass. It took us a good 35 minutes to reach the trailhead from Nederland. We even had our doubts that we were driving in the right direction and almost turned around a few times on the way, but decided to forge ahead and kept be-bopping over and around the potholes in the off road trek to the trail. At this time I was glad I decided on the Rav 4 and not the Mini. Luckily our determination paid off. Once we arrived and parked at the Pass, we were thrilled to find a beautifully pristine and delightfully challenging hike.

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Eight miles total, we experienced many of the elements characteristic of hiking, totally unprepared, in Colorado: heat, altitude, sudden rain, fog and thunder, chills, hunger…. We made it up to the Great Divide with little trouble, but then the storm came raging and rumbling in, at speeds you’d never expect. Dark, menacing sky in the near distance. We were stuck at the top of a mountain, freezing in our spandex and tank tops, with no food or water and no outer layer for warmth. Here we go again….. We hiked/ran back to our car at super speed, and made it moments before the storm really crashed down. Another close hiking call. What was it with us and close calls? (Don’t answer that)

We devoured some apples and espresso almond butter and fresh bread that we’d picked up from the Nederland co-op earlier that day, and then hit the road north towards Rock Springs, where we’d decided to split up the trip to Jackson. You see, Olga and I don’t do well with any trip longer than say, 7.5 or 8 hours. Shit starts to get weird after that amount of time. So we try to keep the behind-the-wheel time to a minimum. Hence our random pit stop in Rock Springs. We ate at a blah steakhouse while trying to locate a cheap hotel. Turned out that Rock Springs was quite a destination spot… for whom we never quite figured out, but all the hotels were straight booked up, so we dejectedly got back into our ride and drove west to Green River, where we stayed at the most interesting Hampton Inn on the planet. It was surrounded by mysterious table-like rock structures. Check it out.

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We slept like babies. And we’d need the rest for our trip to Jackson Hole, where all kinds of wonderful and amazing activities, not to mention wonderful and amazing friends, both old and new, awaited.

 

 

 

Boston to San Francisco via every state in between – part three: the Dakotas

By the time we reached Fargo, Olga and I were both feigning for a steak. Our vegetarianism lasted less than 24 hours… All we had eaten since morning was raw cabbage, cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, blueberries, raspberries and nuts for 8 hours on the trip north.

Oh wait, I completely forgot about our first successful Roadside America detour. On the way out of Wisconsin, we stopped at a Mobil gas station to see a big huge plaster giant man. This man was originally holding a can of beer and a wheel of cheese, but was recently robbed of his beer and given a sausage : / So it goes…

Here’s a picture of Mr. Giant Man, with Olga standing on his foot for size comparison. Totally worth the detour.

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Anyway, we arrived in Fargo to a cold, rainy, sleepy town. After unloading our bags at the Hampton Inn (because we couldn’t find a soul we knew, or a soul who anyone we knew knew, to stay with) we hit the town. We got a tip from a friend of a friend who grew up in Fargo (who, by the way, said  “to be frank, there aren’t a whole lot of worthwhile sites in the state, and you can skip Bismarck altogether…) to hit up the Hotel Donaldson, which he said had live music, but ended up not having live music. Nonetheless, it was a “happenin” spot: an old restored building on Broadway that had been converted into a 16-room boutique hotel with restaurant, lounge and rooftop bar. The food was surprisingly gourmet and delicious: heirloom tomato salad, duck nuggets, meatloaf and chicken-fried steak. Overall, it was a very pleasant experience, if we forget about being stalked by an obviously mentally unstable man with long greasy hair and a baseball cap. Fargo Creeper #1.

We wanted to see more of the town so we bounced after a trio of sweet/salty dessert. Walking from one end of Broadway, the main strip, to the other and back, popping into a rowdy Irish pub and being briefly followed by Fargo Creeper #2, we ditched the scene and headed home. We agreed to return to Broadway in the AM to witness the summer street fair that we’d heard so much about.

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And sure enough, this fair was a sight to see. People from all walks of life flocked to the Fargo summer street fair. What else was there to do in North Dakota on a Saturday in the summer?? Great people watching. We stayed for a half hour then hit the road south.

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Next stop, Badlands of South Dakota. On our way though, we experienced our second successful Roadside America adventure: 1880 Town. 

1880 Town was an old western town. Duh. Buildings had been salvaged from small towns all over the west by a determined couple and reconstructed as a tourist attraction. The town was complete with a bank, jail, church, a few homes, a school, a dentist and a saloon, which had live entertainment. Fun fun!

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Onward to the Badlands, where we had planned to set up a tent and camp, and were pretty excited about it. Well that didn’t happen. Here’s why. We arrived, sleepy eyed and low energy, to awe-inspiring views as the sun began to set over the Badlands.

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After picking a plot in the camping area, #28, we began setting up our enormous tent (first time either of us had attempted tent set up). Almost immediately, Peter, a nice older fellow from a few plots down, hammer in hand, came to assist us. With 30 mile per hour winds preventing easy set up, and having to chase after various wind blown objects such as stake bags and plot reservation tickets, it took the three of us almost 45 minutes to fully set up the tent. Just as we were putting on the rain guard, Ruth, the campground supervisor came running over waving the plot reservation ticket that had blown off just prior to our arrival, and some really bad news….. The space was already rented for the evening and we had to move. By this time we were so exhausted and discouraged that we said “F it,” and drove out of the Badlands to Wall, South Dakota, found a shitty BBQ joint for dinner and a shitty hotel room for the night.

 

Rested and ready to begin again, the next morning we had breakfast at the famous Wall Drug store.

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We headed back to the Badlands and were delighted to see all kinds of wildlife: buffalo, prairie dogs and mountain goats.

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We climbed the dunes and enjoyed a scenic drive before hitting the road west towards the Black Hills National Forest. Again, we planned on camping, but again, it didn’t happen. I’ll get to why…

We drove straight to Mount Rushmore, which was buzzing with Japanese tourists, but was nonetheless exciting.

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I had always wanted to see Mount Rushmore, but never thought I’d actually make it to the middle of nowhere South Dakota. While standing, gazing up at the 4 gigantic, poised presidents, I couldn’t stop thinking of the movie Richie Rich. SUCH a good movie. 

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We hiked the presidential trail, then went in search of a longer, more wildernessy hike. I asked the information desk man who pointed us in the direction of the Blackberry trail right across the street, which would lead us to another trail that would loop us right back around to our car. Perfect. We set off. 

It took a bit of work to find the trailhead, surprisingly, since it was so close to Mount Rushmore and we figured it would be clearly marked and busy with overflow tourists. We were the only people on the trail. Weird, but lovely.

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Two hours into the hike, we came across the trail that we were supposed to take that would loop us around to the car. It was closed for regrowth…. Shoot, what do we do? If we continued on with the main trail it would take us hours longer. We probably wouldn’t get back before sunset. Hmmmmm… Olga and I looked at each other. From countless continual hours together we’ve learned to read each other well.

“We could just follow this closed trail…”

“Okay”

Bad decision. We followed the overgrown trail for about 200 yards, lost it, then re-found it. I swear though, it was like being in the desert and seeing a mirage; I kept seeing what I thought was the trail but couldn’t be sure if it was really the trail or if I just really wanted it to be the trail so my brain was making it appear to be the trail. Make sense?

We got frighteningly lost in the woods. The sun was threatening to set, we had no cell service and we hadn’t the slightest idea where we were or which way was north. We even came to a real life situation of “Well, we can’t go over it, and we can’t go under it, and we can’t go through it. We’ve got to go around it. But which way?”

We kept our cool. One thing we knew was that at some point the trail ran parallel to the road. We kept our ears peeled for the sound of motors roaring. Thank the lord for Harley Davidsons because I’m convinced they saved us from having to spend a wide-eyed night in the woods. I had seen an On the Boarder sign as we pulled into Rapid City, the nearby town, and described to Olga how good their guacamole (made tableside) and Cadillac margaritas were. I kept thinking about those things. I wanted them both so bad right about now. We agreed to plan the rest of our evening around On the Boarder. F camping. After this, there wasn’t a chance in hell we were gonna set up that monster tent and sleep on the ground. We would get a hotel near On the Boarder and rest our brains and bones after this terrifying adventure.

We followed the sound of cars and eventually, after an hour and a half of totally bewildered bushwhacking and nearly breaking our asses on steep downhill declines, we spotted the road. A beacon of hope in the distance. But it was still so far away….. down a densely forested hill and then up another and then over another…. We finally made it. Sweet, beautiful relief.

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To reward ourselves for our victorious mountaineering (forget about the stupidity of going off trail) we drove straight to On the Boarder for that delicious table-side guac, to be washed down with salty margaritas. A terrible disappointment was in store. The guacamole, a pitiful serving brought out from the kitchen, was presented to us by the nonchalant waitress. I inquired about the table-side construction that was advertised on the menu, to which she replied “Sorry, we ran out of avocados..” I said “So then how did you make this?” “Oh, we use different avocados for the tableside guac, and we ran out of those.” So these were the shittier avocados. Great. Well, at least we’d get a good margarita. Not the case. The margaritas she brought were so sour that they literally made our mouths pucker with displeasure at every sip. Almost unbearable. Such a disappointment.

 

Zonked, we decided to look for a hotel. Olga needed Internet access for a project she was working on so we called around to ensure the cheapo rooms had wifi. Not easy to find in Rapid City, SD, apparently. At the first hotel we called, when asked if they had wifi, the receptionist said “sometimes…. in some rooms….” Okay, next. The second one said they technically had it, but it hadn’t been working so they were getting a new carrier, but it would definitely work in the reception area….. Okay, good enough. We booked it: The Imperial Hotel. Luckily Earl didn’t ask for a phone number or credit card for reservation, because when we pulled up, it was the nastiest, most dreadfully frightening motel we’d ever seen so we put the pedal to the metal and zoomed away in search for something decent. Finally we found a nice place whose receptionist answered with a resounding “yes” to the wifi question. Thank Gah. However, after checking in, changing into our PJ’s and trying to sign on to no avail, we called the front desk only to be informed that they were having issues with it, but that the connected Perkins restaurant had wifi and it was working perfectly fine. Jeeze! Doesn’t anyone feel the need to be connected in this town? Apparently not. Poor Olga finished her work sitting in the waiting area of Perkins.

 

Despite the incredible national parks and forests, we were delighted to get out of South Dakota the next morning. By way of long straight flat Nebraska, we cruised into the comparatively developed and connected state of Colorado, where we would relax for 2 nights.