Evolving into a nomad chick…

My friend Robert told me that the Portland Japanese Garden is not to be missed, so I’ll add that to my itinerary. He’s offered to take me through Smith Rock State Park since he lives nearby.

Also, I’m thinking that I should rent a car to drive up to Oregon and then fly back to Phoenix, otherwise it’s just too many hours driving by myself. Speaking of which, I’ve been doing some research on women traveling alone. First of all, I’m reading Women’s Travel Writing 2008, which seriously makes me laugh and cry on every page—I’m so easily moved it’s ridiculous.

Found a great site with advice for solo women travelers — maybe i just like the ring of it, nomad chick—could that be me?

Musings and Travels

Greetings from the open road! We finished up last week in West Virginia, chilling in the countryside with some beautiful people. Sometimes all you need is to be around the right people in the right place and things just seem to fall into place. Not that things were bad before, but somehow I feel like the air around me has cleared. Like I breathed in some special aura that decluttered my thoughts and realigned my chi and completely centered myself. I can breathe easier—and isn’t that why I headed out on this trip? City anxieties were just getting me down, weighing me down.

Earlier this week we were in Indiana Dunes State Park and National Lakeshore which was beautiful. We camped out 4 nights in a row, 3 in the park and once at a campground we found along the highway on our drive up to Indiana.

We’re actually in Chicago now (I know I keep complaining about big city life, and yet, I can’t pull myself away!). We’re really just here to refuel and restock (not that I’m defensive or anything…). We already went to The Plaza Shopping Center in Evergreen b/c I needed a new watch and Ryan needed new pants (haha—I’m laughing thinking about it. When we went white water rafting, he jumped out screaming “watch this corkscrew” but all I heard was “watch this – ” b/c then he splashed so hard into the water and when he popped up, his pants must’ve gotten stuck on a rock and ripped all the way down his leg. He’s been wearing them for the last week with a makeshift sewing job (done by me!) and he looks ridiculous.).

Tomorrow we’re going to the Museum of Contemporary Art and then we’re gonna get back on the road for a loooong time and go to Lake Maria State Park where we’re finally going to see Aly, Tess, and Greenie (more Rainbow friends)! They don’t have internet and since we’ll be staying with them for a week or so, you may not hear from me for a while…

Wait I was about to sign off, but I just want to say that things with Ryan are going so so well. Not that I was worried at all, but I know that other people were, saying things like, “Once you travel with someone you learn all about their dark side” or something like that, so either Ryan just doesn’t have a dark side or he’s doing a damn good job at hiding it from me. Obviously he’s got one, but it’s nothing I can’t handle!


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Alive and Safe and maybe never going whitewater rafting again!

I seriously posted that last post and before I signed off (like a minute later) I already had an email from my mom telling me that I’d better be safe and email or call her when I get back. (Mom, PLEASE don’t sit by the computer all day waiting for me to write…..seriously, aren’t you supposed to be working??)

And so, here is just a very short post for all my dear readers: rest assured, I am safe. New River Gorge National River (didn’t swallow me up as I thought it would). Though I think rafting just may not be my thing.

First of all, the rapids weren’t even so bad (supposedly). I think they were a level 3 or something, which are “wimpy” rapids. We had a simulated “flip over” as soon as we got in the boat, and even that left me screaming and splashing around for dear life—mind you, we were in 2 foot deep water.

But MAN, I have never seen such peer pressure. The other people in the boat FORCED me to stay on the boat, saying that I’d be ok and that we “probably” wouldn’t flip over anyways. And they were right, kinda. No one flipped over…but me…three times! But, as goddess is my witness (that’s for you mom, I know how much you love that), I would not allow that frothy, glistening water to win our raging battle. And so each time I fought, and each time I came out on top, stronger than the last time.

By the time we got to the last rapid, people were actually laughing so hard and not focusing on the rapids at all, that our whole raft capsized throwing us all into the calm of a patch of river that was just near a truck that was waiting to load us up and take us home.

Ryan says I’m a good sport. Or sportess—he’s making fun of me.

It should not go unmentioned, however, that my brush with death was nearly worth it due to the breathtaking scenery that surrounded us. A little before and little after, we hiked through the area and I really took the most amazing pictures of cascading waterfalls flowing off of sandstone cliffs.

And then I remember that this is why I needed to get out of the city. To try new things and to experience the divinity of nature. And that is what I found here—that is what I keep finding.

Even this house that we’re staying at. They have acres of land and children and animals who all seem so happy and at peace with their surroundings. They open their home to travelers and allow them to taste from sweetness of their lives. This is family. This is something great.
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City Slicker par excellance

This is seriously the life. I don’t believe that just a few months ago I was in NY trapped in my cubicle for 9 hours a day wondering what the hell I was going to do with my life. Just last night I was in some bar in the middle of nowhere drunk off my ass and singing my lungs out at a karaoke bar—doesn’t sound like the Tim you know? Yeah, me neither.

So want to know where THIS cool guy is as we speak? On a dude ranch in New Mexico. I got my cowboy hat and I smell like shit and I just gorged on a ranch BBQ and now I can’t move. This is truly the beginning of a beautiful life. I’m staying here till they kick me out.

Meanwhile, just to track where I was that brought me here: I was in Albuquerque where I met some guys at this youth hostel who were on their way to this place. I spent a few more days chillin’ in the ‘querq (that doesn’t work, does it?) and now I’ve met up with them at this ranch.

There’s standard backpacker lingo around here. The greeting: Where have you been and where are you going? And the response: I was here. I am going there. Do you want to come? It’s a beautiful world we live in outside the constraints of the 2×4 cubicle.

Before making it down to the ranch, I made a stop at White Sands National Monument which is near the Tularosa Basin. I walked for about 5 miles through magnificent dunes and then went dune sledding (on a toboggan that I borrowed from a 6 year old girl, which was very nice of her). Apparently White Sands is the world’s largest gypsum dune field. I’ve got great pictures that I’ll upload when I’ve got a faster internet connection. I actually just missed the Annual Bataan Memorial Death March, which is something that the Air Force organizes every year to honor the thousands of people who died during a forced march of 60 miles led by Japanese soldiers during World War II. It would’ve been cool to be a part of that…maybe next year. There’s an exhibit now in the Philippines called “The Zen of White Sands” about one man’s experience here. You can see some of his pictures online. I was there!

I plan on picking up some city slicker skills while I’m here. I’d like to deliver a baby calf (remember that?) and learn to chew tobacco. There’re actually going to put me to work here, otherwise I’m just a “tourist” and then I have to pay more.
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Trying to stay sane, take 2

Yes, that’s right, TRYING so very hard. I have 2 weeks of spring break (which is why I’m home and not in North Carolina) and I THOUGHT that I’d just get to chill at home (with that minor excursion to Virginia Beach. But instead, my parents just sprang on me that when they drive me back to school (which is always really nice of them to do instead of putting me on a bus – see I know how to be the grateful child too) we’re going to leave a few days early to spend some time at Stone Mountain State Park.

I actually just took a minute to google this place and in so doing, I’ve already calmed down a bit. How bipolar do I sound?? It just that the last few days that I was planning on being in Richmond, overlap with another friend coming home from college for the weekend, though the truth is, I think we’ll still overlap for a day. Anyways, apparently we’re going to Stone Mountain with the Casons b/c Jocelyn goes to school with me and we’re friends and all so I shouldn’t complain too much.

Also, I just don’t like surprises.

So actually this place looks pretty cool. There’s rock climbing and fishing and my mom said she didn’t know yet if we’d camp out or get a cabin. And we’ll be driving down the Blue Ridge Parkway to get there which is supposed to be pretty. Apparently it’s “a shame” that I now live in NC but haven’t really traveled through the state.

Though I have been to places on the coast like Hammocks Beach State Park on Bear Island and Carolina Beach State Park, which is so far my most favorite beach ever, but that could be because that’s where I met Ricky (the guy my parents hate), though it does also happen to be a pretty cool beach.

And last time my parents drove me to school we went to the North Carolina Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores. And another time to the North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher —have I told you about my fishmonging father?

Whatever. My mom asked me to go online and find things we can do at Stone Mountain so that’s why I’m here—any suggestions?

Verdict is up: NJ is NOT the armpit of America!

I’ve been traveling all over lately that if finally just feels good to stay at home for a bit. My paralegal job is in the city and I’ll be sharing an apartment (if you can even call it that!) in the city, so I guess I should try and appreciate my parents’ large sprawling home while I’ve still got it.

People call New Jersey the “armpit of the U.S.” but somehow, how do I put this…I guess when it’s your own armpit, it’s really not that bad. In fact, I’d say NJ is the forearm of America, or wrist even. Whatever, drop the analogy—my point is the NJ is not so bad!

Anyways, I’m going on the road again, but this time, on the road to the malls of New Jersey! Woohoo! I need to buy a TON of stuff to furnish my half of our apartment so I’m trading cars with my mom and taking her mini van all over the state to get the best deals. Not to brag or anything, but I happen to be a fantastic shopper… just one of my many talents! 

I already went to Monmouth Mall since it’s the one right by my house. I sometimes just stop there to pick up lunch because they’ve got a Salad Works and I’m trying to lose a little weight so I can move to NYC thin (is that pathetic?). Anyways, to encourage myself I bought something at Jessica McClintock that pulls just the tiniest bit too much (is that dumb?).

Tonight I’m going over to Freehold Raceway Mall with some friends, mainly to check out the collection at Kirkland’s Home Furnishings, but I’m sure we’ll also pop into Forever 21 and Dead Sea Cosmetics…hello?…i’m moving to NYC, I gotta look good!

Tomorrow my mom and I and said friend (hi Carly!) are all are going to go to Ocean County Mall in Toms River. We figured we’d make a day of it and drive down to Point Pleasant Beach and then stop at the mall on our way back. We’re going to go canoeing on the Manasquan River and eat cheese fries (not good for diet)—I’ll make up for by getting a salad for lunch…Ocean County Mall has an Everything Yogurt & Salad Café.

I guess it’s not such an extensive tour, but 3 malls are probably adequate since I don’t actually need so much (though I like to pretend that I do).

Wish me good weather tomorrow!

Martha’s ready to get away again! (just need a little advice…)

I happen to have accrued a lot of vacation days from work. I haven’t taken full vacations for the last 4 years and since we have a cumulative vacation day policy, I’ve got about a month left that I can still take this year. I get a little crazy about it actually. As I was writing that I was thinking, wow, if I don’t take them this year, then next year I’ll have SIX weeks. But I’ve got to break that habit, otherwise I will NEVER GO ANYWHERE, and I’m done living like that!

So I think starting on the Thursday before Memorial Day I’m going to drive up to Oregon for a 2-3 week roadtrip. Why Oregon, you ask? Well, why not? I’ve been reading up on things to do/see in Oregon, so I’m starting to get some ideas for us there and there are also a few places along the way that I’ll check out (like Red Rock Canyon in Nevada). Most of all, I’m going to bring my journal (which is really my laptop) and I’m going to get some writing done. I have drafts of poems and short stories that I’ve written in the past (some as far back as 20 or 30 years ago!) and I’d like to devote some serious time to getting them in better shape to share with the world, in one way or another.

I guess I just want to throw out some of my ideas and see if anyone has suggestions. I’ve heard amazing things about Mt. Hood National Forest and Golden-Silver Falls State Park (is it wrong to choose a place based on it’s name?), so I’d like to make sure that I at least get to these. Other than that, I’m open to suggestions. Maybe also Crater Lake National Park.

Browsing through other people’s trip itineraries online, I’ve come across this trip which looks like a good few days trip around Portland, which is something I’d also like to do. Any other “must do’s” in the area?

I figure that if I do stop at Red Rock Canyon, I’ll go in Vegas while I’m in the area, even though it doesn’t quite fit into the theme of my outdoors traveling itinerary…Though I just checked mapquest and it’s a 20 hour drive from Phoenix to Portland, but that’s going up the California Coast, not going through Nevada as I had wanted and I don’t want to go TOO far out of my way. Has anyone done this trip before?

Westward, ho!

Confession 1: I stole a road sign. I know that is totally wrong and completely not my style, but there were 2 deer crossing signs about a foot away from each other and one of them was all crooked and about to fall down and they MUST have put the other one up to replace the old falling down one and it really was just hanging by a thread (like a metal thread, what’s that called?) and it was like 2 a.m. and we had been driving for so long and there it was.

Confession 2: I am totally geographically challenged. I went out on this road trip thinking we would just zip from one city to the next and then from state to state to state until we ran out of states. But it takes a freakin long time to get from place to place!

Last I wrote, we were in Pittsburgh, which was fun. We spent a lot of time by the Alleghany River and took the cable car up Mount Washington where we got a breathtaking view of the city—and a taste of where teenagers who want to make out go to get away from their parents. Hung out with Jackie for a few days and caught up and she got to meet Ryan who she loved (who wouldn’t?), and not that I’m insecure, but I do always love when my friends like my boyfriends. Jackie lives in the “Strip” district, which has a noisy outdoor market and some trendy nightclubs (that I wouldn’t step foot in, of course) that kept me up late and woke me up early, but at least it seems like a really lively place. Very colorful and bursting with life.

We left late last night, drove for a loooooong time (getting lost a few times and stopping for that deer sign — I seriously don’t know what we were thinking) and then crashed at a friend of Ryan’s from the Rainbow Family in Glen Jean, West Virginia. I haven’t really gotten a chance yet to explore—we’re going out as soon as I get off the computer to New River Gorge National River to do some serious whitewater rafting. I’m actually a little scared b/c aren’t some of the biggest rapids in the world in West Virgina? And apparently we’re not allowed to leave the area before going to Gauley River National Recreation Area.

Wish me luck…

Oh, btw, I have no cell phone service here, but I’ll probably check my email again before we leave—we’ll probably be here for a few days, at least.

Ok, ok, I’m going!
Peace!

I’m Baaack!

Bro, don’t read this: I ended up hitching a ride from Guadalupe Mountains National Park in Texas to Carlsbad Caverns National Park in New Mexico and then all the way to Albuquerque. I was at Guadalupe Canyon (in the NP) which is by far the most magnificent and I ran into this old man who actually I’d run into already at Big Bend National Park a few days earlier…turns out he’s doing a similar trekking route as the one I’ve got (sort of) planned, so he gave me a ride ‘cross the border to our next stop in Carlsbad (it was just under an hour, still in the Guadalupe Mountains, so I probably could’ve ridden my bike—had I not been so damn trusting and left it unlocked by my hostel a few stops back. First my laptop, then this. Grrr.). But then Old Man gave me a ride to Albuquerque which is where he lives and while I probably could’ve biked that over the course of a few days, it was nice getting a free 6 hour ride.

The companionship was certainly nice while I’ve got it. I’ve met a ton of people down here, but most of these “friendships” last for the duration of a hike and then dissolve as quickly as they picked up. Though now I have random people imprinted upon the peaks of the mountains I’ve scaled in the Southwest.

George ended up being a great tour guide through the Carlsbad Caverns National Park — there’s this incredible network of underground caves that date back about 500,000 years. George knew the ins and outs and brought me to some very cool rock formations within some hidden caves. Apparently he had been bringing his kids and grandkids for years but this year they were “busy” (I think it’s more complicated than that) so he was happy to have the company of a young person, I think.

When we got to Albuquerque, he let me shower at his house and then he dropped me off at Cottonwood Mall and now George is just another bleep on my radar. Never to be seen again, but probably never forgotten. If I were to be writing a play or a screenplay, George would be the apocalyptal Old Man…the seer who comes to this world to watch over the orphan child and lead him in the direction of the gods….

I had no idea how welcome the cool walkways of a huge indoor mall would be. I’m not generally Mr. Mall, but, what an alternate universe: People who are CLEAN and SOCIALIZING WITH FRIENDS AND FAMILY… almost foreign concepts to me by now. I got a twang of…something. Would I say homesickness? Maybe. I went to the food court and got something delicious and greasy and then…Tim is really reverting back to his old ways… saw a movie. Saw 10,000 BC which was both fun and crap—one of my alltime favorite genres…

I found a hostel (which is where I am now, finally online connected with the world) and I think I’m going to lay low for a few days and explore this city. My body physically needs a break from climbing.

BTW, is my movie taste that bad?
Haha—I just saw that Rotten Tomatoes gave 10,000 BC a 9% rating. That’s probably the lowest rated movie I’ve ever seen…and yet, I enjoyed it. What does that say about me?

Next stop? Hmmm… You’ll just have to wait and find out!

Trying to stay sane

I am in the worst mood ever, and sometimes the only thing that makes me feel better is to drive to Short Pump Mall. Besides the fact that it reminds me that Richmond doesn’t suck as bad as it used to, there also happens to be a Barnes & Noble right next door where I can go and mope over a cup of coffee and a self-help book.

I’m at home in Richmond visiting my parents (I’m in boarding school in North Carolina for my last year of highschool…b/c I WANT to, not b/c I’m a bad kid…) and every time I come home my parents get on my case about this guy who I’m seeing that they don’t really like so much. It just really stresses me out because I respect my parents’ opinion so much and they usually respect my decisions, so then I just start to doubt how I feel about Ricky and then I get all anxious and insecure and ARGH!!!

Anyways, that’s not why I’m writing here. I just found this site and like the idea of sharing nice travel experiences, so I thought it would be a good idea for me to focus on something fun my family did and then I got carried away with my rant so now I’m going to try and back up a bit.

Out of all my 17 years on Earth (all of which were spent in Richmond), my family has never once gone to Virginia Beach. I’d gone only once or twice with friends, but never as a family (i.e. never staying overnight in a nice hotel). So we went earlier this week, stayed in a Holiday Inn (that’s nice compared to the dumps I’ve crashed at) and actually had a good time. We spent a lot of time on the beach and on the shops that line the coast. Got some chotchkas and some food that’s probably really bad for you (and yet so good). When we needed a break from the sun we hid out in Lynnhaven Mall for a few hours. There’s a Barnes & Noble there, so we were all happy (we’re all big readers). I even begged my parents (who gave in!) to take me to the Build-A-Bear Workshop which was SO MUCH fun! (Yes, you read that right, I’m 17 and begged my parents for a stuffed animal…and got it, hee hee.) We actually went back the next day for a movie. Saw Shine a Light which was pretty good, but apparently I’m “too young” to get all the references. The Rolling Stones are pretty retro these days and since retro means kinda cool, I kinda know a thing or two about them (or at least that’s how I had to spell it out to my parents who for some reason thought my interest in 70s music meant I was snorting cocaine). Sometimes I feel like my parents are immigrants, though my family’s been in this country pretty much since it started.

At some point in there we also went to the Virginia Aquarium Marine Science Center for my fish-enthusiast dad.

Ok, I actually do feel a little better. See, self-help books do help! (I had read in one of the books in my stack to write about sometime good to take the focus off the bad.)