Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Trip Statistics

Tomorrow I am scheduled for a trail ride at a stable in Mancos, CO and I started thinking about all the different forms of transportation I will have taken on this trip other than my car. What a surprise when I started counting and came up with 10! The list includes plane, raft, dune buggy, BART (train from suburb into San Francisco) cable car, bus, excursion steam train, yacht, motor boat, and horse.

Here are some other statistics:

36 Days on the road
10 National Parks visited
7 Parks where I had a queasy stomach and/or white knuckles while driving
5 Parks where I wished I had an extra day
10 States I stayed overnight
8 Nights stayed in a hostel
12 Nights stayed with friends
3 Kinds of wildlife spotted that were bigger than a turkey
0 Times Teddy Tripper spotted a relative
8 Days with temperature in triple digits (unofficial)
1 Days I saw rain (so far)
2 Other solo women travelers I met
12 Miles walked in one day (estimated)
1 Parking tickets
2 Times I "lost" my car in a parking lot
2 Days I missed journaling
2 Evenings I watched TV
3 Days I had a picnic (defined as eating my own food outside my car)
10,000 Mountain ranges I drove over (unofficial)

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Jan in the Saddle

Jan in the Saddle

Jan Having Fun

Jan with Red Nose

Teddy Tripper in Yosemite

Teddy Tripper in Yosemite

Thursday, September 24, 2009

From Hostels to the Occidental

I guess I should come clean about my resolve to travel "on-the-cheap." I started out good. The first night I stayed in a hostel, although I did "splurge" on a private room. Total cost: $49.30. Even though the bathroom and shower were at the end of the hall, and there was a terrible ruckus at 2:30 in the morning from a nearby room, I decided to risk a second hostel a few nights later. This one was a charming, tiny room in a hotel built in the 1800's. It reminded me of a log cabin, with it's rustic twin bed covered in a plaid comforter. Although again, the bathroom was down the hall, at least the shower was private, and, it was quiet. In addition to four additional hostels along my route, I consistently made reservations in inns and motels that fit in the on-the-cheap category.

Then, there was Buffalo, Wyoming. I had been on the Internet for some time trying to find a reasonably priced room in this stop-over town, when I happened upon Although I was immediately fascinated by the history and decor of this hotel, I resolved to be good and went on looking for an alternative, thinking that I didn't have to actually stay overnight, but could simply visit during the day and have a peek.

Someone once wrote, "Continue until your weariness overcomes the need to save money." And, yes, I eventually booked the room. Total cost: $140.71. But, it turned out to be a bargain after all, because in addition to being a delightful place to spend the night, it was a history lesson, a day's entertainment, and most definitely in the category of "favorite memories of my x-country trip."

Who knows, it may actually be eligible for a chapter in my new book, the solo, x-country, not quite on-the-cheap book.

To the Connecticut blogger who heard my interview on the Mary Jones Show (WDRC 1360 AM) I will be calling in again on Saturday, September 26th at 1:30 Eastern Standard Time.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

A Red Nose

It was a beautiful day, so I decided to spend part of my afternoon in Portland, Oregon visiting two parks that this city is well-known for, the International Rose Test Garden and The Japanese Garden. Since Portland is called the Rose City, my first stop was the Rose Garden. The 550 varieties bloom from June into the fall, and during my visit in mid-September the three hillside terraces looking over the downtown was alive with color and fragrance.

On my way to the roses I first came to the children's playground and noticed a man and woman soaring high on the swings. That looks like fun, I thought, and paused to tell them so. Immediately after I got the words out of my mouth I looked closer at the man. Was that a red nose he was wearing? I just had to ask, "Why are you wearing a red nose?"

"Because this is our day to have fun and the red nose reminds us of that."

This is a very wise man, I think. What could be a simpler and more effective reminder to have fun than wearing a red nose? I mean, how could anyone wear a red nose and not have fun?

So, imagine my surprise when, two days later, I am in a store in Florence and spot a bin of red noses. Without hesitation, I buy two, because although I think I've got this "fun" thing pretty well figured out, it never hurts to have a reminder around. The other (?) because there may come a day when someone in my life needs a red nose, and I'll be ready.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Solo Traveler Welcomes the Personal Connection

From roosters crowing to cars honking, from cows mooing to sirens blaring, from driving down "cow paths" to one-way city streets, which are always going the other way. From Montana to Seattle!

Just a few days ago, I was headed toward Montana looking forward to three days of human contact with folks who had invited a solo traveler/writer and perfect stranger to be a guest in their home.

The first town was Livingston, just north of Yellowstone. The hosts were a lovely couple, Relly and Mel, who not only fed me and gave me a place to sleep, but took me on a grand and historic tour of this place they have settled in and grown to love. In addition, a surprise and pleasant evening was offered when Relly, an actress, brought me to her rehearsal of "You Can't Take it With You" which will be playing at The Blue Slipper Theatre. For anyone living in this area, check it out. The talented cast will not only have you laughing out loud, but you will go home thinking that your own family might be perfectly normal after all.

Next, I drove to Fort Shaw, just west of Great Falls. Margaret and Duane have a small but growing farm which was an exciting new experience. I saw the sunrise, picked fresh corn for a large family dinner, and rode a horse. Well, okay, I "sat" on a horse to have my picture taken. But, that small act of getting on a horse after 30 years has given me the courage, I think, to schedule a trail ride later in one of the National Parks. The house sits on a hill with a dramatic view of a square butte, the small town of Fort Shaw, and neighboring farms. This special couple made me feel so at home, it was hard to leave.

But, there are new adventures beckoning, so I tucked the memory of mountains, valleys, and farmland away in a special place, and set off for a few days of exploring the beautiful and exciting West Coast.

Until next time ~

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Four National Parks Visited

Last night I checked into my hostel in W. Yellowstone two hours later than planned, explaining to the clerk that it had taken longer to drive out of Yellowstone because of the wildlife, once when a family of elk were grazing by the creek, and another when a humongous bison was sauntering down the road in a zig zag pattern. I don't think he was drunk, so he probably just enjoyed having control of when the long line of cars could start moving. Maybe it was his way of saying, "Hey, this is my home so deal with it."

"Yes, and then all the nuts stop to gawk, or whip out their cameras and snap a few dozen pictures."

"Uh, oh, guilty on both counts" I replied raising my hand, and we both had a good laugh.

It's hard to believe that I have been on the road for only one week. When I stop to think I have four more weeks of being wowed and stimulated by all the natural beauty that is in my path, I am rather overwhelmed.

So far, Teddy Tripper and I have visited four national parks: Rocky Mountain, Mt. Rushmore, Yellowstone, and Grand Teton. Each one was uniquely beautiful, and hopefully, when I have had time to digest them all, I will write about my impressions.

But, for now, a personal experience ---

When I arrived at Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado, I stopped at the Visitors Center to ask the ranger for a map and suggestions on what part of the park I should visit given my time frame. Without hesitation she said I should drive up to the top of the mountain (over 14,000 feet, in fact, the highest mountain in our national park system) Now, every time that I considered this option while planning my trip, I had felt apprehensive.

"Well, I'm not sure since I don't like driving on narrow, winding roads with no guardrails."

She chuckled and said, "The roads are not narrow, and we haven't lost anyone yet."

"You mean no one has gone over the side?"

"Not unless they wanted to."

Isn't it interesting how past experiences influence our thinking even 37 years later? In this case, it was a crazy uncle-in-law that drove like a maniac up a Swiss mountain on a rocky dirt path. Every time one of us would gasp (our form of communication since he didn't speak English and we didn't speak Italian!) he would press harder on the gas pedal and flash a toothless grin.

As it turned out, "my" road was not only paved, it was a two-lane road just like the ones I drive on a daily basis, with yellow lines down the center; it was also a gentler climb that I had imagined. Still, it was over 14,000 feet and curvy, so I kept my eyes fixed firmly in front of me, never once looking over the edge.

At the top, I was rewarded with a stunning view, but the real reward was the jubilation for having pushed through my fear and then feeling lighter and more free.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

The "not-so-wild" West

John Wayne had a commanding presence about him. Heck, even a wooden cutout got me to take notice. It was placed next to the door leading into the lobby of the motel, along with a couple of plastic horses, a pair of cowboy boots, and saddles.

Walking through the courtyard to my room, I notice the two corners of the u-shaped structure where other cowboys and assorted western paraphernalia are at home, while an elk and moose, windmill and totem pole find space closer to the street. In fact, everywhere I look, I am reminded I am in Wyoming. And, like John Wayne, everything is larger-than-life.

On the second floor landing where I am headed, is a hanging 36x42 wooden painting of five cowboys playing poker with a dance hall "lady", and guess who's winning? And what's this? A handsome cowboy standing right next to my room, while on the roof across the courtyard is a rearing palomino. Why not!

What pulls it all together, I think, is the profusion of pink and fuchsia flowers blooming in every nook and cranny. Standing containers are placed next to all the molded animals and cowboy cutouts, while pots hang in front of the doors to the rooms.

I had asked my grandson, who is attending WyoTech to check out the local motels, and this is the one he choose for me to spend my one night in Laramie. I loved it!! And probably the one I will remember best at the end of this trip.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009