Thursday, October 27, 2016

Burger Repurcussions

From late April through early October, I ate almost exclusively hamburgers and pizza and big sugary desserts. I also regularly stayed up until 2 or 3 in the morning, watching TV or videos on YouTube. The bulk of my days were spent sitting in the car. Sure, I'd get out and run a bit with River, and often got out to go on small hikes or climb on rocks or jump in waves. And I'd occasionally stop to teach a Nia class. But it was mostly a sedentary, unhealthful lifestyle--something new to me. I noticed, during this time, I was more susceptible to getting sick and being cranky. I also gained significant weight. My usual weight range hovers around 155, and whenever I get above 160 I know I've gotten off track and seek to right myself. But during those past five months, my belly started growing enough to bulge out over my waistband. I was embarrassed to remove my shirt, which is unlike me. I could even see myself bulging when I wore form fitting clothes.

An interesting aspect of this scenario is the fact that I was teaching these Nia classes, but they didn't seem to be keeping me in shape. My theory is since I was teaching the same routine to a new group each time, that my body quickly adapted to the demands of that routine. And since I wasn't increasing my challenge, the fitness it brought me was stagnating. It is important to keep challenging our bodies and changing our programs to keep ourselves in top shape.

I had a great time on my five month road trip. The decision to eat burgers and pizza all along the way. sure made things easy. This was partially a response to how much difficulty I'd encountered while attempting to eat healthy food on the road on past trips. I would lug around an ice chest and keep it stocked with fresh food, and stop at a healthy grocery store every few days.

It wouldn't be nearly as difficult as it was if I weren't traveling with a dog. But something as simple as stopping at the grocery store became an ordeal, especially on a hot day.  And since I was traveling across the country mostly through the summer, it was usually too hot to leave the dog in the car.

And then, it was another challenge to keep things fresh.  Even though I was using an ice chest, sometimes, when I was teaching class or enjoying a park, I'd have to park the car in the hot sun. In the summer heat, the inside of the car would get to near oven-like temperatures, making it likely that the fresh food in my cooler wasn't kept in safe food-storage conditions. I ended up throwing away a lot of food that I wasn't sure about.

My solution was to live, as I called it, "like normal people". I didn't concern myself with eating healthy. I just enjoyed burgers and pizza and brownies and candy with impunity. Part of the fun of it, in my twisted mind, was actually seeing myself gain fat weight around my waist. I fought it at first, but soon realized I couldn't have it both ways. I either had to eat healthy or accept that I was going to gain weight. So I devised a plan that helped me tolerate and actually enjoy the resulting weight gain. All along, I was motivated by how much fun it would be to lose the weight once I got back home and could be in better control of my eating and lifestyle again.  I rationalized that the more weight I gained during this period, the more impressive it would be when I got home and lost it all.

So, now I've been home for three weeks and I've lost a total of 8 pounds. I didn't go on a diet, but I did create some rules for myself to create a healthy lifestyle environment.

One: I committed to going to bed every night before midnight
Two: I committed to doing all of my eating before 8PM
Three: I committed to having three meals a day, each one including at least one fruit or vegetable.
Four: I committed to doing at least 15 minutes of daily exercise.

Those were the basics. I didn't want to create a situation that I couldn't wait to be free from. My goal was to create a lifestyle that I could live with long term.  I don't consider myself "on a diet". I still basically eat whatever I want, just not WHENEVER I want.  I needed to address the biggest things that I was doing wrong.

For example, drinking water is one of the first issues I address with clients who seek weight adjustment. But I never slacked off on my water drinking, so I didn't need to fix that in this program.  But I know that staying up late puts the body into a hormonal state that makes it retain body fat instead of losing it, so getting to bed at a decent hour had to be part of my new lifestyle.

And to be fair, I'm very conditioned to eating healthy foods. I enjoy it and have done it for several years. So it's not difficult for me to choose wholesome meats and fruits and vegetables and to avoid lots of bread and simple starches. It's much different than for someone who has never made a healthy choice and might find themselves at a loss for what to choose, or feeling a severe sense of missing out on potato chips or ice cream habits.

It's three weeks into the recovery project as I write this and I'm still comfortable with all of the rules I've set. On occasion I slip up, but that's not a big problem as long as I get right  back on track as soon as possible.  One day, I had a sweet tooth and let myself stay up til 12:30am and have a half pint of root beer ice cream. And on a couple of days, I skipped my workouts. But I find it easy to get right back on the program. As I said, it's not very disruptive, nor does it leave me feeling deprived. It may not be the quickest way to drop weight, but it's comfortable and sustainable.

At my highest weight, I measured myself at over 168 pounds. Almost 169.  This is the most I've weighed in my life. And I don't recognize my body as my own.  But I did get a sense of how someone could easily slip out of shape. Most of my professional life, I've worked with people who wanted to lose weight. I have been able to help them because of what I'd studied, but never because of what I'd experienced. I'd always just been keeping myself from gaining weight, but rarely trying to lose more than a couple of pounds.

Now I have the experience that I'd heard so many of my clients tell me about. "I don't know how this happened.  It snuck up on me. Etc."  I realized that I could get used to my new shape because it changed so gradually. And if I didn't stop my burger and pizza ways, I would have just continued to slowly balloon up and up.

So three weeks later and I weigh in at 162 pounds. I still consider that in the overweight range for myself, but it's much better than 168. I had made an unofficial goal to be under 160 pounds within 30 days. That gives me nine more days to lose two more pounds. It's very doable.

But the funny thing is that I lost four pounds within the first week, and then two pounds in the second week and I lost nothing during the third week. I'm worried that I may have stagnated. But before I decide to ramp up the intensity, I'm just going to see what happens if I stick with it for another five days. If I'm not continuing to lose, I may ramp it up for the last five days and still be able to make my goal of being under 160 pounds by Nov 6.

If you have any questions about what I'm doing, please feel free to ask them.  And if you have any ideas or suggestions, I'm open to hearing those too. But I'll tell you right now I don't take any sort of aids or supplements of any sort. I never have been a fan of them. I believe that living a healthy lifestyle involves eating sufficient real food and not taking pills.

I hope to be able to report that I weigh under 160 by Nov. 6.

More to come (or should I say less to come) :)

Monday, October 17, 2016

What is a Friend?

This political environment has given rise to the question of who is my friend.

I have reached a boiling point and no longer want to tolerate support for the neo-fascist running for president on an elitist ticket. So I have made the decision to remove those people who support him from my Facebook friends list.

There have been some interesting reactions to this decision. I didn't expect much support for this choice in general, so I was surprised at how much I actually did get. But not surprisingly, I also saw a fair amount of resistance. I'm not the type of person who does things based on what most people think. I've marched to the sound of a different drummer my whole life, and if people get me, that's fine; but it's not a huge concern for me if they don't.  I'm not writing this to convince anyone else that I'm right or to persuade anyone to think or do like me, I'm only going to make an attempt to be understood, for what it's worth.

Some people have told me they are also disturbed by some of their friends showing support for Trump or his ilk through Facebook posts, but are proud of the fact that they continue to have friends from all walks of life. It creates in internal conflict for some of them, and for others it seems that they feel it is all part of the suffering of life to have people that are close to you cause you grief. I respect that that works for them, but it doesn't for me.

I don't put any importance in the virtues of collecting random acquaintances. I don't think that more is better or that it is my duty to have a representative of every different type of thinking in my circle of friends. I consider a friendship with me a sacred thing and I don't let just anyone stay in this group. I suspect that this thinking that it is virtuous to accumulate as much and as many as possible is a symptom of our culture of greed and materialism. And I also think some sort of spiritualism plays into it. Perhaps some people believe that it is their cosmic duty to see and embrace the good in everyone. While, I don't disagree with that, I don't think it's the same thing as allowing them in. I don't believe that we need to give people of all walks of life access to our heart and soul to show us how many different facets the world has. I can see many different types of people without bringing them close to my bosom. I believe that my most important resource is my own spirit and my own happiness. If anyone in my life regularly makes me distressed, the thing to do is to remove myself from that situation.

Some have gone as far as to insult me and call me names, saying that I'm weak or stupid because I can't be friends with people who think differently than I do. To that I answer that everyone in the world thinks differently than I do.  It's a silly thing to even suggest that I'm only looking to be friends with people who think like I do.  That's an impossibility. What I'm doing is removing people from my life who I no longer respect or like because of the parts of themselves I had not seen until now.

I got a kick out of it when a stranger to me inserted himself by commenting on a post of mine. He derided me for not being friends with people who thought differently than me, and concluded his post by labeling me a 'moron.'  It struck me as terribly hypocritical. If he really believed what he was chastising me for, he wouldn't have dismissed me for the way I thought. But his actions spoke louder than his words and perfectly illustrated that it is something we all do. It is an act of self-love and self-respect to keep offenders at bay.

I think, too, that people tend to take the 'friend/unfriend' thing a little too seriously. I don't think that including someone on a friend list on Facebook is the be-all and end-all. I could conceivably remove someone from my friends list and remain connected to them in real life. If, for example, someone in my family ended up on the chopping block, I could still see them at family functions and be civilized, but I don't need to continue with the intimacy that Facebook provides. I don't want to see every thought they share if I have lost that edge of respect and admiration for them. Nor do I want them to see and potentially comment on the things that I post.

I also am unconventional in my ability to let go and move on. I have done a lot of work on myself to remain free of the burden of being attached to earthly material things. The more I let go of, the freer I am. I can literally sense my spirit by being in touch with how much or how little I am attached to things. It is an inversely proportional relationship, meaning the more I let go, the more I am in my spirit. So it is not a difficult decision for me to remove material things, especially those things that bring me distress.

Others have followed my lead and given me credit for the nudge that they needed to remove offenders from their lists as well. They report feeling lighter and freer after doing so.  Yes.  That is the feeling of their spirit being set free. And that is exactly how I see it is my place to influence people: By living my truth and allowing others to see it, they are free to choose for themselves what they believe to be right for them.

I have had well-meaning friends suggest that instead of walking away, I discuss things with the offender in question.  I spent a month doing that in this election, and basically most of my life doing that in general, and it didn't ever feel spiritually awakened to me. In fact, it usually felt quite tight and restricted. I have learned by experience that it is not my place to convince other people. It becomes a conflict and increases my level of distress and unease, and I suspect, does the same for the other person. I don't want to be a spreader of pain and tightness. I feel that it is more keeping with my beliefs to let other people have their beliefs. If someone is swayed by seeing my actions in the world, then that's ideal, but I'm not looking to influence anyone directly. I will continue to live my loving, spiritually based life, unattached to material and reactions. I live in peace.

At the end of my life, I don't imagine many of my friends being there, but my spirit and my mind will be all I have left. I must make sure that throughout my whole life, I've been aware of the needs and desires of these things and put them as my first and last priority.  I need to proactively ensure the safety of the rare things that really will be there my whole life.

I'm not living in denial. I know that all types of people are out there and I know that many people have entirely different views and agendas. I appreciate that the world is a vastly varied place. But living in peace means that I draw a line around myself and I am allowed to choose who comes on my side of that line and gets close to me. We are all allowed to draw our boundaries and uphold them.

My line has a lot to do with treating everyone with equal deserved respect. When I see someone not doing that, I feel it is important that they remain on the outside of my line.  I don't do it in a disrespectful way, but I simply no longer invite them in. I invite them to live their lives outside of my line.

Several years ago I was given a beautiful metaphor by one of my Nia students when I unwittingly overstepped my boundaries and offended her. It was a great learning experience for me as she described the feeling that I had 'rearranged her gem garden' and I knew exactly what she meant as soon as she said it. Ever since then I've been aware of everyone's gem garden as well as my own. I kept in mind that the only garden that I'm allowed to rearrange is my own. And that only I was allowed to do it. Other gem gardens are under the exclusive control of their owners. So while I might ask questions, seeking to understand other people, I don't think it is my place to change anyone else's world view.  I also don't feel it is very enlightened to hurl insults at people for having different beliefs. I do catch myself sometimes thinking those things and even sometimes actually saying them, but that's my flaw and I'm working on it.

A friend is a temporal thing. It is a privilege, not a right. I know that some people believe that friendship is forever, but I don't. I think it is earned, constantly. If it were just a life-long given that someone who was once your friend is always your friend, then it seems to me to lose a great deal of potency. What makes friendship so incredibly important is that it is extremely precious and is easily broken; so that if it does last for years and years it is because it has remained a positive nurturing relationship all that time. Friendship is not something I set and forget. One of the undeniable truths about life is that it is always changing. I don't accept that because something was true last year that it's true today. Every day I wake up to a new world. My life is lived in immediate awareness. Each day is a new discovery. Which means that I can and do re-evaluate friendships at any time.

A friend is someone who inspires me. Someone who I feel good being with. Someone who brings out the best in me. Someone who teaches me things without insulting me.  A friend shares things with me that lift me up. It brings me pleasure when I can do the same for them. A friend shares a similar moral compass as me. We don't have to agree on every little thing, but we should agree on the big things.

Some people will ask, "What about unconditional love? Don't you believe in that?" My answer is yes, I do. But I don't think love and friendship are the same thing. I think it's in our best interest to give out as much love as we can possibly manage. And I do have love for people that do bad things. I recognize my impulse to retract love as my own weakness. I believe that there is good in everyone, that we're all doing our best and we're all confused and scared. And I can believe that while being someone's friend, or while not being their friend. A friend to me is different in that a friend has access to my heart and soul. It is a relationship of mutual trust and vulnerability. I promise that my best intention is to love you. I intend to love everyone, unconditionally. But I come first to me, and if someone has the potential to rearrange my gem garden, I have no problems with lovingly securing them on the other side of the gate.

Friday, October 7, 2016

Road Trip 2016: Fun Facts

I was on the road for 23 weeks. Not only is it the longest road trip I've ever taken but it's the longest I've ever been away from home.  During that time I made stops in the following 85 different cities. I stayed in each city for only one night unless indicated otherwise in parenthesis.

Seaside, OR
Coos Bay, OR
Arcata, CA
Santa Rosa, CA (2)
Santa Barbara, CA (2)
Carlsbad, CA (2)
Marana, AZ
El Paso, TX
Del Rio, TX
Rockport, TX
Corpus Christi, TX (2)
San Marcos, TX (2)
Dallas, TX (2)
Houston, TX (3)
Slidell, LA
Destin, FL
Bessemer, AL
Tucker, GA (2)
Venice, FL (4)
Pompano Beach, FL
Gainesville, FL
Florence, SC
Charlotte, NC (3)
Harrisonburg, VA
Sandston, VA (2)
Edgewood, MD
New York, NY (6)
Altoona, PA
Columbus, OH (2)
Aurora, IL
Woodson, MI
Springfield, MO
Oklahoma City, OK
Amarillo, TX
Albuquerque, NM
Holbrook, AZ
Flagstaff, AZ (3)
Kingman, AZ
St. George, UT
Glendale, UT (3)
Las Vegas, NV
Barstow, CA
Gardena, CA
Santa Barbara, CA
Mammoth Lakes, CA
Auburn, CA
Klamath Falls, OR
Bend, OR
Springfield, OR
Portland, OR (5)
Seattle, WA (9)
Richland, WA
Boise, ID
Pocatello, ID
Salt Lake City, UT
Midvale, UT
Grand Junction, CO
Thornton, CO (3)
Omaha, NE (2)
Kansas City, MO
Cedar Rapids, IA (3)
Indianapolis, IN (2)
Pittsburgh, PA
New York, NY (4)
Nashua, NH (4)
Brattleboro, VT
Albany, NY (2)
New York, NY (6)
Buffalo, NY
Macedonia, OH (2)
Kalamazoo, MI
Mackinaw City, MI
Green Bay, WI (2)
Brookfield, WI
Roseville, MN (2)
Sioux Falls, SD
Rapid City, SD
Billings, MT (3)
Jackson, CO
Helena, MT
Kalispell, MT (2)
Coeur d' Alene, ID (2)
Baker City, OR
Twin Falls, ID
Nephi, UT
Farmington, NM (3)
Santa Fe, NM (4)
Grand Junction, CO
Chubbock, ID
Pendleton, OR

In the majority of these cities, I stayed in Motel 6 and blogged about my experiences here. 

The places I didn't use Motel 6 are:

Santa Barbara, where I stayed with my Aunt Dorothy
NYC, where I stayed with my friend, Michael
Seattle, where I stayed at home
Mackinaw City, where I stayed at Super 8 Motel
Boise, where I stayed with my friend, Cheryl.

I taught Nia classes in the following 64 cities. Usually I taught one class in each city unless more is indicated by the number in the parenthesis.

Walnut Creek, CA
Calistoga, CA
Campbell, CA
North Hollywood, CA
Carlsbad, CA
San Diego, CA
Rockport, TX
Austin, TX
San Antonio, TX
Dallas, TX (3)
Houston, TX (2)
Cullman, AL
Decatur, GA
Sarasota, FL (3)
Venice, FL
Pompano Beach, FL
Gainesville, FL
Myrtle Beach, SC
Charlotte, NC (2)
Durham, NC
Richmond, VA (2)
Baltimore, MD
Highland Park, NJ
Woodbridge, CT
Manhattan, NY (2)
Columbus, OH
Naperville, IL
Edwardsville, IL
Albuquerque, NM
Flagstaff, AZ
Sedona, AZ (2)
Santa Monica, CA
Nevada City, CA
Bend, OR
Springfield, OR
Portland, OR (5)
Centralia, WA
Leavenworth, WA
Walla Walla, WA
Boise, ID
Evanston, WY
Salt Lake City, UT
Evergreen, CO
Lyons, CO
Boulder, CO
Lincoln, NE
Kansas City, MO
Coralville, IA
Greenwood, IN
W. Concord, MA
Portland, ME (2)
Albany, NY (2)
Cornwall-on-Husdon, NY
Avon Lake, OH
Hubertus, WI
Minneapolis, MN
Minnetonka, MN
Billings, MT
Red Lodge, MT
Helena, MT
Hayden, ID
Durango, CO
Santa Fe, NM (5)
Pendleton, OR

We visited 42 states. The only states in the contiguous 48 that we didn't visit this year are:

North Dakota
West Virginia

We visited 37 different National Parks, Monuments and/or Recreation Areas, including:

Redwood National Park, CA
Painted Rock Petroglyph Site, AZ
Big Bend, TX
Aransas Wildlife Refuge, TX
Padre Island National Park, TX
Shenandoah National Park, VA
Petrified Forest National Park, AZ
Walnut Canyon National Monument, AZ
Grand Canyon National Park, AZ
Wupatki National Monument, AZ
Sunset Crater Volcano National Park, AZ
Zion National Park, UT
Bryce Canyon National Park, UT
Canyonlands National Park, UT
Grand Staircase - Escalante National Park, UT
Cedar Breaks National Monument, UT
Yosemite National Park, CA
Crater Lake National Park, OR
Mount Rainier National Park, WA
Craters of the Moon National Park, ID
Rocky Mountain National Park, CO
Green Mountain National Forest, VT
Allegheny National Forest, PA
Manistee National Forest, MI
Pictures Rocks National Lakeshore, MI
Mount Rushmore National Monument, SD
Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area, SD
Yellowstone National Park, WY
Grand Teton National Park, CO
Glacier National Park, MT
City of Rocks National Reserve, ID
Capitol Reef National Park, UT
Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, UT
Natural Bridges National Monument, UT
Mesa Verde National Park, CO
Colorado National Monument, CO
Arches National Park, UT

We also visited several local and state parks, but I didn't keep track of those.

Along the way, I ate burgers (or BBQ) at 98 different places and blogged about all of them on this page. 

I gained about 10 pounds during the five months I was on the road. I attribute that mostly to the fact that I spent most of my days sitting in the car and that I dined almost exclusively on burgers and pizza. I didn't eat many vegetables at all and had dessert almost every night from the vending machines at Motel 6.  My eating habits were atrocious, so I'm not surprised I did gain weight and that I even got sick a few times because my usually-robust immune system relies on my healthy diet to be so strong.

I lost track of the exact mileage because when I had the car serviced in Manhattan in August, they reset my trip odometer to zero, but the nearest I can figure is that I put about 32,000 miles on the car between April 30 and October 6.

I learned a lot on this trip about myself and about teaching Nia and making the most of being efficient while on the road. I will be re-assessing the approach I take and when I hit the road again, I'll have a totally different plan.

Returning to Seattle

Last night was kind of weird. After I was done teaching my last class of the tour in Pendleton, I stood in the motel room with the feeling that it was all over. There was a bit of sadness mixed with a bit of elation. And the feeling of being in the motel room was different. It almost felt unnecessary and strange to know that I was in a motel room and had no plans coming up except for driving home in the morning.

There wasn't much going on on the ride home, but I did enjoy driving through the middle of Washington. The rolling hills were all different shades of brown as autumn was obviously in full swing.

I stopped in Stanfield, OR for lunch. The choices were pitifully slim, so I opted for Jack In the Box. I hadn't eaten at one since I was a kid, and I used to really dislike it because they would include a balloon in with the order and the balloon tasted like chemical. It ruined the taste of the food to have that toxic powder on my lips from the balloon.

Today I didn't get a balloon.  I opted for the most interesting-looking thing on the menu, a Sourdough Jack. It didn't quite look in real life like it did in the picture on the menu.

I literally could not taste the sourdough.  Nor the meat, for that matter. The sandwich had some sort of thousand island dressing on it, and that was all I could taste. It wasn't necessarily an enjoyable experience, but at least I wasn't hungry anymore and could focus on driving.

And I think I may have discovered a new favorite highway. First of all, I drove for a ways on one of my old favorite highways, US-395.  But then I found a great scenic drive in WA-821. It wound its way alongside the Yamika River and offered lots of spots to camp with access to the river. It was quite beautiful and I would have stopped to enjoy it if I wasn't so eager to get home. But I did make a mental note to take this route out of Seattle on one of my future trips, and to allow myself time to stop and play in the river.

As usual, I was blown away by the sight of Snoqualmie Pass. The steep, evergreen-covered mountains are like nowhere else in the country.

And some Seahawks fan(s) inscribed a 12 in the mountainside for everyone to see as they enter King County.

As was to be expected, as soon as I got to Lake Washington, the gateway to Seattle, I hit some very slow traffic. It took me half an hour to cross the lake, which is a three minute drive in good conditions.

Once I got over the lake and was driving in Seattle toward my house, River started to get very excited. It was obvious that he recognized the scent of Seattle and was happy to be home. I reserved my excitement for when we were actually in the garage and I got to lock the car and walk upstairs into my home.

I didn't bother to unpack. I'll do that in the morning. It's great to be home and finished with the trip.  Now I can begin whatever is next in my life.

First on my agenda is to undo all of the damage I've done to my health and physique by choosing to eat burgers and pizzas almost exclusively for the past five months. I gained a significant amount of weight. I have a bathroom scale and when I got on it today, it said I weight 169 pounds! That is officially the heaviest I've ever been.

I'll be focused on returning to healthy lifestyle habits over the next month and will be documenting my progress on this blog page.  I hope to get down to below 160 pounds, where I feel my best.

Stay tuned....

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

The Ultimate Amazing

Today was a situation that I don't care for. I had a six and a half hour drive before teaching a class. I tend to prefer to be in the town well in advance, just to avoid the myriad things that can go wrong to delay my timely arrival.

Lucky there were no interesting sites along the way.  Well, actually there were, but I'd seen them all already so I had no problem. The ride was pretty uneventful; especially compared to the calibre of beauteous drives I'd been taking of late.

I got an early start and I gained an hour as I passed into the Pacific Time Zone.  This is the kind of scenery I mostly saw:
I got to Pendleton in plenty of time, even with stopping several times, for gas, pet food and rest breaks. I was able to check into the motel first and even had time to give River his dinner before I had to be in the studio.

Pendleton is a tiny little town, so it only took me four minutes to get there from the motel.

The studio was beautiful but they kept it dark. They used just a few soft lights. I'm not a fan of doing Nia in the dark, but I know it's a popular thing. I didn't ask them to make the change for me, but I did have a hard time seeing them and I think they also had a hard time seeing me. I use visual cues as much or more than verbal cues, so it was hard to follow me since they couldn't really see my cues that well.

But no one got hurt and we were all smiles by the end.

I was in a crabby mood before I got to the studio because I made the mistake of looking at facebook and was confronted with the reality that I have some friends that are stupid enough to support Trump for president. Well, maybe they're not stupid, maybe they're just racist assholes, but in any case, I let myself get worked up by trying to get into their minds.  Fortunately, doing Nia broke me out of that funk.

After class, i stopped at Dickey's to get some BBQ and took it back to the room.

As River was jumping out of the car to go to the room, he tripped over himself and landed face first on the asphalt with a loud clunk. After that he seemed to be in a bit of a daze and wouldn't let me comfort him.  He's not limping, but he is in his crate licking his legs. I'm sure he'll be fine, but I felt bad that he hurt himself.

I'm so excited that this was my last day of the trip unless you count tomorrow, when I'll be driving about four hours to Seattle and THEN I'll officially be done.

I'm planning to write a wrap up of the trip, but it might not happen tomorrow or right away. I'll be doing some decompression and may even lay low for a while. Thanks for joining me on this epic amazing odyssey.

Peace out.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Colorado National Monument and Arches National Park

My original plan was to visit Arches on my way out of Grand Junction and then drive the rest of the day all the way up to Pocatello. But last night, on my way into Grand Junction, I saw a sign saying I was close to Colorado National Monument, so I thought I'd pay a quick visit there, too.

 OMFG. I cannot describe this place without cursing. The shapes of the rocks and the color of the ground and the flora growing. It's all just so incredible. I actually literally understood what 'breaktaking' means. I was gasping so repeatedly that I lost my breath at one point. I also think I broke my awesome meter. It's going to have to be recalibrated at least. I cannot believe that places like this quietly exist in the middle of our country. Why aren't people talking about this place every day?

 I was really hoping to see some big horn elk when we were in the Big Horn National Forest, but we didnt' see any that day. Today, though, I spotted a whole herd of them walking down the face of this mountain to graze on whatever's at the bottom.

At one point, my camera was too full to take any more pictures. This was a relief, as it freed me to just drive through the park without being tempted to take a picture of everything. I will definitely come back here, and I'm so glad I took the extra time.

Although it did add over an hour to my total itinerary, it was worth every second.

The next awesome adventure was taking UT-128 into Arches. This has earned a place on my list of favorite drives.

detail of just the interesting stuff

overview of the whole day

 The ride into Arches was spectacular for about an hour before even getting to the park. There were also plenty of outside-the-park camping and hiking. I kept thinking, as I passed by the rock formations, that it was like walking through a fine museum and passing one great work of art after another. Eventually, I found that we were driving along the Colorado River. I had to get some pictures of the river so I pulled over and started deleting things from my phone.

It was brown from all of the rock sediment. I imagined it slowly taking millions of years to carve out the impressive designs in the canyons for miles through ancient rock. As I drove along the river I felt as if I were meeting the artist. And rather than him being full of vibrancy and excitement like his artwork, he's actually old, slow and frail. And he's stained with paint.

River and I got out of the car in a beautiful spot, hoping to get our feet wet in the old man artist, but the river was protected by thick grass.
And then we got to Arches, which was another mind-blowing place.  Both of these parks should be given at least a full day to really enjoy, and I tried to stick both of them into a full day of driving. That's so me. Well, I ended up reaching a full-point only about one quarter of the way into Arches. I knew I still had a hefty drive ahead and I also knew I was going to be coming back to give this place the attention it deserves.  Before turning around, I did take a few photos.

It was mid afternoon before I was on the interstate driving quickly through Utah. And I did just that for the next several hours. I stopped to get gas in Lehi and to get a burger in Green River. The sun was setting just as I drove through Salt Lake City and a nice, long dusk dimly lit almost the rest of the way out of the state.

But it was dark before I saw the Welcome to Idaho sign, and not much further before I was checking into Motel 6 in Pocatello/Chubbuck. The clerk wondered why I had such a low rate.  He said the manager entered the rate and it was the lowest he's ever seen. I didn't know why. But I did show him my AARP card, which he didn't need to see as I had been at this location before. I told him the rate I had in my book was $38 and that's the rate he saw in the computer, so he honored it.

Monday, October 3, 2016

From New Mexico to Colorado Through Snow and Hot Springs

My plan today was to visit Bandelier National Monument and Valle Caldera National Preserve on my way to my final stop, in Grand Junction, CO. This is a long day of driving, so I split it up between two maps.  I started down in the lower right hand corner of the second map and ended up right here at the top where it says Motel 6.

Leaving Santa Fe, I wish I had my camera handy, because I was impressed by freeway overpasses and retaining walls. Each one was painted with a unique Santa Fe design. I actually grabbed for my phone and the battery was just giving out, so I plugged it into the car to charge. By the time it was functional again, I was past the artistic architecture.

Bandelier was only about an hour from the motel, and was my first stop. Driving to the destination I entered in my navigation for the park entrance, I passed a sign saying "Bandelier Access by Shuttle only."  But I knew that River couldn't get on a shuttle, so I ignored the sign and kept driving to the park entrance. I passed another sign, this one said "Oops! You missed the shuttle to Bandelier.  Go back 1/2 mile"  But I continued to the gate.

The ranger at the gate said, "Did you see all the signs about the shuttle?"  I laughed and said, "yes I did."  She looked into the car and saw River and said, "There are some exceptions to the rule that everyone must take the shuttle into the park, and one of the exceptions is if you have a pet with you."
So she gave me a map and told me to drive around the Road Closed sign to get to the visitor center.

I got around the sign and into the park.  I pulled over as soon as it was feasible so that River could get out of the car and stretch his legs and take care of business before we drove through the park. And he was really excited by this place. I don't know what about it, but maybe it smells really wild or something. He played in the long grass and the rocks and succulents. He had a great time, never going further than six feet from me holding the leash. Nothing about this area was particularly noteworthy except that it was 100% nature. It was quiet and unimproved except for the one road I was on. It was cool and the long grass was waving in the wind.

After he did his thing, I took a glance at the map and discovered that the road from the entrance gate to the visitor center is the only paved road in the whole park. And since River can't go on any trails, this park ended up being a bust. So we left.

Valle Caldera was less than half an hour away so we headed that direction.  When I got to the entrance of that park, I saw that the road was unpaved. I didn't feel like taking an unpaved road, especially considering my feeling was that there would be no place that River would be allowed to go in this park.  So we skipped that one, too and I just set my navigation for the motel room in Grand Junction, CO.

But, surprisingly, this is when all of the interesting stuff started happening...

Most of the drive today was absolutely stunning. NM-126 to Cuba, where I filled up with gas. And then US-550 most of the rest of the way. At one point the road was called the Million Dollar Highway and another time it was called Navajo Trail, but it was spectacular. It has some of the most intense switchbacks I can remember. I tried to get some shots of the scenery, but I'm not happy with them. These are actually the best ones. The cloudy sky and low light make them lackluster.
 You can't really see the oranges and reds. And the rocks were intricately detailed and etched in multicolored strata.

In actuality, the vibrant fall colors, mixed with the evergreen trees covered the rolling hills and almost looked unreal. Like candy. I kept thinking of Fruity Pebbles or Trix.

At one point there were four different kinds of mountains in my view: a brown rolling mountain that was polka dotted with green shrubs, a craggy, rocky mountain with striations of colors formed over centuries, a grey and red sandstone-looking mountain with no vegetation on it, and a super high snow-frosted one.

During the drive today we went over two mountain passes. The second and larger one took us up to 10,600 feet elevation and the temperature up there was a chilly 36 degrees.

Then we passed by a giant meadow that was home to grazing elk. I was attracted to the expansive openness of the meadow, even though I didn't see any elk. And River was also pretty interested, but he was more focused on eating the grass.

The highlight of my day was happening upon a flowing hot spring. It was lukewarm, not hot. River was walking through it and I put my hand in the water. There was no smell, but River usually drinks from freshwater lakes and rivers, and he wasn't drinking this.

I also passed over that Continental Divide again.  So I finally looked it up.  Wow. It's geological. And there's not just one. But the one I drove over today is the "Great" one. I guess I've driven over several in the last few months.

Amazing color and textures. The mountainside is a painting.

When I got to the Motel 6 in Grand Junction, they said my ID and AARP information was already in the system. As I was fishing for my temporary card, she told me not to bother because the number was already in there. I didn't remember that I'd stayed here before, but a quick check to my Motel 6 blog and I see that there's an entry for this place and it perfectly iterated the experience I had in my room tonight. haha. It's a weird room. It's trying to be wheelchair friendly. The shower is a roll-in with a handheld shower nozzle. The luggage rack is installed about four feet off the ground so if you hang anything The security latch is at four feet high. There is a second peephole at four feet. There is a door separating the bed and bath rooms, and it is half again as wide as a normal door. It opens into the bedroom, butting up into the foot of the bed. For me, it's super awkward to open the door and get around the TV set and the huge door that only opens half way because the bed blocks it. I can't imagine how a wheelchair would get in there.
I saw a sign at the exit for this motel saying it was the same exit for something called the Colorado National Monument. I might have to check that out on my way out tomorrow.