In early spring of 2007 I decided to quit my job, sell my house along with nearly everything else that I owned, and to live out of my car while traveling the country. These are my stories (and pictures) of life on the road.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

A long one

After leaving Mark's place I continued through Ohio and into Pennsylvania. One thing different I've noticed from the east and west so far on my travels is that there appears to be a heck of a lot more people out east then west. In the west everyone is pretty much located right along the coast, but in the east people are spread out a lot more; making it tough to cover much ground on two lane black tops since you're constantly slowing down for residential areas. At least out east most of the towns don't appear to survive on tourism alone like many of the small west coast towns, making them much more interesting to me. A lot more people have been dying out here for a lot longer too because I've noticed a lot more cemeteries as well.

Just when I think it's going to stay populated for good I suddenly find myself all alone in the woods with no one else around; it's always a welcome change. That's where I found myself early Tuesday afternoon. I was in a state forest in Pennsylvania when I veered off down a dirt road to see what was at the end. I found what must have been a hunters camp but since it wasn't hunting season yet it was vacant. It was only a few miles off the blacktop I'd been traveling but it could have been 100 miles for all you could tell standing there. There was a nice porch around the house with lots of benches, chairs, and sofas so people could sit around and talk. Above were many deer racks hung to the wall, no doubt trophies from each year people had been coming. There was plenty of wood stacked up on the porch with a lot more in a wood shed in the side yard.

Leaning next to one of the trees in front of the house was what appeared to be a headstone. It was crooked and getting very worn, the only thing I could easily make out when I studied it was the very top line, “To a Tree”. I got out my wireless flash hoping some side light would create enough contrast to make it readable. It was a big help but I still can't make it out. I can see the first line looks to be “When God above” but after that I can't make it out. I'll study it more later and see what I can do.

A well out back had a steel cup hanging from a nail like you were just supposed to dip in and take a drink. One look into that water quenched my thirst though. The water didn't look all that clean and there was lots of junk floating on it, including a couple real big, real juicy bugs. I suppose someone skims those off before the groups show up for the season though.

The water ran from the well through a PVC pipe, into a wood box, and then out of that onto the ground where it flowed into the stream running in front of the house. I was curious what was in that wood box so I opened up a hinged lid on the top. What I found under the “roof” was a bathtub sunk in the ground, full of nice cool water. Sunk in the water were about 8 cans of soda. At first I was surprised there wasn't any beer, but then I realized it was probably all drank up long ago.

It was a really cool place and I imagine everyone but the deer have a great time there every fall. I pulled my chair out of the back of my house, set it up in the shade, and started reading my new book, Look me in the Eye. I quickly got lost in the book and was glad I chose to read it in the middle of the woods instead of the middle of the library. I couldn't help but laugh out loud, really loud, a few times. Before I knew it nearly 4 hours had passed by.

I hadn't eaten any dinner yet so I made myself a turkey sandwich and went for a hike. The dirt road continued past the house but it crossed a creek and soon became very steep and rocky. There's no way my house would have been able to make it. That's fine though since I needed the exercise anyway. It was a very peaceful walk late in the afternoon. Some of the trees were beginning to turn creating brilliant splashes of red here and there. I saw a few deer peacefully eating along side the road. I hope they enjoy the peace and quiet while they still can.

After a little over a mile I reached a gravel road and continued down it until I reached another trail, Dead Horse Trail. I'll give the Pennsylvanians one thing; they sure are good at naming roads and trails. I saw quite a few good names while driving/walking through the woods, most of which I can't remember. Two others that I do remember though were Hick's Road and Bloody Skillet Trail. How do you come up with a name like Bloody Skillet Trail? Sure makes you wonder...or maybe it makes you not want to wonder.

I never did see any dead horses on Dead Horse Trail but it was pretty uneven ground with plenty of rocks and holes hiding under the laid down grass; maybe that's how it got the name. Who knows.

I managed to find my way back to camp a little before sunset and found myself a comfy place to sit on the porch to do a little more reading. It was a very peaceful evening with a woodpecker tap tap tapping in front of me and grouse noisily flying through the woods around me. The katydids starting up their little chorus just as the sun was setting and a little while later a Barred Owl started calling from down the road a ways. Not to mention all the other strange new bird sounds I'm not used to hearing back in Iowa.

I finally climbed into my house to catch some sleep for the night before waking up the next morning. I had a mission after all, I had to get to Campmor in New Jersey! Campmor is a company that specializes in camping gear (in case you couldn't figure it out from the name) . Not only camping gear, but cheap camping gear! It's good stuff too, it's just that it's usually last years models or discontinued colors or stuff like that. Since I don't care about having the latest stuff it suits my needs just fine. I've only shopped with them online or in their little catalog so I was excited to go to their one and only retail store.

To get there I had to finish driving through Pennsylvania and then through New Jersey to Paramus. I knew I didn't want to get there too late in the afternoon since it was an urban area and only about 30 miles from NYC. Figuring rush hour traffic would be pretty bad I broke down on hopped on I-80 to try and get there before by early/mid-afternoon.

The plan worked out fine and I arrived at Campmor around 2:30. It was great to just wander around the store and browse all the stuff. I found lots of things I wanted but I convinced myself I only needed a few of them. I ended up with a new sleeping bag (warmer then my other one for colder weather ahead), a new, bigger backpack (for when I want to spend multiple days out in the woods), a pair of glove/mitten liners and a nice wind block winter hat. I left an hour and a half later satisfied and ready to get away from civilization again. I headed north out of Paramus and was surprised how quickly the city was left behind and I was soon winding my way through the woods; passing small, quaint little towns.

I made it to the Catskills that night and found a nice little place to pull my house off the side of the road to catch some sleep. I slept well and found it still comfortably warm when I woke up in the morning. I wasn't ready to get up yet so I grabbed my book, knowing I only had about 45 minutes of reading to finish it. As soon as I started reading I could hear some distant rumbles of thunder which kept getting longer and louder. Pretty soon I could see the flashes of lightning and the wind started to pick up a little. It was getting darker and I had to turn on a light to keep reading. As the rain started falling I was very glad I had my house to sleep in while out traveling. It turned out to be much more fun going through a thunderstorm inside my house rather then huddled under a tarp on the prairies of South Dakota.

After a little while the rain quit and the thunder gradually got quieter and quieter until it was gone. I finished my book and got up for the day. When I got outside found a light fog all around and I could hear the rush of water nearby. Looking through the trees I could see there must be a creek nearby. I took a short stroll and found a gorgeous little rocky creek running it's way through the woods. I hopped my way out to the middle to admire the view and to take a few pictures. The only thing that could have made the fall morning any more perfect would have been if it wasn't so dang humid! Thankfully a cold front is coming through which should drop the temps (it was over 90 yesterday!) and the humidity.

The weekend is supposed to be magnificent weather and I'm planning on spending it in the Adirondacks in New York before heading the rest of the way to Maine. Unfortunately everyone and their brother will probably be out if the weather is real nice this weekend. Too bad it wasn't working out so I could spend a few days there in the middle of the week; I really like being able to do that; hitting the more popular spots while everyone else is working.

I guess it's a small price to pay though for getting great fall weather. Somehow I'm sure I'll manage to survive.

I don't know if I'll get another wi-fi connection before I disappear in the woods or not so you might not hear from me for a few days. Until then....

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Look me in the Eye

Anyone looking for a new book might want to check out “Look me in the Eye” by John Elder Robison. This is his first book and it was just released today. I just got out of Barnes and Noble in Altoona, PA to buy my copy.
John is a great guy who I've had the pleasure to get to know a little through iATN. He's just a regular guy who owns a high end auto repair shop on the east coast but he hasn't had what most would call a regular life. As an adult he was diagnosed with Asperger's disease, a form of autism, which explained much of his “strange” behavior growing up. From what I gather he was lousy dealing with people on a face to face basis but he has a real knack for all things mechanical or electrical.

After I posted on iATN that I was leaving the repair industry in search of other things John left this heartfelt response as well as posting it on his blog.

I'm sure none of you have ever heard of John but plenty of you have probably heard of his brother Augusten Burroughs; author of Running with Scissors, Dry, Sellevision, and Magical Thinking. John is the brother Augusten often talks about in his memoirs.

Enough of me talking about John and his book. If you want the real story you can check out these links-

You can read this book description

Or you can read John's bio

You could also jump right to his blog

Or just buy it right from Amazon

Best of luck John!

Monday, September 24, 2007

Gettin' Zippy with it

It's been a slow and relaxing journey so far and I'm really digging it. Just after cross in the Iowa/Illinois border I swung by Galena to see my Great Aunt and Uncle Richard and Zelma. They're long time Galena residents and have a gorgeous house on a hill above main street. Going to their house is always a relaxing experience, spending time visiting on the porch and eating fantastic food. I spent most of my day there catching up on some work and visiting before hitting the road again that night. It was a nice first stop along the trip and it was good to see them again.

After that it was time a lot more windshield time passing through Illinois and Indiana. Just before I got through Illinois I was getting pretty hungry when I ran across a big street fair. I could smell the food from inside the van but decided to pass. I wasn't really in the mood for a big street fair full of people and instead I crossed the border into Indiana where I found a small town with a small park and a small grill where I could eat the last of my left over Chili I got from my mother when I left town.

The sun was setting when I got there and it was the perfect temperature. I found some sticks and twigs to make my fire with and enjoyed my meal while listening to the last few cicadas buzzing away that afternoon and watching the swifts flit around and eat up the mosquitoes. There was only one other family in the park who must have come down for a picnic but had already finished eating by the time I'd gotten there. They were just watching their kids run around and play. It was a great night and I'm sure I had more fun there then I would of at the street fair. I drove a little farther that night before finding a place to pull over and sleep in back of the van.

The weather had been incredibly nice but it got a little hot the following day with temps in the low 90's. I was plenty comfortable in my van with the AC on but I decided I wanted to get out and stretch my legs a little in the afternoon. I found a nice looking reservoir on the map and swung in to see if I could find a nice beach. I did manage to find a beach but it was in the middle of a state park. I wasn't about to spend $5 just to use the beach (heck, that's more then I usually spend on food in a day!) so I went looking for other options.

What I found was an empty picnic area on a hill over looking the reservoir. I parked my van in the shade to keep in cool, changed into my trunks, and headed down the hill to the water. It wasn't exactly “beachy” but it was good enough and it felt great to get in a little swim. It cooled me right down and made me a little sleepy too. I got back to my van and found the temperature very comfortable inside so I laid down on my cot to read a book for a while. I couldn't keep my eyes open very long though so I decided to take a nap. It felt great just to lay there with the windows and door open in the shade with a little breeze blowing through. Man I love my van!!

I don't know where I slept that night but the next morning after just a short drive I found myself in Ashland, OH where Mark Frazer lives. Mark and I met years ago on iATN where we found ourselves in the minority of sub-30 year old auto technicians. We got to know each other on-line and met a couple times at conventions. We haven't talked a whole lot over the last couple years but have stayed in touch enough to know what the other one is up to. Since we'd first met Mark has gotten married, had a couple kids, and bought himself a nice acreage and opened up his own repair shop.

I got to Mark's around noon on Saturday in what turned out to be the most relaxing weekend I'd had in a long time. I got there just in time for dinner and Mark cooked me a gourmet meal of microwave hot dogs with ketchup. They were by far the tastiest hot dogs anyone has cooked me on my trip so far. I asked if he had any buns to go with them and he handed me a couple slices of bread and mumbled something about all bread just being bread. It got the job done though.

I had grand plans of getting in some hiking and exploring while in the area but instead I just wound up hanging out with Mark and Heather at the acreage most of the weekend. It was tough to leave since it was just perfect with the weather, pond, and zip line. We had a couple nice fires at night and I made myself a new best buddy, Mark's three year old son Simon. Mark says everyone is Simon's new best buddy, I think he's just jealous.

We didn't stay around the house for the entire weekend though. Mark got us lined up to go to his friend Gary's house for a little trap shooting where we were also joined with Daniel. This was my first time shooting trap since I was a kid but it was pretty fun, I did better then I expected to do and broke my first 5 out of 6 birds. Mark was bragging how good he did last time he shot trap (which was his first time ever) but after a good start he apparently got a little cocky and started to fade at the end of the day. Gary and Daniel were the stand outs of the day, hardly missing a bird and picking up some doubles.

I broke the flash and camera out soon after we started and Daniel being your typical in shape 19 year old was more the happy to have his picture taken. He wanted a few more shots of himself at the end and took our joking suggestions of taking off his shirt and doing some push ups first seriously. We found the whole thing pretty entertaining but it didn't seem to affect his shooting at all and the pictures didn't turn out too bad either.

That night Mark and Heather took me out for some good mexican food, which I ate way too much of. To try and burn some of it off we went for a hike around sundown in the woods near Mark's house. Mark had the newborn with him so it was my job to carry Simon when he decide he “couldn't walk anymore”, which took about 1/4 mile. I wasn't ready to lug his dead weight around just yet so I challenged him to a race to the top of the hill, then I'd carry him.

He liked the racing idea so much that he managed to race most of another mile or so before he decided he couldn't walk anymore and I had to carry him. Thankfully by then we were heading back to the house so it wasn't bad at all; after all that running he deserved to be tired out. It wasn't much more then a fast walk for me but he was really hoofing it.

We got back after dark and I decided I wanted to ride the zip line one more time. It was getting pretty chilly and I was contemplating the wisdom of my decision as I climbed the cold metal ladder. The water still felt warm though and it felt great getting a little swim with the pond beginning t cover with mist. Thankfully by the time I got done Mark and Simon had a nice campfire going to warm me up.

We sat around the fire talking a while before finally retiring for bed. When I woke this morning I walked over to Marks shop to watch him slave away for a while. He just couldn't accept the fact that I wasn't going to fix cars anymore and finally talked me into pulling the tire off a rim so he could get some pictures of me working again. I've never worked at a shop that did any tire work so he had to show me how to do it. It was fun for the 5 minutes that I was doing it and that was plenty for me; I didn't like getting dirty again.

I went back to the van to get all my things packed up and said my good byes before heading back out on the road. I really enjoyed my time there and had more fun then I could have thought not doing a darn thing al weekend. A lot of times I find just sitting around and relaxing to be a lot more enjoyable then running around doing all the tourist stuff.

Thanks again Mark and Heather.

As always you can see more pics that aren't posted on my blog by visiting my Flickr account

Friday, September 21, 2007

My New House!!

I just couldn't help myself. Society says, "thou must own lodging".

Some time with Stinky

As you all probably know my Springer Spaniel Rudy has been staying with Sarah and her parents while I've been traveling this summer. I get periodic updates of his well being and when I was back home visiting I picked him up so we could hang out together for a couple weeks. For those of you that don't know Rudy he's a fat dog; he looks like a stuffed sausage.

Sarah took matters into her own hands though and got him his very own personal vet while he was staying in Northfield; and together they put him on a starvation diet. The result was that he lost about 12 pounds over the summer!! He looks like a totally different dog (kind of, he still looks dumb). He's got a lot more spring in his step now though and can actually jump high enough to do some good if need be.

The first day I got him back we went for a hike in our old stomping grounds, Fort Defiance state park. Of course Rudy just couldn't stay out of the water and he managed to find every burr in the park; just like old times! He was a disgusting mess by the time we got back to the car and it looked like that haircut he was due for would come sooner rather then later.

The first step in giving Rudy a haircut is to stop by the vet and get him some sleepy pills. Rudy is actually pretty good about getting shaved but he gets real twitchy when you get around his butt, and for both of our good it's usually better that he be a little sedated. Plus I really get a kick out of getting him all drugged up. His droopy eyes get even droopier and instead of constantly being in motion he finds it uncomfortable to stand for more then a few minutes so he lays down a lot. I imagine it's much what he'll be like when he's 15 years old...I can't wait! I can't imagine anything much uglier then Rudy all doped up on sleepy pills; I love it! I'm thinking of incorporating them directly into his diet.

I hid the pills in some small pieces of bread and coupled with the starvation diet that Sarah has him on he wasn't about to question what those hard things were in the bread like he normally does. He just wolfed them down and in about 45 minutes was really starting to feel the effects.

The trimming went without incident and after the hair cut he really did look like a totally different dog from the one I'd left that spring; his weight loss was much more apparent now. With a fresh hair cut I think he can almost pass for intelligent...almost....

Thursday, September 20, 2007

On the road again....

Well, after a couple weeks of being a bum at home it's time to get back on the road and be a bum somewhere else. Wednesday I loaded everything back up, rubbed my St. Christopher (the patron saint of travelers) medallion that Barb from the theatre gave me before I left this spring, and started heading east.

I had a lot of things I wanted to do while I was home but I ended up not really getting many of them done. I was pretty unmotivated and the weather didn't cooperate real well either. It was either rainy, cold, windy, hot, humid, or some combination of those. The day I left was the nicest day by far and the type of weather I was hoping to have while back home. That late summer/early fall weather in the midwest when the humidity drops to bearable levels, the wind is calm, the sun is shining, and the temps are in the mid/upper 70's. Hmm, kind of sounds like the middle of summer in the Pacific northwest.....

Anyway, it was nice driving weather too and I got to see a lot of rural Iowa driving the back roads to the east. The crops are drying in the fields and waiting to be harvested; in my opinion the prettiest time of year in Iowa.

As I'm sure you've noticed I've been falling behind on my blog as well so I'll try to play catchup over the next couple days; so you can expect quite a few short ones to catch you up on some of the things that happened while I was back home.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

The New Plan

One of the big reasons I decided to leave on this trip was because I wasn't enjoying fixing cars anymore. For those of you outside the automotive community who don't know me this used to be my passion. Electrical and computer problems were my specialty and for about 5 years that's what I lived and breathed. I spent all my free time either on-line studying, watching training videos, attending training classes around the country, or in the shop playing around and experimenting. I loved it and couldn't wait to get to work in the morning. Unfortunately I think I was a little too passionate about it and didn't leave enough time in my life for other things. The result was that my passion began to fade and I started to feel burned out.

I took a break from training classes and the on-line forums I was active in. I'd hoped that it would be a temporary setback and that after taking a little break that I'd eventually get back into it. I waited and waited but it never happened. I didn't hate my job but it was turning into just a job. I didn't look forward to getting up and going to work in the morning anymore and it wasn't getting any better. Months and years started to pass and it started to become apparent that this passion wasn't going to come back.

I started to wonder if maybe I was just burned out on where I worked instead of what I worked on and that perhaps a change of shop/scenery would re-spark my interest. I'd thought of traveling the country and working at different shops about 6 months earlier but never thought of seriously doing it. After getting back from a 2 week driving trip to Arizona in March of this year though I realized just how much I liked doing that sort of thing. I decided to give it a shot and hit the road for the west coast a month later.

Thankfully all that time spent talking and meeting other shop owners/techs a few years earlier paid off since I was able to line up more work then I could take before I even left. This made it way easier then just showing up in a strange town at a strange shop and asking for a place to work.

“Yeah, my name is Alan and I'm sleeping in my car down by the park. Can I work here for a couple weeks? I'm real smart about cars...honest!”

I'm sure that would have gotten me real far.

Anyway, I worked at a handful of shops this summer and met some great people. I was lucky and I couldn't have asked for any more from the shops that I worked at. Traveling to new shops and meeting new techs/shop owners should have really gotten me enthused and excited. I should have been full of questions and tried to learn as much as I could from all of them. That's not how I felt though.

No matter how much I tried it still just felt like a job; something I was doing to make some money while I was out of the road. By the end of July I realized this wasn't the profession for me anymore; it was time to try something else. Unfortunately I have no idea what that may be though!

As some of you already know I was planning on traveling to Antarctica to work for Raytheon over the winter (their summer) but I've decided not to pursue that any farther, at least not for now. As much as I'd love to travel there it involved fixing cars (well, trucks ) and I figure if I'm going to quit I'm going to do it cold turkey.

I plan to continue traveling but part of my plan will have to change; the part that involved working for different shops long the way to raise some money. There are many of you keeping up with this blog that I'd hoped to work with this fall and unfortunately I'm not going to be able to do that now. I still hope to be able to stop by and meet as many of you as I can though.

So, that leads to the question of just what in the world am I going to do this fall/winter.

Heck if I know!

I'll still be traveling but I won't really have any source of income so I'll be trying to do it cheaper then ever (if it's possible to travel cheaper then I have been). I also want to devote more time to photography; something I've been meaning to do the last few years but never get around to. I'll be taking more lighting gear with me on my trek out east and hope to improve my photography quite a bit. I've also really enjoyed keeping this blog and writing in my personal journal. Writing is something I've also been wanting to do more of the last couple years but never take the time for. I'm going to try and take the time this fall/winter though.

With no other commitments to take up my time I'm hoping I can concentrate and focus on these two things in particular. I don't expect to make any money off either of them but they're something I want to work on for me personally and I think later in my life I'll look back and be glad I took the time to improve my writing and photography skills.

And I guess if money gets too tight I can always take the advice of someone I met while traveling this summer and just start a mobile meth lab.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Just wanted to say...

I just wanted to send out a heartfelt thank you to everyone who helped me out on the first leg of my journey; I had a blast on my summer trip and I really owe it to all the people who helped out in one way or another. From old and new friends who gave me a place to stay for the night or even a couple weeks to the shop owners that gave me a place to work and pick up some extra money along the way. To the people who were kind enough to donate money through the Donation link on my blog and to my mom for allowing me to store my stuff at her house, receive my mail, and for getting my house ready to sell after I was gone. And thanks to all the people I met who were kind enough to give me directions, tell me the best places in the area to eat or hike, and to those of you who simply gave me some company and took me out for a meal (or eight). You all made the trip so much more enjoyable then it otherwise would have been.

Unfortunately I wasn't able to meet up with all the people out west that I'd wanted to. I thought I'd have plenty of time to see everyone that I wanted to see but I was amazed how fast the time went by. Next time I find myself out that way I'll try to catch up with some more of you.

And thanks to everyone who followed along on the journey by reading my blog. I didn't know if I'd be able to keep enthusiasm for the blog and keep it updated through out the trip or not but it turned out that I loved it and really enjoyed keeping everyone up date that way. I can't tell you how good it made me feel when I'd get a comment or e-mail from someone that I'd never met or talked to before who said they loved the blog and were following me along on my travels.

But don't think it's over yet. The first leg of the trip may be over but in a week or so I'll be packing everything back up again and hitting the road; heading to the east coast this time. Plenty of new people to meet and adventures to be had, so stay tuned!

And of course, THANK YOU!

Friday, September 7, 2007

Home Again

After leaving the Badlands Wednesday morning the rest of the day was pretty much filled up with driving. We made a short stop in Sioux Falls to look for some good pants at Scheel's and to troll through the used car lots (I'm looking for a cheap mini-van) but we didn't waste much time before getting back on the road again. Once we hit Sioux Falls it was all pretty much over. I don't know how many times I'd driven that stretch of road, it was like being on auto pilot.

It was early evening by the time we got to Lakefield, MN where I'd drop Sarah off and I decided I didn't want to go back home that night. Not like I was dreading it or anything, it just seemed like an odd time of day to get back. Instead I decided to let Sarah take me out for dinner and slept on her living room floor. I had a tough time falling asleep and I was awake very early the next morning. I guess I was kinda excited about getting back home again.

I got up when Sarah did and we had breakfast before saying goodbye at the car, just like we did a little over 3 months earlier. She went to work and I hopped in my car; only I had a much shorter drive ahead of me this time.

The drive home from Lakefield through Jackson was just as I remembered it. The same curves, the same houses, the same corn. I approached Estherville and noticed they'd put up a new sign on the edge of town. It was strange as I pulled into Estherville to see people and vehicles that I knew and recognized. If I spaced off for a second I'd catch myself jumping at the sight of an Iowa license plate as I looked to see what county it was from, just like I'd done all summer, forgetting that I was now in Iowa.

The town and the people all looked the same, not much had changed. I saw the old Lincoln school had apparently lost its battle for survival as it was half way torn down when I drove by. I pulled onto a side street for a couple pictures before it was all gone. That found me pointed down the road that led to my old house so I decided to drive by. The house and the neighborhood looked just like they had when I lived there....except the grass was shorter. I noticed the hostas were in full bloom that I'd planted a couple years ago.

Driving past my house found my on a path I'd driven over a thousand times before. Two blocks south to clear the hospital and two blocks east to reach highway 9 running through town. Nine blocks south to reach Central Ave (Hwy. 4) and then eight more blocks east to reach the shop. The same route I took nearly every morning and lunch hour for the nearly 8 years I lived at that house. I saw Les driving the parts delivery truck on my way there. I waved but he didn't see me; he never did. Always looking straight ahead.

I pulled into the shop and it all looked the same. The parking lot was pretty empty but that's normal for early in the day. I walked in the front door and found Audrey working at her desk. It was good to see my sister again. We hugged and I gave her a case of her favorite beer from Colorado (don't tell her I actually bought it in Wyoming). It was good to see my sister again. I saw my dad working down in the shop, in my old bay. He didn't notice me and I stayed in the office a little longer to talk to Audrey before going down into the shop to see my dad again. It was good to see him and I've enjoyed hanging out with him a bit over the last couple days. I'm looking forward to spending more time with him over the next couple weeks that I'm home; the trip was definitely a success so far in that regard.

I hung out at the shop for a bit and then headed to my mom's house. She was at work but I found a note on the fridge welcoming me home and telling me there was leftover steak and sweet corn in the fridge. I was getting pretty hungry so I made a sandwich out of the steak and threw the corn away. Corn on the cob isn't meant to be a leftover and I wanted my first Iowa sweet corn of the year to be fresh...if I could find it.

I wanted to catch up on some things on-line and organize some photos that had been neglected over the last week or two of traveling with sparse internet connections. I sat my laptop on the table and when I went to plug it in found a three prong adapter already plugged into the wall so I could plug in my charger. Was this always there or did my mom anticipate me working at the table and plug it in for me? I also found a pile of my mail on the table, all of which had been forwarded to my mom's house. Thankfully there was only one bill to pay and it was a small one, the rest was garbage.

I ate my lunch and got some work done before my mom came home for lunch. She was really happy to see me and it felt good to hug her again. I almost teared up a little when she started to tear up and wouldn't let go. Maybe it was just the couple glasses of wine I had with my lunch. We talked a bit while she ate her lunch, it was good to see her again and to just hang out at her house. She took a longer then normal lunch and I went back to work to finish a couple things up.

I had nothing to do and nowhere to go...perfect! I drove around town a little and then drove to the neighboring towns to look for used vans, I didn't find much. I got back to Estherville and went to the farmers market to look for sweet corn. They were all out for the season but they gave me the name of a guy in Graettinger and they said they thought he'd still have some. I hope so, I ate sweet corn a few times out west but it was never very good, even though people tried to tell me that it was.

I was amazed how little time it took to feel like being back home was perfectly normal; it doesn't really feel like I've even left. I guess that's because everything is still pretty much just like I remember it. I'm glad to be home for a visit and the next couple weeks should be fun. No work and no commitments, just time to reacquaint myself with the town and area that I know so well.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Second verse, same as the first

Sorry about the lack of updates in the last week. I've mostly been in the middle of nowhere with no cell service and very few opportunities for Wi-Fi connections.

Sarah arrived late on Wednesday just as I was wrapping up at the library in Silverthorne. We hadn't seen each other in over 3 months (I hadn't seen anyone I'd known in over 3 months) and it was great to hang out with her again. She drove out with a couple friends and we didn't know where we were staying other then it was at the ranch that her friends uncle works for. It turned out to be about a 50 minute drive NW from Silverthorne down a gravel road to a 8000 acre ranch in the middle of the mountains. We all pitched some tents in the yard that we'd call home the next few days.

Since this was Sarah's first venture into the mountains it was time to switch into full tourist mode. Hitting the sights and seeing all we could see in the short time we had before she had to be back home for work (in less then a week). We had a great time packing it all in. Heading to Rocky Mountain National Park on a weekday to beat the crowd and then a Class III rafting trip the day after that. Saturday we headed to Denver for a wedding of one of her friends (her reason for coming out). We all had a blast dancing at the reception before calling it a night at the hotel. The next morning we got up and while Sarah got caught up on some reading I met a fellow member of for a quick lunch before we packed up our things again and headed north to Ft. Collins.

We did a little shopping around Ft. Collins before calling up Randy Bernklau, who I know from iATN and worked with shortly about 5 years ago, to see what he was up to. Turns out they were just firing up the grill so we headed out to his acreage on the west side of town for a great meal, great company, and a great view of the mountains at sunset. He was kind enough to offer us a place to stay for the night so we could wake up refreshed in the morning for a trip up the Poudre Canyon as we began our journey back to the midwest.

It was a gorgeous drive up through the canyon, even if we did have to dodge a few rain showers. We only had a few days left and were trying to plan our return trip when we heard the weather report saying the temps in Wyoming and South Dakota were supposed to be around 100 degrees the next couple days. When we heard that we knew we wouldn't be doing anything in the middle of the day so we made a hard push to drive through Wyoming and into the Black Hills of South Dakota before we fell asleep that night. We woke up in the morning when it was still nice and cool for a good hike around the Black Hills. A little after lunch time we hopped back in the car, turned on the air conditioning and started towards the badlands. We stopped for a while in Rapid City to kill some time and to do some shopping during the heat of the day, arriving in the badlands a little before sunset; giving us the best views of the day arriving from the west.

I noticed that my return trip to Iowa was taking a nearly identical route with the same destinations I'd hit on my way from Iowa. It was more fun doing them all a second time though with someone else along. This time I decided I'd admire the buffalo from the safety of my car instead of stumbling across them in the middle of the night on the prairie. It wasn't quite as exciting, but it wasn't near as scary either. I couldn't convince Sarah to get out and pet one even though they did look tame. Where's her sense of adventure?

We found a place to cook some food and sleep for the night and when we woke up to another cool morning again we got a nice hike in before it started to get real hot. We got back to the car, pulled it in the shade, and made some pancakes for breakfast before hitting the road for one last big push to the east; which would get us back home again that evening.

While I was looking forward to getting back home for a visit I was also getting pretty excited about heading east this fall. Definitely not ready to be done with this trip yet.

If you want to see some more pictures of our trip back check out the most recent pics on my main Flickr page. If you're viewing this poster at a later time and date you'll have to dig through some sets to find them. Or maybe if I'm nice I'll remember to come back and update the links.

You've reached the end of the page but that's not the end of the stories. If you want to read more (and who wouldn't!?) then click on the archive links to the right hand side of the page. They're listed by month; the adventure starts in May.

The February archives aren't actually from this trip but are previous adventures I've had, which are worth reading as well.