Colorado, Nebraska, Minnesota, and Chicago

“It’s a metaphor, see: You put the killing thing right between your teeth, but you don’t give it the power to do its killing.” – John Green

My Mom has come to visit me for the third time on this journey of mine, and I am just as excited to see her as I was the last two times.  I booked us tickets the first night for Adam’s Murder Mystery Playhouse in Denver (http://www.adamsmysteryplayhouse.com/amp.htm). We had such a blast! The actors were very interactive and hilarious.

Our first day we took a trip to Colorado Springs. We walked around the trails at The Garden of the Gods.  Its incredible how these 300′ towering sandstone rock formation just jet out of the earth. It wasn’t a clear enough day to take a trip to the stunning snow capped Pikes Peak adjacent to the garden, so we headed to the Manitou Cliff Dwellings. It wouldn’t be a trip without hitting a brewery while we were there too! We stopped for a drink and some lunch at Trinity Brewery and they had this cool doorway of books that lead into the barrels of beer.

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 I have always wanted to see what this Red Rocks amphitheater is all about. Now that I have seen it, I NEED to go to a concert there.  The view is incredible and the rock formations are spectacular. On a clear day like we had, you can see downtown Denver in the distance. I didn’t get a chance to check it out, but there are dinosaur footprints in the rocks nearby.

IMG_7508 IMG_7495That evening, I drove up to Boulder to see a friend of mine from middle school. She lives up in the mountain side.  We drank some IPAs and watched the sunset, catching up on life. Her and her husband are building a tiny house, which I can’t wait to see how it turns out. I’m so excited and happy for them. I feel so lucky to be able to reconnect with so many people on this trip.

We had the whole family get together on Mother’s day to celebrate. My aunt ordered Chinese food for dinner because its a tradition in their family. One year on Mother’s day my cousin had chickenpox, so they ordered Chinese. The next year my other cousin got chickenpox, and so the tradition began. Great night, with great people.

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My next destination was Chicago, but it would take more then a day to drive there. When looking at the map, I decided I would stop in Omaha, Nebraska since that’s where the number one zoo in the world is located. After visiting the San Diego Zoo (#2 in the world) I figured I needed to compare.  I am not sure how they rate each zoo. Do the number of species matter? If each species of tarantula is counted then I think that’s unfair because I didn’t need to even know that many existed.  Even if the spiders and snakes weren’t counted, I do think Omaha had more species.  They even had an aquarium where you walked through a tunnel with sharks swimming overhead. There is a huge price difference in the two zoos as well. Omaha is about $17 while San Diego is $50.  San Diego’s Zoo has an amazing set up everywhere you look, where Omaha has a few really cool areas, but lacks in some areas.  I think San Diego will always win in my eyes because of the company I had with me.

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Before heading to Chicago, I decided to stop and visit the girls I met on the Grand Canyon mule ride. I stayed one night in Minneapolis and then headed to New Prague to visit all the horses and have drinks with the girls.

IMG_20160514_240550083 IMG_20160514_085746240_HDR IMG_20160514_092548041Chicago is an amazing city! I stayed in a hostel downtown where I went on a brewery tour with a group. I ended up spending the rest of my time in Chicago with the people from the hostel. We rented bikes and used them all day. I did the architectural boat tour which is super interesting. I wish more cities had tours like this, but the river makes it easy. We got drinks on top of the Hancock building and did all the top tourist things. I will being visiting this city again the future.

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Wyoming, Montana, Idaho, and Colorado

Traveling is like flirting with life. Its like saying “I would stay and love you, but I have to go.”

 Heading to Yellowstone was an experience. I have learned to check out what roads are closed ahead of time, but good ol’ google maps forgot one road. Only 1.5 hours out my way, adding 3 hours to my drive.  I cant complain too much because the drive was spectacular!

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Yellowstone National Park was better then I expected. The most wildlife I have seen on this trip, by far. It reminded me of a conference my old job held last year. The CEO started discussing how they were going to put more emphasis on retaining women engineers. When it was over he put on a video for us to watch, but told us not to compare it with the retaining women speech. So naturally I did! The video was about Yellowstone and introducing wolves back into the park. The video was similar to this one:

It basically discusses how the wolves helped the ecosystem of Yellowstone. So are the wolves women engineers, the men are the elk, and the river is the company? I naturally had my eye out for wolves the entire time I was in the park.   Wolves were the only animal I didn’t see. I know they are out there though helping Yellowstone thrive, just like I know women engineers are still out there (even without me) helping the industry grow and thrive. Stay strong women, and try not to eat too many men!

There were buffalo EVERYWHERE! I even got suck in a traffic jam where around 50 buffalo just walked along the road. I was so excited to see a bear from a safe distance and with three cubs.

IMG_7307IMG_7245IMG_7242IMG_7145IMG_7075The springs in Yellowstone have the most vibrant colors.  It was a beautiful chilly day so the steam off the springs really displayed the heat. The walking paths are all flat wooden boardwalks, friendly to all. The most popular geysers have an online clock to check when the next eruption is predicted to happen. Old faithful erupts about every 1.5 hours. Needless to say, this park surpassed every expectation I had.

IMG_7187 IMG_7172 IMG_7166Jackson, which sits on the south end of the Grand Tetons National Park, is the cutest town surrounded by magnificent Mountains. I have declared this park my happy place.  I sat on a beach for about 40 minutes with the only sounds being geese and the melting of snow into the lake. It was so peaceful, I couldn’t help but smile. I would love to go back during the summer and rent a bike and explore even more. Wyoming has surprised me with its beauty. I hope to see you again soon!

IMG_7362 IMG_7350 IMG_7344 IMG_7331 IMG_7316Just when I thought I had seen it all, I arrived at Rocky Mountain National Park. I had definitely come down with a cold at this point, but I wasn’t going to let that keep from anything. There were Elk roaming everywhere. Only portions of the park were opened due to snow. I was getting an itch to hike since it had been a while. I headed to Bear Lake which was completely snowed over and then to Nymph Lake. I was so out of breath from these 0.5 miles hikes, I figured it was my cold. When I finished I realized I was over 9,500ft elevation walking in snow.  I think I would have been out of breath either way. IMG_7384 IMG_7404 IMG_7417 IMG_7429 IMG_7463My mom is visiting me again (I’m a lucky girl). Onto some more mother daughter adventures!

Oh Canada, Montana, and South Dakota

“I think it’s neat you do what you want. Not enough chicks do that, if you ask me–just tell society and their expectations to go fuck themselves. If more women did that, we’d be better off.”
Cheryl Strayed, Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail   

Oh Canada

I almost forgot to get my passport out of my trunk before passing the boarder.  As I crossed over the border the only differences, that stood out to me, were speed limits in kmh and gas is sold by the liter.

Vancouver was beautiful! I stayed in a hostel that was 90% Australians. They had free walking tours, so I joined one that went to Granville Island. A few of us stayed on the island and did a brewery tour of course. The group that stayed for the brewery tour friended each other on facebook and I ended up having two friends in common with one of them.  Talk about small world! You know you travel a lot when that happens.

That night I met up with a girl I met in one of the Austin hostels I stayed at (not the smelly guy one).  We had some amazing sushi, then headed back to the hostel bar to watch a rock paper scissors tournament. They had a referee on the mic and everyone was shouting for a winner. I arrived too late to join, but it was still fun to watch.

The next day was 4/20, which in Vancouver is apparently a holiday. There were different stages in town for the people talking about how marijuana should be legalized. It is medically legal there, so there was a lot for sale all around. There was also a whole event on the beach, so when I drove by on my way out of Vancouver there was a huge cloud of smoke in the air.

I also stopped at the Capilano Suspension Bridge Park. This was one of the top things people told me to do while in Vancouver. It was a beautiful day to be there. I was able to do the whole park in an hour. They have the 460ft suspension bridge along with a nice nature and cliff walk.  There is also a tree tops adventure that made me feel like I was in the Ewok village in Return of the Jedi.

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I made my way towards Banff, which meant that I am technically not only half way through my trip but “on my way home”. I had a few long drives ahead of me, so I downloaded Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Coast Trail by Cheryl Strayed. Several people had recommended this book to me along my travels. I really enjoyed this book. It got me thinking about my trip and my future. What will I be doing with my life at the end of this adventure? It might have been the gloomy weather that I had for multiple days or being alone, but I definitely started to become uneasy. At the same time, I know this journey of mine is a once in a lifetime opportunity that not many people get the chance to experience. I have seen some incredible things and have met so many amazing people along the way. I can relate to Cheryl in Wild. I am not on a dangerous adventure where losing my shoes could mean a painful road ahead. I am a single female alone on an adventure, not knowing where I am going. “Fear, to an extant, is born of a story we tell ourselves.” The unknown of my future is terrifying, exhilarating, and calming at the same time.

“I realized there was nothing to do but go, so I did”. By the time I made if to Banff, the weather was overcast. Banff is still a very beautiful area. I spent some time relaxing in the Banff upper hot springs since the weather wasn’t good enough for a hike and my emotions needed a break. The next day I headed to Lake Louise which was frozen, but still picturesque.

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That night I went to Saskatoon to meet up with my friend I met 6 years ago in New Zealand.  She lives in a tiny town called Bruno with a population of 574. Her family lives close by in St. Benedict with a population of 82 (town fire hall pictured below). This is my third time visiting and every time I have been, everyone makes me feel so welcome. They are always trying to get me to move there.  I was offered to work on the farm! She now has an adorable 15 month old daughter, who is so much fun. The first night I was there, my friend and her husband took me to all the bars in the area and of course they knew almost everyone. I continue to learn something new about farming every time I visit. For instance, I learned about elevators while visiting an old abandoned one.

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The weather was still overcast as I headed back to the United States of America. I crossed over into Montana where I drove through various small towns. A friend had called me as I was driving and an alarm was going off. I was looking for an emergency vehicle, but there were none in site. My friend notified me that it was probably a tornado alarm. I’m learning so much on this trip, but thankfully I didn’t have to learn anything more about tornados.

I drove all the way to Rapid City, SD.  There is so much to see in this area. I went to the Badlands National Park, where bighorn sheep roam throughout. The different colors in the sedimentary layers of the land is striking.

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Mt Rushmore is about 1.5 hours from Badlands National Park. I was thrilled to experience a clear view of the presidents before the clouds moved over and I couldn’t see anything. I felt bad for the people walking in with nothing to look at.

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I headed over to Crazy Horse, hoping the clouds hadn’t engulfed that monument as well. Thankfully, it was still visible. Crazy Horse is funded by admissions and contributions and if completed will be the world’s largest sculpture.

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The last thing I did that day was take a nice drive through Custer State Park. Definitely a must do if you are in the area. The foggy weather made it extraordinary. I can only imagine what its like on a nice day.

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With another 5 nights of solitude ahead I’ll leave you with one last ‘Wild’ quote: “Maybe I was more alone than anyone in the whole wide world. Maybe that was okay.”

 

 

Seattle

Its not what we have in life, but who we have in our life that matters.

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I love Seattle! This is my second time to the city and it was even better this time. My aunt, uncle and cousin live in/near the city.  My mom flew in to spend the week with us as well as my friend Ty!

We started off with a beautiful sunset dinner on the water and checking out different views of the city.

IMG_20160410_203041784The next day we went for a nice hike along the Snoqualmie river to see the waterfall and underground power plant. Didn’t find Big Foot though. Maybe next time!

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The Museum of Flight has so much to offer. We did a flight simulator which was hilarious! My Mom shot 5 enemies  while I crashed the plan probably 5 times while spinning upside down the entire time. My aunt on the other hand shot one enemy with my mom flying.  They did more of a scenic flight. We got to go on Kennedy’s air force one. My favorite part was the space portion.  I didn’t even get to go through the entire museum, there is so much to see.

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We spent the evening at my cousins in Tacoma, playing with face swap on snapchat and had dinner on the water at a brewery. My brother said my mom and I should never swap faces again.

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My mom, my aunt, and I had a fabulous day shopping. This homeless and unemployed girl needed some new outfits.

We had a nice day touring all the different parts of Seattle. We took a nice stroll through the Japanese garden and stopped at the Troll under the bridge.  There is a VW under his hand and his eye is actually one of the hub caps.

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IMG_20160414_121159177  Ty arrived late Thursday night and I had a fun filled visit all planned out. We all took the ferry to Olympic National Park. We saw a few deer and it definitely felt like vampires were lurking around.  We drove through the clouds to the top, where I built my first snowman! He is pretty famous since after we left, a group of tourist starting taking pictures with him too. After we got back to Seattle, Ty and I went out to dinner and drinks in Fremont, catching up on life.

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April is tulip season so we had to go to the tulip festival.  I didn’t know there were so many varieties of tulips. Definitely worth the drive. We had lunch at a brewery in town(yes we like beer). If you plan on ever going to a tulip festival, go early! We did and as we left, the line was down the road.   That night Ty and I did a cycle bar crawl. There were two other groups with us and we got to try a lot of different beer and stop at a lot of bars along the way. We didn’t have to wear helmets but after a few beers we were joking around and it fit my peanut head so I thought it was appropriate!

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 Last day in Seattle was our super tourist day!  Ty and I started with brunch and mimosas of course!  It was a beautiful day so we walked to Pike Market. We shopped around and watched the famous Pike Place Fish Co. throwing the fish.  We needed a little break, so we stopped at Pike Brewery for a beer. We met some guys there and after our beers we all decided to walked down to another brewery (Cloud Burst Brewery). After a few beers it was museum time. The Seattle Center has so many things to do.  We started at the EMP Museum also known as Experience Music Project and Science Fiction Museum. I LOVE this place. They have a whole section on Nirvana since they are from Washington. You can play all kinds of instruments and record what you play. There is a gaming area with the history of video games. Then of course the Science Fiction part.  Everything from Doctor Who, Star Wars, and even Princess Bride. When the EMP closed and we were forced to leave we went to the Chihuly Garden of Glass. I didn’t know what to expect, but was in complete awe of everything in this exhibit.   We finished the night with dinner up in the Space Needle. We had a beautiful sunset in revolving restaurant. Kids write questions on post it notes on the windows so other table can respond, which I thought was so entertaining.

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IMG_20160417_172416265IMG_20160417_173158296_HDRTime to get my passport out and cross the border into Canada Eh!

Portland

 

Life was meant for good friends and great adventures!

This part of my journey started with a long drive (can you believe that). I took the long way to Portland so that I could see the red woods and drive up the PCH. Those views never get old.IMG_6745

IMG_6781 IMG_6762Upon my arrival to Portland, I picked up my friend Kim at the airport. She flew all the way from Florida to visit me and her college roommate, Melissa, whose beautiful house we stayed at. The Pacific Northwest is known for its dreary weather, but Portland was blue skies the entire stay. We Took at hike up to the top of the Multnomah Falls. Portland taught me that there are infinite shades of the color green.

IMG_6788 IMG_6789IMG_6802While on our hike we met a couple that suggested another hike along the Columbia River Gorge. Moss covers everything.  The trees look like they are wearing sweaters of moss. There was water trickling down the rocks everywhere and extremely steep cliffs with flowers blooming all the way to the river.

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We finished the day zip lining, which Melissa realized was a bad idea to do with two engineers discussing the structural integrity of each platform. And why not have dessert for dinner!

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 Portland is know for its food and drinks. It did not let me down. We went to a few wineries and breweries. I also found out that Starbucks is selling wine, champagne and beer in the Northwest.

IMG_20160409_173604627_TOP IMG_20160409_173600193 10627IMG_20160409_170248614I am so glad Kim flew in and that Melissa and her amazing family hosted us.  I had an incredible time.

I’m still due North!

Yosemite, Sequoia, Death Valley, Las Vegas, Reno and Lake Tahoe

I’m on a rollercoaster that only goes up my friend. – John Green

This leg of my trip was a little altered due to weather, but still turned out incredible! I headed to Yosemite and upon arrival, I realized a lot of roads are closed in the winter. A snow storm started when I got there so I just filled up my time inside where I could stay warm!  I woke up at sunrise to a beautiful day, and was able to explore and get some hikes in.

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My original plan was to drive through Yosemite to the East, but that road was closed.  I decided to head to Sequoia National Park and drive around the long way.  Why not! Some of Sequoia’s roads are closed down or you need tire chains to drive them. I drove as far (past the chain limit) as I felt safe and then turned around.  It was a winter wonderland!

IMG_6588 IMG_6575 IMG_6566 IMG_6556Next stop, Death Valley and Las Vegas.  Why not have some fun! I had a friend that happened to be in Las Vegas at the time, so it ended up working out perfectly. I love how in Vegas you can walk from Paris to Rome in less then 5 minutes. “We will always have Paris”.

IMG_6599 IMG_6592IMG_20160330_224444329 IMG_20160330_223507018 IMG_20160330_184227966On my way to Reno, I stopped at Lake Mono, which is on the opposite side of Yosemite (the original plan). There is also a ghost town, called Bodie, I was planning on stopping at, but the road was closed. In Florida, we don’t close roads for the winter.

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Reno, “The Biggest Little City in the World”. My brother’s best friend since I was two (aka my second brother), moved to Reno about two years ago. It was great to see him and his family. They took me to Virginia City, which is an old mining town with a lot of history and saloons.  We took a tour down in one of the mines, learning about the process that was used back in the 1860’s. My friend also currently creates the animation for slot machines.  He brought me to the casinos in Reno to show me and I won $50! Can’t wait to visit them again!

IMG_20160403_014741251 IMG_20160402_235344129 14849 IMG_6677IMG_666514878Can’t stop in Reno without seeing Lake Tahoe. I have a friend living in Truckee for the winter. We went to a Bluegrass festival and some took a few hikes with breathtaking views.

IMG_6694IMG_671215223 15244Oregon and Washington next!

Los Angeles, San Diego, Big Sur, Santa Cruz, and San Francisco

Smiling is my favorite!

I finally made it from coast to coast! I love seeing friends and making new ones. That is exactly what I have been doing.  I started this leg of my trip staying with my college roommate in Topanga Canyon, outside of Los Angeles. The first night we went to her boyfriends Reggae Band show in Santa Monica, which was a lot of fun. I had never been hit on so many times in one night, but Brooke and I survived the shark tank! I also met up with some friends from Florida that happen to be on vacation in the area and a girl I met in Costa Rica in December. I have another college friend who lives in L.A. She was working The L.A. Fashion Week while I was there and got us VIP tickets. We had a blast. I loved seeing everyone and catching up!

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 When I was leaving L.A. my car wouldn’t start again. I called AAA and they replaced my battery so I wont be having that problem again.  Third time was enough for me! At least I had a good view.

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Time for Carlie San Diego to finally go to San Diego!

I got a hostel by Ocean Beach, which was much better then the last one. I spent the day at La Jolla Beach watching the sea lions and the beautiful views.  I also took a stroll around Old Town, tasting some of San Diego’s craft beers. I met up with a friend that night in South Park, where they were having an event. We bar hopped and stopped at random parking lots and house fronts where bands were playing.  I tried a lot of local beer. My favorite was one called the Velociraptor 😉 After the alarm went off in the morning, I spent the day at the zoo with some friends. This world famous zoo is like a theme park, so many animals! After a day of walking we decided a hot tub was needed, so we just snuck into a hotel/club in La Jolla and used theirs (why not). We finished the night with an amazing sushi dinner. San Diego was definitely a success.

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The Pacific Coast Highway is a drive I highly recommend! If you planning on taking this drive, give yourself time to make as many stops and hikes as possible. I started right a the beginning of the PCH, stopping in LA again to have lunch with a childhood friend who I hadn’t seen in 10 years! I ended up staying the night in San Luis because the sun was down and I was exhausted. The next part of the drive is incredible. I spent the entire day taking pictures and going on small hikes.  The waves were insane!  I sat at one spot in Big Sur watching the waves for 45 minutes. Got too close at one point and my shoes got soaked. I ended the day with a hike at Point Lobos. If you are planning on doing this drive, Point Lobos is a must.  I stayed the night in Carmel, since there is no point in driving after the sun goes down.

I started my morning with the famous 17 mile drive and continued along the coastline. I stopped in Santa Cruz for the night to visit family. I might be biased, but I have a pretty awesome family! My aunt and uncle grilled and my cousins came with their kids.  It was really good to seem them all and catch up.  We took a nice scenic walk along the coastline and got to meet my uncle’s horse.  It was another beautiful day with great people!

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More friends from Florida happen to be in the area while I was in San Francisco.  I am so glad this ended up working out! We rented bikes and spent the day biking over the Golden Gate bridge to Sausalito and then taking the ferry back across the bay. Towards the end my friend thought it would be cool to jump the curb and popped the tire on his bike.  I found this quite funny! The next day we decided to do a self guided brewery tour, with a stop at the “Full House” house of course. We tried a lot of different beers, getting flights everywhere we went and sharing.  We also went to some interesting places, sang karaoke, lost a phone and sunglass, almost guided the Lyft driver an hour away, but in the end made it home safe and sound.  Phenomenal time in San Francisco!

IMG_20160326_142400557 IMG_20160326_203324541 IMG_20160326_194129297 IMG_20160326_120343472 IMG_20160326_140829998 IMG_20160326_153755430 IMG_20160325_143106871_HDR IMG_20160325_103426623 IMG_6449 IMG_6457Now that I have driven the coast line, I want to see the National Parks.  I headed back south and spent Easter with My family in Santa Cruz.  I started the day visiting the Mystery Spot. The Mystery Spot The guides have a lot of corny jokes, which I love!  It is a very weird feeling being there. The guide has a level to show what is a flat surface even though it doesn’t look flat. They did demonstrations where people seemed shorter then they should and balls rolled uphill. Very interesting place.  Everyone standing around looked like they were in the Smooth Criminal Michael Jackson video.
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Onto more California fun!

Arizona and Las Vegas!

My Mom joined me during this part of my journey! We had such an adventure! She flew in late to Flagstaff, Arizona and I drove us to the Grand Canyon. We stayed in the Yavapai Lodge in the National Park. We slept in that morning and had a nice day checking out the view points of this amazing wonder of the world for the first time! I have so many pictures, this post was hard to narrow them down.

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Day 2 required a very early wake up call because there are two bucket list items I was determined to check off. We had a tour of Antelope Canyon at 8:00am but it was over a 2 hour drive.  The Canyon is owned by the Navajo tribe so you can’t just hike to it on your own.  We spent the entire day in Page Arizona. Our tour was the first to enter the Canyon which was awesome because we didn’t have a lot of people to worry about in our pictures.  The tour guide was amazing.  She was informational and knew all the angles and places for great photos.  To get the famous pictures with the beams of light coming into the canyon, you have to be there in the summer months when the sun is directly over the canyon.  Still worth going any time of year. After the tour, the only other plan I had was going to Horseshoe Bend.  I decided to drive over to the Glen Canyon Dam and we took the tour. This Dam is 16 feet shorter then the Hoover Dam. The Glen Dam’s reservoir is Lake Powell, which one summer I want to rent a house boat (LakePowellHouseBoats).  We had enough time to head to Horseshoe Bend and take a Boat tour on Lake Powell down the Lower Antelope Canyon before our dinner reservations back at the Grand Canyon.

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If you are visiting the Grand Canyon and want an amazing meal, make reservations at the El Tovar Dining Room.  Its definitely not a cheap meal, but delicious!

When my Mom joins me, we do things in style, so a helicopter ride over the Canyon is needed! My Mom cried because it was incredible. The snowy picture is of the North Rim which is closed during this time of the year. 0914nl-carlie.buchan

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We spent the rest of the day hitting all the rest of the look out points we hadn’t seen. We got stopped a few times by herds of Elk walking across the road.

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A trip to the Grand Canyon wouldn’t be complete without heading a mile down to the bottom on a mule!  Mule rides to the bottom of the canyon are usually booked a year in advance. I luckily called after someone had cancelled in January and got two spots. The morning we were leaving for the mule ride, my car wouldn’t start. We didn’t have time to do anything about it, so we hustled to the bus station and decided to deal with it later. We took the Bright Angel Trail down the canyon. On the descent, you pass through five life zones.  We stayed at Phantom Ranch at the bottom, where it got to 80 degrees while it snowed on the Rim. We came back up the Kaibab trail. The ride was around 5 hours each way, which leaves one very sore. My mule was Berta and my mom had Algebra.

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KODAK Camera
KODAK Camera

Now that we are back on the South Rim with all the snow, we must deal with the car that won’t start.  Our wrangler from the mule ride sent his brother to help us.  I think I need a new battery, since this is the second time this has happened.  Once the car was working, we made our way to Las Vegas. I got us front row seats to Cirque du Soleil Love. The show was unbelievable. During the finale, Sargent Pepper came up to us and gave us both roses.  I would definitely see this show again.

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I had a fantastic time with my Mom and cant wait to see her again!  California here I come!!!

New Mexico and Utah

The hardest part about this post was trying to decide which photos to use.

To see more pictures and videos along my journey, you can follow my instagram @wherentheworldiscarliesandiego or on snapchat (fsulaxgrl).

Big Bend National park was the start to my week of solitude. Not solitude in the sense that I didn’t see or talk to anyone, because if you know me, that’s impossible.  This is the week of national parks and “camping”.  I did talk to people on the phone from time to time but it was hard because i wouldn’t have service a lot of the time. I also had a snap chat conversation with my bestie, which was hilarious!  I was a little worried about this week since I am a very social person, but I absolutely loved it! I’m so excited to share this part of my journey with you.

As I travel from state to state, I find out more things to do and see in this country. I could do this forever and not see everything. I’m so happy and grateful to be taking this journey.  The drives alone are amazing. I have realized that when I’m on a scenic drive I cant listen to books on tape because i stop paying attention.  I switch to music and soak in all in. I have so much dash cam footage that I have filled up my brand new computer and had to dump it all on my external hard drive.

Enough chit chat! Onto the good stuff.

New Mexico is a beautiful state.  I definitely didn’t get enough time there but I have my priorities.  I stopped at White Sands National Monument. This one of the many natural wonders of the world. It is the worlds largest gypsum (soft sulfate mineral) dunefield. The surrounding area is desert with the  San Andres and Sacramento Mountains surrounding it.   There were tons of people picnicking, sand sledding, and hiking. I arrived just in time for sunset.

IMG_4550 IMG_4559 IMG_4556I drove the rest of the night to Albuquerque just to stay in a hotel.  I was exhausted from so much driving. I headed to the four corners monument in the morning. This is exactly like the reviews say.  Its in the middle of no where but its one of those spots your just want to stop and see. I helped a family of four take a picture which was funny because the two boys fought over which state they wanted to stand in.  Utah and Colorado apparently are the best. I didn’t have to fight.  I got all 4 to myself.  Take that Brett!

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After that quick stop, I made my way to Moab, Utah. There are no hostels around the national parks, but i found lots of cheap hotels. Around 2am, I woke up to the fire alarm battery beeping because it was dying. I couldn’t call the front desk because I was at a cheap motel. I just put ear plugs in and turned the TV on loud to drown out the beeping.  I went to the front desk in the morning and they were very nice and fixed it. I heading out for a beautiful day at Arches National Park, which was only 4 miles down the road. Half of the sites I stopped to see, i was completely alone.  I hiked about 9.5 miles that day. Some of the trails were “primitive” and you had to follow the rock cairns, which is basically rocks in stack.  Sometimes it was hard to find the next cairnes.  I made some friends on the trails and we might have taken a few wrong turns here and there, but always eventually made it.  The pictures really don’t give this park justice. In the picture with the double arches, if you look closely at the bottom you will see something black. That is a person hiking up under them.  That is how massive it is. Absolutely incredible!

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After all day hiking, I was worn out, my feet were killing me, so I decided to stay another night in Moab.  When I drove up to my motel there was a pest control company tenting the main office which was a separate building from the rooms.  This obviously did not make me feel comfortable that my room didn’t have bugs, but i was too tired to care much. I went out for some dinner, came back and was asleep by 9:00.  I woke up at 11:30pm to someone banging on the door.  I was so startled i just ignored it, hoping whoever it was would go away.  They didn’t.  The man who was banging started yelling “Hello, please open the door!” So i got up, shaking I’m so out of it and scared, and look out the peep hole.  It was a man in the pest control uniform.  The room didn’t have a chain lock on it to feel save to open it so I answered who is it.  The man proceeded to tell me there was a gas leak and he needed to check if my room was contaminated.  I am now standing in my underwear still shaking because this is shady and thinking do i risk opening the door to the strange man or risk being poisoned of gas.  Decisions, decisions!  I threw on some pants and opened the door.  The pest guy brought over another guy with some machine to bring in the room.  Still seems shady and I’m still kinda shaky, but trying to be ready to kick some ass if need be (have you seen my muscles). He checks the room twice and tells me the room is good.  No ass kicking tonight.  I fall straight back to sleep. Around 12:30, someone starts banging on my door again and this time its the police and he is yelling “open the door”.  Good thing i still had my pants on.  I looked out the peep hole and it truly was a cop and opened the door.  Apparently the pest control man didn’t inform me that they were moving everyone from the motel to a different location due to the gas leak. I packed everything, shoved it in my car and drove to the new hotel where 30 people from the same motel are in line to get a room and they aren’t accepting anyone.  I was the last to arrive.  We all had to move to another hotel down the road and i was finally in bed by 2am and then couldn’t fall asleep of course. When I woke up in the morning, I realized my pants were on inside out. Oops! Needless to say, we all got refunded for that night at the motel!

I slept in that morning and decided to stop at Canyonland National Park since it was so close by.  I saw maybe 5 people there and it was a beautiful day.  I spent about 3 hours there driving around to all the lookout spots. The last 4 pictures are of the Green River which connects to the Colorado River just north of Lake Powell, which i will be visiting this week.

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The drive to Bryce Canyon National Park is spectacular. You have to drive through Dixie National Forest and the Red Canyon to get there on Utah’s scenic byway 12.  In the winter there isn’t a lot open, but I think the snow adds an amazing color contrast with the canyon.  So many colors with the blue sky, red canyon, green trees, and white snow. I took the most photos in Bryce Canyon.  The first day there I stopped at all the look out points which go up to 9,000 ft in elevation.  I attempted a hike on the top, but the snow was up to my knees, so i aborted that idea. I watched the sunset and made some Ramen in the microwave with a nice glass of wine (I’m so fancy).  The next day I hiked down into the Canyon.  I was in complete awe for the entire 6 miles. I wore my rainboots after the first hike I tried the previous day.  Multiple people along the trail commented on how smart I was because melting snow and clay equals mud! I camped out in the park that night to watch the sunrise. Ill let the pictures speak for themselves.

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Zion National Park is amazing to just drive through.  It is massively impressive.  Zion Canyon itself is 15 miles long and a half mile deep. This park was crowded unlike the other ones, but then again it was the weekend.  I reserved a campsite and went on a short hike by the river.  I sat on a rock on the shoreline and just wanted to relax until i realized how “friendly” the squirrels in this park are.  Too close for comfort!  I headed to a restaurant and found out that you cannot order a drink without ordering food in the state of Utah. I later found out that beer on tap has to always be 4% by volume and their liquor mixing laws are bizarre as well.  I made myself a nice fire that night and read my book.  It was a really relaxing night. Since the park was so crowded, I woke up at sunrise to start my hikes.  I got stopped by some wild turkeys crossing the road and a deer (not together).  I was the first person on the 8 mile round trip hike that changed over 2,000 ft in elevation. I walked past fresh deer prints in the sand and birds flying in and out of trees.  The view at the top was worth it. I did a few more hikes that day totaling over 12 miles.  My feet hated me.  I have so many blisters, but its the price I had to pay for an amazing day. I included the zoomed in picture of the winding road for my roadway engineers!

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 I am currently writing this blog post in Flagstaff, AZ, waiting for my mom to land and we will head to the Grand Canyon.  It has been nice to relax after all that hiking. I have been able to clean my car, do laundry, pay bills, and all those real world things I can’t escape.  It has also been snowing here. My car looked like this last night:

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When I went to dinner, I rolled down the windows so  I could see out of them.  Not a smart idea. Snow fell into my car everywhere.  Lesson learned!

Time to pick up my mom! Until the next post…….

Tennessee, Arkansas, and Texas

IMG_20160216_120616699I figured it wasn’t a proper roadtrip without stopping at Graceland! The King of Rock and Roll. I was never a huge Elvis fan, but who doesn’t love “You ain’t nothing but a hound dog”.  One can’t deny his influence in the music industry. Graceland offers a lot of information about all aspects of Mr. Presley’s life. I didn’t know that Elvis was a twinless twin.  I saw all the graves on his mansion grounds as well as his planes, cars, amazing outfits, and lets not forget the dance moves.

I had lunch in Memphis and headed into Arkansas afterwards.  I drove through Little Rock and continued down to Hot Springs National Park in Arkansas. I “camped out” that night in my car right next to the river, waking up right next to the hiking trail.  It was a very peaceful and relaxing night.

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I headed to Dallas after my hike to visit a former co-worker. We went out to dog friendly restaurants and caught up on life. Its great to take time to visit friends.

From Dallas I stayed one night in Austin before surprising one of my best friends in College Station. I stayed in a hostel on the University of Texas campus. When I checked in they told me they were having a bar crawl on 6th Ave. that night. How convenient! We started the night pre-gaming, where I taught a group of Australians and the hostel workers how to play TITS (my favorite drinking game that is the combination of beer pong, flip cup, and horse. No “tits” actually involved). Out of 5 bars that the bar crawl consisted of, I made it to 2.  I also found this amazing gem in my purse the next day (I love photo booths):

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The next morning was rough for multiple reasons.  Reason #1 is obvious….. Reason #2 my car wouldn’t start and the only person with a car I could find had a Prius, which doesn’t help. After about an hour, I found someone to jump my car and everything was good. I was only a little bit late for surprising my friend Shannon in College Station.  Shannon’s sister, Kelly, flew in earlier that morning and was able to tell me where they were having lunch. Even though she had a hunch that I was coming, she had to double look when I walked in the restaurant. It was good to spend the weekend with these girls! College Station is a small town.  I definitely felt “old” but was still IDed everywhere.  There is a strip of bars and they have a bottle cap alley, which I might have contributed to. We went bridesmaid dress shopping for Kelly’s wedding, watched the bachelor, and went out to as many bars as possible.  One bar has only sake bombs, but it consisted of a monster energy drink and something that I assume was a cheap sake. Nothing like a college town! It was hard to leave such good friends. I had a blast and didn’t want it to end!IMG_20160221_244734777IMG_20160221_173156044I headed back to Austin since I only got to see two bars before. The first night I was exhausted from such a great weekend with my girls, so I decided to go see a movie.  I went to the Alamo Drafthouse Ritz and saw Deadpool.  The movie is hilarious and the theater is rated one of the best theaters in the Country by Fandango.  In the morning, I visited Barton Springs Pool. It was too cold out to get in the water, but I wanted to see it any ways. I headed to Zilker Park Botanical Gardens which is so relaxing. I found a quite spot and just sat and read for a while. That night I headed to the Hostel bar, which was hard to find since the door is a bookshelf. I met up with a campnocounselor friend that night which brought back lots of memories. The next morning I stayed in bed for a while.  One too many drinks. One thing that made me leave the hostel was a very smelly and messy bunk mate who must have showed up the night before. I headed out to find all the famous Austin graffiti in town. Google walking maps took me through some neighborhoods without sidewalks and I probably walked for about 3 hours, but I found them all.

IMG_20160224_114857129 IMG_20160225_141845889 IMG_20160225_171440177 IMG_20160224_140946081 IMG_20160224_211810854Back to the smelly, messy bunk mate.  I have stayed in tons of hostels and have never really had a “story”. Well, this guy came back wasted that night making all kinds of noise and of course snored all night. I just put ear plugs in and continued to sleep.  I had the bottom bunk in the back of the room.  There were 4 bunks.  He had the bunk right by the door. In the morning when I was walking to and from the bathroom packing, I had to walk past Mr. Smelly buck naked with his legs spread and his penis hanging there for the world to see.

After finally leaving Mr. Smelly and his nakedness, I drove to Hamilton Pool.  The water too contaminated to swim in, but it definitely is a site to see.

IMG_4532My Aunt sent me a national geographic book on scenic highways and byways. I started reading about Big Bend National Park and decided to add it on to my trip. I’m so glad I did because it is breathtaking. I started my trip siting in a hot spring on the bank of the Rio Grande with bats flying all over.  The stars that night were incredible. More stars then you could imagine going as far as the eye can see.  I woke up that morning and did a sunrise hike, where some deer were following along with me in the woods.  It was magical!

IMG_20160227_073236336I also saw a roadrunner for the first time. I really thought they would be bigger mainly because of the cartoon. They definitely aren’t the same size as a coyote.

2016-03-02 (1) 2016-03-02 (2)2016-03-02 (3)Big Bend was the start of my week of solitude and long drives. I will fill you in on the journey next week. Until then, I bid you adieu!