Category Archives: travel

Finagling

We’re planning to go to Texas for two weeks at Thanksgiving to… well, show off the baby and give the relatives ample holding time. We only get to go to Texas every other year or so, so we want to spend lots of time with the fam and also see some friends while we’re in town(s). We’ll spend a couple of days driving each way, so that really puts us down at 10 days in Texas. And we’ll need to spend multiple days in each of Amarillo, Big Spring, Fort Worth, and Abilene.

So I’m trying to figure out how I can finagle spending an entire day in Dallas. Close to Ft. Worth, yes, but that’s a WHOLE DAY to cut out of family/friends time.

I usually avoid Dallas as much as possible–I’ve always said it’s good only for sports teams and restaurants (yes, as a 25-year F-Dub resident, I’m firmly in the Ft. Worth camp in the ever-important question of Fort Worth or Dallas?). But see, that’s why I need to spend all day there–food.

I was browsing for gluten-free options in Ft. Worth (since the trip is only 5 1/2 months away) and came across a restaurant called Kozy Kitchen. I first looked at their breakfast menu. Gluten-free French toast. I’ve made it for Frank (quite successfully), but he’s never been able to order it at a restaurant. There’s just something about being able to order your (that is, his) favorite breakfast food at a restaurant that you can’t recreate at home. And of course, there are several things on the breakfast menu I would eat. GLUTEN-FREE PANCAKES, PEOPLE! Again, I can make them and have eaten them, but never have I been able to walk in and order them at a restaurant. Nevermind the Hangover Helper, which just looks YUM. I mean, I’d order it without the eggs, but YUM.

And then I went to the lunch menu. Um… buffalo burger! With a gluten-free option! There’s a bunless option, yes, but this is an option to have your buffalo burger on a gluten-free bun. Yes, yes, I make GF buns all the time, but again, it’s the whole restaurant thing. When you go gluten-free, your restaurant options severely dwindle. Even in the three years that I’ve been gluten-free, the options have expanded hugely, but there are still entire don’t-even-bother restaurants, some restaurants where you can eat maybe one thing unless you want only steamed veggies and boring chicken, and others where the gluten-free items might as well not even be listed, because the cross-contamination is so bad that you’ll be sick no matter what you order. And generally if you’re eating gluten-free, you’re eating expensive, or you’re at Qdoba, Pei Wei, or Chipotle (and in Boise, we have only Qdoba of those three). You can get into a rut where there are only four or five restaurants you’ll go to because you know you can safely eat at them without research (Chang’s, Outback, Chipotle, Qdoba, Five Guys, etc.). So to see a restaurant offering a buffalo burger (have I mentioned my love of buffalo burgers before? Because I would marry them.) with a bun I can eat is just… well, sigh. It gives me hope. And no, you can’t make me care (at least not 5 1/2 months in advance) that I would be paying $14 for a burger. You just can’t. This is the first time I’ve ever seen a gluten-free burger on a menu that isn’t just the meat and fixin’s. I’m sure that’s partially because I live under a rock and we don’t eat out much anyway (costs money), but hey. I just saw a gluten-free bun available for order at a restaurant, so I’m a little giddy.

The dinner menu looks wonderful, but can we just skip right to dessert? All desserts are gluten-free. Ah, so… an assortment of sorbets, right? (I do love sorbet, but I’m not always wanting sorbet.) Listen to this. Italian Wedding Cake, Carrot Cake, Tres Leches. Gluten-free. Bunch of other stuff, too, but those are things I would actually consider ordering. Forget the egg thing. I’ll eat eggs on vacation. Not gluten, but eggs, yes.

So yeah. I have to make this happen for three different meals. Somehow.

Hoh Rainforest

Did y’all know we had a rainforest in the lower 48? I didn’t until I went there.


On my very long list of things to write about.

It’s not an adventure if everything goes as planned

The tools I have can’t help me if I don’t use them.

My friend Tarina (Somethingina, as Frank calls her) came in from Texas last weekend, and we had a good, if short, visit. She arrived Thursday night, two days after returning from a week in Paris. A little palate cleansing before going back to work, if you will. After a quick tour of the house, she hit the sack pretty much right away on Thursday, jet-lagged as she was.

Friday morning I made bacon and eggs–with Falls Brand bacon, which we feed all of our guests, because yum. Then Tarina and I headed to Shoshone Falls, just east of Twin Falls. It’s a two hour drive, and we had six or seven hours before we had to be back to pick Frank up and head to Horseshoe Bend to catch the Thunder Mountain Railroad at seven p.m. We were in no rush, as we had plenty of time, so we had lunch at Chili’s in Twin Falls, and when we left there, we checked the clock. We had about an hour and a half to enjoy the falls.

Now.

When we’d exited the highway, there was a big brown tourist sign that said Shoshone Falls 8 (miles). And we’d gone about three when we’d stopped at Chili’s. So we got back on the main drag and kept going, watching out for more of the brown tourist signs. There was a big intersection with forks heading off in several directions, and I chose to turn left. I immediately decided that was a wrong turn and turned back around so I would have been going straight had I not turned. Okay, fine. But we started to get away from town, and I just had a feeling that we were still going in the wrong direction. So we stopped to ask for directions to Shoshone Falls.

Do not stop in Twin Falls and ask for directions.

So we walked into this grocery store, and there was a guy getting a DVD from the Red Box. I asked him for directions to the falls, and he gave us vague directions and basically told us to go in the exact opposite direction of where we needed to go. I was okay with following his directions for a little while, as he had put us on a road that would take us east of town, and I remembered that the falls were three miles east. But then we passed the three-mile point. Tarina pulled a map out of the map pocket and tried to figure out where we were, but the map of Twin Falls did not go as far out as we had. When the road turned south, I decided to call shenanigans on this guy’s fabulous instructions and turned around.

On the way back to Twin, we saw a sign–Twin Falls 12. Seriously, twelve miles? So we noted the odometer, and nine miles later we were looking for any sign of Falls Lane or Boulevard or whatever it’s called, because that’s the street we’d been hunting for. No sign. Then we were back in town. We headed back north, and I pulled over at a Walgreens. I was going to ask for better directions this time, but I went ahead and checked our map of Twin Falls. I was now completely oriented and could see where we needed to go, which was basically the exact opposite of where our beneficent directions-giver had told us to go.

So we continued to go north, counting down the number of minutes we would have for looking at the falls, because we really needed to be gone by four o’clock to make it back for our train trip. We finally found Falls Lane (ahem, barely south of Chili’s) and headed east, and oh, by the way, it was now rush hour, and school was letting out, so we had school zones and all that.

We finally got to Shoshone Falls at three-fifty-three, which gave us a grand seven minutes to check out the falls. Oh, and I’d forgotten my camera. Tarina had hers, but I don’t have copies of her pictures yet, so all I can tell you is that everyone says that it’s prettiest in the spring, but we were both wowed by what it looks like in the fall. Absolutely stunning. There was a rainbow where one of the falls splashed into the river and everything, and I’ve never seen water as green as the river is there. I’m serious, the river at the bottom of Shoshone Falls is as green as the Caribbean is blue.

When we got out of the car at the falls, there was a couple standing next to their car, and the guy asked us, “Are you getting married today?”

I cocked my head. “Um, no. Not to each other.” After we walked off, we passed what was obviously a setup for a wedding, and we finally got why he was asking.

We stayed about fifteen minutes at the falls and then decided we needed to boogie out of there. We’d seen everything, so it’s really all the time we needed, but it would have been nice to have that hour and a half of cushion.

We raced home, trying to pick Frank up at six-twenty so we could be to Horseshoe Bend by seven. We got there at six-thirty, and when Frank jumped into the car, which was already racing out of the driveway (okay, not really, but close), we started telling him the story of our day.

After we told him the part about finally getting to the falls, he said, “The GPS wasn’t working?”

Blink.

I’d totally forgotten we had that.

To be concluded…

I’m back, peeps

Recovering. Here’s the list of what we did:

Watched the Boise State Broncos beat the Oregon Ducks. Messy yet extremely satisfying.
Whitewater rafted the Main Payette. Water was low, this stretch of the river sucks, won’t do it again.
Drove to the Gorge for the Dave Matthews Band concert.
Camped with hippies who really like to set off fireworks at 4 a.m.
Drove to Olympic National Park via Seattle, Port Angeles, and Forks.
Arrived in the Hoh Rainforest during a downpour around 11 p.m.
Camped in the rainforest 2 nights on the banks of the Hoh River.
Hiked in the rainforest.
Shopping and sightseeing in Forks and La Push.
Drove home, got home at 6 a.m.
Slept 3 hours, got up and took my sister to the airport.
Now I get to unpack.

More later.

Splish splash, baby

Saturday evening, we went whitewater rafting on the Lower South Fork of the Payette River. First, let me give you some advice if you’re ever going whitewater rafting on a hot August day: go in the evening. It was beautiful on the river. The water was cold, but not too cold because of the time of day, there was a nice warm breeze between rapids, and the sun hid behind the mountains most of the time, so no sunburn.

We went with Cascade Raft and Kayak again. Last summer when we went, we did a full day, where most of the day is spent lazily floating the river with rapids spread out throughout the day, they feed you lunch, and you have a lot of time to sit and look at the scenery. That was fun. This time we did the half-day trip, which is three hours, and most of that is spent in rapids. I can only remember two or three spots where we had a lot of time for conversation and checking out the scenery.

We went with Laura (aka Elle) and her husband Jesse. The drive on the bus from Cascade was fun, because once we made the turn at Banks (a turn I missed, once upon a time, and will never miss again), we could see the whitewater we would soon be navigating. And, uhm, it was really white. Also funny, because there was a group of ten Asians going on this trip, and we all got up to look at the whitewater, and while my eyes were going huge with the knowledge of my impending doom, I suddenly heard a LOT of very high-pitched oohs, ahs, and things I didn’t understand. The Asians were very excited and also could not believe they were about to do something so intense. They were cute, because the guys were even louder with the scared noises than the girls.

We parked and got the big safety talk. What to do in a number of situations–it’s one of those talks that makes you want to crawl under the bus and cry for mommy. During the talk we learned that our safety kayaker (the kayak that stays with the rafts to help people who’ve gone overboard) was a guy named Andrew. I say guy, but what I mean is kid. He looked twelve. We later learned that he’s sixteen and an expert kayaker and can be your bestest friend if you’re the man overboard. A little scary to know that your life could very well be held in the hands of someone who can’t even buy cigarettes yet, but we watched him do his thing, and he knew what he was doing.

The four of us got our life jackets, helmets (!!!), and paddles, and then we got a guide and raft to ourselves, which was cool. We were the first raft to put in. The water was coooooold on our feet when we walked the raft in, and Kevin was like, “Don’t be shy, you’ll be getting a lot more than your feet wet.”

We had one or two Class II rapids first, if I recall correctly, and then we did the Class III Bronco Billy.

We’re making great faces in this picture.

I think between Bronco Billy and our next big rapid, Staircase, was when I did something I will never tell our theoretical children about. I rode the bull. It’s not kinky like it sounds. I got up on the front of the raft, threw my legs over the front, and held on for dear life while we went through a rapid. I think Class II, but maybe Class I. I held onto a carabiner (attached to the front by our guide, Kevin) and one of the ropes on the side of the boat. It was exhilarating and scary and had me in scream-giggles until I snarfed water. Even after that, it was fun fun fun. Sadly, no pictures of this event are available.

Our next big rapid was the Class IV Staircase, the signature rapid for the Lower South Fork of the Payette River. It’s a third of a mile long, and avid rafters from all over the states have either traveled to do this rapid or heard of the rapid at one time or another. And it lives up to the hype. When we saw it, before we were in it, Elle and I gave each other looks that said everything from, “Oh, crap. We’re all gonna die,” to “Who’s gonna take care of my cats when I’m gone?”

I love this picture of Frank and Jesse. I don’t know what happened to Elle, but you can see my paddle and my helmet there behind Jesse. Kevin’s gone, too.

I love this next picture for one reason: Seeing Frank take a wall of water right in the face.

Staircase was so. much. fun. When we were done, we had a big hi-paddle-five, whooped, hollered, all that. It was AWESOME.

After Staircase, we did Fake Slalom, which I think is a Class II or III–I think II, and then Slalom, which is a Class III or IV, I can’t remember which–I think IV. It has two big drops, and the rest is easy. But the drops are insane, and Jesse and I almost flew out of the raft at the same time, and I was grabbing for the rope across the middle of the raft. It’s crazy when you feel your butt come several inches off the raft, and your whole body starts to lurch. If you don’t have your feet set right and one wedged in the raft, you’re going for a swim. We all managed to stay in the raft.

One of us got caught on film not paddling! Shame shame!

Again with the faces. Elle’s kills me. She’s just so happy to be there, not working. Haha. And Frank is so determined to beat that rapid into submission. Either that, or he’s reaaaaally concentrating, looking for Aquaman.

We had one more rapid, right at the end where the South Fork meets the North Fork. The water is about twenty-five degrees warmer where they meet, and as soon as you go into the rapid, you feel like your feet are in a warm bath. This is where Elle decided she would ride the not-kinky bull. She enjoyed it, but instead of snarfing water like I did, she got slammed back into the boat by a rather rowdy wave. The guys were no-shows on the bull riding, because they’re sissies. ;-)

We had a great time. I’m in love with whitewater rafting and can’t wait to do it again when my sister’s here next week!

Mammoth Hot Springs

These are two of my favorite pictures from when we went to Yellowstone at the beginning of June. I’d just gotten my new D-SLR, so naturally I came home with hundreds of pics. Ok, I would have come home with hundreds anyway.

I can’t wait to go back.

Back to reality

Yesterday morning, we got up and left our little inn in Tropic, Utah (seven miles east of Bryce Canyon) and went to Bryce. It was amazing and dusted with a little bit of snow. There were approximately ten people in the entire park when we were there. It was pristine, and within five minutes we were talking hiking trip, with some camping thrown in for good measure. We didn’t stay very long, maybe an hour, but I took a lot of pictures while we were there. Here are a few, and I know they do not do the canyon justice…


One of the overviews from Bryce Point.


Close-up from the same point.


Snow.


It was overcast because the sun was hanging out behind the clouds. I loved this picture.


This bird was playing hard to get with my camera, and after I managed to catch him, he squawked all through the canyon.


Isn’t he beautiful? He stayed nice and still for me.

We got in last night and spent today in our pajamas. Tomorrow I guess we have to go back to reality and jobs and such.

Piddling

‘Sup, homies? Okay, I apologize for that. Anyway, hi. We’re in Rock Springs, Wyoming, which is about three hours shy of where we wanted to be when we stopped for the night. Whatevs, we’re on vacation, and we’re not stressing about schedules and whatnot.

We got tired last night, so we went to bed before any of our clothes were packed. They were all clean, and the food was organized, the puppy was already at the puppy kennel… so that was good enough, and we hit the hay. And I was nice. Before we even went to bed, I told Frank that since we’re on vacation, I’m not going to freak out if we don’t get on the road as planned. (Having officially put us both in this relaxed mindset made for a very late start indeed.) This morning, we got up early and packed everything, including our Christmas gifts for my family. Except my stepmom’s gift, because it was too big to fit in the car. I think we’ll stop and get the same gift in Texas and then return the one we got in Boise when we get back.

I went out to the car to make sure the seats were folded up so we could put the suitcases in the far back and the food and gifts in the back seat. Frank had cleaned out the car last night while I was doing last minute shopping. He is a guy, though, and we don’t define “clean out the car” the same. It was mostly done, but… well, he made several trips inside with items that would not be joining us on the trip. There were even some mice for the kittehs to play with, and Sydney (with a rediscovered freedom that only comes from the absence of the dog) trounced those little suckers all over the house. This cat goes insane over the mice. Throws them way up in the air, then dives after them and kills them anew. She’s such a cool little feral kitteh.

Once the car was usable, I used my mad-awesome organizational skills to get everything to fit (other than the previously mentioned gift, because I wanted to be able to see out the back windshield). We hugged and kissed the kittehs goodbye (I told Minerva that she’s my sweetest and cutest and I love her the best and will miss her most of all) and finally got on the road. And then we stopped by the bank to deposit some money. Then we stopped at Fred Meyer for a new travel mug for Frank’s coffee. Then we went to Hastings and got the NYT Crosswords game for the DS and the new David Cook CD. I declare it is good, and it shall be my new favorite CD — however, I also declare that David is wearing more eyeliner than Boy George on the cover. Worst. Cover. Photo. Ever. David, my love, you really do not need to wear all that makeup. You’re beautiful just the way you are. (If I ever have a daughter who wants to wear so much eyeliner that the generic passerby will assume she is a skank, I intend to tell her the same thing. Let’s hope she’s beautiful so I don’t have to lie to her.

Anyway. On the way out of town we had to stop at the outlets and exchange a sweater. Then we got gas. Then we actually started driving, on the highway and everything — maybe around 1-ish.

I ate Doritos. I knew I would pay, and I am, and they weren’t even worth it. No Dorito is worth it, except the Fiery Habanero Dorito. Alas, I can never find those. That’s probably best.

We drove for hours, with a short stop to check the BSU score (we had lost the station) with Frank’s parents and eat a magnificent dinner of summer sausage, smoked oysters, crackers, marinated mushrooms, and Jolly Ranchers. It was dark soon after we got to Utah.

So we were driving through Wyoming in the dark, not many street lamps along the highway, lots of big rigs and other highway-type things. I saw that we were passing Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area, and I added it to my “places to see” list. Then I noticed a well-lighted area and looked over across the highway. I saw the strangest thing. This hotel was just standing there, all alone, amidst a freakishly awesome rocky outcrop. I want to stay at that hotel.

We were going to try to get all the way to Laramie tonight, but it was 9:30, and Laramie would be another three hours, Rawlins would be 1.5 hours… so we decided to stop at Rock Springs. Looks like we’ll have a good twelve hour drive tomorrow (not including stops).

Gas was $1.80 in Utah.

Later gators.

My poor sweetie

I went shopping after work, since I still have a job that could last two weeks, six months, or years. I went to Wal-Mart (forgot to get the thermal underwear, the specific reason I went to Wally World), Costco, and Fred Meyer. I came home and told Frank about the food I got for our trip.

SARAHK: I got a lot of snacks and food in case we get hungry and aren’t anywhere near a city. Even if we are near a city, we don’t know if it will be big enough to have food we can eat. So I got gluten-free crackers [Glutino -- they're good], goat cheese, smoked oysters, and cocktail sauce. I figured we could eat that if we got hungry…
FRANK J.:
SARAHK: I also got some sardines. I’ve never tried them before. I’ll probably hate them. They always look and smell gross to me.
FRANK J.: [Scrunching up his nose.] Did you get any normal food?

So then I told him about the fruit, chips and salsa, SPAM [I try not to eat pork, but during really busy weeks and travel, I'll eat it], beef Lil’ Smokies, summer sausage (I had to show it to him so he’d know what it was), trail mix, and roasted almonds. He was cheerier after that.

Of course, I’m thinking I’ll stick to the nitrite-free stuff. Lately I haven’t had so much trouble with nitrites, but I don’t like to bombard myself with them, because migraine scares me.

Yet another near-death experience, part 5

Part 1.
Part 2.
Part 3.
Part 4.

Dead end. What a fitting thing to see at this moment, when I’m about to meet one.

I looked around. To my right, a ravine. Man, it was so far down. To my left, a glimmer of hope. There was a small indent where the mountain gave way a little. It was overgrown with weeds, but it had definite shape, and if I went an inch at a time, I might just be able to turn around without falling off the side of the mountain. But first, I needed to cry some more. I put the car in park and cried like a big baby. Prayed some more, laughed a little, realized that if I made it out alive, I would at least have some blogfodder — every interesting scenario I’ve found myself in over the last five years has brought with it the same comfort of being potential material.

I decided to just be done with it and started to turn the car around. Back, forward left, back right, forward left, back right, forward left… After about a hundred switches between drive and reverse, I was turned around and still intact. I gave myself a high-five and told myself how awesome I am. I gave God His own credit, too. Then I got scared again, because I now had to backtrack down the same mountain that almost killed me on the way up. I was terrified because going over the giant bumps was awful on the way up, and going downhill I assumed they would be worse. They certainly weren’t any better. I still had daylight, and if it didn’t take me any longer to get back to that blasted Packer John Road than it took me to get to the dead end, I would be out of the woodsy mountains before dusk.

Back through the ditches and over the bumps I went. I cried, because it was scarier on the way down. At one point I even reminded myself (as it was September 12) that seven years ago yesterday people had to choose between death by fire or death by jumping out of windows, so I should just suck it up and drive. I was in the shade, watching the day leave, and I wasn’t ready for it to be gone. Again I reminded myself that if it was dark before I was down the mountain, I would pull over as close to the mountain as I could, turn off the car, eat the lasagna, curl up under my green blanket, rest my head on my pillow, and wait to be devoured by an angry bear. I would drive out in the morning. I had no hope of being rescued, as all Frank knew was that I had bad directions, had missed the turn at Banks, and was on a podunk road when I lost cell service.

I was only driving down the mountain for twenty minutes or so, but it felt like twenty hours. I watched the sunlight move away from me as I cringed over each bump, praying to make it to the next one.

I made it back to Packer John Road and picked up my cell phone. Had I been smart (and I have demonstrated that this was a day of nothing but cutie-head moments, as Frank likes to call my blonde moments), I would have turned it off as soon as I lost service to preserve the battery. As soon as I had service, I called Frank. I told him I’d been lost in the mountains and was going to have another twenty minute drive before I would even get to the turn that I had missed on my way up. I got back on the highway and headed south. He told me that the church ladies had called and said they would stand near the intersection where everyone was getting lost. I said to Frank, “I’m thinking about just coming back home. I don’t know if I can go socialize now. I may just come home.” I lost cell service again.

To be concluded.

Yet another near-death experience, part 4

Part 1.
Part 2.
Part 3.

As I said, I was in an all-out panic. The giant bumps got worse — there were two or three I knew for certain were unpassable. I started bawling after the first one. Every now and then, I would check my cell phone, just to see if a cell tower had magically appeared atop a giant ponderosa pine, only to be disappointed. And then, just to make things worse, I started imagining all the ways I could possibly die in the mountains.

I’m going to careen off the road, and the car is going to tumble into the ravine. No big, dramatic explosions, just some crunching metal and shattering glass. They won’t find me for weeks… It’s going to get dark, and when it does, I’ll just have to pull over as close to the mountain as I can and hope a bear doesn’t eat me, because I am *NOT* driving out of here in the dark. OH HELL! BEARS! AND ALL I HAVE WITH ME IS A .38 SPECIAL! WHY NOT A .45 WITH HOLLOWPOINTS!? Or the .44 Magnum? Ok, that one’s because it’s too heavy. What if the bear smells my lasagna? I mean, it smells awesome back there. Oh, you’ve got to be kidding me. My last meal could be lasagna?! Really? I’d always hoped for chicken tikka masala and garlic na’an. Dangit. Lasagna. There are so many better last meals than lasagna! I’m going to die a brunette. Why couldn’t I die a blonde? Why did I color my hair? It’s a good thing I’ve asked to be cremated so no one has to see me like this at a funeral. I don’t think this could be worse. I’ll die a brunette after eating my last meal of freaking lasagna. I’ll die fat! The crazy militia mountain people are in the northern part of the state, right? RIGHT? The crazy mountain people are going to kill me and serve me to their enormous hounds as a snack. I think the ravine thing is most likely, and I suppose that’s good, because I’ll just break my neck and it’ll be done. But what if there’s a river way down there where I can’t see? I know there is a river here somewhere. And what if my car bounces nicely through the trees, not killing me, and then I just go right into the river?! Oh, wait. The Mythbusters told me how to handle the car going in the water. If it happens, Sarah, open the car door right away. Don’t wait. If you can’t open it in time, relax, don’t struggle, just be one with the car and the lasagna until the pressure equalizes and you can open the door. Of course, roll down the windows before you get to the water. Expletive! The river is all Class V rapids around here. I’ll just drown. I hear it’s a peaceful way to go, but probably not if you’re being slammed into jagged rocks.

Yeah. All of those things rushed through my head, exacerbating my panic and engorging the tears. When you’re alone in a precarious situation, your brain is your worst enemy.

I’m sure I don’t need to tell you that there was a lot of praying, too. A lot of begging (no bargaining, surprisingly), a lot of apologies for the expletives, a lot of thanking God for the life I did have. A lot of wishing I’d done more, been a light to more people, all that stuff.

Suddenly I passed a mowed lawn. What the? Yeah. There was a mowed lawn to my left, no driveway or anything, just a lawn with a mosquito-netted gazebo, a chair, and maybe a tractor, I can’t remember. I do remember the No Trespassing sign, and since I imagined this crazy mountain man had a much bigger gun, and I was in no frame of mind to aim properly anyway, I kept going. But this also gave me hope, because that mowed lawn meant civilization was near! Twelve miles to go. I must be coming upon a big mountain community!

A few twists and bends later, I came upon a dead end. The barricades that they have at freeway exits and onramps and entrances to mountain roads so they can close the roads in the winter and keep the stupid people safe? I came face to face with one. It was closed and had not been opened in a long time. I knew this because it was overgrown with weeds. And yeah, the road was still one skinny lane.

To be continued…

Yet another near-death experience, part 3

Part 1.
Part 2.

As soon as the road started ascending, I was ready to turn around. As soon as I was ready to turn around, the road had narrowed, and I was stuck. In retrospect, I should have stopped the car and backed up all the way down Packer John Road until I hit that one-lane bridge, which was about a half mile away by now. But at the time, I knew I had no choice but to keep moving forward. The GPS was showing me a distinct route, still knew where I was, and still told me how far I had until I reached my destination. So I kept going. The road was so thin, and the ravine on the non-mountain side was so steep, but hey. I have driven the Vermillion Cliffs near the North Rim of the Grand Canyon several times at night, so this couldn’t be as bad as that. It was around 7 p.m., so I still had a good hour and a half of daylight left. I’d be in that cabin by 7:30, happily eating my lasagna and playing games with the church ladies, so I was okay.

I glanced up at the GPS. Fourteen miles to go. Making progress, I thought. Man, that lasagna smells so good.

I kept driving upward, confused but sane, and then I came to a fork in the road. The GPS said to go right at the fork, and again I ignored my instinct to turn around, a very stupid thing considering that I actually had room to turn around at this point. I went right. The road started to slope downward, and I felt a giant whoosh of relief. Then I rounded a bend and saw that the road was going up again. And then… things got bumpy. Every hundred feet or so, there were these giant bumps in the road. No, seriously. We’re talking two feet high. And I was going about ten miles an hour here, because the gravel was a little slippery and the road was becoming skinnier every minute. The best thing about these bumps? They were all preceded by little ditches that were themselves about a foot deep. So I would jolt down and then will the car to get itself and me over the giant hump. If I had been in the Explorer, I wouldn’t have made it. Too much car, too much weight, and too many times that the road tilted toward the ravine at the precise moment I was rocking over the enormous humps.

After about three of these humps, I was in all-out panic mode, quite sure I was going to die in the mountains.

I wasn’t crying yet — don’t worry, I eventually got there — but I was scared and smelling garlic and balsamic vinegar and imagining every possible way I could die in these mountains. I turned a corner after a particularly harsh bump in the road, and I saw a red Jeep coming the opposite direction. In the Jeep were four college boys, and I looked at them, obviously distressed, looking for any clue from them as to what was ahead for me. And they looked at me and kept going. Which is fine. Except that they gave me no inkling of what I was in for next. They didn’t wave or mouth “Don’t go that way!” or anything. Just looked at me and kept driving. It will take me a long time to stop hating them.

To be continued…

Yet another near-death experience, part 2

Part 1.

I finally found a turnout, three or so miles north of Banks, and pulled out. At this point I made a most egregious error in judgment. I had directions, and I knew I was north of where I needed to be, but I decided to plug in the GPS and let it lead me. I know that the GPS can’t find our house, and I know that it couldn’t find Rowdi’s daycare place, but I decided that it would be able to get me to the log cabin in the mountains. Of course, had I plugged in the GPS when I left home, it would have told me exactly where the forest road in question was, and I would not have ended up on my little death-defying mountain adventure.

I put in the address of the cabin, and the GPS told me to go north on 55. I knew — KNEW — that it was wrong, because Banks was south, and I had missed a turn at Banks, but I figured, eh. It knows what it’s doing. Never trust a computer over your gut, peeps.

I drove another sixteen or seventeen miles north, almost turning around at several pullouts, and I reached a spot I recognized. I spotted the inn that sits off the highway where we exited the river on our white water rafting trip. It felt good to recognize a place after putting my body into stress overdrive. The GPS directed me across a one-lane bridge, and I thought, “Huh. It seems like I should be farther south of here, but it’s taking me into the mountains, and I know I’m going to a cabin in the mountains… so this must just be an alternate route, and I’ll come at it from the north. That’s fine, as long as I get there.” I could see the route the GPS was plotting — a big, curvy route that went up and around and then back south. By this point, I knew that I most definitely should have turned around at the pullout, because the GPS was taking me so far out of the way. Still, the little piece of crap told me that I had sixteen miles to my destination, and I figured it would be twenty on the highway if I turned around, so this would be faster.

After the one-lane bridge, the GPS had me turn right onto Packer John Road. Let me tell you: If you are ever in Idaho, and your GPS tells you to drive on Packer John Road, throw that little punk out the window (after you smash it with a baseball bat). I happily drove onto the dirt road and decided to call Frank on my cell.

SARAHK: Hey, sweetie.
FRANK: Hey, how’s it going?
SARAHK: Well, the directions were bad, so I’m using the GPS. I’m on a tiny dirt road in the middle of nowhere, and I still have phone service!

Click. I promptly lost phone service. Immediately after that, I noticed that the road was ascending and had become much more narrow. One side mountain, the other side river / ravine. Awesome.

To be continued…

Yet another near-death experience, part 1

September 12 (a Friday), I took the day off from work so I could prepare for and go to a retreat with the ladies from church. I was very excited to get to know them all better and almost as excited that the retreat was in a log cabin in the mountains.

In the morning, I baked a batch of cookies and then left for my hair appointment — my hair lady was able to work me in at 10. I was out of the salon by about 12:30 and went straight to the grocery store to pick up some last minute ingredients for the lasagna I was making. (This was the point at which I tumbled into despair about my new choice of hair color — catching my reflection in the freezer section doors — but don’t worry, I’m all better about it now.) When I got home, I made a lasagna, and I have to say, I was pretty proud of myself considering I’d never made a homemade lasagna before (I did make a “Mexican” lasagna once, but it wasn’t my finest cooking). I was excited that I’d get to walk into that retreat and eat the same thing the other ladies would be eating, only better. I would offer the lasagna to the other ladies, so they could stop feeling sorry for my food situation and realize I do not suffer one little bit (except that yes, I would suffer for eating so much cheese, but whatevs, it was a special occasion).

It took me longer to get packed and get the lasagna finished and leave the house than expected. I had planned to leave by 1 or 2, but I ended up leaving at 5:45, right as Frank was getting home from work. Later I would be very thankful that I got to kiss him goodbye one last time before I died a scary death, never to be found, alive or dead — at least for many, many years.

I got on the road, put on my iPod, and enjoyed my drive through the foothills and the mountains. The retreat was in Crouch, just outside Garden Valley. I was driving the Santa Fe, thank goodness, because I’m not sure how Pinky would have fared. Not well, I think. The directions were on the seat next to me, and I consulted them every few minutes, even though I knew that I was supposed to turn at Banks on FR-24.

Now. We had just gotten new cell phones, and this is important later. As you know, phones generally don’t come with the necessary cell phone accessories like car chargers and memory cards, and we had not yet ordered those for our new phones. And I’m trying to let my battery run all the way down and die before I plug it in — I’m hoping that will make the battery last longer. That day, I should have just charged the thing all the way. But I didn’t, because I thought, “Oh, I’ll be there in an hour and a half. I have my charger with me; I’ll just charge the phone when I get to the cabin.”

When I passed Cascade Raft & Kayak, I started watching for Banks, because I knew it was north of the rafting place, as we had passed it on the way to our drop point. I got to Banks, and I saw one sign pointing toward Garden Valley and Crouch, but the road was called something else, no indication of it being a forest road. I looked everywhere for signs and didn’t see any. I’d been past Banks one time before, and I wasn’t even driving, so I had no idea if this was the only turn or not. I thought it might be, but I just wasn’t sure. So I didn’t turn at the first street.

That ended up being the only street off the highway in Banks. After about two miles of highway (with no exits or turnaround points, as this part of 55 runs right along the Payette River), I finally got to a turnout. I pulled over there and stopped the car so I could get my bearings and figure out what to do next.

To be continued…

Born to do it.

Hey, so sorry about the absence. Like you noticed.

How was your Independence Day? Unless you were one of the 1215 airmen, Marines, sailors, and Soldiers who re-upped at the Al Faw Palace in Baghdad, it wasn’t nearly as good as mine (do you know how tingly I get simply knowing they did it at one of Saddam’s palaces?). Did any of you see a bald eagle, our national bird, on the nation’s birthday? I would say “me either,” except that I did, while floating down a river in the middle of the forested mountains. You wish you were me.

Oh my goodness, y’all, I can’t even put into words how much fun it was (but I’ll try). First off, I can’t believe that I was such a chicken about it before. The first time I hiked the Grand Canyon, I figured that hiking it was crazy enough (it is, a bit), and no way ever would I be insane enough to raft it or to ever raft any river, because that’s stupid and dangerous! I had canoed many times, but that just doesn’t have the scary factor that rafting has, for obvious reasons. I mean, canoeing can be really hard if you’re on the right river, but generally you’re only tipping over if you hit a tree or a log or something (done that).

Wow. So we drove up just past Horseshoe Bend to Cascade Raft & Kayak for our all-day rafting trip. The Cascade people are very nice, and the guides are great (well, I can’t really speak to all of them, but Eli was excellent). At the headquarters, they put us on a bus to take us to the North Fork of the Payette River, about a forty-five minute drive. Just driving up there is amazing. Since we were on the bus, we could see more than we could have seen had we been driving in the car; we could see down past the trees to the river and the miles and miles of Class V rapids that we passed. Breathtaking and a little unnerving, because you’re like, “Oh no! What if we miss a turn or something and accidentally end up on those rapids and die?” I assume I’m not the only one who had that reaction.

About half an hour into the drive, we stopped to pick up other people who were meeting us at Cascade (I think that’s where we stopped). There were three groups. One was a couple, one was a big family of several, and the other was a family of nine. While we were waiting for the family of nine to arrive, Frank and I sat on the bus and watched the people; we also fidgeted, because we couldn’t wait to get started. The big family of several was taking their sweet time getting themselves ready for the trip, but we later learned that the family of nine wasn’t there yet, so the severals knew we weren’t waiting on them. Now here’s something I hadn’t seen before: A man took off his shirt, and he wasn’t remotely Marky-Mark-like, so I mostly just put on my “ew” face and tried not to watch, but it was hard not to watch, because I was so fascinated by his behavior. The man took off his shirt, lathered himself up in sunscreen (sooooo much sunscreen), and then put his shirt back on. I don’t understand this, because where I come from, you put the sunscreen anywhere that isn’t covered by your clothes. I was still scratching my head and trying to figure that one out when he took off his shirt again. Rinse repeat. Lathered up all over again. Put his shirt back on. Rinse repeat. I don’t know if he was trying to turn his 15spf lotion into 45 or what, but that man applied sunscreen no fewer than three times to the same areas (which would be clothed). Finally, I said, “How much of that is he going to put on?” to no one in particular. The other couple still on the bus agreed that my question was valid, and one of the guides acknowledged the over-lathering. Human behavior is strange.

When the family of nine finally arrived, we got going. We were able to see parts of the river we would be rafting, and the guides kept us entertained with their corny joke-cracking. This is also when I learned that there were children on the bus. Children. The kind that scream and fuss and make lots of noise. I was not on board with this, because what if one of the loud teenage girls ended up on our raft? Srsly. This was a worse thought than taking a wrong turn at the Class Vs.

We got to the whatever point (drop point? enter the river point? get on raft point?), and we almost got smashed into by an impatient guy and his small child in a truck — impatient guy obviously not able to see the giant bus and trailer backing across the highway into a too-small parking lot. People were all kinds of rude in the lot, too. No, the river will disappear if you get into it before I do, so I’m going to be a total jerk about sharing this public parking lot and public river! Anyway, I, being a chick and paying customer, stood idly by watching the guides and a couple of the men unload the rafts, praying that we would be on an all-adults raft. I was so pleased when Eli called the three adult couples to his raft. But Eli was wearing shorts that said “Lost,” and, not wanting to end up on an island in the south Pacific with humidity and Others and toner monsters, I worried just a little.

Finally we were in the river. As I got braver and gained more trust in my life jacket, I scooted more and more off of the cushion on the inside of the raft and onto the outside of the raft, where you are supposed to sit. By the end of the day, I was actually comfortable sitting on the edge. Go me.

The first half of the trip was mostly calm. The majority of the time, we sat there with our paddles while Eli did all the work. He would tell us when to paddle and when to stop, and other than that, we sat watching the amazing scenery as we floated by. We didn’t see any wildlife on the ground (other than chipmunks), but we did see a bald eagle. In the wild. On Independence Day. Because we’re awesome. There were two or three rapids before lunch, a couple of Class IIs and one Class III, I think. Class IIs were fun, but I was ready for more. When we got to the Class III, I squealed in delight — so. much. fun. My brain started screaming inside my head, “I WAS SO BORN TO DO THIS!” Brain was having lots of fun. Apparently, Frank’s side of the raft got nailed on that rapid, because when we got to lunch, I noticed he was drenched head-to-toe, and I was only drenched waist-to-toe.

We stopped for lunch, and they even accommodated my diet. They feed you sandwiches halfway through the trip, but for me they had a salad, because Frank had told them I needed to be GF. It was basically one of those bag salads with iceberg lettuce and cabbage bits (I’m pretty sure they gave me the whole bag, because wow, that was a lot of lettuce), but they made sure to tell me more than once that I could add turkey and veggies from the sandwich fixin’s (which I did), and they sent me three different kinds of dressing, two of which I was able to eat, and I also ate some fruit. I’m not a fan of iceberg lettuce, but I didn’t care, because it was food, and I got to eat it. Oh, here’s a cutie-head moment for you: I took my digestive enzymes along, just in case I got glutened. I didn’t think about the effect that water has on gel caps that dissolve in water, so I was like, “Hey! I’ll stick these gel caps in my pocket, since my pocket is snug, and they won’t fall out! I’m so smart!” Only I didn’t say it out loud, so Frank wasn’t able to remind me that the gel caps would be melting as soon as I got wet. So we’re standing there, waiting for lunch to be served, and Frank asked what was on my shorts. Oh, it’s just water, I thought, but when I looked down, I saw that I had a huge painting of orange and brown all over my khaki-colored shorts. I said, “Oh. Um. I put my enzymes in my pocket before we left.” Frank just started laughing at me. It looks like something rusted in my pocket.

After lunch, we got back on the river, and I couldn’t wait for the next rapids. This leg seemed a little more full of the splashies, so I was giddy. We had a few more Class IIs, a small III, and a big III. The small III was actually more fun (I think it’s called Francois), because it lasts longer and gets all up in your face. The big III was a ton of fun, too — y’all will have to see the pictures of us going over that when we get them, and you won’t believe I did that.

After the last III, it’s all calm floatiness, and the guide does all the work. Frank and I had already decided we want to move on to the bigger rapids, the ones where you have to wear a helmet. I should probably wear one of those just walking on my two feet, so I’m thinking my helmet should come with a full faceguard or something more. Either way, bring it on.

The drive back was a nailbiter, because the girl driving the bus (also the photographer) was driving crazy scary. You know, left wheels over the center lines of the two-lane highway. Other cars would zoom closely by our bus, and she would be like, “Did you see that guy?” Um, did you see you? But she was nice and took good pictures of us, so whatevs.

My birthday is coming up (it’s the 19th, don’t you forget it!), and Frank has already asked me what I want. “Take me rafting again.” “Yeah, but what about a present?” “Take me rafting. That’s my present.” He still thinks he needs to buy me something I can hold in my hands, so I’m like, “Fine. Get me a TV show on DVD. We don’t watch enough of those. And take me rafting.”

All booked

Wow, looking at our July calendar, I’m pretty sure we’ll be ragged or dead by the end of it. Frank surprised me yesterday with the news that he’s booked us a white water rafting trip (!!!) for this weekend. 1s and 2s and maybe up to some 3s. Yes, I’m a little wigged and also really excited. We’ve never done it before. I used to be dead set against the whole idea, before I hiked the Grand Canyon and decided I love the outdoors and should cowgirl up and just do it. Once we got to Idaho, I told Frank we should totally do that sometime. And now we are! Aaaah! So that’s this weekend.

Next weekend, we’re going fishing. My FIL’s favorite fishing spot is finally stocked, so we’re going up there with my in-laws. It’ll be fun. I haven’t fished since… wow, maybe since I was nineteen or twenty. Which, for those of you counting, is more than a decade ago. Surely I’ve fished since then? I can’t remember doing so.

And the last weekend in July, we’ve been invited to go hike in the Sawtooths near Stanley, a hike that sounds like we will not be in any kind of shape for, but whatevs. They can catch us on the way down. The hiking trip means that I need to buy hiking boots, because I haven’t had any since I hiked the Canyon the first time with Essay. I gave them to my mom, as I had not properly broken them in before the fourteen-mile round-trip hike (because I was really smart) and therefore never wanted to see them again. So I need to get those this week so I have time to break them in. Any recommendations as to high, low, mid boots? And how do y’all break in your boots? I’ve read a number of different ways to do it.

The other weekend this month, I turn thirty-two, so I’m sure Frank will plan something for us. He’d better! ::shakes fist::

We bought an annual national parks pass when we went to Yellowstone, so we plan to get a lot of use out of that. We’re only twelve hours from the North Rim and within even fewer hours of several more national parks, forests, etc.

Clepsydra Geyser

I loved this picture from Friday. Check out the sky!

Clepsydra Geyser

Clepsydra Geyser

i can go without food for a week

I’m so excited about the prospect of hiking soon! And not just the kind where you hike for an hour and turn around and go home. I mean you get up early in the morning, pack a lunch and a ton of water, hike until late in the day, and return to your car just as it’s getting dark. Of course, overnight hikes are even better, but a long day-hike doesn’t take vacation days, and those are going to be reserved for family, at least for the first year or so.

There is only one problem I foresee in our hiking future. While Frank still has his Grand Canyon hiking boots, I actually have none. I did have a pair the first two times I hiked the Canyon, but I gave those to my mom, because they hurt my feet so much. When I hiked the Canyon with Frank, I used a combination of running shoes and a pair of sturdy velcro sandals. My feet actually hurt less than they did with the hiking boots, but wow, the pain was still horrific. That was before I gave up dairy and gluten, so I have far fewer foot problems to start with these days, but I still think I need to get a good pair of hiking boots. But I’ll tell you — I am the worst at picking out hiking boots. Every pair I’ve owned, even the expensive ones I gave to my mom, have just been foot killers.

I guess when we get there, I’ll have to go to the big outdoors store and look around. I know from last winter’s grand opening that they do carry hiking and hunting boots, so I should be able to find a pair. Knowing me, though, I’ll buy them online after I know what I want. That way I can price shop.

Actually, I wish I hadn’t already given Frank the go-ahead on Guitar Hero, because hiking boots would have been an even better Christmas present for me. Oh well. I’ll just take the money out of our grocery budget. Who needs to eat anyway?

hotels are going to love us!

Well, I have our travel route from Florida to Idaho mapped out. We would go the upper route through Georgia, Tennessee, Oklahoma, etc., like we did last Thanksgiving (a beautiful drive), but since we’re hitting Austin before Amarillo, we have to pretty much use the coastal route all the way to Texas. That’s fine, we did that one before during our U-Hell trip from Texas to Florida. I don’t remember if I told y’all during that multiple-installment, never-finished saga about all of the Minerva-hiding that happened. No no, not the time when she hid herself so well under the seat in Pensacola that we thought she had gotten out of the truck through the cracked windows during the five minutes we were inside the Burger King using the bathroom and buying burgers — the incident that had me walking door to door, bawling, and asking the business employees whether they’d … *sniff* … seen a … *SOB* … calico running around. I was a mess. No no. Not that Minerva-hiding.

The Minerva-hiding of which I speak was the hiding that *we* did every night when we brought her in from the car and into our motel rooms. I felt like such an outlaw — wait until no one is looking and rush into the room, hiding the crate as much as possible. That was fun and a little stressful. Oh, and make sure you leave no traces of a cat behind. Yeah, a cat that sleeps with you. There was a roadside motel in Cisco, Texas, that allowed pets, but that was the only one we found on our drive.

Of course, that’s before I knew there were wonderful websites out there that will list only pet friendly hotels. My sister-in-law told me about such sites last Christmas. I’ve been using officialpethotels.com to help find our options in each town. It’s so much better than scouring the listings of all hotels and having to find out which ones are pet friendly. I just click on advanced search, tell the system the dates and cities I need, and tell them I also want high-speed internet (so I can tell you the saga as it occurs, of course), and I get a list of pet-friendly hotels with high-speed internet. I played around with the site yesterday — I guess I should start booking. I’m afraid of winging it and just showing up, since we’ll be traveling Thanksgiving week.

Alaskan cruises

I know, I know, I need to be focused on moving to Idaho first and then think about having some fun. But detours into Alaskan cruises aren’t so bad, right?

I’ve wanted to take one of those for so many years, even when I was against cruising because of the whole you’re-floating-on-water thing; I guess I got over that when we did our Caribbean cruise. Anyway, I really want our next cruise to be Alaskan in nature. The breathtaking pictures I’ve seen just get me all worked up. We won’t be going for another two or three years, and the time frame will depend on how quickly the house sells, how quickly we get vacation funds saved up, and how many years it is before my family stops insisting that every vacation we take is in the general direction of Texas (that one could take a while, ha). I would prefer that Disney has Alaskan cruises available by then, as I just can’t imagine cruising on any other line, and since they are adding new cruises every year, I’m hopeful.

So. While I sit here with the fan blowing over me (yes, the cold from this morning is slightly less pronounced now, as expected), y’all tell me about your Alaskan cruises so I can dream about places that are cold for more than two days a year.

i might fall off the cliffs of insanity

Nonstop mayhem around here, folks. Taxes (yes, I waited until this weekend to start, and I’m still not going to finish on time. What?). Planning the move and the packing (which begins pronto, by the way — I’ve already printed our maps for the continuing moving adventures of the Js, bought snacks for the road trip, etc.). Suddenly multiple things have happened, and we need to leave here in… oh, about nine days. Need to find a place to live until the house is sold, and that’s hard — people don’t like to rent to four animals and two humans. Plus, rent plus mortgage will not be fun for our budget, so I’m still trying to work out the math. Maybe my part-time job here on the interwebz will pay off.

I’m so behind on snark at Snark Raving Mad! (for many reasons) that I’m thinking about just giving up on the shows before this week that haven’t yet made it to SRM!. Ack! Who wants to record our shows for us while we’re on the road and then send us tapes? Hopefully most of them will be available online. :)

I’ll let y’all know more when I know more… But for now, it’s all still up in the air. Things are very promising, though.

If you have need for plasma cutting tools, there’s a site for you to check out. ;-)

um… i won’t post this

I was a little humored at first that Rambo Symbiot’s girlfriend showed up in a YouTube video… but it’s very pr0n-y. Like I’m one of the few clothed girls in the video. It’s skeezy enough I didn’t finish watching it. It’s also in Swedish, so I have no idea what the people are saying… I hope it’s not, “We want to see the t-shirt girl naked.” Blerg.

small child dies in Grand Canyon

I’ve seen this Grand Canyon story pretty much everywhere now. First one of my readers pointed it out to me (she was actually at the Canyon that day), and now I’ve seen it on a ton of blogs. It’s a very sad story, and it’s apparently turning some people off of going to the Grand Canyon. So here are my thoughts on the whole thing.

I’m not a parent, but I have been around a lot of small children and was even one myself. I’ve been at the Grand Canyon with Essay, and her toddlers were there (one still a baby) to greet us when we finished our overnight hike. I’ve seen so many children on the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, so I can only imagine that even more children go to the South Rim every year (South Rim gets about 90% of Grand Canyon’s annual visitors). This is the first time a four-year old has died in the recorded history of the Canyon, and before this, the youngest to die was thirteen. There is generally at least one death per year at the Grand Canyon (average is two to three), and child deaths are very rare. Why? Because parents know what non-parents know: the Grand Canyon is a giant hole in the ground with massive rock face and deadly drops everywhere. This is no big secret — if you can’t figure it out for yourself, there are park rangers everywhere that let you know. There are signs up everywhere. Danger! Danger! Falling over the edge is really bad and could result in death!

Most people are overly careful (I know I am) at the Canyon, especially with their children. And parents should be careful with their children no matter where they are, and no matter what dangers are nearby. On a Disney Cruise, at Disney World with a bunch of strangers hanging around, when there’s a big hole in the ground a few feet away, when they’re playing at the park, when they’re around large dogs, camping at the lake, when they’re around people they don’t know, near a swimming pool… It’s called parental responsibility. I know the parents probably only looked away for a few seconds, but a few seconds is all it takes.

And there are ample railings at the Canyon. Generally, all of the edges at the topmost part of the rims have either stone walls or steel rails as impediments. Any place we visited that didn’t have railings, we made sure to stay a good two to three feet away from the edge (even where there were stone walls, because they’re high enough to block children but not so high that an adult can’t easily fall over them), and if it was windy, we basically hugged the wall of the Canyon (when we were down in it) or stayed even farther away from the railings (on the rim). The kid was with her family where there wasn’t a railing — I’m guessing they were on one of the hiking trails, and after you’re away from the highest elevations, the rails disappear and the trails (usually three to four feet wide) are very plainly laid out. It’s very clear: you do not deviate from the trails, or you could die at any second. Even on the trail, you don’t lean over the edge to get a good picture, you don’t slide down a shallow smooth face to get a little closer to nature (how will you get back up?), and you do not feed the wildlife. And you hold on to your kids. Responsible parents should have no problems with their kids at the Canyon — like I said, kids are on the rims and in the Canyon every day. I feel really bad for the family here, especially considering that her dad is a fighter pilot and risks his life for the country every time he goes up in a fighter, but the girl didn’t die because the Grand Canyon is dangerous — and it is dangerous — but because they didn’t keep a close enough eye on their daughter. It’s horrifyingly sad, but it’s the truth. It’s a little understandable because they apparently had multiple children there, but you just can’t let go of your small children on the trails — really you need to hold on to them no matter where you are at the rims. One couple says they heard a parent say, “Don’t move,” and then she went over the edge. So even catching your child right at the edge is not safe enough. You need to be able to catch them ten feet away from the edge and don’t let them venture any closer than that without your holding on to them, at least until they’re old enough to really understand what “your life is in danger if you disobey my instructions” means.

Do you know who is most likely to die at the Grand Canyon? Not children. Not women. Adult males. I was really scared before my first backcountry hike at the Canyon, so I asked one of the park rangers how likely it was that I would die. He told me the statistics and noted that adult males die more often than any other group and that it’s usually because the adult male decides it will be hilarious to pee over the side of the rim. So just don’t do anything stupid, and you’ll be fine, he told me.

All that said, I wouldn’t take my kids once they’re out of strollers until they’re about ten or twelve. Not necessarily because of the danger, but because younger kids (from what I’ve witnessed just watching the people at the Canyon) have fun for about five minutes, and then they’re bored. That’s when the crying and chasing and scream-giggling and whining starts, and that makes the serene Grand Canyon experience much less enjoyable for the rest of the family and the complete strangers, most of whom want peace when they go to the Canyon. Seriously, on the patio of the Lodge where you get the overall expansive view of the Canyon? People whisper their conversations out of respect for the other visitors. Most people don’t talk at all, they just soak in the surroundings.

for the record, I am not his girlfriend

Some guy over in the GameSpot forums is claiming to be my boyfriend. Frank just said, “I’m pretty sure he’s not.” Me too!

And what’s even funnier is that RamboSymbiot (apparently Canadian) got caught by jt222_us.

Um…. two questions. Is that pic of her and the gun 3 years old and do the two links listed below create any suspicions as to the credibility of this posting? Are the two links of the same lady? Just wondering? Because according to the ‘about me’ section of the 2nd link, the lady says she’s married and doesn’t go off rambling about guns???

Hahahaha! I do love me some guns, though.

And it’s an S&W .357 magnum, if you must know. It’s not mine, it was just for the pics. I prefer my Walther P99 and Mr. Shiny, the 1911 that sleeps next to me. And my little carry revolver (Taurus SS Ultra-lite snub-nosed .38 special) is pretty great too.

I just can’t tell y’all how amused I am by this.

Thanks for stopping by, fellas!

UPDATE: Welcome, GameSpot peeps (sorry, don’t know if you have a special name)! I’ve been following the thread over there, and I will answer your questions.

*That is a real picture, not fake. The gun is real, not fake. There are many more pictures of me modeling my husband’s tshirts over here.
*You can buy the t-shirt here (no oogling my sister!). And this is why Nuking the Moon is a realistic plan for world peace.
*I have pretty decent aim. I am, after all, a girl. :-D
*I do have a concealed weapons permit, and I do carry. Because self-defense is logical.
*My husband (not Rambo) buys me guns for Christmas. Ok, one he bought me, the other one he gave me (in a most harrowing way).

honeymoon cruise – Costa Maya

Eventually I want to get around to doing a day by day account of our Caribbean cruise (the Nightfly had posted his within a week of his honeymoon, but hey, it’s only been just under two years since ours). That will probably be a long endeavor, so for now I’ll give you another piece. For our second stop, we were supposed to go to Cozumel; however, Cozumel had a couple of months earlier been ravaged by Hurricane Wilma, so our cruise ship (along with the Carnival cruise ship that had been following us since Key West) got diverted to Costa Maya. And our mere half-day in Costa Maya kept Frank from donating blood for a year.

Costa Maya from our veranda

The weather, which had been perfect everywhere else, was a little gloomy in Costa Maya, but we didn’t care, and neither did any of the other tourists. We were underdressed in shorts and short sleeves, because it got a little chilly when the wind picked up. We hadn’t chosen any excursions for this locale, so we spent the day doing our Caribbean shopping (we had refrained from shopping until Mexico) and eating bad food (something I didn’t expect in Mexico, actually).

we goofed while we ate bad food
The guy behind Frank’s left shoulder apparently thought I was taking a picture of him, so he mugged for the camera.

This is the day Frank bought his man-with-no-name poncho and I bought my Mexican vase. While we shopped, we were delighted by the Mexican folk dancers.

Mexican folk dancers

Frank was also happy to see the Cuban cigars (shudder), and I was excited about the jewelry, until I saw that it was not as cheap as I would expect cheap Mexican jewelry to be. I was a little worried by the insane number of women going into a tequila store (I really hoped they were on the Carnival ship) — until I saw that they were all just going in to buy pure Mexican vanilla. Giant bottles of it.

On our way back to the boat, we stopped by the beach to check out the fossils and the fishies.

Costa Maya beach

fossils

Then we went back to our stateroom so Frank could give his new poncho a whirl.

the man with no shame

Letter from Hank and Martha

We got one a couple of weeks ago, and I have *got* to respond. I’m going to try snail mail, since Martha has now sent me two snail letters (including pictures of us on our cruise and at dinner when they came through here last year). In case y’all have no clue who Hank and Martha are, they are one of the two couples we ate dinner with on our honeymoon cruise. We had so much fun with them and really want to cruise with them again someday. The other couple was nice, but they didn’t talk much.

Anyway, they invited us on the cruise they have coming up this year. We would love to go, but with the move and all that, we’re going to have to wait until we’re settled in before we do any more cruises. Someday I want to rope them into doing an Alaskan cruise with us. And maybe Hawaii — Susan’s Hawaiian cruise looked like so much fun. And I’m pretty sure we’ve agreed more Caribbean cruises are in our future. Um, yeah, the Disney cruise was awesome. And so were our dinner mates.

bad squirrel!

This is for my blogdaughter Gradual Dazzle.

We had this little visitor show up a few weeks ago. Squirrels aren’t my favorite wildlife, but they are wildlife, so I started snapping pictures. I thought he was so funny, crawling around on our porch screen… until I realized that those streaks running down the screen were squirrel pee. Bad squirrel peed on our screen!

I was appalled. And now you can be too.

gun laws all up in my face

I’ve started researching gun laws for any state we may travel through on our way to Idaho, assuming that is where we are going. Thirty-one states reciprocate Florida permits, so we have to stick to those states.

The shortest route, according to both google and mapquest, would take us through Illinois. That puts it right out, because apparently we would need an Illinois permit to even drive through the state with our guns in the glove box, much less on our bodies. The same route hits another snag at Nebraska. No reciprocity in Nebraska. Which puts the route that swings through Branson Missouri out of the question, because it also goes through Nebraska.

If we go through Texas and up through Colorado, Wyoming, and Utah, we’re clear. All of the states on that route accept out permit — not to mention what a gorgeous drive it would be. Even swinging west at Amarillo, heading over to Flag and then north to Idaho is good (ok, anything that includes a drive through Flagstaff is good)… unless you count all that extra time driving, plus the extra time I would spend slowing down to see my surroundings. Of course, I imagine the same goggling out the window will happen if we go through Colorado and Wyoming.

I thought we had an endless number of choices… until I checked out the gun laws. Now the choices are few. That’s ok. As long as the route takes us out of Florida, I’m good. :)

stankeh

Ew. I went to the landfill yesterday. That’s where you have to go for hazardous waste disposal, and I had a ton of household cleaners, degreasers, sprays, all of this junk that moved with me from Texas that we have never used. We don’t want to move it again, I don’t know which of them I can pour down the drain and which I cannot, and I don’t even know what of it was good anymore, so I just took it to the dump.

When you first come onto the premises, there’s a scale house. I had to wait to drive up the scales, which confused me, because I’m not a dumptruck. The scale house lady told me where to go for hazardous waste disposal. Ok, fine. Note: the scale house area is not that far from mounds and mounds of landfill trash, but I couldn’t smell anything out of order.

Then I got to the hazardous waste guys. I had to let them take the boxes from the car, and they sorted through it. When I told them that I wasn’t even sure what was toxic and what was not, they said they would handle sorting through it, and that people come up there and “shop” through the items they keep all the time. Oh, and this area smells like rotten eggs. So I breathed through my mouth while I filled out the form. I noticed on the form that there’s a check box for automotive battery disposal. It just so happens that I needed to dispose of the battery that the Hyundai dealership stuck in the back floorboard of the car after they replaced it (who does that? car dealerships don’t dispose of their own batteries?). But battery disposal is a different area, so they gave me directions to the battery disposal area of the landfill.

I drove around all the curves, looking for the battery area, and I figured I must have made a wrong turn when I ended up at another guard shack. Surrounded by mounds of trash. This area smelled like a worldwide fart. The smells were progressing in significant fashion. I told the guard I was pretty sure I was in the wrong place. Because all around me were dumptrucks. Me in my little SUV on the edge of a giant malodorous trashcan. The guard told me I’d passed the pallet of batteries and where it would be. I had looked in the general area and had seen nothing.

So I turned around and went back down the hill to find the battery place so I could get my poor molested nasal passages out of there. I found the place (there was a total of one battery on the pallet), and there was a man standing there with a walkie-talkie. He had not been there before, or I probably would have noticed the lone battery. I got out of the car and was promptly slammed in the face with the smell of vomit. We’re talking about a stronger puke smell than that of a hundred Six Flags trash cans. Serious staaaank, yo. The battery man came and got the battery for me. Thank you, Mr. Battery Man, I hope they pay you at least fifty bucks an hour to stand here with the batteries. Seriously, he deserves it, I’m so not joking.

I’ve just been assuming that walking the dog in the heat of the day is the absolute worst thing you can do in this humidity. I was wrong. Working in the landfill has to have it beat.

I didn’t piddle around getting out of there. And then I realized that once my car is fixed (yes, it’s still broken), I’ll have to go back with another battery. Oh. Nose.

beat

I am whipped. We are officially on a schedule; as such, we’ve done so much today. I didn’t even have time to write up my much-anticipated smack talk that PostSecret will be receiving… Why, you ask? Because my beautiful boy band won the tournament. Best Thing Ever: America is *NSYNC. Hahahaha. That’s right, baby. I’ve been writing the speech in my head all day while listening to my winners on my iPod. But I’m too tired to write it now.

My feet hurt. That doesn’t affect my ability to type, but it does make me want to lie horizontal with my ankles and heels on ice. Ooh. I could wrap them up in Tiger Balm patches for the night.

Anyway. We had talked about going to Disney when we finished here… but there’s so much walking at Disney. That sounds like the opposite of fun. I’m not opposed to the Kennedy Space Center, because at least there, you get to ride the bus now and then — plus we need to use our passes some more. We’ve already gotten our money’s worth, but it’s one of the best places in Florida, and we’ve been so many times and still not seen everything.

After KSC, take me to the mountains. In Idaho, on the way to Idaho… shoot, take me for the weekend to one of those Pigeon Forge vacation rentals in Tennessee. A weekend in a log cabin looking over the mountains? Yes please.

St. Augustine

I don’t think I ever posted our St. Augustine trip story, nor the excellent pictures we took while we were there. I am far too busy to do it right now (I promise, after the weekend, I might actually have time for blogging again!). But I came across this picture of the lighthouse in St. Augustine, which if I’m not mistaken is the oldest lighthouse in the U.S.

st augustine lighthouse
I don’t lean like this in real life.

I think it would be fun to do a trip or a cruise that hits all the lighthouse spots up and down the east coast, like the Outer Banks in North Carolina and even down to Jupiter Beach, which is where I saw my first Florida lighthouse.

But first we have other excursions and cruises to plan, so the lighthouses will have to wait. We want to do another Disney cruise, an Alaskan cruise, and yeah, see all the national parks. Oh! I was checking out Idaho last night, and they have soooo many state parks. Most of them look glorious.

I also figured out that at least Bikermommy and Pappy will visit us in Idaho if we end up there, because there is a Warbirds museum as well as a Museum of Military History — those two things alone will convince Pappy.

And now I just need to determine how to get Spidade and Stepmo’ to come visit. A 5000-piece jigsaw puzzle, six decks of cards, and lots of chocolate should do it…