Posts Tagged With: solo travel

Am I There Yet? A vintage girl’s journey across America – Day 9

I feel a little whiney today.  I didn’t sleep so well last night.  My privacy shades didn’t keep out the bright security light so I couldn’t find that deep, delicious REM sleep I need.   I was anxious for daybreak so I could get organized and hit the road.  Yesterday I decided not to head north to Kilispell, Montana as planned to visit Glacier National Park but to stay on I-90 West that would eventually take me right into Seattle.  I’ve never been in this area of the country so it’s all new and beautiful to me and although I swore I would have no deadlines, I feel ready to get to my final destination.  My husband is flying to Seattle to meet me for his 70th birthday with his children and grandson.  My well-planned itinerary feels like its unravelling around the edges a bit but, so what?  I’m gonna follow my nose and keep going left — west.

I’m not sure if I was tired and zoned out or was involved with my murder mystery audio book, but when I noticed a bunch of people at an overlook I joined them.  Whoa!  Welcome to Idaho.  I’ve met some incredible people at these overlooks.  We’re all visitors and every one has a story.   I had to pull into a rest stop to make absolutely sure I was where I was supposed to be.  When I did, I realized I was hungry so  I took a box of crackers and peanut butter over to a picnic table with my maps, etc.  I thought the critters were squirrels.  But, they weren’t.  They were prairie dogs.  Hungry prairie dogs.  They were adorable but I still didn’t share my peanut butter crackers.

You single girls out there – let me tell you the easiest way to meet nice men.  Forget Match or eHarmony, just sit down and look at a map.  They can’t resist – if they’re gentlemen they want to help. Whether you need assistance or not you will meet some really nice people.  So, these two guys who were also laughing at the prairie dogs joined me at the picnic table to see if I needed help and we began talking about Idaho.  They  were headed south to the Tetons after spending the night in Couer d’Alene and highly recommended a stop there.  I was only a couple of hours away and very tired so I decided to take a break, have a hot meal and find a motel for the night.

I had an hour to kill before I could check into my motel room so I stopped for lunch.  I whipped out my atlas while I had a glass of wine waiting for my meal.  A nice older (than me) gentleman came over to see if I needed help.  See, I told you so.  Anyway, we had a nice chat about his dream of visiting Florida and he gave me some information about Idaho. When I checked into my room I took a wonderful hot shower, set up my computer to try to catch up on blogging, emails and messages and took a long nap.  When I got up I was hungry and lazy.  I didn’t want to get dressed up to go to a restaurant so decided to look for a fast food place in the neighborhood.  I found a Panda Express nearby and thought, why not?  Live life large, right?  Try something new.  Not.  By morning my hands were so swollen I couldn’t make a fist and my face was puffy.  Unless you can tolerate loads of MSG, don’t do it.

But, I was clean and comfortable and fed and getting organized.  I’m excited to explore Couer d’Alene tomorrow.

 

Categories: Aging Gracefully, Camping, Life, Retirement, road trip, Travel, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Am I There Yet? A vintage girl’s journey across America – Day 8

I slept amazingly well considering I was on bear alert and a little on edge.  I waited for daylight so I could go across to the restrooms to get cleaned up and ready for the day. I was hyper-vigilant walking on the path through the bushes and carried my pepper/mace spray in the ready position.  With my quick reflexes and physical acuity I’m sure if I ever had to press the nozzle of the mace it would be pointed in the wrong direction and I’d get it in the face instead of the bear.  At least I wouldn’t be able to see him eating me.

I was reluctant to leave the grandeur of the bay but will savor the beauty and plan to return to Grand Teton National Park as a destination with my sister, hopefully, next year.

Yellowstone National Park is only 18 miles up the road from Coulter Bay Campground.  That was a pleasant surprise and, again, I saved the $30 entrance fee thanks to my Senior Pass.  My plan was to visit Yellowstone then head north to Glacier National Park but cell reception in the Tetons had been patchy to non-existent.  I even had trouble with my GPS so I’m a little anxious about driving to Glacier on secondary roads without any type of cell service in case of emergencies.  A girl’s got to be careful and aware when traveling alone, especially if she can’t call Geico or dial 911 if she’s in trouble. I decided to not think about it until I finished at Yellowstone, having already established a beautiful alternate route to Seattle if needed.

On the way to Yellowstone I passed the Continental Divide for the first time this trip.  An elevation of 7,988 feet may not seem like much to most people, but I’m from Florida where the elevation of my home is 6 feet.  I checked Wikipedia for a refresher on the “Continantal Divide” since it’s been about 100 years since my last geography class. If you’re interested, America’s Continental Divide:

is the principal, and largely mountainoushydrological divide of the Americas. The Continental Divide extends from the Bering Strait to the Strait of Magellan, and separates the watersheds that drain into the Pacific Ocean from those river systems that drain into the Atlantic Ocean (including those that drain into the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea) and, along the northernmost reaches of the Divide, those river systems that drain into the Arctic Ocean

Of course my first stop in Yellowstone was to see Old Faithful.  I only had to wait about 10 minutes for its eruption and it looked exactly like the old newsreels and pictures you’ve seen.  What made it especially exciting were the hundreds of people from all over the world waiting with me and the “oohs” and “aahs” as the geyser took off.  I stopped in the Travel Center to get my National Parks Passbook stamped, wrote some postcards to the grandkids and continued my exploration.

So I  moseyed and meandered through Yellowstone for a couple of hours observing waterfalls, geysers and hot springs.  So beautiful.  It’s funny …  I packed my clothes and equipment for kayaking and hiking adventures but my heart led me to continue driving and exploring, observing the beauty around me.  I entered Yellowstone from Wyoming and exited the park to West Yellowstone, Montana.  I had a late lunch at the Bullwinkle Saloon.  An adorable restaurant but $18 for a cheeseburger?  Oh wait, that included a Blue Moon and the tip. I finally had a wi-fi connection so I called home to let everyone know I was OK, caught up with emails and messages.  Wait, maybe I had two Blue Moons.  OK, $18 isn’t so bad. I checked my Allstays app (don’t leave home without it) and my atlas and decided it would be foolhardy to attempt Glacier National Park this trip.  I did not feel prepared or comfortable continuing without cell service or warmer clothes that were stored in my rooftop carrier and I’d rather be beaten than try to get the duffel down from there after the fiasco with my kayak. So, on to Plan B – just keep driving west.

I passed through Billings and Bozeman looking for a place to stay and finally gave up and decided to boondock at a WalMart in Butte, Montana.  I had a leisurely dinner at a local restaurant and spent a comfortable night tucked away between two giant RV units. Unfortunately, I parked under a security light and gave up a little bit of comfort for the safety of the big boys parked on either side of me.  It was a long day filled with wonders.

 

Categories: Aging Gracefully, Camping, Life, Retirement, road trip, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Am I There Yet? A vintage girl’s journey across America – Day 7

The WalMart parking lot looked like a campground (without the amenities) when I woke up after a comfortable and secure night.  No wonder they allow campers.  We re-stock, fill up with gas, buy coffee and donuts before heading out.  I purchased a few supplies then filled up with gas and met a delightful clerk who seeing my Florida tags wanted to talk about his dream of moving to Key Largo.   After I helped him clean up the coffee I spilled on his counter and register, he suggested I might enjoy the Great Sky Road byway to the Grand Teton National Park plus it would save me about 40 minutes.  I took his advice and enjoyed an incredible drive.

 

I arrived at the Grand Teton National Park at noon.  Entrance to the park was free due to my “America the Beautiful” National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Pass. So, that saved me $30.  I’m telling you, this pass is the best bargain around.  For a $10 fee I have a lifetime membership to all national parks, monuments, etc.  Many state parks also honor the pass and will provide 50% off camping.  Beginning August 28, 2017 the fee will go up to $80.  Still a bargain, but get your pass now and save $70!  This is definitely one of the benefits of getting older.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There are no words to describe the beauty of the Grand Tetons.  Just imagine “breathtaking”.  I was told by several people to arrive before noon to get a campsite.  The Coulter Bay Campground had openings and by the time I checked in the campground was almost full.  When I left the next morning at 8 a.m. , campers were already lined up to nab a site although the campground doesn’t open till 9:00 A.M.  So, plan an early arrival.  I’m not sure if you can reserve a campsite in advance since I’m flying by the seat of my pants and I’m not making any reservations anywhere.

There is no wi-fi reception except for occasional “iffy” reception in the laundramat and in the restaurant’s bar.  So, I had a couple of martinis while catching up on emails & phone calls.  For $4 I took a hot shower at the laundramat — it felt delicious.

 

There are “Bear Aware” signs everywhere and the ranger assured me there was a bear box on my campsite, not that this Miami Beach girl knows what to do with a bear box.  I set up my camp leaving my propane stove on the table with a bottle of water, a can of soup, a spoon and being careful to put all my food or anything that smelled into the bear box, I walked down to the lake to sit and read for a while.  When I returned from the lake I found my stove and dinner gone and a citation.  Apparently I wasn’t “Bear Aware” enough. The ranger stored my stove, supplies and can of soup in the box.  I assumed that bears can’t smell food sealed inside aluminum cans but I guess they can smell EVERYTHING! I didn’t use any lotions or potions after my shower and even hesitated to use deodorant, but nothing is going to scare me that much.

I was VERY careful and aware the rest of the evening.  I enjoyed a little wine and appetizers while I planned my route for the next day then had dinner and made an extra trip to the bear-proof garbage bin. I prepared for the night and was safely ensconced in my SUV bed before dark with my pepper/mace spray within easy reach although I don’t think bears can get into a locked SUV.  Maybe.  I don’t know.  I’m obviously not a bear expert.

 

 

 

Categories: Aging Gracefully, Camping, Retirement, road trip, Travel, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Am I There Yet? A vintage girl’s journey across America – Day 5

Oh boy.  I woke up at 3:30 with a lot of itching and pain in my eye.  I almost vomited when I saw the monster in my mirror.  My eye was mostly swollen shut and my cheek was red and puffy.  Uh oh.  What to do?  I have a well-stocked first aid kit but nothing for this.  (Note to self: add antibiotic eye drops to kit.)  I’m in the middle of nowhere – York, Nebraska without a clue.   At 5 a.m.  I called the front desk to ask about a walk-in clinic or an ER but the clerk didn’t know anything so I tried to imagine what a pioneer woman would do.  I’m never sure whether to use heat or cold for swelling so I used both alternating a warm compress with ice. I took a hot shower and let the water drum against the swelling.  It felt better but without makeup I looked like hell.  If it’s not better by the afternoon I thought, I’ll track down a pharmacy or a clinic wherever I happen to be.   Although I felt and looked like Quasimodo I’ll probably never see anyone I run into today again.  So, as long as I don’t scare any small children or animals I’m just going to enjoy my day and forget about my appearance.

OK, first stop Fort Kearny.  I was disappointed.  The fort was an outpost for travelers heading west on the Oregon Trail, where they could stop and re-supply.  There were no battles fought there.  There are a few outbuildings standing and the wooden palisades surrounding the fort.  The clerk in the Visitor Center was a young man who didn’t know the history of the fort or the surrounding area so I left after buying a couple of postcards for the grandkids.

Then I headed to Gothenburg, the Pony Express Capital of Nebraska. The station in the park was used as a fur trading post along the Oregon Trail before becoming a Pony Express station.  It’s hard to imagine in todays world of cell phones, internet, email and text messaging that the only way to communicate in the early days of the country was through brave young men riding relay, galloping between stations picking up and dropping off saddlebags full of mail.  Hostile Indians, brutal weather, robbers – Pony Express riders were tough, courageous and resourceful.  The station is now a museum.  I bought postcards for the kids and placed them in an original mailbag attached to the front door.  My imagination was  deliciously satisfied.


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I hit the jackpot at the Buffalo Bill Ranch State Historical Park in North Platte, Nebraska. Buffalo Bill Cody’s Scout’s Rest Ranch was fascinating; the mansion, the grounds, the barn and all the artifacts from his long life as an Army scout and buffalo hunter and then as a world reknown showman traveling with his Wild West Show throughout the US and Europe.  It was a gorgeous day and I spent a happy couple of hours looking around and plugging the holes in my memory with details of the life and times of Buffalo Bill Cody, a bigger than life icon of the wild west. I imagined living in those rooms that look so small by today’s standards but was a mansion in the 19th century.  The rooms are furnished with elegance and style.  Bill’s wife and daughters were women of culture and intelligence and strength but it was still a difficult life.  Two of his children died from scarlet fever in that house so although it is a beautiful place it is filled with ghosts.   The spring house and a small cabin were interesting.  The huge barn holds a collection of the posters from Buffalo Bills Wild West Show and many of of his wagons, tools and rifles.   I saw my first buffalo. My eye still hurts and I’m still in the middle of who knows where? But, I had a great day and I’m very happy.

 

 

I regretfully left Scout’s Rest Ranch but still needed to find a place to spend the night.  Ogalalla.  I love saying that.  So I decided I would try to camp at  Ogalalla State Recreation Area   More about that tomorrow.

Categories: Aging Gracefully, Camping, Life, road trip, Travel, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

You’re Never Alone if You Have a Smart Phone

If you are going to travel solo, I suggest you run, don’t walk, to the nearest store to get a smart phone if you don’t already have one.  This one small device is all you need to:

  • Communicate with family & friends your whereabouts & your plans  via phone, text, email
  • Use as a GPS
  • Find the nearest WalMart, Starbucks or Subway
  • Call for help
  • Locate the next rest stop
  • Take photos & videos of your adventures and send them to family & friends to make them jealous via text or email
  • Post your adventures to Facebook, your blog, etc.
  • Locate the nearest gas station
  • Determine the weather where you are & where you’re headed
  • Surf the Internet to research highlights along your route, identify snakes/spiders/poison plants (just kidding or maybe not)
  • Find the correct time
  • Call for road service
  • Set an alarm to wake you up (why???)
  • Check your calendar for appointments
  • Map out your route
  • Listen to music
  • Play games
  • Follow the news (why??)
  • Follow other bloggers
  • Take notes
  • Calculate stuff
  • Use as a flashlight
  • Google, Facebook, Twitter
  • Orient yourself when you’re on a trail using the built-in compass

If you think this handy, dandy little device is too expensive or too frivolous, you’re wrong!  When traveling/camping alone I use my phone as my GPS to locate state & national parks, to make camping reservations, to check the weather and road conditions, to stay connected to my family so they know where I am and where I’m going and so I know that everyone is OK at home, as a phone of course, to listen to music, to make notes for future blogs, as a camera (takes better photos than my cameras), to check my bank balance & even pay bills if necessary, and when I wake up in the middle of the night I play Solitaire.  If you activate the locator on your phone you can be found if you get lost as long as you have your phone with you.

I also have applications on my phone for siren/alarms (hope I never need it), my bank, exercise journal, motivational radio, flashlight, Cracker Barrel (sometimes I boondock in their parking lot – did you know you can do that?), dutch oven meals, travel deals, national parks, games and much more.  Everything I need fits right in my hand.

So do some comparison shopping (I love my iPhone) and then find a 10 year old to show you how to use it.

 

Categories: Camping, Family | Tags: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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