well friends, it’s been a while. *checks calendar*
yep, almost a year! I’m sitting in a new apartment, and hey, if you’re keeping track, this is our fifteenth move since 2009! this one, though, is finally starting to feel like home. we overlook the lake and a bunch of green–the effect of which cannot be underestimated.
as an added bonus, every night we get a sunset show
b r e a t h t a k i n g
we’ve done a lot of downsizing, purging of things along the way (remember we lived in our car for a year) so over the past two years, we’ve been slowly adding things, with the thought that eventually we may be living a back on the road in a van or an RV. (a girl can dream) so, with that in mind our choices have been focused on function and design; less impulse buys.
living with less is generally a great way to exist anyway (Marie Kondo I was on to this way before your cute little netflix gig) the absense of clutter helps me focus; there’s less to clean, it’s brighter!
I’ll be doing a full post on the design / things I made or bought for the apartment within the next few weeks.
oh i almost forgot! we have a new family member:
introducing grace ff hopper, her name in honor of the first female pioneer of computer programming and a legend. our hopper enjoys naps, chasing her favorite crumpled up target receipt around the living room and chirping at the birds that land on our balcony railing. she has her own instagram account that she’s not very good at updating, and has recently been trained to walk on a leash and sleep in a crate overnight (!!) I’m obsessed and my entire camera roll is now cat photos. be prepared.
if it’s sunshine-y where you are, get out and enjoy it; and here’s a smoothie recipe I just whipped up this morning:
traveling to the poconos during the seventies meant you were either on your honeymoon, entertaining business guests, or you were a ‘swinger.’
traveling to the poconos in 2017 means you’re either a youtube urban explorer out for the next great video shoot of an abandoned resort, or you’re a family headed to the big indoor waterpark/hotel/human petri dish.
this past week my daughter and I headed to the poconos in hopes of being able to sneak a peek into the past. I plotted out several abandoned places along our route, with the intent of photographing and exploring as many as we could along the way. our first stop in scranton was a bust (torn down and replaced with new homes) our second stop, scranton lace factory, was not conducive to interior exploration but we did take a few exterior shots.
when we arrived in the poconos and couldn’t get into the summit resort we proceeded to our main destination; penn hills.
if you know anything about abandoned poconos, you’re familiar with penn hills. let’s just say there’s not much stopping just about anyone from exploring the 85+ acres of pure 70’s honeymoon kitsch (or what’s left of it)
the blend of modernist architecture, mixed with graffiti, broken glass, and the force of nature kept stopping me in my tracks.
at times it was overwhelming.
human damages far exceeding the unrelenting force of nature.
we only saw a fraction of the property, but it was simply amazing.
I would have loved to have seen this place kept intact, the bones of the architecture are so fantastic, and it could have been brilliantly returned to it’s glory as a vintage throwback (hipsters would’ve loved overpaying to sleep in a round bed!)
but back taxes and bad business decisions have left it to rot, and it appears that it will most likely be bulldozed rather than restored.
it made for a wonderful adventure, one we won’t soon forget.
first off, maybe you’ve noticed I’ve made some changes around here. I’m not entirely convinced that I love it yet, still tweaking the edges, but it was time for a new look so I picked a new theme and well, here we are. let me know what you think! (or not, you know I’m not one to order people around… and ok, if you really know me, then you know that’s a bold faced lie right there.)
on to my latest obsessions which all revolve around design and decorating. specifically light, airy, modern items like this dining room:
or this bedroom, with a bed I could imagine spending the whole day in:
I’m researching every possible sofa in internet sofa land: currently landing on this one from article as a favorite with a strict no coffee drinking rule applied to all who sit!
the reason for all my obsessing over household items (you should see my pinterest) is we are going to be settling down again, taking a break from the nomadic life we’ve been living these past few years. Mr. X is going to be getting a coding certification and we’ll be staying put in our old hometown at least for a few years as he gets his foothold in a career.
I imagine we’ll hit the road again in the future (we still have so much more to see!)
but, for now I look forward to organizing my laundry room and watering plants, figuring out where to put my baking sheets and things of other high importance. it will be good to have a place to call home, again.
last year we were so fortunate to be able to experience so many of our public lands, parks and monuments. I decided to start collecting patches along the way as a way to remember the places we had seen.
I bought our first official patch at the padre island national seashore. the kind volunteer behind the counter at the gift shop explained to us how we could drive onto the beach and camp there. he also told us how the beach in texas is considered a highway, and if we chose to we could drive for miles on it. we were thrilled with the possibility.
it was there that I started thinking about this quilt. from every park, monument, forest or historical site that we stopped at with a visitor center, I bought a patch and added it to this quilt. it’s like a living memory, a work in progress. hand stitching the patches over fabric that is covering holes in the antique bedcover that is older than me.
when we were at yellowstone, it just happened to be the month of the 100 year anniversary of this amazing place. we were lucky enough to be caught in the middle of a herd of bison crossing the road; they were feet from our car, and I will never forget that feeling, the feeling that we were visiting their home. we were their guests. it was humbling. and it was my favorite day.
death valley was spectacular.
our year of travel took us from cleveland ohio to the eastern shore of texas,
to the peaks of alaska, and back around…
we stopped at badlands national park after visiting deadwood and sturgis.
we were not disappointed. even saw the elusive big horn ram.
this is one of our favorite campsites; a wildlife preserve in western nevada.
without the bureau of land management, the national forests, the department of antiquities, the national monuments or the national forests none of this would have been possible. we have so much left to see. and we saw so much.
it is vital that they stay funded, operating and protected.
I’ve been the worst at blog-updating, but with good reason. we’re in alaska, as I might have mentioned in a previous post and we’ve been working six days a week. on the seventh day we try to get in adventures, laundry, internet time and rest. *try being the operative word.
we’re seeing most of the wilderness through the windows of the employee shuttle to and from work.
last week, on our day off, we were able to take a hike in Denali National Park (this is our 26th National Park/Monument since December)
it was beautiful
a few weeks ago we had the pleasure of seeing snow…..
which we had avoided all winter, but we didn’t mind as it was short lived and kind of beautiful to see.
most days it looks like this. (except when it’s raining, like today)
most nights it looks like that as well…which has been the hardest thing to get used to. the white nights. right now we’re at about 19 hours of daylight, which makes insomnia even more fun :)
we are looking forward to being back on the road at the end of september.
my son needed a little break from the winter doldrums back in grey-skies-will spring-never-arrive-cleveland, so we sent him a ticket to fly into las vegas and planned a few days of camping and a visit to death valley national park.
now the name death valley conjures up a desolate, barren wasteland of nothingness. a mad max-like expanse of desert as far as the eyes can see, with nothing growing, just the occasional blowing dune, or skeleton of the tourist before you who didn’t bring enough water. (always bring enough water)
so, we were pleasantly surprised when we found that death valley had really more life than death. and just as many highs as lows.
one of the most spectacular highs being dante’s view.
I mean, come on.
from the top you could see 360 degrees for miles. and on the way up there (you climb a mile high over 13 miles of winding road) was so much green, and wildflowers…..no death anywhere.
and the sunset from there, well, it sure takes the mind off dreary cleveland weather.
there were lots of opportunities to climb things.
and climbed they both did.
this is called the artist’s palette: it’s mounds of colorful mineral-rocks left after volcanic activity. it basically looks like a melted ice-cream sundae.
the lowest point of the trip (get it,lowest) was badwater basin: literally the lowest place in the western hemisphere. we got there before 9am and it was already climbing above 90 degrees. it’s the craziest place I’ve ever been, will probably ever be. the smell in the air is like sulphur/salt; the “ground” crunches beneath you and the silence (once you get away from the other tourists) is deafening. you’re almost 300 feet below sea level, and surrounded by mountains that reach a mile into the sky that are topped with snow.
view from above:
there’s 250 square miles of the white stuff; looks like snow from up here, it’s basically table salt.
my favorite part was hiking through mosaic canyon. the boys left me to do their own climbing of the walls instead of just hiking the path, so I enjoyed the cool canyon walls and the silence all by myself.
even though it’s name is intimidating, and some of the days were hot and tough, I think we conquered death valley. it is now one of our top five national parks; it is park number 25(if you’re keeping track) that we’ve visited since december (including national monuments, not including national forests) *btw: national monuments, like white sands, are not “national parks” merely because it takes an act of congress to make it so. death valley didn’t become a national park until 1994; it had been a monument since the 30’s. your history lesson for the day :)
a long time ‘bucket list’ item was seeing the beauty that is white sands national monument. we headed into new mexico to make use of the warm-ish weather and avoid the rain that was pummeling the west (including parts of arizona and nevada, where we had been…) and so it seemed we were finally going to make it to the sands.
on our way there we passed another point of interest, the very large array which, like me, you’ve probably seen in movies like contact and maybe, like me, you’ve thought ‘wow, that looks amazing!’
well, it did not disappoint.
I mean. you just can’t get over how big these things are.
and they’re talking to space.
then we were on to white sands.
look how happy this little gal was running on that cool white stuff.
the cutest picnic areas I’ve ever seen.
we had a few days of nasty windstorm, but our stay here has been really great. every night we’re rewarded with sunsets that just take your breath away.
I think we’ll stay here a few more nights, and then, well, who knows…..
driving across the country, the landscapes and landmarks fly by the window, and just like in life, you don’t really know what you’ve missed until you sit back and contemplate the memories (or in this case….scroll through iphoto)
also, just like in life, being on the road has it’s ups and downs as we’ve learned. every turn can bring something strange and wonderful.
on your way to the outermost part of civilization in the united states, where there are no rules, no zoning, no government….you first have to pass by Salvation Mountain. and learn about a human who just wanted to share his love with everyone through his art.
then we ventured through slab city, weird and wonderful as it is….
the previous day, on a long stretch of boring road, out of nowhere pops the most amazing sand dunes you’ve ever seen (well, you’ve never seen any!)
where did all that sand come from?
I mean, this is some Mad Max shit right here.
which led us to our current park(ing) spot…Joshua Tree. we’ve only explored a teeny little corner of it so far, but it is magnificent.
would the radiator arrive? would they get it installed today? how much is it going to cost?
all things running through our head, and making it impossible to focus on anything else.
we left the hotel at 11 (after the kind lady at the front desk did our laundry because the public washer and drier were both on the fritz.
she folded it too.
so, we checked out at 11 and walked carrying all of our things, the short walk through two parking lots to the McDonalds, got ourselves some coffee and some free wifi, and sat down for the long wait.
I occupied myself with trying to figure out how to supplement our income on the road….loaded up my photos to blue melon.com in hopes of selling some, did some jeannieknits social media, generally just pissed around on my computer to keep my mind occupied.
we decided, after not hearing from our buddy Randy at M&M Wrecking, we should give him a call;
“the radiator isn’t here yet.” Randy informed me immediately.
“do you have any idea when it’s coming…I mean, it’s today right?”
“yeah, today or tomorrow”
“no, Randy, it has to be today. you have no idea….”
“ok, ok, yeah…it’s coming on a truck from dallas to el paso and they’re supposed to stop here….maybe I should call Napa and see if it’s in.”
“yeah, could you do that please? and give me a call back”
*more anxious waiting*
“hey it’s Randy, from —“
“yes, randy, what did you find out?”
“the radiator is here, but…did you guys pay for it yet?”
“no, we didn’t pay for it….why?
“well, since our boss is in the hospital they froze his accounts and we need cash to pay for the radiator. you need to come pay for it at Napa..” not shady at. all.
“seriously? ok, well can you come get us and take us there?
“that’s just what I was fixin’ to do, m’am.”
good ole texas.
a few minutes later, up rolls the tow truck and in we hop with all our our gear…and off to buy our radiator.
after installation, randy came over to me (I had been reorganizing the car and generally just keeping an eye on these two mechanics in charge of our literal survival)
“we need antifreeze”
“so, you gonna come with me or should I ask the other guy?”
OH…we need to go buy the antifreeze now. seriously. what the hell.
off to Napa, back to the shop.
when they were all finished, and everything was running as it should be, the “foreman”, a mexican named SoSo, told us the amount and then informed us that his credit card machine wasn’t working.
“drive them to ATM” he motioned to Randy. “get cash out.”
are you fucking kidding me??
back in tow truck, off to ATM, cash in hand…
“can we get a receipt?”
finally on the road out of Texas, the Welcome to New Mexico sign was the best thing we’d seen in a week. we always make an effort to stop at the information center, because there’s lots of free goodies there, and usually the people there are super helpful; New Mexico’s visitor center was adorable and like a mini museum. we set to work, grabbing pamphlets for what we thought we’d like to see, free magazines, etc. the gentleman behind the counter asked us to sign the visitor book, and as xander was signing it he noticed the name above us was from Toledo, Ohio.
“Toledo! what are the odds?!”
we hadn’t even noticed the older woman, in a baseball cap, gathering up pamphlets and maps in the tiny visitor center room with us.
“You two again!” came a voice from under the hat, and we realized immediately who it was.
Diane. We had met Diane in the Del Rio Campground (other side of texas) almost two weeks ago. and yet, here, in this remote information center, there she was.
after what must have been a very entertaining and conversation for the two people behind the counter, we got ourselves all caught up (filled her in on our car mishap) she said to us,
“well, I’m headed to dinner in Las Cruces. how about you guys join me, my treat.”
I practically burst into tears. we are so depleted, both psychologically and financially, after the terrible week in Van Horn. this was a huge gift.
we ate at an authentic mexican restaurant, recommended by the lovely workers at the visitor’s center, and caught up on everything we all had seen and done since our last visit.
Diane is retired, and traveling on her own in a van. She’s determined to see all, or as many of the National Parks that she can. She tells wonderful stories, and in my opinion, is one brave woman.
when we were parting ways in the parking lot, we each gave Diane a big hug, and after exchanging phone numbers, she yelled to us,
“next time you have car trouble, don’t hesitate to call me!”
like our own traveling guardian angel, right there.
hard days. days like yesterday, when we went to do laundry, find internet and get groceries and only accomplished two of the three. (the internet we found was so slow it was worthless for what I needed it for; mainly downloading new things for us to watch during the dark, cold hours between sunset and sleep; and to update my blog. hell, I couldn’t even get Facebook to load, or send photos to my phone via messages.)
hard days, but also learning to live without things, live like we (well, like I) used to live….no internet. today, for example we made a decision to not go to ‘town’, to stay at camp, even though we had not accomplished what we needed yesterday. staying put meant not spending money, but it also meant we had to learn to keep occupied. easy on warm days, not so easy on a chilly day.
I spent some of the day working on the old quilt (of my mom’s) that I’m patching. it was on her bed as a teenager in the fifties, and I’ve had it since my grandpa passed away in 1997. it’s been well loved, and is threadbare in many spots—holes right through in many others. I’m sewing patches on it with embroidery floss, using a blanket stitch. patches of all different sizes, in fabrics I’ve acquired through various means, mainly tiny prints, some from Japan, all very quaint. it’s more than a way to pass the time, it’s marking the days that I’m on this journey, it helps me focus on something other than the road going by, or the silence of the forest. it’s a great meditation, a purpose.
xander spent most of the day reading. we picked up some books (2 each at under .80/pc from goodwill) while our laundry was washing yesterday. after my fingers started turning numb (even in the wristwarmers I pulled from my jeannieknits stash… it is still. so. freaking. cold!) I crawled in the car, and under the blankets, and passed the rest of the afternoon reading as well.
I joked later we were living like Laura Ingalls Wilder.
I’m not sure x got the reference.
we also looked at the map (MAP!) of texas that we picked up at the welcome center and mapped out 2 possible routes through the state (see, internet, we don’t need you!) and are planning on heading out from here tuesday and head to the shores of the gulf…time for some sun and sand.