US Travel


I’m at the Denver airport , waiting for my flight to Helena, MT and a group of young Amish (or something like that) women just walked by in prairie dresses and little white scarves in their hair. As they were walking past, one of the young ladies stuck her palm out at her friend and told her to ‘chill’. I did a double take. I think I sometimes forget that even though certain people wear uniforms or dress uniformly, they are normal. I almost expect them to be more proper. Yikes, that’s a generalization. Growing up a pastor’s kid, people would expect me to be nice and proper – I hated that.

I’m a day late getting into Helena. I was supposed to leave yesterday. Ingrid was awesome and drove me to the airport. Once I attempted to check-in, my itinerary told me that the flight in Chicago was delayed so I would miss my connecting flight in Denver. There were no other flights last night. No problem, my luggage and I could jump the train and the bus back home for the night.

It was a pain in my ass. I had two pieces of luggage and a backpack. (I had brought a lot of my winter stuff home and was trading it for spring wear – I usually don’t travel with so much stuff). First in the bathroom, going into a stall with enough room for me and my entourage. Then through the train turnstile, pushing one bag and pulling the other. Everything was fine on the train, until I got off at the station. Another turnstile and I had to take the escalator up to the road to get on the bus. The escalator was half the size of a normal one and not suited width-wise for the now average American. I was able to pull the smaller bag on to the stair behind me but the other bag was an a-hole and I almost fell on my head trying to get it to work. The escalator kept going up, along with my body, but the luggage refused to ride up. My arm about popped out of it’s socket and I have a nice cherry colored bruise on my forearm. I did finally pull hard enough and we all went up.

As I reached the top, I realized that I needed to catch the bus on the opposite side of the street and it would be impossible to cross the busy street with all my gear. I couldn’t run across. I turned around to go back down and underneath the street to the other side. No down escalator, only stairs. Shiza! How was I going to get two bags down at one time. I couldn’t leave one unattended – I was afraid that someone would run off with it. So, slowly, one step at a time, I started down. But then a man walking up, volunteered to help me. For a split second I thought, do I trust this guy? I was desperate and he turned out to be very nice. I felt a little bad because he took the heavier bag, though I tried to ignore his struggling.

I walked under the road and up the escalator to the other side. This time I was a pro at the escalator and made it up with ease. At the top, I pushed and pulled my way through the double doors, bouncing on my luggage, to stand on the street and wait for the bus. Others standing around gave sideways glances at all my crap. I was really tired at that point and didn’t care. The bus arrived and I let everyone on before me, but a young guy waited and helped me with my other bag. Lucky again! I crowded the pathway of the bus, forcing people to squeeze past me. It was funny to watch people squeeze through, sometimes nose to nose with others. Closeness, part of living in the city, I guess. All three bags and I made it home.

Stacy drove me today, thank you. I’ll spend a few days in Helena and then drive down to Las Vegas on my way to LA. I’ll be spending Sunday night with Zel – fun times!

I posted photos of the San Diego area to flickr. I’ve been there three times in the past couple of years. You might think that I’m addicted to the place and you’re right. I actually thought that I would move there but now I’m thinking that I’ll buy a beach cottage and hang out whenever I want. (Well, that’s my dream.) In fact, I’ll be there in March again – yahoo!

Or so Zillah thought. She made sure to bring her plastic water dish to me once it was empty, too. I just wish she would have done more around the house, like pick up her poo in the backyard. Lucas is the poodle in the photo. I was introduced to this family by Larissa and they went out of town on a ski trip to Utah, so I got to hang out with these two for ten days at the beginning of January. They had a hot tub which was perfect to warm me up on those damp, cold Seattle days. It was a nice staycation, hardy har har. Luckily, they were good dogs so I didn’t have to raise my voice at all. Only my eyebrows, when Zillah would bring her bowl to me.

I had a New Years’ Eve dinner at their house. Starting in front (clockwise) is Carol, Lea, Brian, Lenin, Michelle and Larissa. After a delicious dinner, we went and boogied at a party.

One more eating photo, it’s cute Carol eating clam chowder. It was a creamy, yummy, heart warming, tiny chowder restaurant at Pike’s Place Market. So good, we ate there twice. Kind of like Carol’s addiction to hot chocolate with cayene pepper – from a chocolate house not far from where I was housesitting. I think we went there about three times.

In Helena, my mom is staying in a two bedroom first floor condo. It’s located at the edge of town, so almost every day, the deer come and hang out on lawns to eat grass. Usually there would be only three deer who would stop by in the back, but one day there were probably six to ten deer hanging out. I walked into the kitchen, looked out the window, jumped back and gasped. The deer froze and then galloped away. Funny, a tough city chick frightened by Bambi. I knew that a couple of them had come around the side of the building, so I was able to get a quick shot of it from the kitchen window (not a great picture with the screen). No zoom, this was how close she was to me. On the news, they said that there are too many deer around, so they were going to shoot them, too, but not with a camera.

This was taken through the back patio door. She’s not in the country but in a subdivision in town.

Mountains surround the area as you can see in this photo, shot from my mom’s parking lot. Look at that big sky!

Nice, eh? I grabbed this photo from Luann’s Flickr site. It’s me on a boogie board, she took the photo when I was out to visit her in San Diego last August. I’m going to Chicago this week, but then I think it’s time for me to head to the sunshine and warmth of Los Angeles. It might not be until March, because I have things I need to work on. I want to learn new web applications which will open up more freelance opportunities and finish my novel. It’s been really nice to not have to do much “work” but I’m starting to get antsy. I’ve been able to decompress from my old job and open my mind to new possibilities. It’s been one of the most challenging things I’ve done in my life – to leave and not really know where I’ll end up. And more painful than I realized leaving family and friends. But it’s all good! Stuff to write about . . .

When I first decided to move, it was either going to be to Seattle or San Diego. Seattle felt right at the time and well worth the journey, but I realized that I needed to go to S. California, too. I’m choosing to go to LA instead of San Diego because when I was in Seattle it felt small – I still need some vibrancy from the city. San Diego might be a bit small, not sure, though.

I’m at the coffee shop and just overheard a conversation about living in Montana. The guy said that it’s tough living in Butte because he’s a vegetarian and Buddhist. He works as a documentary filmmaker and teaches. And sleeps at his office because it’s more comfortable than the $225/month room he rents. The lady he’s with said that she’s been in Helena for four years and still hasn’t met a group of like-minded friends. She came from LA and is a painter (I think she has a Polish accent). I have seen a few granola-looking people and snowboarders here in town, but it would not be easy for me to live here. I realize the advantages of living in a city – you can really find your niche.

Yesterday I had a detoxifying and relaxing soak in the Boulder Hot Springs, only a half an hour from Helena. It was so so so nice and so very sweaty! They only charged me seven bucks for the afternoon. I spent time in the one hundred and six degree mineral bath, the steam room, the outdoor ninety-eight degree pool and a few seconds in the freezing cold pool (when I started to overheat). In the hot mineral bath, when I would submerge up to my neck I felt pressure on my chest, like the hot water was a heavy weight – very weird. The place was nothing fancy or shi-shi, just plain, humble, rejuvenating tubs with a mix of people, young and old, rich and hicks. Now I’m all young, healthy and radiant. I’d say nearly unrecognizable.

When I’m in Chicago next week, maybe I’ll check out the Division St Russian & Turkish Baths or the Chicago Sweat Lodge or the luxurious, inviting, cat-friendly Peterson Bath!

I know, it seems that the whole US is getting hit this winter especially Chicago. But I left Chicago to get away from cold and snow and it followed me. I can’t remember the last time I had snow boots . . . and I had to buy them this year. Well worth the purchase because I’ve used them a lot. (I didn’t even have them in Chicago because they clear the sidewalks.) Seattle typically has a mild winter with maybe a day or two of snow, max. They had a couple of weeks worth of snow which basically shut down the town. If vehicles were out on the road, they had chains on their tires because of the ice.

Back about a week before Christmas, they got hit with the stuff that stuck around. This wasn’t going to stop Larissa and I from going out to meet men. One of Larissa’s friends invited her to a Christmas party at a bar with a bunch of guys that she sailed with in the summer. Seattle had snow-packed and ice roads so Larissa didn’t feel safe driving, even in her all-wheel drive vehicle. Michelle was meeting us there and she was the brave one because she drove her front-wheel drive car. She also had lived in Chicago and didn’t let snow scare her off the roads. The roads were fairly flat from her house to the bar but from Larissa’s there were some big hills (typical for Seattle).

We walked down to the bus stop, hesitated and then walked down the street with our eyes on the bus. In the 2 1/2 miles to the bar, we did see one bus pass but we happened to be between bus stops. There were no cars out – no cabs, for sure! Everything was blanketed white, people were moving slowly and we were bundled up for the walk. We’d catch the bus for sure on the way home.

One of the guys that we chatted with that night turned out to be very into sports and nature. He said that he enjoyed rock climbing and on the way up the mountain, slept in his tent on the ledge in snow. Yikes! Not one part of that sounded enjoyable to me. He also loved mountain biking – I prefer paved paths (or packed gravel). This guy lived on his boat and rode his bike everywhere, up and down those big hills.

When I visited my mom in Farmington, NM a few years ago, I drove up to Durango, CO to rent a bike. I was in biking shape because I rode my bike (7 miles each way) to and from work, on the streets of Chicago and paved path by Lake Michigan. At the bike shop, I told them that I wanted an easy trail so they showed me where to ride. Even as I was beginning on the slow up hill loose gravel, I was slipping and sliding. It got more challenging as I road up and down over dirt moguls through tall wild flowers and prairie grasses. The sun was beating down on me as I heaved and hoed over the terrain with sweat dripping down the back of my pants. This was supposed to be enjoyable? I made it but knew that the next time, I’d need to be more specific. Where’s the level paved bike path through the trees, with the chirping birds, spotted sun, lazy breeze and the latte/juice stands? I really enjoy spending time in the forest, swimming in lakes and hiking small mountains, it refreshes me. I used to think that I was such a nature girl, but I’m finding out that I’d prefer to wake up in a bed with a down comforter in a heated cabin.

After a night of nice sailors, but no love interests we walked up the street to the bus stop with Larissa’s friend who invited us to the bar. She was headed in the same direction. No bus. We kept walking until we stumbled upon a man at the corner laying on the ground. He had a nice orange North Face coat on along with green cargo pants. Definitely not homeless. We peered down at him and asked him if he was okay. He was so drunk he could barely speak but we found that his destination was only a couple of blocks away. Larissa and her friend picked him up and I held onto the sleeping bag that her friend had been carrying. This friend was actually going to stay with a bootie call (not sure why she had a sleeping bag). The man couldn’t walk on his own and he slurred when he spoke. He had been at a bar since two in the afternoon (it was around 11pm). In the silent, motionless night, a fire truck came barreling down the street to the corner where we picked up the guy. They drove up to us to see if everything was okay – we told them all was super duper, just on duty as good samaritans. I looked behind and noticed that a guy in a house had opened the window. He asked if we needed help but I nodded no. Everyone was watching. At least I know that the guy would have bee fine.

We got him to his apartment but then he said we had to back away from the door – it was his girlfriend’s home and she probably wouldn’t have been keen on seeing him drunk with three girls. We waited to make sure he got in safely – it was freezing. Once in, we left and had to walk the whole way home again! No cars, buses or cabs – crazy.

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