Days 175-178: Reenergizing on the Road

After leaving Whistler, I drove to Vancouver, British Columbia to return some items I bought there that didn’t fit. They only have physical stores in Canada so I wanted to stop by on my way back to the U.S. The store hours were listed until 5:30 pm on Saturdays and I arrived at 5:32 pm because I had to fight Saturday Christmas festivity traffic.

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When I pulled up, the store was completely closed. It was clear they closed at 5:00 pm, which is supposed to be their weekday hours. I needed to keep heading south so I would have to mail my items back. I ended up learning a hard lessons about shipping to Canada; it cost me $47 to mail the package back!

I arrived at my friend Chanell’s house around 7:30 pm and she had a delicious dinner waiting for me in the crockpot. We talked about my time in Whistler and her pregnancy. We ended up staying up late talking as we tend to do.

The next morning, we went out for breakfast now that her morning sickness had improved a bit. I had a great time hanging out with her and couldn’t wait to meet her new daughter.

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After breakfast, I drove about five hours to Hood River, Oregon. It was raining and cool outside. I arrived at my friend Tracey’s house around 6:00 pm. Her newly remodeled kitchen was just about complete so she cooked up a wonderful dinner. I ate with her and her husband and stayed the night.

I felt so fortunate to have Chanell and Tracey in my life. I had stayed with both of them a few times as I drove to Canada and back twice. Each time, they cheerfully hosted me, offering me food, a bed, and friendship. I felt like they were my “Pacific Northwest family.” I am blessed to know them.

The following morning, Tracey and I went to a local cafe for breakfast and as usual, had a great conversation. I needed to continue my drive to make it to St. Louis, Missouri by Christmas. I drove three hours south to Bend, Oregon. I knew I needed to drive much further that day, but I stopped to eat a late lunch and look at places to stay.

My friend Bethany who lives there met me for an hour and we talked about her new house. Bethany, her husband, and two sons had just purchased a home a few miles outside of the city. It was on a large piece of land, so they were getting used to that and slowly moving in.

I booked a hotel in Burns, Oregon, which seemed like one of the only places to stop on my route to Idaho. The drive was dark and flat. I thought I was driving through a desert full of tumbleweeds until I stopped at a rest area. I got out of the car to use the restroom and it was freezing outside! There was snow on the grass and the wind was blowing ceaselessly. The sand and dirt I thought I was seeing was actually snow.

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I booked an old restored hotel on Airbnb – The Historic Central Hotel. The owner read my profile and saw that I had quit my job and was traveling.  She told me I was her hero and upgraded my room for free! She wanted to meet me, but when I arrived at 7:30 pm, nobody was there. I followed the instructions and used a code to get inside the lobby.

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The hotel was adorable, filled with history and remodeled with a slight modern barn feel. I carried my suitcase to the second floor and opened the door to my room. It was set up like a Bed and Breakfast. With my upgraded room, I had my own bathroom!

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I walked around the property checking out the pictures of the remodel that were hanging on the walls. I think there was only one other guest there at the time. I was exhausted from the drive and fell asleep on the bed right away. After an hour or so, I got up, took a shower, and went back to bed.

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The next day I continued driving with the goal of making it to Idaho Falls, Idaho, where my Uncle Steve and his wife Sonia live. It was a six and a half hour drive.

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I drove through Oregon, passing farms and ranches. The ranches had large signs and entrances like I’ve seen in movies. The name of the family ranch would be posted on the large, wooden post before driving down the long gravel driveway to the house.

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I had to drive through most of the state since Idaho Falls is near Wyoming. Idaho was beautiful and full of mountains, lakes, and more farms.

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I drove through Boise, Idaho, which was a little out of the way, but I wanted to see the capital. I drove around for a bit, stopped to grab some lunch, and continued on.

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As I drove, I had a lot of time to think about things. I was feeling down about relationships. As I reflected, I realized I often receive compliments from men, but it never materializes to an actual relationship. I’ve been told I’m intelligent, beautiful, fun, funny, and a great conversationalist.

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It makes me feel like I’m great….but not great enough to date. I’m either not enough or I’m too much. I am going to be me, even if I’m not enough or I’m too much for men. However, I was still feeling lonely and rejected. Maybe it was the online dating apps, but I was feeling like nobody wanted to actually date me. Nobody wanted to put in the effort. Nobody wanted to be exclusive with me.

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I talked with my friend Toni and then my friend Jimmy while I drove. I had been telling Jimmy for awhile that I didn’t want anything serious considering I was married for ten years and I just wanted to meet people to see what I wanted. However, now that it had been a year and a half, I was feeling like I actually did want a real relationship.

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Jimmy understood, but said it would be very difficult to date someone while traveling. He wanted to make sure I didn’t get my hopes up and I knew he was right. I tried the casual thing and I learned a lot about what I want and what I don’t want in a relationship. I still didn’t want the traditional relationship.

I’m afraid of getting bored. I was bored a lot in my marriage while my ex-husband was perfectly fine with the ways things were. I want an interesting relationship where we try new things and have adventures. I want to be surprised and I want to be spontaneous. I want the intimacy and the connection that comes along with an exclusive relationship. I was tired of meeting new people and I was tired of guys who weren’t interested in a relationship beyond casual dating.

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While talking with Jimmy, I got distracted in the dark and made a wrong turn. I ended up going 40 miles out of the way and had to turn around and go back another 40 miles. I didn’t arrive to my uncle’s house until 8:00 pm because of that mistake and I was in a new time zone, which was an hour ahead.

I ate some food and talked with my uncle Steve, his wife Sonia, and her mother, Effie. I had seen my uncle in Denver at the beginning of September for two cousins’ weddings, but I had never been to his house in Idaho. He’s only about 12 years older than me and he’s a funny, caring man.

My uncle Steve is a lead pastor of a small church. They told me about how the church is expanding and the impact they’ve seen God have on people there.

My uncle Steve and Sonia have such wonderful hearts. They talk about the Bible, God, and how we’re all just trying our best. It’s not about following religious principles and being legalistic in following God, it’s about having a relationship with God. They do a lot for people and are wonderful role models.

I told them about how I was feeling about relationships and I was feeling lonely and wanted a partner. They told me about their love story:

They were 32 years old and single. Steve was told by a friend that he wanted to introduce him to a fellow friend, Sonia. Sonia lived in India, where she grew up, and Steve was living in Omaha, Nebraska. They emailed each other for a year, but then it sort of fell off.

A few years later, Steve emailed her again. This time, he was more committed and she noticed something about him had changed. He was more engaged in their conversations. They emailed for a while and then in February 2007, Steve flew to India to met Sonia for the first time. While he was there, he also met a child that he had been sponsoring for years.

While in India, Steve proposed to Sonia. A few months later, Sonia flew to the U.S. to attend my wedding and meet some of our family. We all instantly fell in love with her and her mother. They were sweet, smart, and genuine. We happily welcomed them into our family.

About five months later, they married in India and a month after that, Sonia moved to the U.S. They’ve been married ever since. Steve and Sonia told me about their story because I never really knew how they met. They told me they got to know each other through email, which enabled them to get to know the others’ heart. They were able to focus on who they were.

They laughed. Sonia said, “I probably would have chosen someone shorter and he would have chosen someone taller, but God had a plan for us and his timing is perfect.” My uncle is 6’4” and towers over Sonia.

I loved hearing their story. It gave me hope that love can be unconventional and can be found in unexpected ways. Steve and Sonia are great together and compliment each other. They fell in love across the world from each one another.

I told them about my travels, the people I’d met, and how it felt like I was doing what I was supposed to be doing with my life. They agreed and said they felt I was in God’s path and that amazing things were in store for me.

They understood my desire to have a partner. Steve, Sonia, and Effie prayed with me and I could feel God’s presence. For me, God’s presence and the relationship we have with him is what is important. Not following some rule that the church put into place, created by man. Having this time with them encouraged me and lifted me up. It was just what I needed.

The next morning, Steve and Sonia went to work in their day jobs while I slept in. Effie made me some breakfast and amazing tea from India. I got to know her better as she told me about her life in India before moving to the U.S. a few years ago.

Effie grew up Catholic and converted to more of a nondenominational decades ago. She felt the call to evangelize in India because she witnessed so many people giving their lives to Jesus. She was so passionate while  talking about her calling and her desire to help the community. In the U.S., she said it’s much harder to evangelize because people are closed off and don’t want to talk about God. I felt for her because I could tell it bummed her out. She has such a heart for God and helps out so many people in the community in any way she can.

After breakfast, I drove to Target to get a case of water and continued my drive towards Denver to stay with some other family members. I was so happy to have stayed with my uncle Steve, Sonia, and Effie, even if it was for a short time. They’re the type of people who accept everyone and bring joy to those around them. They provided me with the support and encouragement I needed to keep my chin up.

Post Edited By: Mandy Strider
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Days 88-89: Navigating Health Issues on the Road

 

After cooking a delicious breakfast, I headed to Bellingham, Washington. I needed to get my blood drawn to monitor some of my medications and just for some general health check-ups. I had to get this done now so the labs were ready when I got to Los Angeles a few weeks later.

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One of the borders in the US is in Abbotsford. Occasionally I’d drive about one mile from it when I was just driving around the city. Even though the border is so close, crossing it is another story.

I also made an appointment with a chiropractor because the day before it felt like I had pulled a muscle in my neck and the pain was now moving into my back. I arrived to the US border and told them I was just going to Bellingham for a chiropractor appointment and I was staying in Abbotsford. Thankfully, my car was mostly empty so it didn’t look suspicious.

I got through the border and it would be about 40 minutes to Bellingham. The road winds its way through farms and fields. The speed limit is only about 35 MPH.

I arrived at Labcorp to get my blood drawn and the guy at the front was dramatic and entertaining. Once that was complete, I drove to the chiropractor office. There was a 2-½ year old golden retriever lying behind the counter. The woman behind the desk told me the dog might be pregnant and they were anxiously waiting for the results.

Once I got into the adjustment room, I noticed a black lab lying on the ground. The office reminded me of the office I visited in Fairbanks, Alaska. (LINK) The chiropractor made an adjustment, but he also used a hard vibrating tool on my spine to try and loosen the muscles. It was painful and felt like it made things worse.

I drove back to Abbotsford and started packing up since I was leaving in the morning. My next stop was Whistler, a ski town an hour and a half north of Vancouver. I felt sad to leave the house. I had my own place again for a week and it felt good to have space and privacy. In Whistler, I would be back to renting just one room inside a condo. Then I thought about how lonely I had been in Abbotsford. Maybe being in shared spaces is good for me. It forces me to socialize. I’ve been told on a personality test before that I have a tendency to go into “unhealthy bouts of isolation.”

That night, the pain in my neck and upper back was so severe I had a hard time getting into bed. I couldn’t move my head around and the pain was increasing. I took ibuprofen, but it wasn’t helping. As the night went on, I could not find a position that relived the intense pain. Turning over took about 30 minutes and made me scream.

I lied there all night, unable to sleep, in the worst pain I’ve ever experienced. I knew there was no way I could load my car in the morning and drive north, but I had to check out of the house and the owners were flying in that day to stay there.

At 6:00 am, I wondered how I’d get out of bed. Should I call 911? Does 911 work in Canada? I couldn’t move. I thought through my options and realized the frozen muscles were very similar to what I experienced a couple of years ago in my lower back. The muscles froze so much, I couldn’t stand straight or roll over in bed. The only thing that helped me was getting muscle relaxers from an Urgent Care.

I realized Bellingham wasn’t too far away and I could go to Urgent Care there, where I knew my insurance would work. I painfully forced myself out of bed and got dressed. I packed up all of my stuff and left it in the kitchen. I didn’t want to cross the border with a full car or they wouldn’t believe I was just going for a quick visit.

I made it to urgent care and was told the wait would be at least an hour wait. I sat in the chair and the pain wouldn’t stop. I couldn’t turn my head and couldn’t stand or sit up straight. After about 30 minutes in the chair, I hobbled up to the counter and told the woman I was in an immense amount of pain and begged to be seen.

The woman said she couldn’t get me in sooner, but she offered me some water and a room so I could lie down. It was a little better than the chair. Finally after being there for an hour and a half, the doctor came in. He said he didn’t think I needed x-rays and it was likely muscular. He gave me a prescription for some muscle relaxers and pain medicine.

I went to Rite-aid to fill the prescriptions and it was a 30 minute wait. I messaged the Airbnb host and let her know what was going on and that my stuff was still in the kitchen. She was very understanding and said they’d just set their stuff down and go to lunch.

I took a pain pill, but couldn’t take the muscle relaxer because it causes drowsiness. I drove through the country roads again back to Canada and got through the border. Just past the border was the Costco where I had ordered contacts weeks earlier. I have very bad eyes and they said it would take a couple of weeks to get them in.

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I went inside, did a quick eye exam, and paid for my contacts. The guy helping me was very nice and pointed out that I was smart to buy contacts in Canada, where I get a 30% discount.

I drove back to the house and painfully loaded my car with my bags in the sprinkling rain. I started my two and a half hour drive to Whistler, leaning my head against the headrest, trying not to move it.

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Despite my discomfort, the foggy and rainy drive to Whistler was beautiful! The road climbed through the lush mountains, at times overlooking the ocean.

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When I arrived at my Airbnb, I parked in front of the condo and followed the instructions to get inside. It was evening and Ash, the owner, left me a message saying he was out, but would leave the door unlocked for me. I’ve gotten very used to walking into stranger’s homes.

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The condo was cozy and had a mountain cabin feel. I ate some of the food I brought with me and put the rest  in his refrigerator. Ash told me I was free to use and eat anything I’d like. He lives there and rents out two of the rooms, but the other room wasn’t occupied.

I was exhausted and desperately wanted to sleep. The cloudy, rainy weather was perfectly suited for napping. I took a muscle relaxer and while I was still in pain, I was able to find a decent position and fall asleep.

At 10:15 pm, I woke up and could hear that Ash was home. I was embarrassed that he must think I’m a lazy weirdo who was asleep so early. I walked out of my room to the living room and Ash was watching TV with headphones on. I said hello and he waved. I walked back to my room, still exhausted after navigating so many obstacles to find pain relief, and decided I would talk to him in the morning.

Post Edited By: Mandy Strider
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Day 35: History of Seattle and Getting a Kiss

It was my last day in Seattle and I wanted to learn a little more about the city so I signed up for an underground tour. Meeting in downtown Seattle, the tour began in a basement of a skyrise. It was dark and had a setup like what you’d see during Halloween.

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The tour had about 15 people and as we sat in dark pews, the tour guide started by giving us the rundown of what the next 90 minutes would look like. We began by going around the corner and seeing the old store fronts.

Seattle was originally a logging town and port city, but really started to boom when they realized they could take advantage of people flocking to Canada and Alaska in search of gold. Seattle became a place where people (mostly men) could rest, buy supplies, and eat.

Being mostly men coming through the city, Seattle developed a seedy underground full of booze and prostitutes. The police and government officials overlooked all of this as long as these establishments paid their “tax” – which was basically a bribe. This went on for about 100 years until the 1970s when the FBI did an investigation and put a stop to all of it.

The shoreline of Seattle used to be giant cliffs overlooking the ocean, so people couldn’t build many houses there. The city center was near the port on soft ground and the tide changed dramatically at the end of the day. The tide would literally come into the little town, wash things away, and flood it.

The roads were made of a mixture of sawdust and dirt (remember, it was a logging town) and when the horse and carriages would come through the city, they’d poop on the street. The tide water became a combination of many things, including horse poop. There were some sections that had a consistency of oatmeal, and were like quick-sand causing people would drown. People literally risked their life to walk down the street.

In 1889, the city had a massive fire (miraculously, nobody died) and it cleared out thousands of rodents that carried diseases. It gave the city the chance to rebuild in brick and stone, and fix the tide issue. They decided all new streets would be graded one to two stories higher than the original streets. During this construction, the streets were built first and the sidewalks later. Merchants stayed open during construction and used ladders for people to climb down to their store until the sidewalks were complete. Lots of people actually died falling off of these ladders.

Once the sidewalks were complete, the storefronts were moved to the 2nd story, and the first story now became the basement, and the underground was born. Buildings were not connected to each other underground, but it gave way to the seedy happenings in the city. They installed makeshift “skylights” using little glass tiles so light came through. You can still see the mosaic titles on the sidewalks in Pioneer Square.

In 1907, the city condemned the underground because of bubonic plague carried by rats. After years of most of the underground being abandoned, they restored a few sections and started giving tours. In 1965, Bill Speidel starting giving tours and still operates today (which is the tour I took).

The city also spent time regrading the other parts of Seattle and demolishing the cliffs so houses and roads could be built. They used high-pressure water hoses to make the cliffs more like steep hills.

The tour was fascinating and I was able to see a few underground sections, including the Comedy Underground club, where comedians perform. Learning the history helped me to understand why the streets were so crappy and full of potholes – they sink 1/8th of an inch every year because underneath them it’s still sawdust and dirt.

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After the tour, I walked around downtown a bit and messaged a guy I had been talking to on Tinder, Jerry. I told him that it was my last night in Seattle (wanted to be clear I don’t live there as to not repeat the previous date I had when I first arrived to Seattle) and I was told I need to try the oysters. I asked if he wanted to go and he said he did and would pick me up.

I took an Uber back to my Airbnb to change into pants and freshen up. I thought it was nice he offered to pick me up. Most guys say they’ll meet you somewhere so this felt promising. Jerry arrived and I got into his car. He was about 5’11” – 6’ tall, with blonde/reddish hair, and was on the thinner side but fit. The wrinkles on his face made him look older than 32.

We decided on a place in downtown and Jerry had to parallel park. Backing into the space up a steep hill, he was nervous he’d mess up since I was watching. It actually felt nice for someone else to be nervous.

Jerry hadn’t eaten oysters in about 10 years so we didn’t know which ones to order. I said, “I’ll ask the waiter for help.” Jerry responded, “I’m usually embarrassed to ask and show I don’t know.” I explained, “Yeah, but my take on it is this. You ask and are embarrassed once. Then you know how to do it going forward and don’t have to worry about it again.” He smiled and said, “That’s true.”

We ate the oysters but agreed we don’t care for them very much. While eating, I learned a little more about Jerry. He has his master’s degree, was in the peace corps for two years, and is a project engineer for a nonprofit in Sierra Leone. He spent two years in Sierra Leone but told his company he can’t keep living there. They compromised and said he can do three months there and then three months in Seattle, as a rotation.

After oysters, Jerry asked if I wanted to walk around so we did. Lots of people were walking the streets as a parade had just finished. We walked for close to an hour and I noticed my hand kept hitting his. I thought my purse that was crossed over my shoulder must be bumping my hand into his hand. At one point, I quietly said, “Sorry”. But then I noticed Jerry kept looking at my hand. I thought, “Wait, is he trying to hold my hand. Crap. What do I do now??”

My problem is that I get very nervous at the anticipation of meeting someone, or holding hands, or kissing. It had been 2-1/2 years since I separated from my ex-husband after being married for 9 years. I hadn’t held hands or kissed anyone since my ex. Part of me just wanted to get it out of the way because otherwise, the more time that passed, the more anxious I became about it. It felt like a “build-up” and I would start to feel sick to my stomach.

Jerry and I arrived at a bar and he bought me a beer. Sitting close to me at the bar, Jerry became more flirtatious. Right after we finished our beers, the bartender asked if we wanted another one. As I was about to say yes, Jerry said no. Then he turned towards me and said, “If we’re going to have another beer, I shouldn’t drive so we should go to a bar close to my house. I can park in between my place and your place and walk you home after the bar and then I can walk home.” He lived about half a mile from where I was staying so it made sense.

As we left the bar and walked to Jerry’s car, he held my hand. It felt really nice to hold someone’s hand – it was sweet and genuine. Once Jerry parked near his house, we walked towards the bar and he continued to hold my hand.

We arrived at the bar, but it was closed. Jerry said he knew of another one nearby, but it was a dive bar. I was fine with that so we headed there. He bought us some beer and we sat across from each other at a small table near the pool table. I was holding my glass with my left hand and I noticed he kept looking down at my hand. So I grabbed my glass with my right hand and let go of the glass with my left hand. Jerry grabbed my left hand and held it. Then held it with both of his hands. I’ve never had a guy hold my hand across the table before and it was sweet.

We had a good conversation and it felt like Jerry was a good guy. When I felt he was going to kiss me, I got nervous and continued talking like a crazy person. Finally, we kissed! It was sweet and instantly I didn’t feel so nervous. It’s the lead-up that makes me feel sick. I hadn’t held hands or kissed someone in so long, I forgot how nice it was to have human touch. We are designed to have human touch – it’s one of the five love languages. I never realized how much I missed it until I didn’t have it for so long.

Jerry thanked me for asking him to get oysters and I thanked him for going with me. I knew I’d likely never see him again, but I was ok with that. He had spent a lot of time in Sierra Leone and I think he was in the same boat – we needed to connect with someone, even if it was just temporary.

Post Edited by: Misty Kosek

Day 34: Hiking and Discovering Tinder

The fan attempted to cool me off as I relaxed in my Airbnb, and I researched places to stay in Vancouver, British Columbia – my next destination. Sadly, I was finding some bad places online. For example, I found two listings by the same guy for $27 a night. In one listing, you could stay in the old, crappy motorhome sitting in his driveway. You are allowed to use the indoor bathroom and kitchen, however. The other listing was a couch in his living room. It was looking like Vancouver was going to be an expensive city to stay in.

To pass the time that evening, I decided to bite the bullet and sign up for Tinder. I had heard that Tinder has changed and now people find actual relationships on there, not just hook-ups. Very quickly, I started to get matches and messages, which felt a little overwhelming. It was also addicting. I had a hard time stopping myself from swiping – the guys on there didn’t end. I wanted to see who else was out there.

The next day, I went for a hike in the mountains about 45 minutes east of Seattle, called Granite Lakes Trail. I found the trail on an app I use frequently called, All Trails. It was about eight miles long, and involved just under 2,400 ft elevation gain. I enjoy a hard hike because it feels like a successful workout.

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I didn’t start the hike until around 3:00pm (I was up too late diving into the world of Tinder). The stifling heat made sweat start to pour right away. The trail winded through the trees, had some amazing views, and at times had a river nearby.

 

About a mile into the trail, I passed three older women, each about 50 feet away from each other. Shortly after that, I passed a man and his mother. After that, I didn’t see another person the entire hike. This can be a little scary at times but I’m pretty used to it.

After 3.5 miles, I had to stop and put on bug spray as bugs were eating me alive. There was no breeze and the spray sat on top of my sweat. Shortly after I stopped to put on bug spray, I heard something in the bushes that lined the narrow trail. I stopped, turned off my headphones, and looked around.

Researching trails in the area, I saw reviews that said people had seen a mountain lion. People gave advice about never turning your back on a mountain lion, always look them in the eye, and back up slowly.

This terrified me because I was used to preparing for black bears. With black bears, you should make yourself look large, talk, make noise, and scare them off. Reading those reviews about mountain lions, and how they can easily tear you apart, made me paranoid.

Hearing something in the bushes made my heart race. I was certain it was a mountain lion and he would kill me. I slowly pulled out a small pocket knife from my side pouch on the waist belt of my backpack. I opened it and held it on top of my trekking pole. I slowly walked in silence with my heart racing, looking in all directions. I know that knife likely wouldn’t save me, but it made me feel like it was better than nothing. These are the times it’s scary hiking alone.

Terrified, I ventured on and made it to the top, which had a beautiful lake. There were some giant rocks just off the lake to the side so I hopped over smaller rocks to a large one that I could sit on and eat a snack. The mosquitos were insane at the lake so I put more bug spray on and watched them coast on the water.

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After eating my power bar, I headed back down the trail. The sun was behind the mountain as dusk set in. By the time I got to my car, I was starving. It took about 15 minutes to get to the highway and I searched for somewhere to eat.

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I spotted a Costco off the highway, and a slice of cheap pizza sounded delicious. As I walked towards the window, the employee announced, “Last call for food”. I picked up my pace since I was in the parking lot and he said “Ok, just for you, I’ll stay open.” I ordered a slice of pizza and a frozen yogurt. Sitting outside to eat, the sun had now set and it was dark outside.

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By the time I got back to the Airbnb, it was around 9:30 pm, and I was exhausted. A match from Tinder asked if I wanted to go over to his house but I declined. I showered and went to bed. As I laid in bed, I was “super-liked” by a guy who was 36 years old.

His first message to me was, “You know those word association tests? The first thought that came to my mind when I saw your photo yesterday was that you were my kindred spirit.”

I asked him what made those words to mind. He responded, “You look REALLY familiar. When I look inward to understand where this feeling comes from, I stumble across a divergence between who I am, and who I imagine I am. Your image represents who I think I am, so it makes me really happy. It’s like you are a ‘warm and fuzzy’ machine on full blast! But that is just physicality; important, yet ultimately fixed. What about the things that we can change?”

“Whoa,” I thought. “Maybe I got myself into more than I expected”.

Post Edited by: Misty Kosek

 

Day 33: Airbnb and Plastic Bags in Seattle

I wasn’t ready to leave Seattle, as I hadn’t been able to see as much as I wanted, like the nightlife. I had to check out of the Airbnb I was in and stay a few more days. I booked another Airbnb that was available nearby. The Airbnb I checked out of was a little studio that had been built inside of a garage at the back of a house. My next Airbnb was more economical and was going to be just a room in a large, old house near the University of Washington.

When I arrived at check-in time, the owner of the place greeted me outside. Tina was in her 50s, and stood at only about 5’3” tall so I towered over her. She had shoulder length gray hair, was fit and spunky, and talked a lot. She enthusiastically told me all about the property.

She rents out several rooms, mostly to college students, but during the summer she rents out rooms on Airbnb. She works from home and I assumed she rents rooms on Airbnb for the income and to meet people. Upon entering the front door, we passed a room that was being rented to a guy for 10 days, but she explained that he was in Portland for the weekend.

The next room was being rented to a woman who would be checking out the next day. We passed through a shared living space with a TV and two couches and continued down the hallway. The set-up was definitely for college students.

There were an additional two rooms being rented out and we ran into one girl who was doing laundry in the basement. Tina opened the door to the basement to point out the laundry and the washer/dryer that were right at the base.

As we stood at the top of the stairs, a large girl doing laundry at the bottom seemed upset and told Tina that “someone” pushed her quarters into the dryer again. Tina said she was the one who had done it because she saw the clothes were ready to be dried.

The girl said, “Well, I like to line-dry a lot of my clothes. And now I don’t have enough quarters to use the machines.”

Tina apologized and said she’d give her more quarters to use the machine. Feeling the tension, I just stood there in silence.

We walked into the shared kitchen and Tina explained I was welcome to use anything there and could put food in the fridge, wherever I could find space. Just past the kitchen were two bathrooms – one labeled “men” and the other labeled “women”. It felt like an actual dorm, although it was mostly women in the house.

Tina asked me about my travels and I explained I was headed up to Alaska next. Tina’s sister lives in Fairbanks and she said I should reach out to her and stay with her while I was there.

She said, “She’s just like me. You’ll love her.” She showed me pictures of the house and the new garden her sister just planted. While I thought this was a nice gesture, I sometimes want my own space, and staying with a stranger for free would have made me feel obligated to hang out with her all the time.

Finally, Tina walked me to my bedroom – a twin sized bed was against the windows, there was a small desk and a table that each had their own chair, and a little nightstand. It was extremely hot outside (in the 90s) and there was no air conditioning. All four windows were open, but only two windows had screens on them. The room would do just fine, but not having air conditioning was going to be miserable.

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Tina then walked me back outside and showed me which direction things were located. She pointed out where the bus stations were and described the neighborhood as “very walkable”. She also said most of the houses nearby had been purchased by Chinese immigrants and how it “became Chinatown overnight.” She seemed annoyed by that.

Tina told me that later that evening she planned on taking the bus to downtown Seattle to attend a festival. She seemed very excited to be dancing around and having fun. It seemed like something she did often. Tina also told me there was an annual parade in two days and it’s a big deal. It was also in downtown Seattle and I could take the bus. I thought about going, but wasn’t sure I wanted to go alone.

Tina gave me a parking pass, which would allow me to park overnight (otherwise the parking was limited to two hours). I unloaded my car and carried my things inside. I noticed an elaborate spider web in the corner of one of the windows, that took up almost half of the window. The spider sat there in the corner, waiting for its prey. I hate spiders, but I didn’t want to mess with that guy and figured maybe he’d eat some of the bugs that were making their way inside because of the lack of screens.

My bedroom sat in a corner where the sunlight hit in the morning and continued blasting the room all day. It was definitely the hottest room in the house. I wanted to cool it off and I decided to go buy a small fan so the room would be more tolerable.

I went to Safeway about two miles away and bought some food items and a fan. As I checked out, the cashier asked me if I wanted a plastic bag for $.28.

Surprised at the high cost, I said, “Wow! $.28?!”

A middle-aged woman behind me in line with her reusable bags yelled at me, “Good!! Ha!”

Pissed off, I said to the cashier, “In Los Angeles, they’re only $.10”.

She said, “I love it. You gotta pay $.28”.

I bought one bag and the cashier seemed to agree with me that the price was ridiculously high.

This pissed me off for several hours. That woman didn’t know anything about me. She didn’t know that I usually use reusable bags, but it’s a little harder when I’m practically living out of my car. I use the plastic bags as trash bags because most Airbnb’s don’t have a trash can in the room.

This incident got me thinking about her approach and why our country is divided. I love the environment and want to protect it. I love hiking in nature and it’s where I find peace. Of course I don’t want it ruined with over-consumption, but I’m also a human being trying to live in this world and sometimes that means using plastic bags.

That woman was so rude and so judgmental in her assumptions of who I was, that it made me want to buy 10 plastic bags to spite her. One thing is for sure, treating people this way will never win them over to your side of an argument. If her goal was to look superior in her quest for saving the environment, she succeeded. If her goal was to show awareness and reduce plastic bag usage, she failed miserably.

I went back to the Airbnb, blasted the fan, and lied there thinking about this incident. It reminded me of a short video I had recently watched explaining the effects of putting disposable contacts down the drain. They break into microscopic particles and end up in our drinking water. After watching the video, I stopped putting my disposable contacts down the drain. All it takes to change the behavior of people is to give them information in a factual way and let them decide. Being judgmental and belittling people will not win them over. It’s a good lesson. I don’t want to be that angry lady yelling at people for their choice of bags.

Post Edited by: Trisha Harmon

Day 31: Seattle Sights, Friends, Uber Rides

After my parking debacle the previous day, I ordered an Uber Pool to take me to downtown Seattle to do some more sight-seeing. It only cost about $6 each way, making it a much better option than driving myself.

If you’re not familiar with Uber Pool, it’s a shared Uber ride. Uber will find other riders nearby who are going in the direction you are going. If you select “express”, you have to walk about a block so that you’re on a main street or a pick-up point. Same with the drop-off. You might walk a block or two so the driver can drop you off in a spot that’s convenient for them. It makes the ride cheaper and I don’t mind walking so I choose it when it’s available.

When I got in the Uber, there was a man and a woman in the backseat who did not know each other. I sat in the front seat and couldn’t really see the man behind me. But when I got in, I saw that he was very tall and very muscular with large blonde dreadlocks. I had to move the seat back a little so I could fit my legs inside and he was very friendly – joking how he’s used to being in small cars. The woman next to him was around 25 years old with long, straight, blonde hair.

I talked about how hot it was outside and how I traveled north so I could avoid the hot summer in southern California, but the heat seemed to be following me. The man said he’s an archeologist and at a recent world conference he had recently attended, one scientist said people are flocking up north to live, if you look at the data. He said they want to be away from the equator because their natural instincts are to flee the heat, and biologically, they’re getting ready for climate change. I thought that was pretty interesting. Maybe it’s in our DNA to escape the blazing heat and we can sense the changing weather.

The Uber ride was only about 10 minutes long and I was dropped off first. I had a great time talking with them. The thing about Uber pool is that you get a chance to meet and talk with people you might not meet otherwise.

I arrived at the Museum of Pop Culture, which looks like the future on the outside. On the inside, a huge guitar sculpture greets guests. The museum is a nonprofit museum dedicated to contemporary popular culture. It has multiple sections that showcase different categories. For example, there is section on Nintendo, Grunge Music, and famous sci-fi films.

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After being awed at the museum, I walked down the street to a little coffee shop to meet a friend for lunch. I ordered a coffee and a sandwich and sat at a table outside. Jinah, a friend I met at work, had recently moved to the Seattle area. Jinah arrived and we caught each other up on our lives over the last six months – when she decided to leave the company.

Jinah had been enjoying Seattle, but recognized that while the summer was nice – winter might be another story. She told me about jobs she was considering as she hunted for employment. Being a Recruiting Manager for four years, I was surprised to hear about how some companies treat candidates – especially in this market of low unemployment. Companies were taking weeks to get back to her and left her sort of hanging. Jinah is incredibly smart with an impressive educational background, so I have complete confidence she’ll find a job soon.

It was really fun catching up with Jinah and sharing stories about our last six months. We said our goodbyes and I headed to the Space Needle. My ticket allowed me to go to the top during the day and again at nighttime. In line, I chatted with a family from the Midwest who was on vacation. They were only there for a few days and were exhausted doing all of the sightseeing. We agreed that as exhausting as it all was, we couldn’t miss the Space Needle.

The Space Needle was built in 1962 for the World’s Fair. It’s such a cool design so I took the elevator to the top and walked all the way around it – seeing the entire city. It was a clear day with blue skies but it was sort of uncomfortable getting around all the people to take pictures.

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After the Space Needle, I went to the Chihuly Garden and Glass museum. This museum features the studio glass of Dale Chihuly. If you’ve ever seen glass-blowing, it’s that, but like the best there is. The galleries feature beautiful pieces and share the story of his work. Some of the pieces are so big, they are suspended from large ceilings; one even hangs from a glass ceiling that looks up to the Space Needle. The garden outside also includes some the pieces and the colors are spectacular.

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I was ready for dinner after all of the sightseeing so I walked about a 1-2 miles downtown to the harbor and ate some fish and chips. I strolled around the giant Ferris wheel as I ate some ice cream. Those are the moments I wish I had a partner to enjoy the sights with.

The sun started to set so I walked back to the Space Needle to see the views at night. The line wasn’t bad at all and I quickly made it back up there to watch the night time views (with hundreds of people crowding around).

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On the way back to my Airbnb, I ordered an Uber Pool Express. This time I sat in the backseat with a woman in her early 20s. Another woman in her late 20s was in the front seat. The woman next to me had on a very tight red dress, lots of make-up, and big curls in her long black hair. She looked very unfriendly – the type that only talks to people she deems acceptable. She had her window rolled down and the wind coming in was very cold. I desperately wanted to ask her to roll it up but she didn’t seem to be getting any of the clues that the other woman, the driver, and myself were all giving indicating we were cold.

The driver was having a hard time finding her apartment so she was giving him attitude about where it was. When we arrived to her apartment and she was close to getting out of the car, I said, “Could you roll up your window when you exit?” She very rudely said, “You could have asked me to roll it up earlier if you were cold.” Then she rolled it up, and got out of the car. I thought, How rude! However, once the window was rolled up, I realized the driver had on such strong cologne that it was making me sick. I was happy to get out of that car. Hey, they can’t all be great Uber Pool experiences.

Post Edited by: Misty Kosek

Day 30: Sightseeing in Seattle, WA

Visiting a city like Seattle means going to a lot of tourist sites. The city felt like a mini-Los Angeles due to the amount of people there. Being the largest city in the state of Washington and in the Pacific Northwest, Seattle has a population of 725,000 people. The metro area, however, has 3.87 million. As one of the fastest growing cities, it’s the 15th largest city in the US.

In addition to the amount of people located there, the city has a lot of tourist attractions – such as The Public Market, the original Starbucks, and the Aquarium. They also offer harbor boat tours. You can buy a “city pass” and get a discounted price for the top attractions.

I headed downtown, after making a quick stop at a park that Aaron (the guy I had met the day before) told me about. Parking in downtown proved to be as bad as most major cities in the US. The parking garages were around $25. Now that I’m unemployed, that seemed too expensive, so I searched and searched for parking. In addition, the garages had low clearances around 6’8”. With my roof-top cargo unit on top, I was pretty sure my car wouldn’t fit. I think I needed around two more inches.

I eventually found parking on the street, but it had a three-hour time limit. I walked to the original Starbucks, but there was a line of about 70 people. It was hot outside and standing in line didn’t seem worth it. I continued on and made it to the Aquarium.

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My friend Trudy who lives in St. Louis was visiting the aquarium with her family that day. I joined them as we watched the seals, fish, and penguins swim around. It was nice seeing her kids’ reactions to each exhibit.

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After the aquarium, I walked back to my car to put more money into the meter, then walked to the Public Market. This is the famous outdoor market that you probably think of when you think about Seattle. Opening in 1907, it’s one of the oldest public farmers’ markets in the US. I walked around and resisted the temptation to buy anything. Getting into minimalism and not having a house to go back to help with the desire not to purchase anything.

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Living up to its reputation, I watched vendors do a little show where they threw fish to each other. The overall atmosphere was great – although hot. I ate a fresh-caught salmon sandwich at a bar stool at one of the vendors and people-watched.

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On my way back to the car, I stopped back at the original Starbucks. This time the line only had about 25 people so I joined them. However, the line slowly moved as I continued to bake in the sun. After what felt like an eternity, I made it to the inside of the store – which only made me angry. The line was worse inside because people were all spread out and others waiting for drinks. I saw the merchandise on the wall that customers could buy to prove they had made it to the original Starbucks. I took a picture of a plaque, realized I didn’t need a souvenir, and I’d only end up ordering a regular Starbucks drink, and left.

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Minimalism teaches people how not to consume just because society expects you to. The reality is that if I bought a souvenir cup, it would have sat in one of my bags, making it even harder for me to carry everything around. It’s also not something that would bring me joy, so I passed.

I’m not against buying souvenirs, by the way. But when I cleaned out my house, I saw a box full of little souvenirs from when I went to Europe. I bought limited items while there, but still ended up with a box of stuff – sitting in my closet. Considering I no longer have a closet, I’m trying really hard to resist buying those things that are “so cute!” or the things that are “a unique representation of that city.” Honestly, most souvenirs are made in China and aren’t actually made locally. Anyway, in my attempt to reduce my consumption, I walked away from that Starbucks empty-handed – and it felt good.

I put more money into the parking meter where I parked, calculating how much I paid in that stupid machine (in an attempt to not pay $25 for parking). I think I ended up paying around $18. I absolutely hate paying for parking because it feels like such a waste of money. The bigger issue, however, was the low clearance of the garages. I decided that I’d take an Uber Pool next time I came downtown.

The city pass that I purchased included a harbor cruise so I walked down to the dock to board. I sat on the top and enjoyed the breeze. The hour-long cruise showed off all of the high-rises and the Space Needle.

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I learned a little more about the city, see the giant barges up close in the port, and watch as the sun started to set behind the ocean. It was a perfect way to end the day.

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Post Edited by: Misty Kosek

 

 

Days 28 – 29: A Date in Seattle, WA

I took the ferry from Whidbey Island to Seattle. I love taking ferries. It’s fun to drive your car on, go to the cafe, get a coffee, and wander outside to check out the views. This ferry ride was just about 40 minutes which was long enough to enjoy the sun reflecting off the water and watch the islands in the background.

It was very windy at the front of the ferry where I stood and there were just a couple of us braving it outside. My hair was flying all around so I tied it back with a hair tie. I had a death grip around my phone when I took pictures and two little girls with their dad were laughing as they tried to take a step against the wind.

I arrived to the Airbnb just after 5:00 pm. My room was a converted garage at the back of the house. Following the instructions from Airbnb hosts is always like being a spy who has been given covert instructions to break in to a place.

The street was incredibly steep so when I opened my trunk, my suitcase started to fall out. I opened the gate to the tall wooden fence and there was a small sidewalk leading to the backyard just to the right of the house. Per the instructions, I followed the narrow path to the backyard and opened another small metal gate.

The garage was across the brick patio and I opened the door. The first thing I saw was a washer and dryer on one side of the room. In front of me, I saw that the owner’s had hung a sheet to hide all the items stored in the garage, and on the left side of the room was a step up to another door that led to my  room.

This door had a glass window on the top half with just a sheer cover, which didn’t leave a lot of room for privacy.

I opened the little lock box next to my bedroom door using the code provided. The key was inside and I used that to open the door to my room.

The room had a bed, desk, a coffee maker that sat atop the dresser, a microwave, and some plates and cups. There was also a small refrigerator and a portable AC unit. The bathroom was very small – like European small.

There was a skylight above the bed with a white/sheer covering. It was nice during the day, as it let in the sunlight – the only other windows were two small rectangular ones at the top of the wall. This skylight became annoying in the morning, as the sun shone on my face and I’d find myself turning to avoid it, then within minutes the sun would follow me and I’d have to move again.

I was glad to have my own space. After checking in, I went to a nearby salon and got my nails done in preparation for a date I had the following day. After that, I picked up some groceries (sandwich, salad, crackers) and relaxed.

I wrote the next morning and later went to the Ballard Locks. This was one of the recommendations made by my previous Airbnb host. The lake meets the ocean but they are very different depths. The lake is much higher than the ocean water so there are several locks that boats go inside, the water either drains or raises depending on which direction the boats are going, and then the boats continue on. The locks create the same water level so they can pass through. It was interesting to watch the boats all pile up and wait for the water level to change.

The salmon also use the locks to travel. They are born in the freshwater lake and once they’re mature they swim to the ocean where they live for about five years. At the end of their lives, they find their way back to the lake, where they lay their eggs before they die.

There are windows below the locks where people can watch the salmon coming and going. It was mid-July so there weren’t that many going back to the lake but it was amazing to see. The locks help them so they don’t have to jump so far upstream to get to the lake.

After seeing the locks, I went back to my Airbnb, ate dinner, and got ready for my date. I connected with a guy from Coffee Meets Bagel the week before and he asked if I wanted to go over for a bonfire and yard games. I love both of those so I said yes. Then he mentioned that he was a craft cider connoisseur and “maybe he’d break open a bottle”. I love ciders so this sounded like a nice time.

He was 39 years old, just a year older than me. His name was Aaron. Yes, the same name as my ex-husband. I wondered, If we were to date, how would I refer to them? New Aaron and old Aaron?

Aaron ended up messaging me saying he was running behind and asked if I could come a little later, around 9:20 pm. He said he’d give me a big hug when he saw me if I accommodated his request. It didn’t get dark until around 9:00 pm so I said sure.

He asked where I was coming from and I told him I was by the zoo. He grew up in that neighborhood but now lived about 15 minutes away. He said, “You’re not too far away”. I thought, Not too far away? In LA standards, this would be considered down the street.

I was nervous for several reasons.  1) There’s always the fear that once someone meets me in person they won’t actually be attracted to me. It’s difficult to tell just through pictures. 2) He seemed excited about what neighborhood I was coming from and I was worried he didn’t realize I didn’t actually live there. I thought my profile was clear that I was just traveling but maybe it wasn’t.

I parked on the street but it was hard to find his house in the dark. I messaged him and he said he was in the backyard and had just started the fire. He came around to the side and peaked his head over the tall wooden fence so I could find him.

When he opened the gate, he seemed a little surprised. Not a bad surprised, but a surprised like how people look at me when they see how tall I am – 6’1”. My height is listed on my profile, but people still seem surprised.

He looked like his pictures but a little older. He was about my height, maybe slightly taller, with light brown hair. He had a button up casual shirt on and looked responsible. I wasn’t super attracted, but he was okay.

Aaron did not give me that hug he promised and it felt a little awkward. I’m sure I was giving off a weird vibe because all I could think about was, what if he thinks I live here? It’s going to be very awkward.

As soon as we started walking to the backyard, he said, “So how long have you been in Woodland Park?”

“One day.”

“Wow!! Really?”

“Yeah, I just got to Seattle. I’m traveling…”

“Oh…”

There it was. Awkward. We got to the fire pit in his huge backyard. There were several lawn chairs around it, but only two that were the nice padded ones. I sat in one of them and then he sat in the other padded one. We weren’t seated next to each other, as there was a folding chair between us.

I was very uncomfortable because I felt like he thought I had tricked him into thinking I lived there. Though I thought I had made it clear. We ended up talking for a couple of hours and it was all friendly. But there were no yard games and no cider bottles were broken.

He asked me what my plan was and I said “I’m not sure.” I was pretty vague because I felt awkward being there – like I disappointed him because I didn’t live there.

I think we both realized it wasn’t going to work but there was a fire started so we might as well make the most of it. He kept putting more wood on the fire so I figured he must be ok that I was there. We talked about his job with the city (he’s a software developer) and the housing market in Seattle. The houses in his neighborhood have tripled in value in the last five years. It’s about as bad as LA.

I was a little bummed because his profile said things like:

• He likes to “question the norm as much as possible. Humans were given the ability to think outside the box”.

• He likes to “debate life’s mysteries”.

I was hoping that he’d be open to an unconventional situation – like me traveling. But it turned out that he was pretty conventional after all.

After a couple of hours, he started to let the fire die down. Then we stood up and talked some more. I told him that although I joke that I retired at 38, I actually planned on finishing a book I was writing and make a documentary after that. He seemed more interested in me after I told him this. Then I realized he didn’t know much about me and at the beginning of our conversation that night, I probably looked very flighty saying I didn’t know where I was going or what I was doing. Lesson learned. I need to remember that people just meeting me don’t know I’m actually very responsible and I do have plans. But I suppose I look pretty flighty to someone just meeting me.

Aaron walked me to the gate and then he kept talking. He gave me tips of things to see in the city and told me (multiple times) to text him if I had any questions or couldn’t remember any of the tips.

We said goodbye and I left. No hug, just a “Goodbye”. I was disappointed because I realized it was going to be very hard trying to date while traveling. I had been hopeful that maybe I’d meet someone on my travels and somehow, we’d make it work. I guess I’m still naive – although I like to call it being a hopeless romantic. But either way, the dating world just a lot harder.

Post edited by: Trisha Harmon

Days 26-27: Friends on Whidbey Island, Washington

The main reason I decided to stay on Whidbey Island is because my friend Trudy (who lives in Missouri) was vacationing there with her husband, three kids, mom, and sister. Yes, I crashed their family vacation. They rented a cabin off the bay in Coupeville (in Puget Sound), about 25 minutes from where I was staying in Oak Harbor.

Trudy is a couple of years older than me and we’ve been friends for about 22 years. I met her when I was 16 and started my first job – the packaging department of a baby photo company. We interviewed the same day and I remember thinking that she seemed so cool – too cool for me. This was in the mid-1990s and Trudy was wearing overalls, had a short haircut, and was sort of punk rock. I was a very regular teenager and not at all cool.

Trudy and I started work at the same time and ended up becoming friends. Trudy always said what was on her mind, sometimes to a fault. I have always admired her for that. She doesn’t care what others think about her – she does her own thing. Meeting Trudy at age 16 helped shape me by making me feel accepted, and making me ‘try’ to not care what people think of me. We’ve continued to be friends through all these years, which I’m very grateful for. But I will say, she’s really not all that cool after all (love you Trudy!😉).

When I arrived at the cabin Trudy’s family was renting, her kids were looking for clams, and Trudy and her sister, Katie, were kayaking. Her mom and step-dad had some friends over who lived nearby so I was able to tell everyone about my travels.

We spent the afternoon walking along the beach and looking for clams spitting water as the tide receded. Since beginning my trip, this was the first day that it was cloudy and cool, and I was eager to wear a jacket for the first time in months.

Trudy, her daughter Fiona, and myself went to the little nearby grocery store  to get some food. While at the 4-way stop outside of the market, a deer pranced through the intersection as the cars all waited for him to pass. It was pretty funny seeing a deer just like that, right outside the market.

I’ve known Fiona since she was born and now she’s 14 years old. She’s grown to be such a cool, smart, sweet, and fun person. We both enjoy sweets so she was my collaborator to get some desserts into the cart. We laughed and giggled because Trudy eats pretty healthy. It definitely makes me feel old knowing I first met Trudy when she was 18. And here I was, having a blast with her 14-year-old daughter. It’s funny how time works.

The house had a fire pit with some chairs on the sand. Trudy and I sat on the chair (without a fire) and caught up on life. I told her how it was hard traveling alone but it started to get better once I was able to meet up with friends. I couldn’t help but cry a little as I told her about it. But spending time with friends, like Trudy, was really helping.

For dinner, Trudy’s husband cooked up the clams that they all found during the day and made a soup. I gotta admit, the clams were chewy and I don’t think I’ll eat clams again. After dinner, we all played a dice game. It was so much fun! First off, I love board games. I will play anytime someone suggests it. I used to beg my family to play with me when I was a kid. Second, this was a new game for me and it was so much fun to compete with all the family members, even the kids. It was a late night and it all felt so fulfilling. Being around good people, laughing, and getting to know each other better is what life is all about.

The next day I went hiking. The trail started at the lower, north side of Deception Pass. Starting the trail was a little annoying as there were a fair number of tourists taking pictures and having picnics at the tables.

Thankfully, as I continued on the five or so mile hike, I left the tourists behind. I crossed a couple of beaches and made my way around two different parts of land that were almost like islands.

At one point, I got to the top of a ridge and nobody was around. Normally, I’d take a quick break by sitting on a rock and eating a snack. But I remembered that I had a folding chair in my backpack that I had never used. I pulled it out, sat down, and enjoyed a snack in the blazing sunshine. It was warm with a cool breeze. The sun felt so good as it reflected off the ocean. I closed my eyes and soaked up that sun for about an hour.

After the hike, I showered, ate some dinner, and headed back to Trudy’s cabin. It was evening time and the sun was starting to set. At one point, her 12-year old son Vaughn came running inside and said the little boat they used to catch clams, was floating away. Michael, Trudy’s husband, ran outside, jumped into a kayak and started chasing the boat that was indeed floating away. Vaughn also jumped into a Kayak and they frantically went paddling after it.

The tide changes a lot in the evening and they had been out crab fishing earlier in the day and didn’t pull it up far enough from the rising tide.

Apparently, the tide started to take the boat away and it was probably half a mile away – down the beach and a little out towards the open ocean. Michael caught the boat and pulled it to the shore down the beach so he could jump into the boat to paddle it back. Vaughn paddled the kayak back. But then poor Vaughn had to walk back down the beach to get the other kayak.

The whole event was hilarious! We were all really grateful Vaughn noticed the boat disappearing before it was really gone!

That evening, Michael cooked the crabs and they were delicious! The fresh caught crab melted in my mouth after it was dipped in butter.

The next morning, I went to check out of my Airbnb and as I was bringing my bags down to the foyer, Barry (my host) said “Christy, come look at the deer.” Sure enough, in his backyard was a deer and her baby eating the fruit from his trees! It was so cute to watch them enjoy the food and then just jump over the short wooden fence into the next yard.

This whole time I wondered if Barry was divorced, widowed, or married. But then his wife was there, in a robe! We said hello and she talked about a restaurant they own that she couldn’t wait to get rid of and fully retire. I’m not sure where she was for the three days I was there, but it was nice meeting her. She also gave me some great tips of things to see in Seattle. She used to work there four days a week and then live in Oak Harbor the other three days a week.

Before heading out to Seattle, I stopped by to see Trudy and her family for a couple of hours. On one hand, I felt bad that I intruded on their family vacation. On the other hand, I had such a fun time and it felt like quality family time that I really needed.

Post Edited by: Misty Kosek

Day 25: Driving to Whidbey Island, Washington

The drive from Portland, Oregon to Whidbey Island, Washington was full of bridges. The route took me through Seattle, during rush hour traffic. I gotta say, Seattle traffic is almost as bad as Los Angeles traffic. I hit traffic just south of the city in Tacoma, then again near the downtown Seattle area, and again just north of the city.

After being stuck in traffic for an eternity, I desperately needed to find a restroom and somewhere to eat. I was thankful to find a nearby Target, but panicked when I thought my car wouldn’t fit in the garage, so I eventually parked across the street in the bank parking lot. Praying I wouldn’t get a ticket or pee my pants, I raced through the structure until I finally arrived at Target.

Feeling much better after using the restroom, I got a sandwich to-go, and a few items I needed. My car was safe and sound, so I was relieved. I hit the road and ate on my drive. The GPS directed me to take the route that first went to Fidalgo Island and then crossed over to Whidbey Island. Once I left highway 5, the terrain turned to farmland. Then all of a sudden, I came across a huge bridge so I stopped just before it, took some pictures and started walking on it.

It turns out the bridge is called Deception Pass, a very popular tourist site that is on the National Register of Historic Places. I walked a little bit across the bridge on the narrow path. To my right was an insanely high drop to the swirling ocean below. To my left, cars raced on the other side of the wire handrail. Looking down at the swirling waters made me dizzy so I turned back to my car.

I continued on to Whidbey Island and arrived at my Airbnb in Oak Harbor around 8:30 pm. The Airbnb was a house in a residential neighborhood and I had a room with a shared bathroom, shared kitchen, and shared living space. Barry, the owner, met me and showed me around. Barry was in his late 50s, had gray hair with a gray mustache, and was around 5’9”.

Barry asked that I take my shoes off upon entering. We walked around the kitchen as he showed me where I could put food in the pantry and refrigerator. He rents out three of the five bedrooms on the second floor. Each room has a name assigned to it – my room was called “Sage”. He had designated space in the pantry and refrigerator for each room.

It wasn’t clear if Barry was married, divorced, or widowed. There was evidence of a wife, but he didn’t mention her and said “It’s just me here” and I wasn’t sure if he meant for good, or just at the moment. Barry said one of the other rooms was also rented out to a lady who was there for a family reunion but “she doesn’t sleep on the ground.” Apparently, they were all camping and she didn’t want to so she spent time with them all day and slept at Barry’s at night. Barry explained that she wouldn’t be home until around 11:00 pm.

Barry showed me the laundry area and one of the rooms upstairs that was not being rented out because he wants to repaint it and fix it up a little. For the time being, he placed an ironing board and a desk for shared use. Barry’s room was also upstairs but he had his own bathroom.

It was late so I decided I’d just do laundry, which was down stairs. It was a little awkward because Barry was at the computer down stairs so I kept passing him as I went to the laundry area. My bedroom door didn’t have a lock on it, so I had to trust  that he and nobody else would take my stuff.

Click here to see a 2 minute video of the drive from Portland to Whidbey Island.

Post Edited by: Misty Kosek

Days 12-15: Backpacking in a Rainforest (Olympic National Park)

My friend Mandy had planned a four-day backpacking trip in Olympic National Park, Washington. The plan was to hike about 14 miles to the Enchanted Valley and hike back out. Mandy’s friend, Lori, was flying to Bend, Oregon and then on July 5th, they would drive to the forest and start hiking.

Mandy told me she’d pick me up in Hood River, which is about three hours north of Bend. This worked out perfectly because I could leave my car and valuables at my friend Tracey’s house while I was backpacking.

During the last five minutes of the thirty-minute drive to Tracey’s house that morning, a warning light flashed on my dashboard warning me about low tire pressure. “You’ve got to be kidding me”, I thought. Tracey’s husband, Farron, checked all four of my tires while I unloaded my backpacking gear from my car. He found out my front drivers-side tire was low. Farron said he had an inflator and he’d check it periodically while I was away to see if it was a bigger problem.

Just after he checked the tire, Mandy and Lori pulled in the driveway in Mandy’s new Subaru Crosstrek. They made quick bathroom breaks, Tracey headed to the airport to pick up her sister and nephews, and I grabbed my gear and squeezed it into Mandy’s car. I sat in the backseat next to my backpack and it was surprisingly very comfortable and roomy.

We left around 9:30am. The drive was about five to six hours from Hood River but the time flew by.

We all talked and got to know each other better. Mandy is in her mid-30s, has short blonde hair (with part of it shaved), and is thin. She always has a huge, energetic smile on her face that shows her love of life. For work, she’s an X-Ray Technician at a hospital in Bend.

In her 20s, Mandy was a professional skater. She told us about life on the road while competing. You want to talk about pay inequality? Look at female sports. At one point, Mandy was the number-one-ranked woman’s skateboarder in the US. The top prize she ever received was $3,000. Meanwhile, the top prize for the exact same event for the male was $25,000. I couldn’t believe it when she told us. I know people’s argument for women’s sports is “but people don’t watch them.” But that is not true. Men’s sports do get more viewership, but that is because of marketing. I remember when Apolo Ohno was in the winter Olympics. There was a huge story and background. The program talked about his training and whole life story. I felt like I knew the guy and was so excited to root for him during the Olympics. If these organizations did the same story backgrounds and marketing for women as they do for men, the viewership would be there.

Mandy’s life as a professional skater seemed hard. They often had to stay at people’s houses or in vans. But sometimes kids would come up to her after recognizing her on the street and be so excited to meet her. As she told us stories of her former life, I thought, “How cool is she? How cool is it that I know her?”

Lori is in her 50s, fit, has a daughter who is in college, and has the kindest heart you’ll ever know. After I told them about my divorce and marriage of 10 years, Lori told us about her divorce several years ago. I know there are always two sides to a story, but it seems Lori got the short end of that stick. Lori is very smart and used to be an architect. During the recession, she transitioned to work for the Girl Scouts. I was a brownie for one year growing up, but never got to be a girl scout.

Mandy and Lori met a decade ago when Mandy was teaching Lori’s daughter how to skateboard as part of the Girl Scout’s program. I think it’s awesome they became friends and have been friends for a decade. Mandy only got into backpacking about two years ago – once she could afford the equipment. Lori has gone on a few backpacking trips with Mandy and different friends. They were also preparing a trip later in the summer in the Sierra mountains so this trip would be good training for them.

We pulled up to the ranger station in Olympic National Park around 2:30pm. We got in line behind a couple who was also getting a permit. While one of us waited in line, the others took turns using the restroom and buying a little coin in the little gift shop we were standing in (great for opening our bear cans). We had been in line for about 10 minutes while the couple in front of us had no cares in the world asking the ranger every possible question known to man. The ranger was also in no hurry as he volunteered unnecessary details.

While Mandy was in line, I walked over to the information board and read an entire flyer about berries. I walked back over to Mandy and said, “Dude, I read an entire flyer about berries and you haven’t even moved an inch.” We laughed at the absurdity of the couple in front of us.

Finally, after about 20 minutes, it was our turn to talk to the ranger. It cost $8 per person per night to backpack overnight. We each paid for three nights, answered a few of the ranger’s questions, and headed out.

The drive on the gravel road up to the trailhead took about 30 minutes and was already so beautiful, I knew this was going to be a great trail.

Once Mandy parked the car on the side of the road near the trailhead (there were a lot of cars there) we sorted through our stuff to make sure we had everything. Mandy recorded asking us where we were going and both Lori and I said “I don’t know. Wherever you’re going.” We laughed because Mandy had done all of the research and we couldn’t remember the name of the trail we were about to hike.

We started the hike at 4:00pm and figured we’d hike as far as we could before dark so we’d have less to hike the following day. It would also give us more time to spend in the Enchanted Valley. I’m usually the only person starting a hike this late in the day and the fact that they had no problem starting a hike this late me feel right at home.

The trail started off sort of wide. Two people could fit across and it was mostly uphill. It was so green, lush, and dense, that we kept stopping for pictures. The first campsite was three miles in so we knew we’d have to go at least that far. By “campsite”, I mean a very small flat area that has already been used for setting up a tent.

At mile three, we arrived at the campsite, which overlooked a raging blue-green river. The campsite was at least 20-30 feet above the river on a ledge. There was a fire pit that had been made and a nice log to sit on. We stopped here for a snack break. It was a beautiful campsite but there wasn’t a way down to get water at the river and we wanted to hike more than three miles, so we kept going.

The trail became narrow and only one person could fit across. There were ferns everywhere, it was very humid, and pretty hot. I almost stepped on a giant banana slug and called the girls over to look. We were all amazed at this fat, slimy slug slowly making its way down the trail.

We continued to climb and about an hour after leaving the campsite, Lori and Mandy stopped to look at something in the ferns. Right after, Lori noticed she had lost her glasses. She had them on a strap that goes around the head, but they had been hanging from her shirt instead because the humidity kept making them slide off her face. She can’t see very well without them and they were new. Because of insurance, she wouldn’t be able to get new glasses until October. She figured they fell off somewhere on the trail so she and Mandy started backtracking. I searched the area around where we had stopped but didn’t see anything. I walked back down the trail and asked two women who were setting up their tent if they had seen any glasses. They hadn’t.

Mandy and Lori backtracked a lot and after about 20 minutes, didn’t find the glasses. We decided to continue forward and we’d look again in the spot they had stopped earlier. I said a prayer in my head, “God, please let us find her glasses in the next three minutes. She needs these glasses.” We got back towards the place they had stopped and I looked down in the ferns and moved some branches with my trekking pole and found the glasses! Within two minutes. We all rejoiced that Lori could see again! It’s funny because I had looked all over there before and didn’t see anything.

Around 9:00pm and after hiking six miles, we found a campsite that would do just fine. According to the map, we should have arrived at a campsite that had a porta potty but as most maps go, the mileage was incorrect. It was starting to get dark and we were exhausted so we started to set up camp.

There wasn’t enough space for both of our tents where the fire pit was so I set my tent up about 15 feet away. It was a little scary being further away from them because there are bears in the area. Mandy gave me her whistle and said to blow it if I heard any bears and she’s come save me with the gun she brought.

Mandy started a fire, which was nice. We all cooked dinner on our stoves in the dark using headlamps. It was a fun time and we shared this amazing berry crumble dehydrated dessert that Mandy brought. I had never really brought desserts on backpacking trips before and man, it’s totally worth it! That tasted so good after a day of hiking.

When you’re in bear country, you are required to carry a bear canister. A bear canister is a locked container that a bear cannot open. You have to put all food items and items that have a scent locked inside and put it about 50 feet away from your tent. Lori grabbed her bear can so we could all walk up the hill towards the trail to place the canisters. But when she grabbed it, there was a giant banana slug making its way from the side to the top of her can! She screamed because those things are nasty. She got it off her canister with a stick but it left a slimy residue. From this point on, we were always paranoid when grabbing our bear canisters. And poor Lori. She kept dreaming that night that a banana slug would crawl into her backpack or shoe.

It was hot that night so I slept in my shorts and shirt instead of my thermals. The next morning, we made our breakfast (oatmeal and coffee), filled up water, and packed up our stuff. It took awhile so we didn’t leave camp until around 11:00am. After about a mile, we found the trail that led to the campsite with a porta potty. We hiked down a pretty steep trail for about 15 minutes and got to the porta potty, which was wooden and hidden by ferns and trees. It was so small, that I couldn’t sit down because my legs are too long and my knees hit the door. It was also full of flies and mosquitos. We just wanted a place to take a number two but that thing was incredibly disgusting.

We hiked back up the trail and continued on. It started to rain so we put our rain covers on our backpacks. It was still pretty warm so Lori and I didn’t put our jackets on. It only rained briefly and then would sprinkle here and there.

As we hiked along, we described the forest as “Jurassic” because everything was gigantic! The ferns were as tall as Mandy and Lori, the trees towered above us, and the insects were huge! It seriously looked like we were in the movie Jurassic Park. It also looked like the movie Fern Gully and since there were so many ferns, we kept referring to it as Jurassic Park and Fern Gully (complete with theme music).

The trail was mostly uphill and we were getting tired. We knew we were close to the Enchanted Valley but the map was incorrect on the mileage. It would be a nine-mile day for sure. About 30 minutes before we got to the valley, it started raining pretty hard. We continued to hike along and then came across a log bridge that only had a railing on the north side of it, was slanted to the south and was suspended very high over a raging river. I am very afraid of heights when I don’t feel stable. When I worked at Target, I wouldn’t go up more than two steps on a ladder because I’d start to shake, sweat, and freak out. I’m 6’1” so thankfully, I can usually reach most things. I did not want to cross this bridge but it was raining, I was tired and cold, and the campsite was only about half a mile away. Mandy crossed first and I followed behind her. I grabbed the side railing tightly and my glove soaked up all the rain on the ledge. I made it because I knew I had no choice but to cross.

We arrived in the valley around 4:00pm and the rain turned into a sprinkle. Clouds hovered over the mountains, it was cold, and the view made it all worth it.

After looking around for a good campsite, we chose one near the river that also had a few trees covering it. Thankfully, Mandy and Lori brought two tarps and set them up to give us a break from the rain. Shortly after we got to camp and set up the tarps, it stopped raining. There was a log to sit on and a fire pit. We put on our pants and jackets, and sat on the log to rest and eat some quick snacks.

We sat on the wet log and admired the view of the steep mountain in front of us with clouds covering the top and swirling around. There were also pockets of snow in the crevasses across the river on the mountain. Shortly after eating our snacks, it started raining again so we got under the tarps. There was nowhere to sit over there so we sat on our bear canisters.

Mandy and Lori set up their tent (mine was already set up) and then we all made dinner. It was fun to sit under the tarp with rain coming down, in the cold. It felt like a true adventure. For dessert, we shared a crème Brule dehydrated meal that I brought. It was also delicious and I cannot recommend bringing desserts on backpacking trip enough.

We headed to bed once it started getting dark around 10:00 pm. I ventured to the porta potty about a quarter-mile away, which proved to be a mistake. The tall grass on the sides of the trail got my pants all wet and the porta potty was super small and just terrible.

Mandy and Lori’s tent was under the tarp but my tent was getting directly rained on. My tent is a very small two-person tent. I can only sit up if I’m directly in the center of it. I figured as long as I didn’t touch the sides, it should keep the rain out. It did very well in the rain, but in the morning, it was still raining and every once in a while, a drop of water would fall directly on my face and wake me up. Other times, mist sprayed my face. I was very confused as to where this water was coming from. It was also cold that night, probably in the 40s, so I used my thermals.

Finally, around 9:00 am, it stopped raining and we got out of our tents. I realized the water hitting my face was from the condensation that had built up in my tent. When rain on the outside would get too heavy, or a big drop would fall, it would knock the condensation on the inside of my tent to drop a droplet of water on me or spray a mist.

Mandy really wanted to fish so she grabbed her pole and attempted to get some fish in the river while Lori and I ate breakfast. Mandy caught a very tiny fish so she put it back. We’re not sure there were actually any fish in there that were any bigger.

The sun came out and we took advantage of being able to lay our tents and clothes out so they could dry off. It only took about an hour to dry things off so we could pack it all up. We packed up and headed out just before noon. The day was clearer, giving us even better views of the valley.

We came to that high bridge again and I started to freak out. I didn’t think I could cross now that I knew it was coming. Mandy crossed and waited for me on the other side but I struggled to get myself to do it. Lori and Mandy told me not to look at the fast-flowing river below and instead just look straight across to the other side. I tried that but twice I looked down to make sure my feet were actually on the log and I wouldn’t slip off. Those brief glances down made me dizzy because I couldn’t not see the river. The movement of it made my head spin and I started sweating. I was in the middle and realized I had to finish so I took a deep breath and keep walking, trying my best not to look down. I made it and then Lori crossed it too. That is one of the scariest bridges I’ve ever crossed.

We continued to hike back to the trailhead, in the direction we came. The day was beautiful. It was warm with a cool breeze. We had funny conversations, crossed other small streams, passed huge fallen trees, ate all sorts of berries growing along the trail, and even saw bears! We had heard what we thought was a bear making a grunting noise above the trail and stood around to see if we could see the bear but we couldn’t see it. However, about 20 minutes later when we were in a valley area, we saw a small black bear foraging in the forest about 200 feet from us. Shortly after, we saw another one. He looked up at us, and then went back to foraging. See, black bears are scavengers. They’ll go for easy food, but generally are afraid of humans.

A couple of hours later, we saw a strange-looking bird that looked like he had a huge hole in his neck. He was making that extremely loud grunting sound, which made us realize it was not a bear that first time, it was this bird. It was a Blue Grouse and that was his mating call. We ended up seeing and hearing a few more. I mimicked their call and got pretty good at it and they seemed to think I was also a Blue Grouse. Later, we saw a female and she did not have the huge hole in her neck and I think I serenaded her pretty well with my call.

We set up camp very close to where we camped the first night, but this time we were close to each other, and had more seclusion from the trail. Mandy and Lori fished for a bit but didn’t catch anything.

I went to scope up water in the river into my water filter bag and the rocks were so slippery, that my foot slide into the river and I dropped to my knee. It hurt so bad because the bone on my left knee hit directly onto a rock. I put a band-aid on it because it was slightly bleeding. It was mostly just swelling up and was really painful. The next day hiking out, I could feel that knee hurting with each step.

I gathered some firewood but it was too wet and Lori and I couldn’t get a fire started. Mandy saved the day and got it to light and it burned for a little while (although she had to keep grabbing more small twigs).

We ate dinner, shared another dessert – seriously best thing during backpacking. We checked our bear canisters for slugs and got eaten by mosquitoes. Especially Lori. In the morning, she found bites all over her. It looked painful.

We headed back to the trailhead, which was six miles away. As we got closer, we saw more people hiking in for a small day hike. It was warm and humid again.

We arrived back at the trailhead around 1:00pm after hiking a total of 30 miles in four days. There was a large group of people in the parking lot preparing for their hike. Over ten rented beer canisters were spread out on a tarp with little piles of food. They had huge bags of pasta and I couldn’t imagine lugging that around.

We stopped at the ranger station to use the restrooms on our way out and then we hit the road. It would be a long drive back (about five to six hours to Hood River and nine hours to Bend). I didn’t realize how tired I was – I fell asleep in the backseat almost immediately. After about an hour, Lori was trying to find a place to eat on Yelp, but there was nothing around. Just farms. Mandy was really craving sushi because Bend doesn’t have any good sushi there. We decided we’d stop in Portland and get sushi there. We didn’t arrive until around 5:30pm but it was delicious sushi. Yes, we went to a nice sit-down restaurant after not showering for four days and being full of dirt and sweat. Don’t judge.

We arrived back to Hood River around 8:30pm so I could get my car. Mandy and Lori headed off to Bend and I talked with Tracey for a bit about the trip. She also let me know that she and her husband put air in my tire twice but it kept deflating so I’d need to get it checked it out (but it would get me to Portland, an hour away). She also said they couldn’t get my passenger side window to roll up. Great. I was having problems with that window before I left Los Angeles but the dealership supposedly fixed it. After juggling with the buttons several times, I got it to roll up but I’d have to get it checked out.

I headed to a suburb of Portland because I couldn’t check into the hostel until the following day. I drove through the gorge as the sun was setting and it was picture perfect and my heart felt full.

I had wanted to go backpacking in Washington but didn’t feel comfortable going alone. I was so glad I went with Mandy and Lori. We had great conversations, laughed a ton, and the scenery was unreal. I am grateful that God put them in my life and everything worked out perfectly. They were able to pick me up and drop me off on their way from Bend. I was able to leave my car at Tracey’s house so my valuables were protected. Tracey and her husband were able to help with my tire situation. Mandy planned the whole trip so all I had to do was go along. This was exactly what I needed. I had been mostly alone during my travels and spending four days with these wonderful women made me feel whole.

Click here to watch a 5 minute video of the trip!

Post Edited by: Misty Kosek