Saturday, May 17, 2014

freebies and fun

My day in Austin started with doughnuts and ended with getting free tee shirts from this local company that made this hovering taser bot that was featured on CNN.

But I think you want to know the details, and I'll start at the start and go chronologically because that is how I do.

I had a restless night sleep, probably due to that mocha. I didn't sleep it. I got up, had a much needed shower, and set about equipping myself for the day. I even put on a smidge of makeup to look nicer.

First up: Gourdough's. A doughnut shop Rachel recommended for me. I parked in a residential neighborhood near the converted airstream that was the doughnut shop. Ohhh food trucks, I didn't know how much I missed you! They are the best idea and Santa Cruz really should have them.

I don't find myself missing Santa Cruz as a place.

Anyway. I ordered the "the puddin'" which is a creme filled doughnut with creme cheese and bananas on top. Oh it was massive and decadent and just over the top. And of course it was good. But much too big for one person. Totally a sharing type doughnut.

It was a beautiful day. 80-90 degrees, sunny. Perfect walking weather. So I walked up and down 1st street a bit. I returned to my car and headed to see one of the sites Ivar wrote down for me. It was this "cathedral of junk" which is this house with all these odd ball constructions and things, but it was $10 to really check it out and I was like... naaaah. So I headed out. A reoccuring theme for the day was driving back and forth across Austin, but Austin like Santa Cruz only seems to take 15 minutes to drive anywhere. And even when traffic backed up, it didn't stay that way for long and I rarely had trouble finding parking.

I checked out the pink granite capital building and got a crushed penny. In the visitor's center they had a hall devoted to the time Texas tried to do its own thang, and they had reproductions of the money of the time. That was neat. From the capitol building I parked again in a residential area near Congress street and walked up and down there. They had some neat antique shops, but their old photos were vastly over priced (any old photo of some rando shouldn't be more than a buck) and they were selling letterpress type for five bucks a pop! Like 1) that type is still useable and 2) FIVE BUCKS for a little LETTER M??? What? Stupid. There was a candy shop and I got some candy, of course. And at an awesome book shop that has all the pretty editions of books (and was selling an 11 year old copy of Shounen Jump for ten bucks which was also stupid like those type pieces) I picked up the Hockney biography I've had my eye on for a few years. Hard back, but cheaper than the used copies were at Logos in Santa Cruz. So I'm stoked to read that on my journey. Love his work, and he is still making work. The biography only goes up so far. Haha.

I came to the end of the funky shop section of Congress, so I returned to my car and went to find a park to sit in. I found one, sat and wandered around a bit. Then I drove on. Then I spent a bit of time just driving around Austin. It's a pretty easy city to drive around. I snacked. It's not a bad city at all. I'd like to come back and spend some time doing the more museum/venue type things. But I had one main thing to do: see a movie at the Alamo Drafthouse. So I bought a ticket to the 5:10 showing of Godzilla, and I ordered some beer and a grilled cheese to come to me whilst I watched the movie.

Oh and I just ended up paying to park downtown, because I wanted my car nearby but I also wanted to wander up and down 6th after the showing of Godzilla.

Anyway, the theater had assigned seats and this guy Stephen (Steven?) was assigned next to me. Nice guy. During Godzilla, which was fun by the way and it didn't go the way I was expecting it to and it didn't drag it's heels on certain plot points, Stephen and I snickered at the same things and grinned excitedly when Godzilla did Godzilla things. He was a good movie buddy. All in all, it was a great movie experience. I love good theaters.

Music was playing from every other bar. I was lured into one with no cover, so I ordered a whiskey and updated my journal. They finished their set (they were all right, no Odd Owl of course) and I continued out. I struck up a brief conversation with the guy who told me to come into the bar in the first place, and I forget exactly what I said but he thought I was awesome and he asked me to marry him. But he hasn't read Hitchhiker's Guide so NO DICE. So I walked on till the street turned into business land, and looped around. I went into the Elephant Room for a bit but the musician wasn't set to play for another hour so I continued on. Some bars had bands playing to near empty rooms, and I felt bad for them but not enough to go in and support them because they weren't all that.

I swung by my car and swapped my shoes. Then I returned to sixth unsure of what to do: return to the jazz club? Go back to that no cover place? Wander more? But then Stephen showed up and was like "hey, what are you up to?" and I was like "nothing" and so we hung out. We went to this club that had no cover because I was with him and he knew the people there. It was early in the night still so it wasn't hoppin'. Stephen bought me a beer (a Coors, which I forgot makes me feel ill in the morning even if I drink one) and we chatted about travel and whatnot. It was his birthday! 25! It was fun to be introduced to people as someone on a road trip and how me met just a few hours prior at Godzilla due to being both there on our own. Stephen works for a tech company in town, and he showed me his office because he had to swing by there to charge his phone. I was just in the mood for hanging out. Plus after that Coors it became "time to sober up for a few hours so I can drive back to the couch I'm crashing on". I got a freebie water from his company AND he gave me four free shirts! Booyah. And they are a pretty cool logo, so I know I'll wear them. Haha.

Anyway, once his phone was charged a bit, we went back to that one bar. Later in the night we got separated when he went outside to take a call and I went to the bathroom. I talked to this Ukrainian guy who had been in America for 6 days and would be in Austin for a few more months. His English was very good and he was wearing a very cool jacket.

So with my bag stuffed with free shirts and a day of good memories and walking about, I headed back to Colin's house and couch. I definitly had a good day in Austin. I could stay longer but I'd just spend more money. I should play it frugal these next few states. Which will be Oklahoma and Kansas. I don't know what I'll be doing in these states. I think I'll set today's GPS for Oklahoma City. Tool around, maybe grab a bit to eat, and then drive till a rest stop. Or something. I dunno. Maybe I should just focus on getting out of Texas.

Ohhh Museum of Osteology! That sounds cool.

Okay, I'm having tea and now I guess my blog is written up. Time to pack and head out and knock a few more states down. I hope that being done with Texas means the states will go faster. Two weeks of travel!

In the first two weeks, I drove 3265 miles at 43.8 mpg.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

and now I enter Texas

5/15/2014 2:34pm a rest stop on Highway 10 headed east

Okay. Carlsbad Caverns are a must. An absolute must in terms of Nationl Park visits & cool freaking caverns. Easily the best caverns I’ve ever visited. Make sure you get there early because 1pm is the last tour and they stop letting people go in the natural entrance (this long winding switchback path from outside into the caverns) at 2:30 and the last lazy person elevator goes down at 3:30pm. I highly recommend the natural entrance, as it is rather fun to descend and see all the formations and have the natural light slip away. On the way down, I had a nice chat with another solo traveler who was headed to Austin and was in Zion at the same time I was! The giveaway was mutual rain in Zion anecdotes. Oh, and he lives in Portland. Small world.

I managed to get a few good photos of the caverns, can’t wait to post them. But oh so cool. Really just amazing. I spent a good two plus hours wandering around down there. Too bad they are so far from anything, but they are in the middle of going someplaces. Since I opted to head South to Texas, I was able to see them and continue on pretty easily.

Now here is the thing about Big Bend National Park: the GPS will tell you it’s 4 hours. This is to the park entrance. It won’t tell you about the additional ~30 miles to the visitors center nor the ~12 miles to the campground. And when you are driving in the dark with animals frequently deciding NOW is the perfect time to cross the road…well it adds a lot more time to your driving. Also I lost another hour due to time zone, so what was supposed to be a 9pm arrival, became 11. But there were plenty of campsites and it was $14 a night instead of $30. I paid for two nights and set up my tent and collapsed into what ended up being one of my best nights sleep yet.

Shorts weather has returned! Big Bend National Park gets points for expansiveness and birds (I heard lots of distinct bird calls, all of which Mom could probably identify). Points are deducted for being really, really far away from everything and just having to spend a lot of time driving to stuff. I flashed my annual member badge at one of the visitor’s center (so big, they have more than one!) and got my N.P. WPA post card. Then I saw a hot spring was on the map, so off I went! The road was narrow and winding and rough but worth it. But dang was it rough. The roughest one I’ve been on yet. I was glad to be in a little car. The hot spring was amazing. Just a little natural one off the side of the river (not the Rio Grande). There were a couple Bavarians in the pool, as well as a family. The young son of the family told me to check out Six Street in Austin.

Another note about Big Bend: by far the most amount of people visiting from in state at any National Park I’ve been too. Very few foreigners/out of stateians.

So I soaked in the hot pool and alternated swimming in the river. Cold hot cold hot. And I read Song of the Quarkbeast and soaked up some sun. I think my freckles are coming in nicely.

I got some ice cream and ice and returned to my campsite and took a nap. I hiked a little at a near trail, then tucked into bed and finished The Rosie Project. I’m getting so much reading done!

I slept in again after another pretty good night sleep. Warmth and not a lot of wind and no rain/snow makes for a pretty good night sleep, as it turns out. Haha.

I packed up and headed out at 10:20amish. Marathon, the nearest town to the park, is 70 miles from Panther Junction, which is the main junction & visitor’s center in the park. I went through Marathon and up north into Fort Stockton. I filled my tank, I got some food (celery and carrots and apples and Pringles) and plugged in Austin and… it’s less than 6 hours away! I was expecting a day of hard driving and a night at a rest stop. But nope! And through my friend Abbie I think I have a place to stay in the city so that is awesome. I’ve stopped at a rest stop, and soon I’ll hit the road with an MP3 player full of tunes.

Oh, and Roswell reminded me of Santa Cruz in some way. Just with aliens instead of Surfers. It’s thus far the first town I’ve breezed through that I would have liked to have roamed around a bit more. Checked out the museum. A town where a Starbucks is filled with old familiars is a town indeed.

12:51 pm a friend of a friend’s house in Austin

So much driving. But it went really well. Thus far I have experienced no Texan aggression at my car. But I also keep pace with traffic and I’ve never been an outright awful driver. My friend Abbie from school (a yoga buddy) works at Boudin Creek Café, so I had that plugged into my GPS. It was a busy time at the café, but that was fine. I got a mocha (which wasn’t wise as now I’m feeling tired but also wired) and a big big salad to stuff my body with some much needed greens. I nibbled and let my body slow down from all that driving. So much driving. 5 hours is actually quite a bit. When anything under 6 shows up on my GPS I think “oh that isn’t so bad” but yeah… it’s a lot of time to spend with your brain consistently active. It’ll be good to walk around tomorrow and do little things. I’m going to check out a doughnut place and see a movie at the Alamo Drafthouse. The Drafthouse is my #1 for Austin. I’ve gotten lots of food recommendations, and venues to check out, but I’m not good at random music shows and stuff. I’m not much of a foodie. I have a lot of boonie dweller habits that I haven’t yet broken. I sometimes feel that cities are wasted on me. On this trip, when I open my atlas I look for parks over cities. I know what to do with a tent. And when it gets dark, I read for a few hours.

I guess this trip is really making me think about what I do with my time, which is good because what I want to do should play into where I want to be. Hmm.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

cloudy skies over Roswell, NW

5/11/2014 4:36 pm

I’m in the campground registration area, trying to get onto their wifi. Morefield Campground at Mesa Verde was more expensive than I was expecting. Not sure if I am regretting staying for two nights. The first night was a bit rough on account of the wind, rain, hail, and thunder and lightning. The lightning was pretty far away, so I wasn’t worried about getting struck in my tent. My current method for staying warm is to layer my blankets in my sleeping bag, and then zip it all up into a burrito of warmth. It’s been working pretty well. Though no amount of warmth well put me to sleep when the sky is booming. And some water got in the tent, because it isn’t waterproof. The top thingy covers the mesh, but if the rain is tagging along with the wind, it’ll get in.

Perry made a tasty scramble for breakfast and Rosi restocked my cooler with ice. How nice!

My first stop was the Anderson Abruzzo Albuquerque International Balloon Museum. I’ve come all this way, might as well visit the museum! And it was great. The exhibits were well put together and they acknowledged Sophie Blanchard as a balloonist. There was a nice amount of history and I loved all the antiques with balloon decorations. A really swell museum. Of course I crushed a penny in their penny crusher.

Then I was on the road to the four corners. I wanted to get there before sun down, so that my photo op wouldn’t be in the dark. And as I found out it closed at 7pm, it was good that I got a move on like I did. It was a scenic drive up and over. I crossed through many small towns. I wonder what keeps people in these small towns? Maybe I’m just not seeing the job making thing. Like the shipyard does for Kitsap.

I cruised into the four corners at 6:30. There was a nice crowd of people, but I got my chance at a photo op with my feet splayed across Utah, Colorado, New Mexico, and Arizona. Fun! Surrounding the four corners were local merchant stalls. There are lots of Native craft stalls. Did I mention that I bought a necklace at one of them in Arizona?

Colorado is calling me, so I drove North towards Cortez. I bought some lip balm at Wal Mart and got some cash back for cash type purchases. It was still light when I got to Mesa Verde at 8:12pm. The visitors center was closed, as was the campground check in, so I found a spot and pitched my tent and put my jammies on and got to bed early. Then I was woken up again and again by the weather. At just before 7 (Colorado time) the thunder and lightning abated. It was an exciting way to be sleep deprived.

I paid for my spot in the morning, and signed up for a second night. I think I’ll be doing some car camping to save some money for a little while. National Parks and camping get pricey. I’m only six states in. I have 42 to go!

So. Mesa Verde! It really is a park that can be done in a day. Though some of the cliff dwellings couldn’t be accessed due to the season. I drove down to the Visitor’s Center, where you have to buy tickets for the ranger tours of the dwellings (you can’t just play on your own in them). But the tour tickets are only $4, so that’s not so bad. I was worried they’d be $20.

I got the 11:30 Cliff Palace and 2pm Balcony tours. Left a little time between for relaxing.

I’m really glad I packed layers, I tell you what. Today is a pants and shirt and sweatshirt day, and then later another layer. It was windy and cold and every now and again some snow would fluff from the sky. I’m going to continue up into Colorado, and I sure hope it doesn’t SNOW snow. I’d turn around if that happened. I really want to see this giant hot spring in Ouray.

Cliff Palace was pretty neat. Unfortunate that it has been rebuilt by modern people, funny that it was obvious what was rebuilt due to how shoddy it looked, and awesome to see this centuries old architecture that has remained to this day. Part of the path required ascension of a ladder. It wasn’t bad, though it wouldn’t make much lack of fitness to not be able to do it.

Between tours, I read and ate and painted my nails just for funsies. I think I preferred Balcony. There was much more time to check out the construction, and we were allowed to navigate more of it than Palace, which was restricted (for good reason). Also the path in and out of Balcony was amusing to say the least. There was a large ladder we all had to climb to get up into the dwelling. Two people could climb shoulder to shoulder at the same time, and everyone in our group made it! No one fell off, though some people went slow. And there is a narrow space between rocks you have to slide through after the ladder. And! To get out of Balcony, you have to crawl on your hands and knees through a small tunnel. And climb another ladder. And ascend some stone steps with chains to cling onto. Very fun. Unless you are afraid of heights or claustrophobic or can’t lift your knees all that high.

From there, I drove and did some of the scenic view points. Now I think I’m done with the park and can just head out in the morning for further adventure. But first I’ll take advantage of their showers.

5/12/2014 9:44pm at a rest stop just past Moriarty, New Mexico

Oh dang so I totally was woken up by snow caving in the sides of my tent. I slapped it off and went back to sleep. My whole last evening was me snuggled in warm reading. It was really nice. Then morning came and everything was covered in two inches of snow! Argh. So I had to pack everything up whilst being cold. Thankfully I had my ice scraper in my car. Thankfully I packed warmer layers. It was not fun. But oh what a relief to drive into town. I just swapped out my jammie bottoms for pants. I didn’t change anything else. I put on fresh clothes in a McDonald’s in Durango, after about an hours’ worth of driving out of the park and through Cortez. I bought some food at McDonald’s and caught up a bit with my correspondence, as Mesa Verde lacked good cell reception and working wifi.

Then I headed north because Jeff told me had Ouray had uber hot springs. Some the size of a football field! There was snow on the ground, but the roads were clear and gritted. It was fine going over the first mountain pass, and the second, but once I got to Silverton (after over an hour driving winding roads that lack guard rails) it was clear that the winter storm warning that popped up on my GPS was serious. The temperature was dropping as I came to Red Mountain Whatever Pass, and wind was blowing the snow across the road, reducing visibility. I was probably about 15 miles from Ouray, but an hour of hot spring soaking was not worth it so I turned around. And good thing too, as the roads had worsened considerably on the way back. It was snowing (but not sticking and the roads remained gritted and dry) and visibility was, I dunno, 60 feet? Before I could see the mountains around me and oh they were beautiful, but now it was a mostly obfuscated view to my right, and the winding road in front of me. But I got through all right, and as elevation stopped being 10000, it cleared up. I got a pick me up in Durango and continued on 550 south. GPS wanted me to head east through Colorado, but I said NOPE because I wanted to get south away from the impending storm as fast as possible. So sure it was the road I was on before just a few days ago, but it wasn’t a bad road and it would only be for a few hours. I got across Albuquerque before sunset, and got onto 40 east once more. I stopped at one of the fancy gas stations and got a hot dog. They had showers, but they were 12.99. A few more miles down the road was a rest stop, which was awesome because my eyes were starting to bug.

5/13/2014 10:12 AM Starbucks in Roswell, New Mexico

I didn’t sleep all too well, but I did get some shut eye. Odd how it is less noisy in a car, yet the near road noise kept me up just as much as the wind against my tent. Maybe the difference of sleeping reclined versus fully stretched out makes the restfulness difference?

I got up, changed into fresh clothes, and started warming up my car. I did a few loops in the parking lot and then hit the road. Took the 285 exit offa 40 and headed south. The temperature increased, but it remains overcast. I swung into a Starbucks in Roswell to use their internet and get a mocha. Mochas are now my coffee drink, it would seem. Now I shall update my blog. Till we meet again!