6. The Sierra Nevada mountains & California!…August, 2021

Day 26 9.3
I showered & got my stuff together anxiously awaiting a text or call from my California mechanic.  I made a cup of tea & read.  Then I got the call…she was ready.  They’d send a car to pick me up.  I messaged Luke & he & Jordan came down to say good bye.  I couldn’t thank him enough for all that he’d done to help me out.  His car was ready too, so they had a busy day followed by a busy but super fun weekend.

I think my California mechanic & one of the other service guys, thought I was a little strange but also a little interesting.  After we got through all the paperwork, the bill paid & my fuel returned, he told me about another customer with the same 4Runner as mine, who just finally had to give up on it….but, it had almost made it to 500,000 miles.  The mechanic understood….these are fantastic vehicles & he got why people continue to invest in them & get attached to them.  He waved good bye & with nice words of be safe & good travels.

Then they pulled my beautiful camper up & I wanted to hug her!!…but I refrained with all the people around.  My heart was happy but I still had some worries, in spite of everything, that’d I’d see red lights at some point.  I was sure hoping that wouldn’t happen & didn’t want to give off any bad energy.  I had 1,700 miles to drive eastward.

I am posting this photo, because today was all about my 4Runner.  See…she’s a beast that’s worth fighting for.  She’s been coast to coast this year & so many places in between.  I put more miles on her in a year, than most do in several years.  I drive her up & down pass after pass, through icky snow, in intense heat, over rocky or muddy or sandy roads & crazy fast highways.  I have sweet sleep (most nights) in her, stargaze from her windows at night & take refuge inside her when it’s storming outside.  I spend hours sitting in the “lounge’ reading or drinking a beer or just outside in a camp chair looking at all the beautiful places we experience. You can call me crazy…I’m ok with that; I love this life!

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I pulled out of Sacramento at noon, heading up to over a 5,000’ pass near Truckee…no going slow or easing into this.  I was ready to be home & going to try my hardest to get there as soon as possible.  It was a holiday weekend, Danny had Monday off, didn’t have to go to the lake, so he’d be at home.  And, while I must have looked down at the corner of the dash a million times & was certainly hoping for no red lights, there wasn’t going to be any pampering at this point.  She had a new tranny, & I was trusting that fixed her.

Once I got settled into my drive, I turned on my 12 hour playlist…music is a huge part of my life & I love to listen to it as I drive.  But, when one of the first songs that came on was “Hotel California”…”you can check out anytime you like, but you can never leave” I have to admit, I paused a moment, hoping this wasn’t an omen.  A few songs later was “On the Road Again”…so, I went with that as a good omen.  I was focused on all the good stuff…then I just happily sang along.  Happy to be back on the road in my sweet & lovely Camper.

I drove out of California, busted through Nevada & crossed the Utah border.  I pulled into a rest area at 9pm & slept for 2 hours, then drove east until 3am where I crossed the Wyoming border.  

Day 27 9.4
I slept until 7am, & told myself if I pushed really hard, I could stop at Avery brewery…my favorite big beer brewery. I usually get there once every summer, but had missed going so far this year.  And, ironically or intentionally, my route took me right by there!

I left I-80 at Laramie, & took the 285 south & before too long, crossed into Colorado.  So, far on this trip home, after leaving California, I’d managed to drive through the ugliest & most boring parts of Nevada, Utah & Wyoming & I still had the worst to come…Kansas.  But, when I saw the big evergreen trees, green grass, & mountains, I naturally just took a deep breath.  While Colorado is not my home, it feels like it when I’m here.  I felt as close to home as I had in weeks; since I left here in July.  With a big smile, I kept driving.  At a stop light in Ft. Collins, I added my name to a long wait list at Avery.  Five minutes before I got there, my table was ready…how’s that for great timing!

I ordered a couple of beers & a sandwich.  The IPA was good but for the first time ever, the imperial stout that was supposed to be a little apple pie flavored but with a little lime (I know, super weird, but I can’t try this in Kansas, so I thought, why not?) was awful.  Way too lime flavored.  Lunch was just okay too.  

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I only ate a few bites of the mac & cheese & less than 1/2 of the sandwich.  This is a first both with the not so great beer & ok food.  Won’t stop me from coming back…but great & fantastic just wasn’t in the cards for me at Avery today.

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On the best note though, Camper had been running great.  From 90mph & back to 60mph over & over as the many trucks slow everyone down along the 80.  She was doing awesome & I was finally beginning to relax.

Crossing back into Kansas, I had a tiny bit of rain…the first I’d had in what seemed like many many weeks.  But, there was also a faint rainbow…that was kind of nice.

Sunset in the west…my favorite part of the country.  Sad to see the west in my rear-view mirror, but it had been such a fantastic tripexcept for the car problems& Id be back for sure.

I pulled over in a rest area just east of Wakeeny at 9pm, but after about 30 minutes couldn’t fall asleep, so hopped up in the drivers seat & took off again.  I’d finished one audio book & was listening to another.  I was all hopped up on junk food & caffeine.  I hate the way this makes me feel, but it does the trick & I can safely drive for long, long times.

I pulled back over in less than two hours, this time ready for sleep.  I crawled back into Camper, knowing this would be the last night I’d be sleeping in her for awhile & fell into a deep sleep filled with crazy dreams, but I did sleep.  

Day 28 9.5
Sunrise in the plains.

I pulled into the driveway about 10:30am.  After being gone since mid-June, I was home.  

Danny had the house so clean & pretty, my twinkle lights were all on & the cats always seem surprised I’m not dead.  Big hugs all around.  

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Do you wonder how I spend my time when I first get home?  Somewhat sleep deprived, being sustained by bad carbs, sugar, coffee & coke?  I sat on the back porch, enjoyed another cup of coffee, petting the cats & happy to be visiting with Danny.  Then I always begin unpacking, cleaning, doing laundry, drying out gear….I’m still so pumped & never really tired, I want to get it all done. So from a nice welcoming minimalistic house, I trashed it within a couple of hours unpacking.  Danny unloaded the Thule for me as I ran around unloading the rest.  It’s always crazy, but I’m super efficient.  By tomorrow, I’ll have everything put away, cleaned, dried, vacuumed out & wiped down Camper, washed all the Chacos, dried out the cooler, tents ready to be packed away for another day.  I want to return the house to like it was when I got here…so I don’t embrace the chaos & live with the mess, I just get it done as fast as possible.

But, we still wanted to celebrate us being back together & the time Danny had off this weekend.  I had an order ready to pick up at REI in Kansas City, so I showered & we drove in, together, to pick it up, then went to a brewery in Martin City to split a burger (my last for long time) & a beer.   Then we came home & picked out one of our favorite big beers & shared it.

We got to FaceTime a few minutes with Claire & Emma which is always great…I hadn’t seen them in quite a few days.

Then I went back to unpacking & cleaning up.  By bedtime, I had about 80% of everything done, with the exception of stuff on the clothesline & laying out on the back porch drying.  

It had been a long weekend, but I was so grateful to be here with Danny, the cats & a happy Camper!

77 days gone total on trips starting with Colorado in mid-June

6,700 miles driven (several hundred of those without using my A/C & sort of freaking out about dead animal smells, gushing liquid under the 4Runner & red lights blinking on the dash)

Drove through: Colorado, Arizona, Nevada, California, Wyoming, Utah & Kansas

I have always wanted to be that woman who jumps in mountain lakes & streams…but I haven’t been her.  But, since my time in the freezing cold Colorado, I might be becoming that woman.  I dipped my toes & head & body in a few lakes & streams since that trip…I hope I am.  It’s a baptizing of nature & I want to embrace it!

Hamburgers…I don’t know when I’ve eaten so many in my life as I did on these trips this summer.  Part of it is laziness & part of it is where I choose to eat.  If you go into a local brewery, of which I do in a lot of towns I visit, & ask “what’s the best thing on your menu?” most will say “the burger”.  I don’t even have to look at the menu…I did ask the question after all.  And I like them!  My kids are all surprised at this because they grew up with a vegetarian Mom…for twenty years I didn’t eat meat.  Then one day I said yes…& it’s been yes ever since. 

It’s It! Ice Cream Bars
It was a problem finding that these yummy bars exist in Colorado….I thought I had to go all the way to California to get them. The other problem is most of the time, all you find them in is a box of three.  I cleverly figured out how to eat three of them in two days & did so on several occasions…in Colorado & in California. I had a total of 10 vanilla ones & 4 cappuciano ones…I couldn’t say no.  And believe it or not, I rarely eat ice cream…but these have a certain hold on me.

Speaking of certain hold on me….given the two above paragraphs & the fact that we ate out everyday (sometimes twice a day) while at Pete, Leia & Lukes, I gained a boatload of weight!  Yikes!  So, it’s back to the food I was eating BEFORE I left on my amazing adventures.  But, it was worth it for all the great times shared over a good meal.  While I’m going back to my boring, low cal food & once a day eating, I’m also back to me & Danny’s great stores of amazing beer (which I missed) as well as my favorite person to share it with (whom I also missed…so much!).  So, I won’t be giving that up for sure.

Otters Everywhere!
Leia told me about the Otter statues throughout several of the nearby towns.  You can capture a code from each one to win local prizes…I was just out to capture a photo!

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I Should Have Studied Auto Mechanics
I’ve learned more than ever on this trip, but can’t ever retain it & get it all mixed up like..”when checking the transmission fluid the car MUST be running & engine hot” & “when checking the radiator fluid the car must be cold or the fluid will spurt out & burn you horribly”.  I did finally figured out how to put a square stick in a round hole.  Although I’m not the only confused one…evidently the mechanic I paid to change my transmission fluid put in the wrong stuff.  This didn’t cause the transmission problems, but well never know if it would have fixed the issue if they’d put in the right fluid.  I will remember, though, that when my A/C vibrates on high & theres a very dead animal smell in car…there probably is…& I’ve probably pulverized it by this time.

A Stolen Idea
I’ve been diligently stalking…I mean following these three amazing women on YouTube this year.  There are so many wonderful things to say about these badass adventurers…they are currently on the PCT going for the Triple Crown of long distance hiking.  But, among their hundreds of videos (& I have watched them all), was a gear item that has become my new favorite for this trip.  The scrubby gloves.  I ordered a pair while I was in Colorado & love them!  You know what they are…little gloves that feel kind of like sand paper on your skin…exfoliate or whatever, these babies get even the dirtiest hiker clean!  I carry them in the side pocket of my backpack & when I cross a stream or river or get by a lake at the end of a hike, put them on & scrub away…you don’t even need soap.  And, by the time you take them off, wring them out & put them away, your hands & fingernails are even clean.  I also use them when I use my camp shower…just scrub the soap into the gloves, then wash away!  Such a small inexpensive easy to get thing…but such a great gear addition!

Ant Phobia
Since my sting in the Grand Canyon I find myself looking down at ant…any ant & wanting to jump away.  I did find a ‘sting pain scale’ & the Harvester an comes in at a whopping 4 out of 5.  No more ant stings in my life!

When In California
It’s interesting when your in a state where pot has been such a part of everyday life for so many people for so many years.  Even though recreational pot is legal is quite a few states, here’s what I’ve noticed about the subject in California.  People love to share it, give it to you as a thanks, offer it up free & easy.  When/if you turn it down, no big deal.  But, I always get some offered to me whenever I’m there…it’s a nice gesture.  But it’s not just me, when we were at the airport picking up Danny, Peter jump started someone’s car for them & they said thank you with some special gummies.  Just a California thing, but I think it’s great!

The Love of a Good Hat
I am not a hat person for any practical reasons like trying to save the skin on my face….I really loathe wearing a hat when I hike.  It gets in the way of the camera & I can always hear it brushing against the back of my pack…so annoying.  Now, I love to make hats…like winter hats to keep your head warm, hats for Halloween like my wonderful Mad Hatter hat, just a fancy hat with a feather & a jewel (I love this hat I made, but never have worn it), a Santa hat (I own about 10 of them)…but no hats for hiking.  
Until now.
So, I began the search for the perfect hiking hat…I own about 4 visors & three OR hiking hats & 1 bucket hat…I dislike them all.  But, because I’ve gotten vain in my older age & I’m trying to save my sun kissed wrinkled old skin, I began the search for the perfect hat.  I knew what I wanted, but couldn’t find it.  Also, I have a small head, so most hats don’t fit me.  But, then my friend Sherry Ott posted a picture of her on a rafting trip in a really cool hat.  I also knew that Jill had bought a couple of the same brand of hats called Wallaroo.  Jill looks great in her Wallaroo hats, but they weren’t the style I wanted…until I saw Sherrys.  I ordered one, sized it to fit my head (yay!  it did!) & then began to just live with it…not wear it often, just try to get used to the idea.  Then, when I was in Colorado on a hike with Danny, I put it on.  I still wasn’t sure, but I continued to wear it.  
But, it was finally on the Grand Canyon rafting trip when I fell in love with my hat.  I sweated in it, got soaking wet in it, used it to swat flies…I became one with my hat.  As I unpacked from this summer trip, I took out all the other hats I’d packed & rarely worn.  I will only pack one hat from now on…I love this hat!

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Memories & Experiences
What a fantastic summer of travel, new experiences, old friends, new friends, family, so much beauty, & awesome days on the trails…I know I’m a lucky woman to be able to do all these things.  I have an amazing husband that lets me be me; I’m a cheap traveler but I have enough money to go & to also get out of trouble when it finds me; family as we’ll as strangers helping me out when I need it; a body that is still working well & gives me what I need & a mind that can find its way around the country & out of the forests & speaks to me frequently (you bet it does) to calm me down when I need it & for comfort & company; & a heart & love of our spectacular nature & magnificent places.  I can meet people easily, find something interesting to discuss & make new random friends.  I also have a child-like wonder still inside of me…I can be easily surprised, fascinated & overjoyed.  I never forget how grateful & fortunate I am.  

what’s next?
I leave in 8 days to fly to Orlando to see the girls!! Yay!! Its been too long. I cant wait!

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