Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Part 2: Those that say you can't take it with you never saw a car packed for a vacation trip. ~ Author Unknown

Let me see...where did I leave off? Oh, Kansas. Still. I was beginning to think there would not be an end to Kansas. Happily, I was wrong.

And driving is not my thing. It used to be that I didn't mind driving all that much. Not any more. The older I get, the harder it is on me physically to drive long distances. Coupled with the fact that we are almost always in a hurry to reach our destination and hardly ever stop for anything pleasurable like sightseeing, driving has become a chore. About ten years ago, I figured I could drive about 8 to 10 hours before we stopped for the night without being completely exhausted. Now 8 hours is my threshold and I'm exhausted at the end of the day, but even after a good night's sleep I'm not ready for another 8 hour drive.

After another hour or so in Kansas, we entered Colorado...

Finally exiting Kansas and entering Colorado was rather uneventful, except for the cheers in our car. The landscape slowly began to change from plains to rolling hills and farmland disappeared behind us in favor of cattle ranches. And began to get a little cooler. The 98 degrees temperature dipped to a more tolerable 85 degrees.

As we made our way through the outskirts of Denver, we both decided we could not continue to drive much longer and did not want to try to make it to Rawlins, Wyoming. We were both sick of driving, even though we'd been taking turns in the driver's seat. I was so relieved and very glad to at least be somewhere far away from home, but I was also very tired, had the jitters from driving so much and I was on verge of tears. I just wanted to stop.

We drove a little while longer and, finally after our second 8 hour driving day, we stopped in Ft. Collins for the night.

I have a confession to make. I stopped writing this two days ago. Simply put, this post is boring, at least to me. I started writing on Sunday and half way through I got bored and started wandering around the internet and by the time I got back to writing about our two nights in Ft. Collins, I decided to quit altogether.

So...boring is how I would pretty much characterize our trip. Here's how it went.

We were so tired of driving by the time we were halfway through Colorado, we decided to spend two nights in Ft. Collins. What did we do during the day in between those two nights? We drove. We'd seen some huge RV lots between Denver and Ft. Collins and we drove out to look at some small travel trailers. Then we drove back to the hotel. Then we thought we'd drive around Ft. Collins to see what it was like.

Apparently the residents of Ft. Collins are doing quite well because it appears that there's lots of disposable income changing hands. The town nothing but malls and restaurants and the fanciest and most upscale WalMart I've ever seen. The buildings are arranged and designed to fit as unobtrusively as possible into the landscape, but they are malls and restaurants just the same. The streets and roads are very walker, jogger and biker friendly.

We didn't actually drive the whole day. We got up that morning and Tom went with me while I did my walk/no run. At just over 5,000 feet elevation, a quick walk was all I could muster. Then we hit a Starbucks that was just a couple of blocks from our hotel.

That afternoon, Tom called our nephew, Matt, who works for a resort in Grand Teton National Park and Matt reserved a camp site for us. When we arrived at the campsite Thursday afternoon, Matt was waiting for us at site and helped us set up the tent. The site was really beautiful. We were just steps from Jackson Lake...

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This was one of the first photos I took after we set up the tent.

The evening was nice and cool and we definitely needed one of these...

And both mornings we had visitors just steps away from our tent...

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We never saw a moose, but we heard one Thursday morning. And we saw lots of antelope and some elk.

But, there were issues. Maybe I should say, we had issues.

The threat of bears made us very nervous. There are signs everywhere that say "Be Bear Aware!!" This sign is fastened to every table in the campground...

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You cannot set up camp unless you set up camp inside a travel trailer or motor home. If you are tent camping, you are basically camping out of your vehicle. If you cook breakfast, you must put your camp stove, cooler and dry goods back in your vehicle BEFORE you take your dishes up to the service sink to wash them. If you leave the campsite for any reason, you must put everything away, even if you are just going to the bathroom. You can't even have a bottle of water in your tent. And the park rangers monitor the rules closely with no tolerance. One of Matt's friends received a ticket for having bottled water in the bed of his truck when it was parked in a parking lot while he was at work.

Now, don't get me wrong. I don't think we should be allowed to do what we want. I actually agree with the rules. We were invading the bears' (and other animals) habitat and the rules were needed for their safety as well as ours. But, as a camper, the entire experience is very challenging, particularly with two old people who NEED to visit the bathroom at least once in the middle of the night. Grabbing a flashlight and getting up and out of the tent to walk up the road to the bathroom at 1:00am in the morning in the dark is a little more than scary. Every noise is perceived as a threat.

In addition, everywhere we needed or wanted to go required more driving. Grocery shopping was in Jackson Hole, about 35 - 45 minutes away. As a result, we didn't cook one meal there. We ate breakfast/brunch and dinner at the resort restaurant. Pay showers and laundry facilities were in Colter Bay, 15 minutes away. Yellowstone National Park was an hour away just to get to the entrance. Driving around the park from one point of interest to another is over 150 miles, much of it at slow speeds.

It rained our first night of camping and the next day everything was wet and the ground was a little muddy. We were lucky that the rain wasn't too heavy, but another bout of heavy rain and thunderstorms was expected on Saturday and Sunday and all the rooms at the resorts were taken by that time. Neither of us wanted to deal with being cooped up in a small tent for two days with wet bed linens, and the car was so packed full of camp stuff that there was no place to lay out our pad to sleep in there, so we decided to leave Saturday morning. Perhaps our decision was a bit hasty, but by the time we heard about the next predicted instance of rain, we were both exhausted and feeling sick and it just pushed us over the edge.

We did think about maybe just driving to the west coast, but we were so tired of driving and just so simply tired, the thought of adding two more driving days to our drive home was just inconceivable. We were ready to go home for some real R&R.

We left Saturday morning about 8:00am as the rain clouds were beginning to form. We stayed someplace in Kansas the first night. I don't even remember where, but the room was clean and the bed was comfortable and we slept better than we had for several nights and, when we woke up Sunday morning, we were ready to make the trip all the way home, which turned out to be about 13-1/2 hours.

We've been home since then, trying to stay cool in this unseasonably HOT weather. Several days during our first week home, the thermometer hit 100. One day it was 102. It's been just a bit cooler beginning this week. In the mornings, we work for a couple of hours at the most in the gardens, weeding, cleaning and layering compost. In the afternoons, we've been reading, shopping or going to the movies. We went to see My Sister's Keeper at a local movie theater. I took 6 kleenex tissues with me. We used them all. We haven't gone out to dinner once. We have cooked at home, making two trips to Little Rock to buy "the good stuff" at Fresh Market. Check out my food blog, Terri's Table later this week for a run down of the food we've prepared. And, we've even slept in...until 8:00am two mornings in a row! That is just unheard of in this house!

Friday we leave for Memphis for the weekend to see the last musical for this season, Wicked, the Untold Story of the Witches of Oz. Friday night we'll spend on Beale Street, probably at B.B.King's, where they have the best food and best entertainment. Saturday during the day maybe we'll visit the zoo. Saturday night we'll start with dinner at our favorite restaurant, McEwans on Monroe, then head off to the Orpheum Theatre just a few blocks down the street. Monday, it's back to the daily grind.

These last three weeks have been a great experience. We've learned more about what we can tolerate and what we can't; how we want to approach other vacations or time spent away from home. And, Tom and I have spent some really precious time together; talking, arguing, walking, working, reading, cooking, shopping, crying, laughing, hugging and holding hands. We needed it.

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