Thursday, December 30, 2010

Part VI - CO-KS

We have started our trip back east.

It's a little earlier than we originally planned. We were going to do a ski-to-hut trip in the Colorado mountains with SILAdventure, DocDoc and their other friends. It has been planned for months. We would ski 5.8 miles uphill to a hut for New Year's Eve and New Year's Day. I was nervous about the big ski, but I was willing to give it a try. About 5 days ago, I read the weather forecast. The area we'd be skiing was expected to get 1-3 feet of snow and high winds. I was no longer just nervous, I was a little frantic. I just couldn't shake the visions of being stuck in a snow squall and not being able to find my way and then freezing to death on a mountain, even though all the Colorado peeps said it would not be that bad. In the end, J, being the loving and awesome husband he is, pulled us off the trip. SILAdventure, DocDoc and all their friends still went of course and we made our way east, beating the storm. Maybe some other time I can work up my nerve to do a hut trip!

We drove 560 miles today to Topeka, KS. The highlight of the day was hitting our 14th highpoint, Mt. Sunflower in Kansas at 4,039 feet! Again, it was merely a bump on the hill that you drive to in the middle of farmlands. But, it was by far the most creative highpoint we've seen so far.

Still on the road ...

I suppose this is Part VI or X of our road trip ... in any case, we are still road tripping through Colorado! Where's NH again?

After leaving the wonderful cabin in Fairplay on Tuesday, we headed southeast. It was such a scenic drive and we stopped in a town called Cripple Creek. You might know it from the 1969 song "Up on Cripple Creek" by The Band. Or maybe not, since the song has nothing to do with the Colorado town.So, we stopped there. It was a curious description. Old mining town with casinos. Well, it exceeded our expectations. It could have to do with the fact that J sat down with $5 to play at a poker machine and eventually walked away with $140. This in 30 minutes time. It could also do with the fact that it is a really cute town. The jury is still out.
After Cripple Creek, we headed to Cascade, outside of Colorado Springs. Our good friend who married us, RevKev, now lives there and is in charge of potential future priests. And by there, I mean paradise #2. He lives in a home from the late 1800s decked out in marble and stone, surrounded by 200 acres of beautiful Colorado forest and mountains. I'll take the vows of poverty and chastity any day to live there. Okay, maybe not, but it sure was a great place to visit.
Pike's Peak is in his backyard!!

So now we are back in Denver with SILAdventure and DocDoc. There was a Railroad Earth concert tonight here in Denver, which of course, could not be passed up by J.

More adventures to come ...

Sunday, December 26, 2010

A Colorado Christmas

Before I get into the Christmas festivities, I have a BIG announcement to make. SILMeow and Napolean Dynamite FINALLY got engaged!!!!!!They have been dating for something like 15 years (okay, not really, but play along with me here). We all thought they were a good match, and they knew it too, but they chose to take the slow road to engagement. That's all fine and dandy, but I am so happy it's finally going to happen!!

Unfortunately, this may or may not mean I now have to join Facebook. I made a promise to SILMeow a long time ago that I would get on FB if she would get engaged. Yikes.

So now onto a Colorado Christmas.

Let me remind you of our view from the best cabin in the world.
On Christmas Eve, MamaFashion, SILMeow, SILAdventure, Napolean Dynamite, his parents (with a new nickname of theColdwaters), J and I joined the other 15 people living in Fairplay for Mass. Earlier in the day, we realized that 3 of us were already wearing black long-sleeved shirts to Mass that evening. We all had a black shirt with us, so why not show up to church as the black shirt cult? OH YES WE DID. The priest even gave us a special blessing. He had a black shirt on too.
We proceeded to have the most active Christmas I ever had. Most of the group went downhill skiing in Breckenridge, while J & I did a 3-mile snowshoe hike up to some really cool mine ruins.In case you are wondering, we have acclimated enough to the altitude to do this activity—albeit at a slow pace—but I still feel winded going up and down the stairs. Go figure.

Sunday, while Napolean Dynamite and theColdwaters male counterpart went downhill skiing, the ladies and J did a 2.5-mile cross-country ski locally.Of course, we had to make up all the calories we lost from all the skiing.Other than skiing and eating, we relaxed a lot and played games, like Apple to Apples, Scrabble, Yahtzee and who can fart louder/smellier. Did you know it was a bona fide game? Because in this family, it is and they love it. Don't let their innocent looks fool you. They are brutal.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Part V - CO

J & I arrived to "paradise" on Thursday.

Paradise is actually a cabin tucked in the mountains owned by SILAdventure's girlfriend, DocDoc. The cabin is my dream house, seriously. We will be spending the next 5 days here with family, but first, we had the cabin all to ourselves!We wined and dined on fondue and then realized that we both had a little bit of altitude adjustment to make (not to be confused with attitude adjustment!). The cabin is in Fairplay, CO, which is at 9,953 feet. I think we are getting better now, as it no longer feels like I just ran 10 miles when I walk up the stairs.

In approximately 1 hour, we will be joined by MamaFashion, SILAdventure, SILMeow, Napolean Dynamite and Napolean Dynamite's parents. There will be lots of good eats, games and skiing to be had the next few days.

Merry Christmas to all!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Part IV - IA, NE, WY & CO

The drive across the ENTIRE state of Nebraska on Wednesday was about as exciting as the drive across OH, IN, IL & IA. Except that the speed limit was 75 MPH. Thank you Nebraska.

NE is my 44th state. Why oh why did I take so long to get here??? I had no idea what I was missing!NE is just as Willa Cather described it in "My Antonia." It is "stripped bare and grey as sheet iron ... "

There was no snow in NE, which is hard to believe since they got hammered with snow about 2 weeks ago and Route 80 was closed because of this!

We saw tons of black angus cows, which only made us want a steak. I also spotted my first buffalo! They were at a great distance, which is good, but it was still pretty cool. They are native to the prairie land, so I was hoping we would "run into one" (not literally though). It made us realize we wanted buffalo instead of steak for dinner.

There were tumbleweeds rolling across the road.

We drove under the Great Platte Archway, the structure over the highway that commemorates the old wagon trail of westward migration. I felt slightly bad for the early settler pioneers who traveled by wagon. While our trip across the midwest only took 2 days or so, theirs probably took months.

We stopped in York, NE. J went to school in York, PA. It is still up in the air which town is more depressing.Then there's Sidney, NE, the headquarters of Cabela's. I suppose that would excite some people.

We drove clear across the state of NE. To its panhandle. We had a purpose. The highest point is located in the southwest corner of NE. Actually, right on the border of NE, WY and CO. At 5,424 feet, it could sound intimidating. But, it's merely a bump on rolling farmland (although, I have to admit, it was more windy at the high point than anywhere else). As usual, our quest to "hike" the highest peak was more of an exercise in location finding than a "hike." But, we bagged it, our 13th highpoint.
Here it is. The highest point in NE.
These are the roads we had to follow to get to the high point. Very interesting. And it took us a good hour to navigate them.
There were lots of cowpiles around. We drove over one and it nearly popped our tire!
I know it looks like I am taking a big poop, but I'm really just trying to be in all three states at once.

After finishing our "bizness" in NE, we head into Cheyenne, WY, for dinner.

Wyoming is my 45th state! We stayed in the lower southeast corner this time, but I can't wait to come back and explore the rest of the state.
Cheyenne is a cute western town and J seriously contemplated buying a pair of cowboy boots. Who thinks he can pull them off?In Cheyenne, we ate buffalo. Then, we spent time at the Sierra Trading Post superstore. It's no REI, but it's a close second.

We got into SILAdventure's in Denver late Wednesday evening. Stay tuned for Part V ... the best part of the trip!!!

Part III - OH, IN, IL & IA

On Tuesday, we crossed to the other side of the Mississippi on our drive. And the 800-mile trip from New Albany, OH, to Council Bluffs, IA, was ...

uneventful.

We scoured the map for off-the-beaten places to stop and see. But, the flatlands of the Midwest were just that. We have both driven through IL, IN & OH many, many times, so this could be why they were unexciting. The best thing we saw on the drive was a wolf or fox on a frozen pond in IN.

Iowa, on the other hand, was a first for me (not for J; he's been to all the states but Hawaii). This is my 43rd state I've been too. I couldn't get a picture at the "welcome to" sign because the road crosses the river and the sign was in the middle of the bridge. Boo hoo. I know Hallmark4Ever raves about this state (she has family there), but I can't say I was too impressed (sorry!). It did have more hills than IL and IN, but it was still too flat for me. All Iowa had to offer was the world's largest truck stop and many adult superstores. I find it funny that truckers can get Starbucks at any time in PA and sex toys at any time in IA.

We stayed in Council Bluffs, on the border of Iowa and Nebraska, for the night at the Settle Inn. Get it? We "settled in" at the Settle Inn! Hehe. I think I am delirious since I find that so funny.

Stay tuned for Part IV ...

Monday, December 20, 2010

Part II - PA & OH

We drove another 675 miles today. Our final destination was New Albany, Ohio, but we took the road less traveled, as usual. And we got the snow I've wanted ...
So, we seriously tried to travel down this "road" to get to the fire tower lookout for Mt. Davis, the highest point in PA. That was a baaaaad decision. We got stuck and it took some time to get it out ... oopsies. Oh well, no fire tower this time. Just the highpoint sign. We also stopped at the Shanksville, PA, the site of the Flight 93 September 11th crash. They are planning to build up the memorial some more, but the story was still moving.
Other than those 2 adventures, it was smooth sailing. One thing I noticed about PA. There are a lot of trucks and 24-hour Starbucks.

We are now watching Monday night football with theHoss and plotting our next route.
Oh, and do you like J's new trend he started?
PS - I think the unemployment extension passed today?!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Part I - NJ & CT

We've driven 670 miles so far, and this is what we've done.

We packed up pretty much our whole house to take with us across the country. We even brought Mr. McKinley's Christmas stocking with a new toy so he wouldn't feel slighted that we left for the holidaze. The night before we left, the Mister scouted out the toy a little early!Mr. McKinley loved his road trip, might I add. Santa visited my parents' neighborhood on a fire truck, as he has for the last 36 years. When J realized this, all he cared about was how the taxpayers allowed this. People in his town would have a fit!I got to have my girls' night out with theAccountant and Hallmark4Ever. We had a 3-hour dinner at Jose Tejas and could have actually sat there for another 3 hours. Never enough time together, that's for sure. I failed to take any pictures of that outing, which is too bad because one of us applied makeup just for the occasion.

The From Good Homes concerts went very well. J went with his boyz on Friday night, then Saturday night, the wives joined. I got there in time for the second set on Saturday evening and I must admit (just don't tell J), it was a high-energy show!! My favorite part was when we all got up at the end to dance together to the hippie dance. I wish I took pictures of that, instead of when we were all sitting down!
The extra special bonus was that FGH had a VIP, invite-only soundcheck show. Guess who got invited???? They took requests, so of course J was all over this. But then, when they invited him on stage, he got all embarrassed. He just felt very humbled. He doesn't need any more reasons to love this band, but they sure gave him one. Here's the video of his request honored.We spent an early Christmas with my 'rents and then in CT with the niece and nephew, Bones & Curly Locks. We tried to incorporate some regular Christmas traditions. So the kiddos ripped through their gifts in approximately 6.5 minutes just like they would on Christmas morning. We also brought back an old tradition my sister and I have done here and there—paraffin wax! We all waxed our hands and some of us—I won't say who in particular (cough, J, cough)—waxed our feet.

Next up tomorrow ... NJ to New Albany, Ohio.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Week 28 of Unemployment

I will most certainly be taking a break from my unemployment updates during the holidaze. Partly because we will be busy driving 2,042 miles to Colorado next week and then back 2 weeks later. But mostly because what kind of update can I really give you? There ain't much going on!

So, again this week, I leave you with randomness.

It is still frigid cold here. The temps rose over the weekend—even up to 50 degrees—but today with the wind chill, the temp was about 2 degrees. And still no snow!

I completed my 8 weeks of adult swimming lessons. I feel like I could use another 8, or 45, weeks. I have definitely improved, but I still suck at swimming. I think a triathlon is still a pipe dream for me.

Misti
told me the official mileage for the AT this year is 2,181 miles, an increase from last year and the year before. It changes every year with re-routing and re-measuring. I'm not sure I ever remember it shrinking, but I suppose I can just slap on a happy face and say, "the more miles, the merrier??"

Our first stop on our road trip out West will be NJ and CT to celebrate Christmas with my family, drop off Mr. McKinley to stay with my rents, see some friends and ... wait for it J ... see a reunion show of From Good Homes (or From Homes Good, as my mom would say). I assure you, seeing FGH is not the highlight of the trip for me, but it is definitely J's.

I know it is not the smartest thing to divulge to the Internets that we will be away from our home for 3 weeks. The truth is, we don't have much for anyone to take. Our whopping 27-inch TV is on the fritz again, there's no money that I know of and most of our technical gear will be with us, as will our computers. Have at it if you'd like. But you must get past ShortShorts first! No easy task there!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

And in this edition of Volunteer of the Year, I play an elf

J has his annual Breakfast with Santa yesterday. J pretty much has the event down to a T, even though it has grown tremendously in his four years here. He went from 8 volunteers the first year to 14 this year (could have even used more!). As for food, we just about ran out by the end of the event. That's 30 lbs of bacon, 20 lbs of pancake mix, 40 dozen eggs, 150 sausage patties ... we served more than 300 people!My job this year was simple. Be Santa's helper. While looking and acting pretty silly.

The first year J had the event, I helped in the kitchen cracking eggs nonstop. I was never invited back to the kitchen again after that year. It could be that more shells ended up in the eggs than yolk ... Please note that was the year of my eye surgery and pretty much blind for a few weeks there.

Most of the kids were scared of me this year (I blame the ears, which I assured them were real), but some were really excited to see a real live elf and wanted a picture with me!
Anyways, awesome event, once again! And I do believe my volunteer duties are done for the year ... Between dressing as alligators, clowns and elves, I earned my title. J has two programs left for the year: Santa Calling and the Holiday Lights Judging contest. They are fun, but I am done (hey, that rhymed!). Wonder what J has planned for me in 2011???