The Great US Roadtrip- Sin City

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20140725-164902.jpgBright and early in the morning me and cat broke camp. By this stage in the game, we had formed habits and quickly fell into the set routine without needing to say a word. Cat folded up the tent in quick practiced moves while I broke down the tent poles in record time. Everything stored in the car and our travel mugs filled with hot coffee, we hit the road settling in for the long six hour drive from Zion to Los Angeles. About an hour into the drive I started going through the receipts looking for the reservation page for our hostel that night. Suddenly my heart skipped a beat.

“Cat, what day is it?”
“Thursday. Why?”

I started to laugh. One thing about being on the road as long as we had and pulling into campsites in the wee hours of the morning was that it sure messed up the days of the week in your head. A day blends into two and one week blends into the other with no weekends or Mondays to distinguish the ending of one and the beginning of the other. And suddenly we were pulling into Los Angeles a whole day ahead of schedule with no place to sleep.

No fear. We are road warriors. After lightning storms, hail and floods, a scheduling issue was no problem. After all, between us and LA was the biggest last minute deal city in the world- Vegas.

Let me just state for the record here that I have a list of places that I never want to travel to. The list is very short, and even most of the places on that list I could be talked into visiting if you give me a good enough reason. I love travel, especially travel to places that no one else wants to go to or would dare dream of going. But there is a list of places I have absolutely no desire to ever see and at the very top of that list is Vegas.

And yet here I was, booking a hotel on the strip, contemplating my failures as a human being and reiterating to myself repeatedly the old adage of “never say never”. Shame welled up in my heart in a way I never thought possible. For though I usually avoid “touristy” destinations like the plague, I would at least give them a cursory glance, snap my picture and then move on to the “locals only” spot with little or no guilt. But Vegas would not allow me that concession. I was in the middle of The Strip, literally in the heart of tourist paradise and everywhere I turned I was bombarded by that fact.

I wish I could say that I gave it the old college try, that I attempted to give Vegas a chance to win me over before I coldly shut her out of my heart forever, but that would be a lie. Vegas lost me within the very first 60 seconds of our tires hitting that 6.8km stretch of pavement. Cat had been to Vegas once before and therefore automatically won the driver’s seat based on previous experience. I gazed out the passenger window taking in all the famous sights. We pulled up to the first red light and suddenly I was staring at 6 scantily clad women making suggestive gestures at me, telling me how much they would enjoy visiting me tonight for some”fun and sexy time”.

The anger that boiled through my blood nearly turned my vision red and I spent the rest of the drive up the strip mumbling expletives under my breath and keeping my eyes straight ahead to avoid searing some poor passerby to the bone with my potentially unwarranted judgemental glare. That might have worked if the girls weren’t on the back of the trucks too promising me hours of late night chats. By the time we got to the hotel, Cat was wisely giving me a wide berth, allowing me time to control my rage by staying silent on the matter knowing that any comment on her part would set me off on a justice seeking rampage.

I feel a disclaimer would be a good thing at this point. I am a very open minded, mellow and happy person who has never been known to be given to fits of rage. Cool, calm and collected are how I usually approach anything I don’t agree with, and I usually seek to understand an issue from all sides, even the sides I don’t personally agree with. Vegas unfortunately had caught me off guard at the worst possible time. Not only had I not been planning on visiting it, therefore having to time to prepare myself mentally for the onslaught, but I had just recently returned from a 6 month missions trip to Australia and Thailand where I had been working with street prostitutes in the former and helping out in a ministry that rescued children from the sex trade and child soldiering in the latter. My emotions were still raw from the horror stories I had heard and witnessed, and here I was in the heart of Sin City, drowning in the whirlpools of a city whose entire existence depended almost solely on the selling of sex.

I also wish I could say that I shut that part out and tried to separate the rest of Vegas from it. And in a way I did, the problem is that I wasn’t overly impressed with the rest of it either. One night in a cloud of smoke, extreme air conditioned dry air and a thick fog of exhaust left me with a screaming headache. Everywhere we went was flashing lights, throbbing music and the shrill ring of slot machines. Outside was sweltering heat, pushy obnoxious salesmen and drunk stumbling idiots yelling obscenities and jeering at anything in a skirt. The whole thing left me with a bad taste in my mouth and the overwhelming urge to put as many miles as possible between my tail lights and the city limit sign.

I feel like I need to end this with some kind of positive to make up for my obvious disgust with this city. Cirque du Soleil was amazing, our waiter at the Hard Rock Cafe was great and the water fountain show at the Bellagio was worth the long walk. If not for the ever present cloud of smoke, I would have enjoyed sunbathing at the pool too. But alas, I didn’t and I couldn’t have been happier then when we were once again on the road and I was surrounded by nothing but desert and Vegas was just a distant memory.

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The Medical Diagnosis

Accomodations: Luxor

Cost: This one is hard to say as it depends on how you book, what deals of the week you can find, when you book, everything is up to timing.

Things to see: Everyone has their own recommendations for this list. Mine include the Bellagio water fountain show, Cirque du Soleil and a meal at the Hard Rock Café.

Story Time

What were your favorite parts of Vegas? What were the things you hated about Vegas?

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AN ODE TO ALVIN

A fantastic poem written by two heroines of mine! Enjoy!

Two One-Way Flights

We spent four days traveling from Perth to Sydney with the aim of making it in time for Christmas. Here’s the story of our roadtrip…

20140124-172309.jpg Meet Alvin.

Now readers, we’ve taken a different approach with this post,
To try make the story more readable of how we journeyed from coast to coast.
Its a strange kind of love poem, as the journey was by no means romantic,
And in fact was littered with incredulous antics,
However Alvin you see, is our trusted campervan,
And he took us 4000km regardless he’s an 80s Nissan.
We bought him from a man called Fred down in South Perth,
Who quick to sell passed him on for less than his worth.
There were some teething problems initially, and getting him into 3rd gear took a while,
But for $800 we weren’t expecting agile.
He has quite a turning circle and a 3-point-turn is exercise

View original post 2,400 more words

The Great US Roadtrip- Zion National Park

If there is one part of this whole road trip that I have not stopped talking about it’s this one. In fact I think more than one person has told me to shut up because they are sick of hearing about Zion. Let me just say one thing: if you love hiking and/or beautiful landscapes…GO TO ZION NATIONAL PARK!!!! forget the the Grand Canyon, its overrated compared to this absolute gemstone! There are so many hikes for all fitness levels and all of them are beautiful. The ones that require a lot more fitness are hikes that are life changing and unforgettable.

I first heard of this park on Pinterest when I saw a picture of the “Subway”, a famous hike here in Zion. It involved rappelling, swimming and hiking through rivers and caves. It looked like something out of a dream or another world.

google image of the subway

google image of the subway

Sadly, this is another one of those hikes that requires months of preparation and planning in advance and I didn’t get to hike this amazing cave system. But before you become sad for me, don’t. Because I didn’t get to hike this one, I discovered my new favorite hike instead… The Narrows. Here’s a link to the google images of it: https://www.google.ca/search?q=the+narrows+zion+national+park&client=firefox-a&hs=IKr&rls=org.mozilla:en-US:official&channel=fflb&tbm=isch&tbo=u&source=univ&sa=X&ei=fRC3U6-OLOPD8QGjyoGIBg&ved=0CB0QsAQ&biw=1600&bih=789

The Narrows was rated #5 in the National Geographic ranking of America’s 100 best Adventures, and I can easily understand why. This hike is 16 miles (26km) long one way, can be done as a one day hike or a two day there and back trip. Before you start thinking, I could totally do there and back in one day, let me tell you why it is my favorite. The entire thing is hiking up a river. The entire hike you are in rushing water to at least your knees if not your waist, and at one point, your neck. The rocks underfoot are all shapes and sizes, shift suddenly underfoot or are covered in slick moss that makes for treacherous footing. The water is cold and the sheer, high and narrow canyon walls don’t allow for any warm rays of sun to hit the canyon floor. The current gets pretty strong in some places too and you will suddenly find yourself backed up against a cliff wall with no where to go except to swim through a swirling whirlpool in front of you. Reading the river and currents is of utmost importance as there are places where the cliff walls are undercut by the water and the current could potentially drag you under the rock.

Both me and Cat grew up on the Kicking Horse River and the Columbia River in British Columbia. Both rivers are known for their crazy currents and undertows, so we were experienced river hikers who easily navigated the ever changing face of the river. We didn’t discover the narrows until later in the afternoon, so we didn’t get as far up the river as we both would have liked, but as it was, we pushed pretty far up. Perhaps farther then was wise because we suddenly looked up and realized we were loosing the light quickly and we had a three hour hike back out the canyon, and the temperature was dropping quickly. We didn’t panic though. Both of us were built for adventure and we loved every minute of the race against the light to make it back before dark.

There are many other amazing hikes to be done at Zion. Angel’s Landing is a hike a friend of mine did that is quite literally breath taking as it is all the way to the top of a mountain on narrow mountain goat paths with a sheer cliff on either side. We also checked out the emerald pools which has some amazing views of the red stone cliffs and a friendly cactus bush that I became uncomfortably familiar with. We didn’t even discover the tip of the iceberg when it came to this place and I plan to come back when I can spend a solid two weeks here hiking everything. Here’s a link to google pics of Angel’s Landing as I don’t have any to show you: https://www.google.ca/search?q=the+narrows+zion+national+park&client=firefox-a&hs=IKr&rls=org.mozilla:en-US:official&channel=fflb&tbm=isch&tbo=u&source=univ&sa=X&ei=fRC3U6-OLOPD8QGjyoGIBg&ved=0CB0QsAQ&biw=1600&bih=789#channel=fflb&q=angels+landing+zion+national+park&rls=org.mozilla:en-US:official&tbm=isch

Enjoy the pics, and happy trails!

hiking emerald pools

hiking emerald pools

I loved the narrow pathways through the rocks

I loved the narrow pathways through the rocks

making friends with cactii

making friends with cacti

the entrance to the narrows, already wet above the knees and i'm barely 10m in.

the entrance to the narrows, already wet above the knees and i’m barely 10m in.

love this hike soooo much!

love this hike soooo much!

the best part is it was super twisty, so you would come around a corner and suddenly, this view was in front of you. awestruck doesn't quite describe it

the best part is it was super twisty, so you would come around a corner and suddenly, this view was in front of you. awestruck doesn’t quite describe it

The walls were such beautiful colors!

The walls were such beautiful colors!

losing the light but not my curiosity... it came down to a battle between we need to turn around and one more corner then we'll go. 10 corners later and I still didn't want to stop!

losing the light but not my curiosity… it came down to a battle between we need to turn around and one more corner then we’ll go. 10 corners later and I still didn’t want to stop!

The Medical Diagnosis

Accomodations: tenting

Transportation: Within the park there are buses that go up and down the road stopping at all the major trail heads, instead of driving and trying to find parking (which is impossible), we just hopped the bus and jumped off at the different trail heads.

What to see: The Narrows, the Subway and Angel’s Landing… Or anything else here… pick a direction and just start walking!

Story Time

Have you hiked here? What was your favorite hike? what are some of your favorite places to hike other than in Zion?

The Great US Roadtrip- The Grand Canyon

If you are like me, you dislike large crowds of tourists. I love finding hidden treasures that no one knows about and getting to enjoy them alone, unspoiled by large crowds and paved guided pathways. Sadly the Grand Canyon is not one of those treasures you can hide. It is kind of large after all. But if I can’t enjoy it alone, I at least try to find the inside track and ways to see it that others don’t. And here is where I give you a big insider’s tip: North Rim. Most tourists drive up from Las Vegas to see the Grand Canyon, and naturally stop at the first exit sign. And why wouldn’t they? The South Rim is beautiful with all the amenities you could want or need.

We didn’t drive up from Las Vegas however. We came from the North side and went to the North Rim, a long 5 hour drive away from the South Rim. There will still always be tourists there, but the number was way less, and the view nothing less than spectacular. The North Rim is a noticeable 1,200 feet (365 m) higher than the South Rim and also farther north, so there are winter closure that do happen on this side due to snow or bad weather. So if you want to visit the North Rim, I recommend calling ahead to see if there are any closures. http://www.nps.gov/grca/index.htm

Thankfully our run of bad luck with thunderstorms finally ended with the Grand Canyon and we enjoyed a day of sunshine and hiking along the rim. I had hoped to hike down into the canyon and camp at the bottom, but be warned that there is a lot of red tape and paperwork that comes with that and a lot of permits that require planning months in advance. This whole trip had been a fairly last minute decision, and therefore we didn’t have any permits. So my dream of hiking to the bottom of the canyon didn’t happen. But we weren’t dismayed and instead found our own little hikes to do along the rim, and even found some little off the beaten path gems where there wasn’t another soul around for miles! We sat and ate trail mix for lunch, sun bathed and of course took the required pictures of falling off the edge of the Grand Canyon.

For the first time this trip, we even got to set up our tent in the light of day, and had time in the evening to relax by the campfire. I pulled out my guitar and plucked out a few songs while Cat pulled out her violin to join me. Life is good!

the view from the top of the world

the view from the top of the world

figuring out my camera

figuring out my camera

lookout point at the north rim

lookout point at the north rim

such a beautiful sunny day!

such a beautiful sunny day!

contemplating life

contemplating life

celebrating God's amazing creation

celebrating God’s amazing creation

being a goofball

being a goofball

I even found a fort window

I even found a fort window

The required falling off the canyon picture

The required falling off the canyon picture

The Medical Diagnosis

Accomodations: Tenting in the North Rim Campground

Things to see: The Grand Canyon!!!!

Story Time

Have you been to the Grand Canyon? Did you go to the North or South Rim? Did you hike to the bottom of the canyon?

The Great US Roadtrip- Horseshoe Canyon and Paddleboarding Lake Powell

Lake Powell. This is another one of those places in the world that is hard to describe. It is such a contrast with beautifully cool lake waters, surrounded by landscape that to tell the truth feels like you are on another planet. After our really fast drive from Canada to Arizona (we literally covered 2,700 km in 5 days, a third of our total mileage and had driven most of that in the dark as we had been hiking or sightseeing during the day), we decided to spend two nights at Lake Powell to allow us time to relax and recuperate. After seeing Antelope Canyon, we spent the rest of the day hiking Horseshoe Canyon and paddle boarding Lake Powell.

We tackled the hike first since it was on the way from Antelope Canyon, and we wanted to spend the rest of the day/evening relaxing on the water. Horseshoe canyon is a beautiful canyon that has been cut out of the rock by a mighty river and made for some spectacular scenery. I even made a friend with a little lizard!

The edge of the world

The edge of the world

contemplating life on the edge

contemplating life on the edge

making friends with a lizard

making friends with the local wildlife

After the hike, we spent the rest of the day paddle boarding on Lake Powell. I wasn’t sure at first, but once I got my feet wet I discovered a new love in life when it came to paddle boarding. We paddled around the point and enjoyed the first real sunshine we’d had since our trip started. A few hours of sunbathing and shenanigans followed. It wasn’t until after we got off the lake and were driving back to our campsite that we discovered something. Our campsite was in Arizona. The lake was in Utah. We had been crossing state lines back and forth all day without even realizing it. I had achieved one of the things on my bucket list “to be in two places at once” all day and hadn’t even realized it! Life is awesome sometimes!

paddle boarding Lake Powell

paddle boarding Lake Powell

taking on water sad faced shenanigans

taking on water sad faced shenanigans

looking snazzy in my matching neon yellow life jacket

looking snazzy in my matching neon yellow life jacket

We watched the sun set over the lake, enjoyed some lime popsicles, and reveled in the beauty of this awesome life we have on earth. Not a bad way to end a day.

sunset over the lake

sunset over the lake

our campsite...not a bad view to wake up to.

our campsite…not a bad view to wake up to.

yes my popsicle matches my toes

yes my popsicle matches my toes

The Medical Diagnosis

Accomodations: tenting at Wahweap Campgrounds

Costs: Campsite $26/night, Paddle Board rental $90/day. Since we arrived at the lake later in the afternoon, they prorated us to an hourly rental fee which worked out to around $30 for a few hours.

Things to See: Lake Powell. this lake is beautiful and a day paddling up and down its shore is a treat. There are day trips up the lake to see the famous arches which I would also recommend, we just didn’t have time while we were here. Horseshoe Canyon is also highly recommended, but make sure you bring a lot of water and a hat, because while the hike is not that “strenuous” it is ridiculously hot here and you will become dehydrated fast!

Story Time

Have you ever gone to Lake Powell or Horseshoe Canyon? What other things in the area did you explore and would recommend?

The Great US Roadtrip- Antelope Canyon

This is going to be another one of those posts that is mostly pictures and little of me talking. I first heard of Antelope Canyon in a National Geographic magazine. I then saw videos of it in the BBC Planet Earth series. I was instantly in love and knew that some day I would travel to see this amazing piece of geography. Hidden from the world next to the tiny unknown town of Page, Arizona were two of the most beautiful landscapes I had ever seen. Antelope Canyon and Lake Powell.

As I had stated in my previous post, we seemed to have brought all the rains of Canada with us and the area, known for its desert landscape, was one big mud hole and had experienced a record setting 11 flash floods that summer. Antelope Canyon has two separate canyons, the Upper Canyon and the Lower Canyon. The Lower Canyon is known for being the more beautiful of the two, but because of the intense flooding, it was currently under water. As sad as I was to miss out on the Lower Canyon, at least we could still see the Upper Canyon. Because the Lower was flooded, all the tourists were packed into the Upper, which disappointed me. But beggars can’t be choosers, and we piled onto the truck and off we went down the muddy river bank to the canyon.

the trail in

the trail in

In spite of the sheer volume of tourists packed into the small space, you still couldn’t help but be awed by the sheer beauty of the canyon. The slot canyon with its amazing striped red walls caught the light in the most fascinating ways and sent down almost dream-like rays of light that you thought only existed in fairytale movies, and in fact, I wouldn’t have been surprised if a fairy, nymph or even a pirate for that matter suddenly appeared out of the beams of light. But I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves.

walking in another world

walking in another world

shadows and light

shadows and light

the heart of the canyon

the heart of the canyon

pictures were hard to capture because of all the people and because of the constantly shifting light

pictures were hard to capture because of all the people and because of the constantly shifting light

I was actually kind of happy when my camera died, because then I could just enjoy the canyon with my own eyes and leave the responsibility of getting pictures to Cat

I was actually kind of happy when my camera died, because then I could just enjoy the canyon with my own eyes and leave the responsibility of getting pictures to Cat

definitely felt like being in another world

definitely felt like being in another world

outside the canyon

outside the canyon

Definitely one of my favorite places, despite all the tourists. One day I hope to come back and see the lower canyon. Especially at dawn, as i’m told that is one of the best times to see it. I highly recommend you check this place out for yourself!

Medical Diagnosis

Cost: $25/person, this got you a ride into the canyon and a guide. The website says only $8/person, but when we went in person to get our tickets there were surprise hidden costs, so be aware of those.

Story Time

Have you been to antelope Canyon? did you go to the Upper or Lower?

The Great US Roadtrip- Mesa Verde

How do you describe Mesa Verde? beautiful doesn’t cut it, amazing falls flat and breath taking is over used these days. I’m going to choose the word “inspiring”. Inspiring that people with such limited technology could build such beautiful cities, inspiring that they would use the very landscape of their homes to protect their way of life from attacking outsiders, inspiring that it has lasted to this day for future generations to observe, learn from and find inspiration from.

Mesa Verde, for those of you who are not aware of this Colorado treasure, is a UNESCO world heritage site and the best kept history of the ancient pueblo people of the Colorado Mesa region. Here is the link to the Wikipedia page for more history and information: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mesa_Verde_National_Park

I first heard of this site from a USA national parks guide book, and have fallen absolutely in love with it. Being a huge history buff, I loved learning about this people group that I knew so little about, and was fascinated with the archeological sites we got to visit. We went on two separate hikes to two different sites, and both were amazing for different reasons.

The first had the most amazing view and a literal city of buildings and history to observe. The second had a literal “breathtaking” hike up steep cliffs, ladders that suspended over nothing and paths that disappeared into rock walls or left you hanging on to a path wide enough for an agile mountain goat and little else. I happen to love heights and adrenaline, so i loved every minute of it. But this is the kind of post that is going to rely heavily on pictures as my words just can’t describe this amazing place. Enjoy!

the view from the top of the mesa

the view from the top of the mesa

the city palace

the city palace

descending down into a kiva- the underground dwelling of family groups

descending down into a kiva- the underground dwelling of family groups

an above ground dwelling place for multiple families

an above ground dwelling place for multiple families

some of the narrow steps straight up the cliff side which have been cut to accommodate tourists. The natives simply climbed the cliffs using small finger and toe holes the would cut into the rock. This allowed only one climber at a time which made it super easy to defend their home as invaders would have to climb down one at a time, totally exposed to waiting archers or one man holding a spear.

some of the narrow steps straight up the cliff side which have been cut to accommodate tourists. The natives simply climbed the cliffs using small finger and toe holes the would cut into the rock. This allowed only one climber at a time which made it super easy to defend their home as invaders would have to climb down one at a time, totally exposed to waiting archers or one man holding a spear.

a narrow passage through the rock connecting one cliff village to the next one. It was probably widened to accommodate tourists

a narrow passage through the rock connecting one cliff village to the next one. It was probably widened to accommodate tourists

more narrow stairs

more narrow stairs

climbing ladders over cliffs

climbing ladders over cliffs

good thing i love heights

good thing i love heights

me and Cat in front of the city palace dwelling

me and Cat in front of the city palace dwelling

After our trip to Mesa Verde, we were off to our next big hike, Antelope Canyon. It wasn’t until we were on our way that we learned that we had just narrowly avoided total disaster. The night that we had driven through the rain leaving Denver is the same night that half of Colorado flooded. Counting our lucky stars, we drove to Arizona, once again in the pouring rain. So much for the desert being dry. We definitely brought the wettest summer the south west had ever seen with us!

The Medical Diagnosis

Cost: $10 park entrance fee per vehicle, $4 for the ranger guided tour of the cliff sites (since they are UNESCO protected, it is not allowed to visit them without a guide)

Things to See: besides the two sites we went and saw, there are many more to visit. Since we were pressed for time we just saw the top two and they were well worth it!

Story Time

Have you visited this UNESCO Heritage site? what other UNESCO sites have you visited?

The Great US Road Trip- meeting the presidents

Bright an early in the morning we packed up the tent, grabbed some quick breakfast and hit the road. We crossed the border into the US, where the border guard laughed at us when we told him we were road tripping, camping and hiking the USA for the next month. He took one look in our overflowing back seat and said “Ya, you look like two girls going camping”. Deciding to take the humor for what it was and not be insulted, we laughed and took it as good fortune that he didn’t think we were smugglers, and demand to strip our car in search of contraband (I think both of us knew how long that would take with all our gear and neither of us wanted to put the effort in).

North Dakota badlandsMe and Cat soon discovered that the road we had planned on taking all the way to South Dakota was under a ton of construction and we traveled for several hours on dirt roads that had been totally dug up to put in a huge oil pipe line. I have a track record of never being able to keep a car clean under no fault of my own (I bought a new car and unintentionally took it mud bogging a week after I bought it, camping a month later and sandboarding a week after that. The car never stood a chance of keeping its new car look). It was only fitting that our road trip would start with bad, dirty roads. Thankfully both me and Cat are hardy girls who can handle any weather, as it rained all the way down to LA and we ended up sleeping in a tent through several violent thunder storms.

The first and most violent of these storms being at Mount Rushmore. We arrived at our campground and set up tent quickly as an ugly black cloud was quickly coming in over the mountains. We had barely got all our sleeping gear into the tent when the sky ripped apart and the pitch black night turned white as day. I’m still amazed to this day that we werent fried into bacon. Hair standing straight up on end from all the electricity in the air, me and Cat huddled in the tent waiting for the lightning to turn us into a crisp or the pounding rain to wash us away into the creek. But come morning, we were still alive and in one piece. We brushed off our close call and went exploring. First we visited with the presidents and of course being the goofballs that we are, we picked their noses (no disrespect was intended). Afterwards, we went exploring the mount rushmore caves which were a beautiful display of stalactites and stalagmites. It was definitely way more exciting for Cat then for me as she is the geologist. I on the other hand am the adrenaline junkie and simply enjoyed the intense beauty of the cave. I did learn a lot through Cat though and I can proudly say that I definitely know the difference between a stalactite and a stalagmite. we survived the night!up close and personal with the prez mount rushmorerushmore cavestalactite beauty

After the cave we did a quick zip line swing which was pretty fun.ziplining flying down the hill

After this, it was time once again to make some miles. We drove once again through the first of many rain storms to Denver. We started to notice some car troubles, and it was decided that we would stop in Denver for the night to change the oil and get the undercarriage checked out. Thankfully that night it was raining so hard when we got to Denver that we decided to shell out for a hotel room. We woke up the next morning to find out that a huge hailstorm had dumped upwards of several feet of hail in some places across the city. We dropped the car off at the mechanics and soon discovered that my car was a deathtrap on wheels. My whole rear end was so rusted out that they literally snapped a bolt off trying to get it out to replace my snapped springs. They ended up not being able to get the bolt out and instead welded my car back together. We would have to limp all the way down to LA and back up to Canada with no springs, and half a bolt holding up the entire rear axle. Me and Cat are pretty fearless individuals and took this with a grain of salt and decided to soldier on. We jumped back in the car and headed down to Mesa Verde, racing to get there before darkness descended. We arrived at our campground at the bright hour of 2 am, having once again drove in the dark and pouring rain.

This is where I learned the importance of keeping your headlamp in an easy to get to location, as we set up in the dark. It wouldn’t be the last time. As the trip went on, we began making a habit of driving in the dark and pulling into campsites in the pitch black. You get really good at putting up tents in the dark with practice.

The Medical Diagnosis

Cost: Campsite $15-30/N, Hotel $89, Car maintenance/ Repairs $0-who knows? Rushmore Cave $23

Things to See: Mount Rushmore, Rushmore Cave. the Rushmore area had a whole bunch of things to check out and entertain as well. For the adrenaline seekers, there was a zipline park in the trees as well as a caving tour of Rushmore cave which involved squeezing through some tight tunnels (claustrophobics need not apply).

Story Time

What’s your favorite cave to explore? What are some of your road side misadventures that have happened on a roadtrip? What are some of the craziest storms you have experienced while camping?

The Great US Road Trip- Moose Jaw

USA Road Trip 2013

USA Road Trip 2013

I’ve decided to give up on recounting my journeys through Brazil, Australia, Thailand and New Zealand in chronological order as it was starting to hurt my brain trying to organize everything out, so from now on, they will show up at random in a post here or there. Otherwise, I will write about more recent travels in as chronological order as possible starting with a road trip I did with one of my best girlfriends, Catherine. We started in Saskatchewan and road tripped all the way down to LA and back up the coast in a month, camping and hiking along the way.

I believe fully in traveling in style. I also believe in traveling with the bare minimums, taking only what you can carry in a backpack. I love traveling this way as it really opens up your mind to your “wants” vs. your “needs”. After travelling Australia, Thailand and New Zealand with just a backpack, I had come to truly appreciate the simpler things in life. I took pride in being able to survive on very little. So naturally, when planning this month long road trip, my friend and I (she is a geologist and used to living out of a backpack too) decided to take full advantage of the fact that we had a car and packed it to the roof. And i’m not talking a tiny little smart car here either, where you have to decide whether you want to bring your friend or your water bottle with you, as both won’t fit.

No. We traveled in a massive ford Taurus with a trunk large enough to hide several bodies under your suitcase. And here is where I put the *DISCLAIMER* (nobody was harmed, killed or stashed in our trunk for the duration of this trip). Should I ever do this trip again, which I most definitely will, i will pack differently. But as it was, i learned a few interesting facts…
1) border guards have accepted the sexist view that women going camping always way overpack and won’t blink twice at large amount of gear in your car or your story.
2) If you “strategically” place some bikini tops and other clothing of a personal nature on top of all said gear in trunk and back seat, border guards will not be over enthusiastic about tearing through everything in search of contraband.
3) state you are a nurse and a geologist and they will happily let you in the country as it is common knowledge that both professions make lots of money (where they get this idea I will never understand, but i’ll take what i can get)
4) don’t bother starting the trip with your car meticulously organized to the standard of a Tetris master. By the end of the trip, you will have succeeded if you managed to keep the car to a somewhat my side- your side arrangement.
5) and this one is the most important one!!!!! always put your headlamp in the same easy to get to spot such as the glove box. there is nothing worse then pulling into a campsite at 2 am, in the pitch black and you can’t find your headlamp.

the huge, over stuffed Senor El Tauro

the huge, over stuffed Senor El Tauro

Anyway, we started out our trip with a 5 hour drive from my tiny home town of 350 people to Moose Jaw, SK. Moose Jaw is an awesome little town famous for its ties to Al Capone, the prohibition and bootlegging and of course its awesome mineral spas. A lot of the downtown area has been preserved with old store fronts and is a walker’s paradise of cute little stores selling everything from souvenirs to musical instruments. One of my favorite stores Rings n’ Things is a huge collection of jewellery, wall hangings and bath bombs. Across the street is another store that is full of homemade fudge, a million flavored ice creams and candy out the wazoo. There is also the most delicious coffee house down the street, Coffee Encounters, that makes the best apple cider I have ever had. I highly recommend checking this town out! It is fantastic!

i forgot to mention the giant moose in moose jaw. funny story is that someone once stole this moose. they put it on a flat bed trailer and drove away with it... how do you not get caught stealing a 20 foot tall moose? i mean, how will that not notice you? its not like you can find 20 foot tall mooses anywhere...

i forgot to mention the giant moose in moose jaw. funny story is that someone once stole this moose. they put it on a flat bed trailer and drove away with it… how do you not get caught stealing a 20 foot tall moose? i mean, how will that not notice you? its not like you can find 20 foot tall mooses anywhere…

We spent the afternoon in Moose Jaw checking out the tunnels which are a huge tourist destination. Hidden from view under our feet was one of the largest collection of tunnels that connect almost every building in Moose Jaw. Most of the stores and homes for that matter have a door or cellar that connects to a tunnel that leads to everywhere if you knew how to get there. These tunnels were built during the time of Canada’s expansion to the west through the railroad. Many of the tunnels housed Chinese immigrants who worked on the railroad or in the laundries of the time. During the time of the prohibition, these tunnels were put to another use by the bootleggers who would sneak liquor into businesses and homes and they even house the room where Al Capone himself would stay during his many “business” trips to Moose Jaw. The company who runs tours in the tunnels have done a fantastic job of redressing the tunnels so that they look just like they would have back in the day and have done a great creative job of reenacting what life would have been like during that time from the perspective of either a new Chinese immigrant or a new bootlegger joining Al’s ranks. The tour invites you to join in on the fun and become actors in the play. Me and Catherine had a lot of fun joining in, as neither of us is shy. I highly recommend this tour to anyone! In fact here’s the link to the company if you want to check it out!

http://www.tunnelsofmoosejaw.com/home

During this trip we did not have time to check out the spa or the mineral pool, but as i live only 45 minutes away from Moose Jaw, I have been to them since and would highly recommend them!

After Moose Jaw, we needed to make some miles, so we jumped back in the car and drove. Suddenly, looking to my left, I noticed something that only a prairie small town person would appreciate… Dog River! Catherine who is from BC did not understand my excitement, but I ignored her ignorance and jumped out of the car to snap pictures of the Corner Gas show set. I had no idea that it was on the way, and I have since gained an appreciation for life’s little surprises on the road and off as there was many more little surprises on the way.Dog River grain elevator

Corner GasWe finally stopped for the night, set up tent for the first of many times and tried to get some sleep before we crossed the border in the morning.

The Medical Diagnosis

Cost: $25/person for both tunnel tours, the mineral spas will usually cost around $15/person

Story Time

What’s your favorite historic site to visit? what mineral hot spring have you visited?