Hey Soul Sister!

New England and the upper Midwest are SO different. In North Dakota there is a joke that you can watch your dog run away for a week. This is due to how flat it is. Some find this flatness boring. I think it is beautiful. One can see and feel the “amber waves of grain” when the wind blows (and it is ALWAYS blowing). The sky hugs your body while the earth blankets your feet. In New England, the beauty is in the vast amounts of trees and hills. The curves of the roads, even the major highways, are like the outlines of a voluptuous woman’s curves. There is a sexiness to the land of New England that I haven’t seen in any of my other travels. Full trees mask the road ahead of you which adds to the unknown. New England has this way of making me feel like I am in a new relationship – it is that scary part of the unknown along with the curiosity and excitement to discover more.

When I left Lisa and Sylvia’s, I headed south towards Boston. My soul sister, Lacey, lives in a small town surrounded by a plethora of other small towns north of the city. Greenwood Estates welcomed us with open arms, tight hugs, tears of joy, and ginger brandy. Charlie was welcomed by three other dogs, a vast yard to explore with ducks, geese, rabbits, and a Nana. We slipped into our roles as the welcomed house-guests quite easily.

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Charlie with his new Nana
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Ducks on the run! Greenwood Estates
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Me and my Soul Sister

Lacey and I have been close for the last few years when she lived near me in North Dakota. One of the first things that struck me about her was not her height (although she is a beautiful Amazonian!), but her smile and terrible Boston accent. I have missed her company so much since she moved back to MA two years ago. We quickly made up for lost time by exploring the state and sitting up late talking until we were blue in the face. I had tons of fun poking fun at the accent – Worchester (pronounced Wus-TAH) and Gloucester (pronounced Glous-TAH); however, Sacajawea is pronounced sack-uh-juh-we-uh not suh-cah-uh-we-ah. Yeah . . . Massholes (their term, not mine. I found them delightful. They have a ways to go before they become Jersey boys 😉) have a tendency to remove the middle of a word completely and then forget that there is an “r” at the end of a lot of words. Not sure if this is because they think it makes them sound tough or if they just like to be difficult. Either way, their pronunciation was fodder for my amusement. Also, no one even commented on my North Dakota accent (cough cough no lies are coming from these finger tips)! Not even the tour guide at the House of the Seven Gables commented on my “fer fun” statement. I have been told that I need to learn how to give the “Greenwood Salute” with a bit more pizzazz . . .

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My Greenwood Salute is lacking erectness . . . 😉

Yes – I went to the house that inspired Hawthorne’s novel, “The House of the Seven Gables”. I had never been to Salem, MA before this trip and did not realize that this museum even existed! Our tour guide was AMAZING!!! He either really knows his history and work OR he is a fantastic story-weaver. I prefer to think that he is a little bit of both. If you ever have an opportunity to take the tour, I highly recommend that you do so. You will not regret it. The home is a thrilling walk into the past. The house has secret passageways, old stone fireplaces, amazing furniture, secret liquor cabinets, and paintings. The paintings are breathtaking portraits of those that lived and died in the house. Seeing the faces of those that ate at the dining room table and slept in the bedrooms brings the story of the house to life.

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Lacey and I did not do a ghost tour in Salem. Although they are famous for them. We did not buy a bunch of charms, even though they were in abundance and we had money we were itching to spend. We did get a few sweatshirts (twinsies!) and had some amazing food. We will need to go back there and explore some more in the future, but for that day, we walked far enough and needed to get home to our pups.

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Twinning in our matching Witch sweatshirts and hanging with our pups.

We spent another day exploring the shore, eating lobster rolls, and taking pictures of the ocean. Prior to this trip, I had never really seen the Atlantic Ocean. I have been in the Pacific and Indian Oceans, but the Atlantic is a whole other ballgame. The Indian Ocean, where I saw it in Mombasa Kenya, was warm and clear, almost passive. The Pacific Ocean off the SoCal, Oregon, and Washington coasts was also fairly warm (not as warm as the Indian ocean), somewhat calm, but a bit darker with a hint of danger. Then there is the Atlantic. It does not matter where I have seen this ocean – Maine, New Hampshire, New York, New Jersey – this body of the water screams danger, cold, fear, POWER! I LOVE IT!!!! I have never loved “the ocean” until I met the Atlantic. It is cold. It is dark. It is powerful. I stand next to it and I feel like it is feeding that strength into my soul. I grow stronger with each cold, salty spray. I think I have fallen in love.

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Truly – I feel at home in New England. I know they still have the winters that I wish to avoid. I also know that their winters are NOTHING like the ones I have endured for the last 40 years in North Dakota and Minnesota. They may get cold. They may get the heavy snow. They may get the freezing rain. What they don’t have is 6 months of it. What they don’t (typically) have is a month of sub-zero temperatures (that is in Fahrenheit, my non-US friends). What New England does offer is access to many cities and major airports, mountains, camping, hiking, solitude in nature or solitude in a crowd. It offers history, arts, and literature. It offers jobs that appeal to me. It also offers friends. I have so many people in New England that I can call friends – and I have friends and family just outside the area to visit when I want to get further away. So far, New England is at the top of my list for a future home. Stay tuned though as I have a lot more of the country to explore.

Until the next time, find what makes you smile.

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To The Pumpkin House

I am sitting next to a creek on my aunt and uncle’s property in West Virginia as I write this. Pictures cannot show you the beauty and serenity of my current surroundings – nor do I have the writing skills to describe it. All around me are the sounds of birds, the rustle of leaves, and breaking of branches from some animal (bear?!?!?!). Charlie has made himself a bed out of the weeds in the shade of a super tall tree. Sometimes I really wish I knew how to identify plants (leaves of three – let them be) . . . Alas, I did not pay enough attention when my grandfather tried to teach me plant names. The sounds of nature are all I hear, yet I am polluting it with the tapping of my keyboard. (I did create a short video, but don’t make fun of how I look. 92% HUMIDITY!!!! Not sure if it is my super slow internet or the video quality, but it isn’t a great video on my end).

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The “creek” (need a bit of rain) that I am sitting near

The last few weeks have been so full of life and love. I have met so many people and seen so many different places. I have traveled only 3600 miles but feel like I have been to the moon. My heart is full. My soul is singing. I have not felt such peace within myself in a very long time. There are only three things that could make it better: 1. Less humidity (I am so swollen in the heat that my fingers are fat), 2. Having my daughter with me for a short while as I miss her and am sad that I missed being with her on her birthday yesterday, and 3. Sharing these feelings of tranquility with the one who holds my heart.

When we left Acadia, Charlie and I traveled down the Maine coastline into New Hampshire to visit my friend, Lisa, and her wife Sylvia. I will admit, I was a bit nervous to go to their place. Lisa and I have known each other for years through our online MLIS program and social media; however, we had never met face-to-face prior to this visit (I had been threatening/teasing her for years with the possibility of a visit). What can I say? Lisa and Syl are amazing. They are kind, welcoming, and genuinely warm-hearted people. I am so proud to be able to call them my friends and so appreciative of them for inviting me into their home, The Pumpkin House.

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The Pumpkin House (with Blue Steel blocking the amazing view)

The Pumpkin House is a beautiful, quirky, OLD house that Lisa and Syl have made into their home in the last 20 years. It has a warmth that makes you want to curl up on the sofa with a good book and a hot cup of tea (ya’ll know that I am not a tea drinker, but I could not help but love drinking tea with them!).  The bones of the home emit this feeling of story yet untold. I felt that if I quietly sat long enough, the house would tell me a tale of loves lost and found, tragedy and heartbreak, resistance and rebellion, and family ties. Perhaps that is just the romantic in me, but I really felt that the memories of the house were echoing around me and it made me want to learn more.

Lisa is a youth librarian at the Rye Public Library. Her home away from home is perfect, cozy, inviting, and filled with books! Ok – so I am biased. I think that anywhere with books is cozy and inviting. You work in a hospital or clinic and want to warm up your cold, sterile, examination room – add a bookshelf, just one floating one would work. Put a few old and new books on it and it will immediately warm the room up. Patients will be more at ease. Just don’t have a bunch of medical books on there. No one wants to read about leprosy prior to getting an unsightly mole examined. Again . . . I got off subject – back to the Rye Public Library and Librarian Extraordinaire, Lisa.

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Me and Lisa Librarian Extraordinaire!

I suggest you check out the RPL Facebook page or website and see what awesome programs the library has to offer. I also suggest that you check out your own public library. You will be amazed at some of the items, programs, even classes your local library has FOR FREE!!!! Many people think that libraries are becoming a thing of the past and that the internet (especially Google) have made libraries obsolete. This is only because many libraries cannot afford to do the marketing that they need to bring in patrons. Money is hard to come by and often is allocated based on the number of people they reach . . . see the catch-22 here? Support your library, peeps, and remember – Google may give you a 1,000,000,000 answers, but your librarian can help you find the correct one.

I also want to give a shout out to Lisa for the publication of her first book released this week!!! Go to Amazon and find Serving LGBTQ Teens (Practical Guides for Librarians). Support your library. Support your librarians and most of all, support our kids.  Congratulations, Lisa!!! I am so proud of you and all that you have accomplished!

I had a wonderful time exploring parts of New Hampshire with Lisa, Syl, and their friend, Janet/Karen. Ice cream on the coast, eating fresh lobster for the very first time, and watching Charlie explore the land of The Pumpkin House. I wish I had more time to spend with them. Alas, I had other places to go and see, but I do hope that Lisa, Sylvia, and their handsome boy, Nickleby, will let us visit them again sometime in the future (which may be sooner than they realize). Next time I will buy the ice cream at the Beach Plum (or a lobster roll if you would prefer!).

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Nickleby!!!!

While I have been writing this, three deer, a gazillion squirrels, and a google of insects have all been within 15 feet of me. I am going to miss this place when I leave. Thank goodness my aunt and uncle own the land and they love me 😊 I know I will be able to come back at some point . . . right?

Blog posts will be uploaded a lot this week. I have a lot of reflection to do and memories to archive. I guess my reflection is your gain(?). I will also be uploading pictures to my Instagram account and the Facebook account the same day that the blog posts are uploaded. This blog set up does not allow for a lot of pictures. I hope to change the format soon; however, it is just not that important to me right now.

Find me on Instagram (scottsweed). You can also find me on SnapChat (Heather Linstaedt or Better_Heather . . . either one should work). Sometimes I create stories. Sometimes they are interesting.

Until next time – Take care and remember that no matter where you are find what makes you smile.

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Charlie smiling at The Pumpkin House

From the Falls to the Top of My World

I know. I know. It has been nearly two weeks since my last update. I have attempted to write on multiple occasions, but there have been SO MANY ADVENTURES!!! In the last three weeks, I have driven 3,500 miles in my car. This does not count the many, MANY day trips my friends drove me.

Since my last post, I have traveled through New York, Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, and back into New Hampshire, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, and, finally, Pennsylvania. I will be staying with my oldest friend, Sarah (“oldest” for the longevity of the friendship – not because she is old – although she is getting up there ;)); however, this post will not be about her – – or even PA. Today I will regale you with my love of the White Mountains and Acadia NP and how much I really dislike Niagara Falls.

Once I left Cincinnati (still one of my top picks for future living), I was lucky to briefly visit my lovely college friend, Jennifer. She and her family moved about an hour and a half drive south of Niagara Falls about a year ago. It was wonderful to see her and catch up. We had a wonderful chat sitting by the fire as Charlie snoozed in the nearby tent.

I find it amazing how after so much time, conversation is still so easy for some friends. Jennifer is one of those people. She is such a warm and genuine person. When you are near her, you feel completely at ease – she is truly a person who radiates comfort and warmth to all around her. I hope everyone knows someone like this. I also hope that you take the time to return that feeling to them. Jen, I love you. Thank you so much for being such a wonderful person.

It was not so wonderful when Charlie thought I had left him in the tent that night. He took out part of the screen breaking free to find me. My wonderful Kelty is now held together with duct tape (see Facebook post – no reason to post the darn picture again). Good thing I went against everyone’s advice about “saving room” and packed TWO tents. My Mountainsmith is also quite amazing and actually roomier than the Kelty. I highly recommend one if you are looking for a reliable tent. I have had this one for years and it has not disappointed me yet. Also, it is warmer than the Kelty . . . Just sayin’.

Tuesday morning, Charlie and I headed up to Niagara Falls. I did take pictures. Alas, they seemed to have disappeared . . . I did find videos though. You can check them out here and here. To be honest, I was not impressed with the park. It was extremely busy and commercialized. There seems to be more money going into the casinos than there is water in the falls. I guess everyone needs to make a buck (or millions).

I was only able to be on the US side of the falls due to me loving my dog and Canada (Ontario specifically) having Breed Specific Legislation. Perhaps the Canadian side is better as I have been told. I will never know. I have no intentions of ever giving money to Ontario until this get rid of BSL. The US falls were OK; however, I do not intend to return there either; however, it is an item checked off my bucket list!

Following Niagara Falls, we headed east and stayed in a campground on beautiful Lake George. Charlie loved walking near the lake; however, he is not a fan of water. He would not put one paw in the water. I hope by the end of this trip, he will be done with this irrational fear of water. We have made some progress, but we will get to that a bit later in the post. I posted a couple of videos on my Facebook page from Lake George, so I won’t fill up this post with those videos and pictures. You can find me on Instagram and SnapChat (better_heather) though. I tend to post random stuff from this trip as it happens on Snapchat. Ugh. Too much rambling. Back to my story.

New Hampshire — the White Mountain National Forest. My favorite camping spot to date. Phone service was non-existent. Internet — nope. What it did offer was plenty of trails, Mount Washington (will hike this soon!!), a quirky camp host (story for another time), a campsite right next to the river, and a super cool lady who was there to solo hike Mount Washington. Charlie LOVED Jessie. Pretty sure she and I will be meet again in the future. We had a quick cup of coffee and a took a few pictures before she left to climb the mountain and Charlie and I left for Maine.

Acadia National Park. Holy Moly. What can I say? For those of you familiar with Minnesota, take the Brainerd Lakes area with the trees and the fresh air, add to it the saltwater air of the Atlantic Ocean. The coast line brings to mind the stories of Scotland with the cold wind whipping the water against jagged rocks. It is apologetically dramatic. It is everything that I had hoped it would be.

Charlie and I explored many areas of the park. There are a few hikes that I would have loved to do; however, Charlie’s hips are not as young as they used to be. For those of you who love to hike, I recommend checking out the trail app AllTrails. It costs money to download the maps; however, it is great for trail reviews and those that are pet friendly.

 

We stayed in Acadia for three days. I could have probably stayed another week; however, my pup was pooped and I really needed a shower. Charlie did appreciate the wildlife around us though 🙂

 

There is so much more to tell, but I think that I will save that for the next post. I will try to get a few more uploaded this week. I am SUPER excited to tell you about the Pumpkin House and Greenwood Manor. Alas, you must wait. I need to find more words and right now all I have are thoughts . . . Once again – excuse the errors. I am not a writer. I sure as heck cannot edit my own crap. Just be happy that I finally posted.
LOVE YOU!

 

 

 

Good Friends. Strong Drinks. Long Post.

It has been a week filled with love, laughter, and tears – tears of happiness, joy, and some sadness and fear. There has not been a lot of traveling and zero camping. Since leaving the U. P., I have spent most of my time in Grand Rapids, MI and Cincinnati, OH. As most of you know, I do not have a lot of close friends, especially close female friends. Of those that I do have, only a couple live in the Fargo/Moorhead area. Most of my friends have moved on to “bigger” and some even better things/places/people. They have started families and broken with families. They have had many loves and many losses. I am lucky enough to have been a part of all these changes with them. In return, they have also been with me through my struggles, hardships, loves, and joys. I think that these bonds that have been formed throughout the years are what anchors someone to our lives – well at least for me they have. If it were not for the support of my friends and family, I do not know who I would be (or if I would be) today. This is why I feel so blessed to have spent the last week, not exploring my surroundings as much as planned, but reintroducing myself to my ladies.

When I woke up on Tuesday morning, after staying the night in Indian Lake State Park (outside of Manistique, MI), Charlie and I took a long hike around the lake to stretch our legs before another five and a half hour car ride. The lake and trail were beautiful. Charlie enjoyed discovering the different scents on the trail and sniffing out the squirrels. He is also a people dog; therefore, the handful of different people we saw while hiking were very rude to not want to be his friend. Although it was not a “rugged” trail, it was well-forested and full of native wildlife. The weather was perfect – a balmy 55 degrees, clear blue skies and low humidity.

Following the hike, we packed up the car and headed across the UP to the Mackinac Bridge which connects the upper and lower peninsulas of Michigan. The bridge is just shy of 5 miles long. This, I discovered, is just shy of 5 miles too long for me. I had been planning to take video while crossing the bridge as it is beautiful. Alas, a nearly overwhelming sense of dread, anxiety, fear, and nausea took over my entire body. The vice-like grip I had on my steering wheel was evident once we arrived on the mainland . . . there are still fingernail marks on the wheel and bruises on my palms. By the way, I have NEVER been afraid crossing bridges before this. Why this time? Was it because the water below was well over 250 feet deep and if I drove off, I would surely kill me and Charlie? Nope. I did not even know that fact until today when I looked it up. Perhaps it was because Charlie was super scared and I could feel his anxiety? Also, no. It was my fear that freaked him out. Honestly, I don’t know the reason(s) – it happened, and I do not plan to drive that bridge again, so I won’t try to psychoanalyze it anymore.

The state of Michigan is beautiful. Hills and trees and blue skies surround you, but that is where enjoyment (for me) ends. The roads are terrible and the drivers are not much better. I do not think they know the definition of tailgating and why it is a rude habit to have. It did not matter how often I tried to get away from certain drivers, they continuously ended up being within feet of the rear end of my car. I think they wanted me to set the speed. That’s fine. Just STAY OFF MY ASS!!! If they were not tailgating, they were weaving in and out of traffic; however, there wasn’t much for traffic, so why drive like this? Why cut someone off when you could just pull into the lane a few seconds later – after you are more than a foot in front of them? I do not understand.

When I got into Grand Rapids, I was completely – – underwhelmed. The city reminds me of an extra-large Jamestown, ND. I drove in and immediately felt like I needed a shower. The air was thick with . . . something. I can’t say smog as it didn’t feel that way. It also did not feel like a city – you know the city feeling, the hustle and bustle and excitement that comes with urban life. It wasn’t there. In fact, all I noticed were a bunch of terrible drivers trying to maneuver on roads that the city, county, and state government (say nothing of the Federal government) could not care less about maintaining. I did see a lot of Nestle plastic water bottles in the medians and sides of the road though. Go figure.

People of Michigan, I am sorry. I am sorry that as a country we don’t really care what is going on in your state as long as the corporations that are invested there can continue to give their money to those in government. I am also sorry that you do not know how to drive. Thank you for being friendly though!!

I arrived at my friend Joy’s house that evening. I have known Joy for many years and am always so thankful to have her in my life. She is truly my sister, not by blood (but we do look alike! See pic below), but by shared life experiences. I am quite sure that we are leading the same lives. (I love you, lady and cannot wait to see you again. Thank you so much for the hospitality and AWESOME steak dinner!).

Joy lives with her husband, a daughter, son-in-law, and three grandkids. Charlie was ecstatic! He loves children. I was ecstatic – I did not have a 75 lb dog on me all of the time!

After a wonderful visit with Joy, Charlie and I headed south to visit my old college friend Angie and her family. The drive took us through Indianapolis – which surprised me. Perhaps I should start looking closer at my maps and relying less on my GPS. Doesn’t matter. It was a beautiful drive. The further I drove, the greater the feeling of peace that came over me.

When we arrived in Cincinnati, Charlie and I had a few hours to kill. We headed over to LaBoixteaux Woods. I was not expecting the maze of trails in the middle of the city. I hadn’t properly prepared for it. Setting out with one bottle of water, my car keys, and the dog . . . not hat, no sunglasses, no way to give Charlie water, and nowhere for me to pee (had been driving for the last five hours), we finally found a creek from which Charlie could drink. I moved down stream a bit and relieved myself in the bushes (not poison ivy, thank goodness). Imagine – peeing in the middle of a city, pants around your ankles, squatting with your bottom out for the world to see. As a woman, this really does not happen in a city (yes there are plenty of exceptions, but I am not one of them); however, it was not urban. I could not even hear the traffic in these woods. I did not see one person until we finally ventured back into “civilization”, just a half mile off the trail.

My first impression of Cincinnati is beautiful, old, clean (when compared to most urban places), diverse, friendly, and cheap. The houses are much cheaper than the Fargo/Moorhead area. Rentals range from low to mid-priced (in comparison to what I am used to). The job market appears to be good with livable wages. I will definitely keep this city in my back pocket as a future home.

Angie and I were able to take an evening out for ladies’ night. We shared a wonderful meal of chicken and waffles at Arnold’s Bar and Grill. If you are in Cincy, check it out. The cocktails were delicious and the chicken and waffles were absolutely superb! The wait staff was more than accommodating as we not only asked to be seated in the building after originally being seated on the patio (this ND girl could not deal with the humidity out there) and sending back a $15 drink that wasn’t what we liked. They replaced the drink with another one (SO DELICIOUS!) and then took pictures of us so we did not have to look like the silly middle-aged women trying to take selfies.

Following Arnold’s, we headed over to Japp’s which specializes in cocktails from the 1700’s – 1950’s. Wow! Smoothest bourbon I have ever had. The building and bar were beautiful; however, the clientele were a bit too much for us. We realize that we are getting older; however, we were still a bit too young and too poor for the upper-middle aged yuppies. Our bartender, whose look brought me back to high school with her Courtney Love-like bleached blonde hair and babydoll dress, told us to head up to the Northside. We followed her advice.

Junkers Tavern gave us cheap drinks, karaoke, dancing, a fairly clean, yet scary bathroom and all of the quirkiness one would want from a dive bar. It was WONDERFUL!! Friendly staff, welcoming customers, and strong drinks (including Jameson) were flowing freely. Before we even walked into the bar, we met a lovely couple outside the bar. Colleen and Kevin met a few months back on Tinder. Neither Angie nor I have ever been on Tinder, so we decided we should check it out – well, we decided that I should check it out. Tinder app downloaded. Picture uploaded. Between the three of us girls, many swipes were made (mostly to the left). Pretty sure Angie and I will go back to Junkers (OK – Angie will and I will too if I get back here); however, the Tinder app will probably be deleted. I don’t need that crap right now; however, if I meet a handsome man while hiking mountain trails . . .

Angie has a beautiful family. Charlie was so happy to have her son Conrad around with whom to play. For anyone who has a problem with bully breeds and their potential to be dangerous, you need to meet Charlie. Of course, he could be dangerous. He is an animal and any animal can attack; however, Charlie seems to have a deep love of children. I could not even pretend fight with Conrad without Charlie pushing me away! Pretty sure Angie and Adam will need to get their own Charlie pup sometime soon😁

Tomorrow morning I will be heading north again toward Niagara Falls. I will stop and see another friend for one night, but after that night, it will be tent city for the next 5 – 7 days. Our final nights of camping (for the North East part of the country) will be in Acadia National Park. For those of you who follow this blog for nature photos, keep following. They will be coming! I hope to include some videos too if I can figure out how to attach the GoPro to Charlie. I think his videos would be much more interesting than mine.

Until next week, be safe, be well, be happy.

-H

Speeding Through Life (or maybe just Wisconsin)

Preface – I am writing this on my phone. There will probably be a heck of a lot more typos than normal.

Also, the formatting … Ugh. What a pain.

I have made it to the Upper Penninsula of Michigan! Charlie has been a trooper. Granted, he has not been nearly as friendly as he typically is. All he wants to do is mope.

I met a wonderful Wisconsin State Patrol officer while getting Charlie a burger at McDonalds. While waiting for the food, I kept glancing over at my car, just checking on Charlie. The officer noticed and asked if I had any troubles or if something was going on.

I stated, “No. Just making sure my dog isn’t taking off with my car as I do not want to be stuck in this part of Wisconsin”.

He laughed, “Funny I’ve never ever heard that excuse from a speeder. ‘I swear officer, my dog had control of the car!'”

We had a good laugh. His food was ready then, so I didn’t get a chance to ask him what was the most ridiculous excuse he has ever received; however, I was able to find out how far I was from the Michigan border (3 hours at that point). As he left, he waved at Charlie. Charlie moped.

I am pretty sure the officer radioed in my car and description. Maybe not. Maybe I am just lucky (hahahahaha); however, I really should have been pulled over at least once for speeding after that. Instead, I got a wave from those patrol cars I did pass. Perhaps they did not want me in their state as much as I did not want to be in it. Either way, thank you, Officer McD. I appreciate your kindness and concern.
I am currently sitting by my campfire right next to Indian Lake. It is going to be a cold night. The air has a bite similar to opening a grocery freezer. I am glad I remembered to bring the Fight Club robe and my underarmour. I am also pretty lucky that I have a warm, furry body sharing the tent with me! Too bad he doesn’t like to cuddle …
Well, it is time to find where I can wash up my dishes. I certainly do not need a black bear cuddling up to me tonight (although it would probably be nice and warm …. In its belly). Have a wonderful night!

On a side note, e

njoy a this quickly put together, zero editing video of Charlie by Indian Lake. It is sunset and gorgeous. Even Charlie seems to be enjoying it. The bite in the air is not strong enough to discourage me from getting my feet wet.

I can handle the nibble 😁. Enjoy and Definitely be a wee bit jealous.

Running Toward The Unknown – Send Oxygen

Just a few more days and I am on the road! I have created playlists on Spotify, downloaded about 400 hours of audiobooks, started packing my car, and said goodbye to most of my friends. This trip is real. It is happening. It is undeniably scary. I am unsure what scares me the most: the length of the trip, the lack of money, the not having a job when the money starts running out, all of the above? Yes. That is exactly what it is. All of this scares me. Once again, it is the fear of the unknown. Going out and not knowing what exactly is going to happen. The stress and anxiety are starting to make their presence known. I need to begin taking control of the stress –  I need to take control of me. Now just to figure out how . . .

As many of you know, the last few months have been stressful. There have been many changes, most of which led to my decision to take this trip. Well, as a 40-year-old, fairly inactive, woman, the stress has wrecked havoc upon my body. Weight has been gained. Skin has wrinkled. Fingernails have grown (this is odd to me as I have always bit my nails in stressful situations. This habit just disappeared one day – I think it was when my boss was in France for a week and a half 😉). I have made the decision to begin some lifestyle changes – starting first with diet and exercise.

I contacted a friend of mine who is a nutritionist/personal trainer. She sent me the info needed to begin counting my macros, foods to eat, and ways to work out on the road. The information is SO GOOD! She has been a wonderful person with whom to work, especially since she lives in Texas and I am still in North Dakota, so all of our communication has been online. If you are looking for a personal trainer, check out Janelle at Cardinal Muscle Performance . She also has a blog that is full of tips for those looking to get into shape or those who are already in shape, but just want some good reading.  I am excited to take the information that she has given me and run with it (probably a lot more running that I have ever done – ugh).

Well all, I have a lot to get done before Sunday and a lot of people to meet up with between then and now. I am going to sign off. The next post should be from on the road, probably somewhere in Michigan.

From this point out, the blog posts should be a bit more interesting to read, more pictures (and not just of my funny face), and truly travel related. Of course, I will probably throw in some random personal insight or story that I remember which may relate to what I have seen during that week of travel . . . who knows?  I guess it will be a surprise to us all.

Until then – here is Charlie being Charlie.

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Living In The Present

As you have probably noticed, I have been doing a bit of preparation for this trip. Getting AAA, finding my camping gear, creating packing lists, finding the “right angle” for my face for when I take my first selfie with a bear . . .

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Thinking this would be a good selfie look – me pointing at my new bear pal.

I have also been trying to catch up with friends and family in this area. A couple of weekends ago, I spent time with two of my cousins, watching comedy and getting in fights. My cousin, Jasmine, has lived in Alaska, so she was giving me a few pointers about my trip . . . mostly I am supposed to be less stupid than I typically am when venturing out on my own. No worries though – I am not a Chris McCandless, although, I envy his strength and resilience. I can’t imagine doing everything he did in such a short period of time. If you have not read Into the Wild (Krakour, 1997), I highly recommend you check it out along with everything else John Krakour has written, but I digress. Basically, I need to start living “in the present”.

I had a conversation this last week with one of my closest friends (who also happens to be my most recent ex). We discussed how we both have a difficult time living in the present. For me, I am either always looking back at the mistakes I made or into the future — how will what I do in this moment impact the steps I take 2 days, 5 months, or 12 years from now? I focus on the “what ifs” and not on the immediate happenings. I need to stop doing this. It doesn’t change anything. What it does do is make me regret those chances that I did not take . . . which leads me down the “looking back” path. Living a life filled with regret is not what I want for myself.

What I need to learn is mindfulness. Every thing I do, I need to be present with it. Every piece of chocolate that I eat, I need to savor the flavor and not just chow down because I am stress eating. Learn to notice the brief moments happiness around me and take pleasure in them. Notice the crack in the sidewalk and step over if – not trip, fall, sprain my hand, and tear my favorite pair of jeans . . .

I have decided to start working on this idea of living in the present and being mindful. I hope that this trip will help with this. I know that I have to be aware of my surroundings at all times. I cannot fall so deep into my own head that I miss the beauty around me (or my chance at the bear selfie). I also hope that living in the now and being aware the world around me may assist in my developing some gracefulness. I do tend to trip and fall . . . a lot.  I think I will get a small tattoo on my wrist that says “GRACE”. I can be a constant reminder to stay in the now, know where my body is relationship to the world around me. (If you know of a good tattoo artist in your area, let me know!).

On that note, I will let you get back to your regularly scheduled programming. Only two more weeks in the Fargo/Moorhead area! If you want to get together before I hit road, hit me up! Otherwise, you can find me here.