Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Transformations


Where to begin? I’ve been contemplating this all day in preparation of sharing this story. In order for you to fully grasp the significance, I have to back track a bit. So for those of you that know me personally, I’ll apologize for the parts that you may already know.

To start, you have to know my personality. I’m a think outside the box person. I’m a problem solver. I’m a 150% or nothing doer. I’m the youngest of five and a complete brat. I’m an “is it broken, nope, well heck, let’s break it just to see what happens” person. I’m also a damn yankee. I was born in Ohio and have lived in the South since I was 10. That’s significant because I annoy the hell out of most Southern people, especially the women, because I rarely take no for an answer, can be extremely blunt, and cuss like a sailor far too much. I’m competitive, type A plus a bazillion, and opinionated. I’m also a mother hen and want to help people.

But about 19 years ago, I met an angel that pointed out that if I’d just get out of my own way, the good intentions that were my motives for the things I do in life could be seen. Of course I fought that diagnosis and kicked and screamed that “why can’t people just understand me”. Thankfully, the divine spirit didn’t give up on me and kept working on me (well, really I’m still a work in progress as I still get in my own way at times!).

I had to go through considerable angst and self evaluation to figure out that Charlotte, my corporate job, and my ego were going to kill me and those around me if I didn’t do something about it. I wasn’t the mother, wife, daughter, employee, co-worker, neighbor, sister, or aunt that I was capable of being. I was too consumed with ME! So, I bellied up to the adult bar and formulated a plan.

I started trying to find ways to spend more time with my family and less time worried about climbing the corporate ladder. I tried to see those around me outside of my judgment of them, but for their true value. I worked on removing ME from my sentences and include more WEs and USs. It was hard. Many times I could not step back far enough to see what was so obvious to others. I became aware of how toxic Charlotte was for my family. It was too late for Jennifer, as she had finished high school, but there was still time to make things better for Cassidi.

Eventually, I came up with the escape plan of getting my massage education and licensure and moving to our cabin in the woods. We had actually bought it a couple of years earlier trying to spend more family time in nature together. We knew it was home as soon as we bought it, but just had no idea it would REALLY become home. I went back to school for massage and added in the yoga certification for good measure. I started talking to the folks at my “day job”, and they gave me the green light to move and continue working for the bank. It was actually the perfect transition to wean myself off the crazy corporate life to the slower country life. We moved up eleven years ago this summer and have never looked back.

I tell you all of that to help you understand the simple fact that I’m a seeker. I’m a chameleon. I’m always transforming. Sometimes it’s big things, sometimes it’s small things. But I’m always looking for the next thing I’m supposed to be doing. The next gift the divine wants to share with me to share with those in my life. I get bored easily, so this is a continual pattern for me. I have the energy for it, but those around me sometimes get a little irritated – namely Tony!

I’ve had three separate businesses in the eleven years we’ve been up here – one a very small massage operation close to our house, the other a very successful spa for six and a half years, and now the wellness center for the last two and a half years. Things are great, and I work with an amazing group of people – both staff and clients. I love what I do and getting to help people day in and day out has filled my heart to the brim.

But as with everything, time and gravity set in. I overdid the physical aspect of the work and it has caught up with me. I cannot see the volume of people at I once did. The aches and pains in my own body have caught up with me. I found an amazing therapist that has stepped in and taken on the majority of the work. It has been so wonderful knowing that my clients are being taken care of by someone that while she isn’t me, she’s darn close. Those of you that have a service provider of any sort, know that once you get used to someone, it’s nearly impossible to ever replace them and not compare them back to the first one you fell in love with. My clients aren’t bodies I throw on a table and rub. They’re my family. They’re my peeps! So, it isn’t easy stepping away – not on my heart nor theirs.

Knowing this was the fate of a massage therapist (the usual career span is 10 to 15 years based on the volume and difficulty of the work) is not a secret. And I didn’t help matters by being older when I started. So, at 50, I’ve done really well to work at the pace I have, put as much of myself in to it from a mind/body/spirit perspective, and still be able to put in about 15 to 20 hours a week with the massage. That doesn’t include all the other hours that are spent actually running the business. Yes, I’m an energizer bunny, but my batteries aren’t as strong as they once were!

Nonetheless, I’ve been contemplating what’s next. I’ve done some training to become a teacher (of what, I’m not entirely sure); I have a full fledged art studio up at the garage ready to start; I want to write books; Granny ‘Cann is ready to be initiated when the time comes; and I’ve been contemplating some specialty focuses in body work that is less physically demanding on my body. So many wonderful options to choose from. And I keep meeting people in each of these fields that are available to help me on my path. Trying to figure out the next step has been very difficult.

In my quest to become less type A and more type B, I’ve embraced the saying “Let go and let God”. I do my best to remove my will and my desires from my wants and actions. I pray for strength to survive whatever will be thrown my way instead of a specific outcome. Recently, I’ve become so complacent in my approach to decisions, I feel like maybe I’m moving in the wrong direction.

So, I’ve been asking for guidance and direction from the divine. I’ve asked for clarity. I’ve asked for “signs”. I said out loud on my front porch last night “Divine spirit, please show me the way! Please give me the clear direction you want me to pursue!”

Afterward, I shook my head and realized how just in my question, I was limiting myself. The whole “I only do it 150% or not at all” thing had gotten me again. I realized that I could do so many of these things at the same time. That if I just stopped expecting a HUGE shift like the forced extraction I gave myself in leaving the corporate world all those years ago, I could pursue many of these things in parallel. I went to bed feeling a little calmer.

This morning when I woke up, I knew I didn’t have to go in until later in the day. I slowly made my way through the morning. A couple of clients had to cancel, so I worked on compacting my schedule if possible. I fed the animals, and put the finishing touches on cleaning the hot tub from the weekend. It took a little longer than I expected, so I didn’t get out the door to start my walk when I intended to. I also needed to hear from one last client on my schedule. I broke protocol and took my phone with me. I wanted to do my large loop, but if she couldn’t come later, I’d have to settle for the shorter route. Not long into the walk, she let me know it was good to do the full circle.

On my walk, there is one stretch right before I turn to start the circle where the pavement turns to gravel. I know that just over the hill and on the right, sets the little cabin that commemorates Orlene Puckett on the Parkway. I fell in love with her story when we first started coming up here. She was a midwife that delivered over 1000 babies even though she didn’t start “catching babies” until she was 50. Because she was born at a time where they didn’t keep birth records, her exact age isn’t known. But she was approximately 100 when she died. The super tragic piece of her story is that she had 24 babies of her own – each and every one dying before the age of one. It’s believed she had RH factor. That means that her first child would survive, but all future pregnancies would terminate. In a cruel twist of fate, typhoid took the life of her first young daughter. All future babies she either miscarried, had a still birth, or they died within months of birth.

No one knew what RH factor was at that time. Her husband was a very hard, mountain man and many believed he abused her causing the deaths. And some people even thought she had abused and killed the children. It was a very hard time in our history – mid 1800s. The mountain people in that time were very uneducated and somewhat anti-social. She became a mid-wife almost by accident. A neighbor was having a difficult delivery, no doctor was available, and the husband sought out Orlene, because he figured after having 24 babies of her own, surely she knew something about it.

A few years back, I found out there was a woman that conducted a performance honoring the memory and legacy of Orlene. She’s actually known as Aunt Orlene. It’s a show the Park Services organizes. We took our lawn chairs on a hot June day and watch Phyllis Stump tell the tragic story of sweet Aunt Orlene. I was moved to tears (yeah, we all know I’m a BIG cry baby!). She had a book she’d written. I bought it and devoured it. I tried to get in touch with her afterward as she said she lives close by, but nothing ever came of it. She has since had health problems and has not been able to do the shows. I’ve often said maybe I should take up the torch and carry her story forward. Nothing has ever come of it, but it’s always been in the back of my mind. When we were on the Parkway a couple of weekends ago, Tony said “When are you going to get going on being Aunt Orlene?” I chuckled.

So, every time I get to that part of my walk, I always hope that I’ll see her spirit up over the horizon. Every time I’ve been disappointed. Until today!

I didn’t see her in that spot, nor did she make herself known in the image I have pictured in my brain. As I was walking, I saw an older woman walking ahead of me. I actually thought she was this sweet little woman that sits on her front porch starting her day on so many occasions on my previous walks. When I first saw her, she was actually looking back in my direction, stopped in the road. I picked up my pace hoping to catch her so we could talk. I saw another couple on their front porch, waved, and spoke a good day greeting to them. When I looked back up the road, she was gone. My heart sank a bit, but I held out hope that she’d be on her front porch so I could say hello.

I picked up my pace yet again. I was really excited that maybe I was going to carry on a conversation with her this time. I’ve seen her, and her husband on other occasions, many times on my walks in the past year. We’ve exchanged pleasantries but that’s all. Something today told me to stop and allow space for more.

When I got to the house, she was there on the porch. I said good morning, and she replied the same. I asked about her walk. She explained where she had been. She mentioned the Puckett cabin, and then further explained that she used to do a performance in her honor. My heart stopped! I nearly started crying right there. But I was able to say “Are you Phyllis Stump?” The surprised look on her face was priceless. She answered, “Why yes, I am.” I think there may have been a hint of pride in knowing that her work was known to this stranger. She got up and walked toward me, and I started walking toward her. I had to do everything in my power not to hug her neck and sob. I explained I was about to get emotional. I asked if I could sit with her. She agreed.

We spent the next hour reviewing the facts of me seeing her performance, trying to find her, and wanting to carry Aunt Orlene’s story forward. I told her all about my feeling of a transformation trying to happen in my life. About how I’ve passed her house and been so drawn to her numerous times in the past year. How I’ve wanted to see Aunt Orlene’s spirit all these years on that road and by the cabin, but today I actually did! I’d explain, cry, compose myself, and explain some more. All the while, she sat in bewilderment. She’d explain some things about Aunt Orlene as if I was a stranger to her story. I’d chirp off the stats and told her I knew - I’d memorized her book. She was flabbergasted.

We had such a wonderful talk. It went in so many directions. At one point, I was talking about this place being her home that I’ve walked by so many times. That I had been looking for her and she was sitting right there. How I was drawn to the street number on her mailbox because it made three 8s when combined (yes, my crazy LOVE of the number 8). And that’s when she floored me again. She told me this wasn’t her house. That she just knew the woman that owned it (the owner is actually a baby that Aunt Orlene delivered), and had stopped for a rest on her walk back home. That’s when I really lost it. The poor thing had no idea what to think of me!

At the summary of our talk there at that house, I asked her if she was ready to pass the torch. She spoke of her illnesses, of her desire to keep performing but the difficulties of finding a location as the Park Services have cut funding, of other places she’s tried to perform that just haven’t panned out, and of her continual aging that has hindered her memory and ability to perform. At one point, I think there may have been recognition that this person sitting in front of her just may be the answer to a prayer that she didn’t even know she had or was ready for.

So many people call all of these occurrences coincidences – ironies. I am a firm believer that everything in our lives happen for a reason. And every happening is an opportunity for learning and growth. All of the happenings that led up to me meeting Phyllis today were perfectly lined up – me starting out later than I expected, me seeing her in the distance, her stopping at this house I’ve been so drawn to, it not even being her house, her being who she was, my heart being what it is, her heart being what it is. Not one single item in that list happened without purpose.

We got up, made our way slowly to her house (which is also on my circle route in which I’ve greeted them on their porch a time or two, also), I met her husband, and she invited me in. She showed me a picture she had commissioned a local artist to draw of Aunt Orlene and what she thinks are her two nephews. She showed me the two big binders she has right there in her living room containing her research on Aunt Orlene. I asked if she wanted me to take some of her books to sell at MAMAW. She gave me four. We exchanged names, phone numbers, and email addresses. We have no idea where this is going, but we’re both to ponder it and get back to each other this coming Monday.

As I was about to leave, she was looking long and hard at me. She told me I didn’t look 50, but then again, she’s been told she doesn’t look her actual age either. She then sized me up, told me I was tall, and was definitely closer to Aunt Orlene’s height than she herself was. It occurred to me that she was “auditioning” me. My heart smiled!

Needless to say, I walked out of her house, made my way home, and have zero idea how I got there. I was on cloud nine at today’s discovery. Again, I have no earthly idea what’s to come of all of this, but am so grateful for this experience. I feel the divine spirit is working magic, and I am beyond excited to see what unfolds!

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Bad news bears - August 14, 2015

Well, our good luck streak came to an abrupt halt. Tony got a call around lunch that one of the items for the truck was defective. They were going to search the area and try to find another one, but it would not be until Monday at the earliest before they could get it. We were all deflated pretty much immediately. All of us were wracking our brains to come up with a solution. We all need to get back to reality ASAP. We were so much in denial that everything was going to work out perfectly for us to leave tomorrow morning. It was rather depressing news.

Once it sank it, we realized the only way to remedy the situation was for me and the girls to rent a car and drive back. Tony would have to wait for the truck and drive back alone. It’s not the solution any of us had hoped for, but it is going to work out fairly well considering. All we can hope for is that they’ll get the part quickly and he can get home safely since he’ll have to drive the 22+ hour trip alone.

Once we decided that, we put our minds to enjoying the day. We had already been to Red Rocks Amphitheater and checked out Boulder. We were nearly to Rocky Mountain National Park when he called. There was no sense in letting the bad news ruin our day. We couldn’t do anything to change it anyway.

Just before we got into the park, we saw a group of people crowded alongside the road. We stopped and about 150 feet off the road in a cropping of rocks, a bear was rolling around. He didn’t have a care in the world about all of us gawking at him. A park ranger was there to do crowd control thankfully. We didn’t have any situations like yesterday where someone tried to walk up to it. He threatened some folks with tickets if they didn’t do what he asked. We decided seeing the bear was God’s way of making amends for all the bad luck.

The park is absolutely gorgeous. Of course I took more and more pictures of beautiful mountain tops, trees, and critters. We saw tons of elk, chubby chipmunks, and deer. We were dying to see a moose, but that didn’t happen. When we got to the pinnacle of the park, a rain storm blew it. It then turned to hail. When we left Denver, it was 92 degrees. It got down to 47 on the mountain. Brrr…

The drive down the other side was just as beautiful. We were amazed at all the twists and turns of the road. The little towns we drove through are all quaint and very western-ish. There were also a couple of ski resorts. The roads are very steep and curvy. We had more than a few “hold on to your ass, Fred” moments. Only fans of the movie Smokey and the Bandit will understand that quote, and of course this family is a BIG fan!!

The reality of our situation sunk in when we got back. We emptied out the van that has been our saving grace for the past eleven days. We had to unpack and repack all our suitcases to make sure we had everything we need, but make sure it would fit into the new car. We’re not sure what size it’s going to be, so who knows if some of that repacking will have to happen again.

Tony and I enjoyed the hot tub and pool again for the evening. The girls decided to stay in. Deputy McCann thought she was going to have to serve as back up as there was some altercation across the street. Not entirely sure what was going on there, but the police were looking for someone in an apartment across the road. I shewed them inside to avoid being caught in any gunfire. I guess that’s just some of what I’m going to have to get used to with this career she’s pursuing. UGH!!

We’ve had an amazing vacation, but it’s all about to come to an end. Tomorrow will turn into a job of trying to get home. Cass isn’t allowed to drive, so it will just be me and Jen. I somehow lucked out in the last eleven days and haven’t had to drive much. I’m not looking forward to this drive whatsoever. But home will feel amazing. I’ll keep that in the back of my mind as we hopefully make quick work out of ticking the miles off this 1500+ journey.

Rewind - August 13, 2015

We survived the night at the Snow King in Jackson. We woke up to loud music extremely early. Someone must have complained, because that didn’t last long. Then there was some other buzzing noise that was also short lived (may actually have been Tony snoring now that I think about it). Finally all the folks waking up and moving about forced us to get up. None of us were too eager to get out of bed.

We checked out the town of Jackson for the morning. We had breakfast and then did some window shopping. Jackson has some really cool little shops with very unique (and quite expensive) items. We got to see dead stuffed animals of all the things we had hoped to see in Yellowstone.

The town itself is set up like an old western town. There was a stage coach that rode folks around the main square. The square itself has the four corners marked with an elk horn arch. They are huge! The local boy scouts gather and sell the horns to the town to raise money from the local elk refuge. It’s a very neat idea.

We headed back to Denver and had a fairly long drive ahead of us. None of us were really in the mood to get in the car for such a long journey. But as we drove out, we had the Teton Mountain range on the right side of us and the Rockies on the left. It was a beautiful drive. The wide open spaces of Wyoming are beautiful. We drove nearly the full height and width of it on our return.

The last leg of the trip was the same exact road we had left out on. It was funny how in the short amount of time that we had traveled through there, we already had made funny memories. We passed the McDonald’s that Cass had to eat at. We passed the gas station where we partially filled up because Tony nearly ran us out of gas. We passed the section of land where we argued about plateaus, mesas, and buttes. Good times and good memories.

The thing we kept saying was how impossible it felt that we had accomplished so much in the ten days since we had been on the road going in the other direction. We traveled over 4400 miles, saw 7 national parks, went through seven different states, and saw two major cities. We sea kayaked (but saw no whales), saw quite a lot of different wildlife, and did an Eskimo plunge into a glacier river.  We laughed, ate, drove, and took hundreds of pictures. Fortunately, we also didn’t kill each other.

We made it into Denver and Tony’s sweet Aunt Maxine insisted we stay at her house while she and Uncle Jack went back east for a short trip. We took advantage of their complex’s hot tub and swimming pool after dinner. It felt great to soak in the hot water. We all crashed for the night, knowing we’ll have a busy day tomorrow of more sight seeing.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Disappointment - August 12, 2015

After such a wonderful day yesterday, we were all geared up for animal nation in Yellowstone. As we first drove in the park, we saw a prong horn deer. We just knew it was going to be the day we all hoped for in seeing big game. Boy, were we wrong.

Due to time constraints, we only got to make a backwards S through the park. We went down the side that they said had the most bear activity. We even went down a 6 mile dirt road (don’t tell the rental company) that we just knew was going to produce some animal sightings. It didn’t.

So much of the park has had forest fire activity. It’s really difficult to see through the woods as the younger trees coming in are all about eye level from the car. We managed to see a couple of elk, a white tail deer, a couple of herds of buffalo from a long distance, a ground squirrel, and a robin (Tony wanted me to make sure to include that find!).

We managed to see Old Faithful blow her top without any problems. We probably only spent 4 hours in the park total. I couldn’t seem to get the crew motivated this morning. For one, I turned off the alarm at both 6 and 7 a.m. I just couldn’t drag myself up after such a long day in the car yesterday. It set the tone for the rest of the day.

We made our way through to The Grand Tetons and they were as gorgeous as ever. We got there right at sunset and took some beautiful pictures. Jen decided this was her favorite park. It’s somewhat of a strange park. You don’t actually get to drive over to the mountains. You just ride alongside of them and stare in amazement at their rugged beauty.

As we were headed out of the park, two bull elk were right off the road. There were lots of folks out of their cars taking pictures. There was an Asian woman that walked right up to it and nearly touched it. Of course she scared it away and ruined the pictures for everyone else. We were more than annoyed!

That was sort of the theme for the day. Everywhere we went, there were RUDE people. We didn’t even have to get out of the car to interact with these jerks. As we were doing the speed limit through the park trying to enjoy the beauty, cars were passing us left and right. It really is a shame that folks can’t stop and enjoy the beauty of nature. I think they were just hurrying to the next big attraction to take their selfies to post on FB. UGH!

We’ve somehow managed to get a day ahead in the schedule. We’re heading back to Denver tomorrow. It’s a seven hour drive that I’m sure we’ll manage to turn into at least twelve. Let’s just hope Tony doesn’t find a taxidermist this time with a 50% off going out of business sale. Our goal is to go back to Denver and maybe hit Rocky Mountain National Park Friday. That will make a total of 8 national parks this trip if we can manage it. We had only planned on 6 originally, so we’re ahead of the game!

We tried to not be disappointed in Yellowstone today since it was a bonus park. But not seeing the wildlife that we love sure made it hard not to be. With that and being around all the inconsiderate people, it may have slid down the favorite park list a bit. Maybe we’ll have to come back again to give it another shot. I don’t think that will be difficult. I’m always game for exploring national parks.

We’re staying in a rather shady motel in Jackson WY tonight. Again, not planning ahead, all the hotels were full. We feel lucky that we got what we did. We walked downtown after a very late dinner. It has a little bit of the Gatlinburg feel to it. Not really our kind of town, but it will be short lived. We’ll check it out tomorrow in the daylight and be on our way.

Our vacation is winding down, and so are we. We’ve had a wonderful time seeing all the sights, but we’re not as young as we once were. The girls have even reached the point of dreading getting in the car. They really aren’t looking forward to trading the cushy van in for the truck for that trip home. Speaking of, we got a call that it won’t be ready now until Friday evening. Keep your fingers crossed they can make that happen. Else, it’s going to tighten the schedule and cause some problems. We’ve been so lucky for the remainder of the trip after the bumpy start. We don’t want to go backwards!

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Cardiac arrest - August 11, 2015

Today was amazing. We stayed at the perfect place last night. It had a train that ran close by that woke us all up at an ok hour. We realized breakfast was over at 9 so we all yanked on clothes and headed to the restaurant. Dinner was much better, but we all found something edible.

We were supposed to wake up at 5:45 to see if the local moose came to the pond outside the restaurant for breakfast. That didn't happen. I woke up, but Tony refused to get up. We still haven't seen any big game while we've been out here. The funny thing is that back home we have to stop and gander at any and every deer we see. It has barely been a blip on Tony's radar at the deer we've seen out here. We hope to remedy that tomorrow at Yellowstone.

We decided to go into Glacier on the east side since we had to travel so far to find a room last night. It was totally the best way to see the park since so many people start from the west side. We ended up turning in too soon but that was a great uh-oh. It routed us back around to where we needed to be. Along the way we got to see a beautiful lake, sheer rock mountains, and a hawk. Gorgeous.

Once we got on the right track, we started seeing burnt forest. We all sat in stunned silence in the car. This was old burn versus what's burning now. It was miles and miles as far as the eye could see of what looked like tooth picks standing. It was a very solemn drive into the park. It almost felt like driving through a graveyard. Tony even likened it to driving through an Indian burial ground.

But the good news is that the new growth is prosperous underneath it. The small pines are probably about a foot tall. The further we drove, the taller it got. In looking at the landscape, I'd say the large majority of the park has burnt at some point. There are so many patches where you can tell it's burned. Some are small areas and others are vast acreage. A natural state for a forest, but still hard to swallow being a tree lover.

We got to the area that is currently burning. We didn't see any flames, but the charred ground and trees still reeked of fire. We did see one small trail of smoke high on one ridge. One whole section of the road into the park had all the pull outs blocked. The trails in those areas were blocked off, too. The smoke on one section was so bad visibility was limited. But it soon cleared and with the trees limbs gone, we saw much more of the park than we would have otherwise.

The views in the park were simply stunning. We ran out of superlatives to describe one ginormous mountain peak from the next. The mountains were layered in valleys of trees at the bottom, to large meadows of wild flowers, to then sheer rock. The rocks are layered in various colors that range get in color from yellow, green, red, pink, white, gray, and black. 

There were mountains that formed a single, pointy, rocky peak, some that formed a ridge of multiple mountain rocky peaks, and others that were a solid rock plateau. There were so many beautiful water falls and rivers gushing down the crevices we lost count. 

At Logan's Pass, which is the pinnacle of the mountain range, we dropped over to the other side. A sign said it was an eleven mile descent to the bottom. Crazy gorgeous doesn't cover it. We also decided having the monster truck in that park would have been a very bad idea. The roads were pretty narrow. We also discussed how bad it would be to have car problems on the road. It wasn't mush later that we saw a car with a flat tire blocking traffic. Fortunately there was a park ranger there helping them. We were glad it wasn't us!

We stopped at numerous pull outs along the way for photo opps. The girls hate that phrase. We're taking pictures at break neck speeds. I just pass the camera to whomever has the best view point and say "Photo opp"! The biggest problem is two windows have to go down to stop that gosh awful air pressure imbalance in the car. Wind whips through the car for a bit, and then all is well. We've gotten some beautiful shots for sure.

At the bottom of the mountain, we were following a river that got bigger and stronger as we went because of all the glaciers melting into it. We stopped for the obvious photo opp. Jen found a trail down to it. We had not hiked all day and felt we couldn't really say we'd been to the park unless we did, so we went for it. Once we got down there we realized just how beautiful it was. It was crystal clear. It had a bluish tint to it from all the glacier water. We could see each and every little pebble in the bottom. 

As I looked down on it, I got this strange urge to jump. I asked Jen if she'd do it, she agreed immediately. We then looked at Cass to see if she'd go. At first she refused. I had to sell it to her that we had clothes and towels in the car. The hard part for her was she had big hiking boots on. I knew she'd need them on to climb out of the water that was lined with rock walls. She finally caved, and said she'd go. 

We were going to go one at a time, but then decided to all go together. Cass then chickened out of that proposition. Jen and I said we're out of here, and at the count of three, jumped. It felt a tiny bit like Thelma and Louise. My adrenaline was pumping up to the point I was airborne. It was about that time I remembered what the feeling of falling felt like. The bottom of my courage fell out, but I was shit out of luck in backing out. 

The next shock was hitting the frigid water. As soon as I hit the water I thought maybe I was wrong to be so eager to take the plunge. It was damn cold. I popped up and immediately wanted the ejection button. I looked at Jen and saw the same look on her face. Our original plan was a bit flawed from the start. We were to swim back up stream to get out. Problem was, it was at a white water drop. We swam, but we didn't get anywhere. I gave up pretty quickly and started for the closest rock. 

It's amazing what frigid water temperature does to a body. I think my heart may have stopped on initial impact. Then my brain seemed to stop working. Cass jumped in right after we did. I sort of remember her jumping in, but all my brain could think about was survival. Getting out of that water was first priority. I'm glad Tony caught it on camera, because my memory of it is extremely foggy. 

Once we hauled ourselves out, we started warming up quickly. We then had to figure out how to cross back over. We decided to go down the river and see if it got more shallow so we could cross. We had to boulder a few places, but we found a spot. The bad thing was the water was moving very swiftly through some big rocks. We decided to back up a bit and cross in the water. 

It's amazing how quickly the brain forgets sometimes. It didn't look like it was that far to cross in the water. I hopped right in the water without thinking. Again, the the water took my breath. We scurried across and felt like bosses when it was all over. 

My skin tingled for the better part of an hour after our excursion. I kept saying I wish we could do it again. For me, it was the highlight of the trip so far. Everyone loved Glacier Park. It will be hard to top for the remainder of what we're going to see.

Tonight we drove into Bozeman, Montana to stay before heading to Yellowstone. We saw that park on our last trip. We loved it best with of all of the critters we saw. Since we haven't seen any so far this trip, it may still take the cake if we can score some big game sightings there.

As the trip is coming to a close, we're finding it more and more difficult to stay in the car for long stretches of time. I had to beg everyone to continue on to Bozeman tonight to make tomorrow's trip to Yellowstone shorter. When we're in the parks, riding is no problem. It's just the long distances in between them that are so tiring. Yellowstone is a HUGE park and will take a long time to get through. We're planning to stay in Jackson tomorrow night. We're all looking forward to it and The Grand Tetons. After that, it's back to Denver.

The warranty company approved about 75% of the costs of fixing the truck. They're supposed to be working on it and have it ready for us to pick up on Friday. We're mostly in denial that there will be any issues with that schedule. We're just thinking positive. We've had enough heart issues for one trip!!

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Glacier, August 10, 2015

This road trip is starting to take its toll on everyone. We got in fairly late to Spokane and no one wanted to get up early to head for Glacier.  I had set an alarm for 6:00, just laid back down. We all slowly got moving and finally headed out around 9:30.

We sat downstairs for a bit watching people as they came in for breakfast. There was one couple that had 4 or 5 kids that were having an argument. There was a woman that came rushing in asking for a locksmith. She had locked their keys in the car and had a plane to catch. As we were leaving, we saw them finally getting into their car. She started crying once they got into their car, and I so knew what she was feeling!

We’ve had a lot of evidence that our Mom’s are watching out for us. We think they worried too much in our initial shenanigans they’re doing their best to keep the rest of our trip uneventful. We’ve had near misses with car accidents, I nearly lost Tony’s cell phone today when I hopped out to get a picture and it was in my lap (fortunately I had left the door open and Tony saw it on the ground), and we’ve been able to find lodging even at peak season out here without reservations.

If there’s one piece of advice I’d give anyone traveling out here, it would be to make sure you have reservations. We’ve spent a considerable amount of time calling places and dropping in to find that everywhere is booked. Even though I had planned 6 places where we’d need reservations, I never made them. After the rocky start, I didn’t want to jinx us by making reservations that we may not be able to keep if we had any further problems. But like I said, we’ve always managed.

Some places have been nicer than some. Tonight we nearly had to stay in a complete hole in the wall. We’re not entirely sure what it was, but it looked like a small trailer converted into a hotel. You couldn’t even open the door to the place without bumping into one of the beds. You had to close the door and shimmy around the bed to get to the little bathroom. Cassidi who is our picky hotel queen refused to stay!

We went on down the road and found a really cool place that is a cabin. It is part of a complex of cabins out in the middle of nowhere. We had a wonderful dinner in the restaurant that overlooks a small pond/lake. I asked if wildlife ever came up. They told us a moose usually does. We waited, but no moose. We’re supposed to get up super early to go look for him. I’ll be surprised if Mr. McCann ventures out that early.

We’re in the final push through Glacier tomorrow and then we’ll head south. We hope to hit Yellowstone before we get back to Denver. I think everyone is ready for some rest, quiet/alone time, and to not sit in a car for hours. We’ve done reasonably well with tolerating each other. No homicides have been committed just yet. We still have a week to go, however.

We’re hoping Glacier is fully open due to all the wildfires. We saw a bit of it this evening before we decided we better head out to find a place to stay. We had hoped to stay in the park, but everything there was booked, including the campsites. We saw a place that looks like it was recently damaged by the fires. It’s sad to see, but we realize it’s a necessary evil in nature. I just wish they could be controlled burns instead of these crazy blazes.

Tomorrow will most likely be another slow moving day. I’ve grown weary of being the vacation nazi and am fine with whatever. They all just have to suffer the consequences of losing sleep when we have to be somewhere in order to stay on schedule to get back to Denver. I knew it would come to this, but there wasn’t a thing I could do about it. Some things in life are just a given. And whirlwind vacation trips are exhausting… perod!

Monday, August 10, 2015

Pacific NorthWest - August 9, 2015

Today we reached the furthest point west on our trip. We got up extremely early to do a sea kayaking trip in search of orcas. After we were on the water, our guide told us he’d been in WA for 4 months guiding and hadn’t seen a whale as yet. It would have been nice had he told us that before we paddled around an island for 3 hours! Oh well. We saw an eagle, harbor porpoise, and a couple of seals. We felt successful because no one fell out of their kayak.

When we finished, we headed to the little town of Anacortes for lunch. They were having an art festival so we got the added bonus of seeing street performers and local art. We wandered around for quite a while before we decided to get back in the car to head for the North Cascades park.

The park was another drive through park. It had numerous snow caps and amazing rivers and lakes. Actually, there are three dams in the park. The water is an emerald color. Simply gorgeous. We have taken picture after picture along this journey and not a single one captures the true beauty. We keep taking them though.

We decided to continue on to Spokane this evening to hopefully get some time in Glacier tomorrow afternoon. We rode through a little place that looked like an old west town. It would have been nice to find a place to stay and spend the evening there. But one draw back was that too many people were there. It was sort of a mini Gatlinburg.

It’s been another long night of driving. Fortunately Jennifer has done the majority of the driving in the last two days. Tony had another dud day for some reason. We’re all laughing at him as he’s the one usually making fun of us for dragging. I can only imagine the shock his body is in after all his London travels on top of all this driving. He hurt his back just before the trip and no amount of massage, stretching, or ibuprofen seems to be helping him. He just needs rest. Maybe in a week or so.

We have moments of crabbiness and then moments of belly laughter. We’re making new memories that one day will be reviewed in much the same manner as we’re rehashing our old memories now. The girls never remember much about our first west trip. All their memories are our memories regurgitated or pictures we took. Hopefully with them being older this time, they’ll remember.

We are all in need of some rest. I don’t think we’ll be getting any of that in the very near future. The schedule is quickening in pace it seems. We’re expecting to be back in Denver this Friday to pick up the truck. We haven’t heard from the guy on the progress at this point. I’m sure we’ll hear something tomorrow. We’ve mostly been in denial about those first 72 hours of the trip. These last few days we’ve managed to enjoy without incident. We continue to knock on wood hoping our good luck will hold out.

We’ve had a great time in the Pacific NorthWest. The parks are gorgeous, the people have been nice, the cities held different surprises, the ferry ride from one corner to the other was interesting, the weather has been beautiful, and we’ve crammed every day full of activity from sun up to sun down. I don’t think we could have seen or done anything more than what we have. But we have left some things undone so we’ll have to return. Later… much later.