Travel Is Fatal.

Many of my friends are out traveling right now.  I've got some in Edinburgh, Scotland, some traveling from Amsterdam to Paris.  I would by lying if I said I was not a tad bit jealous.  But hey, I've stood outside temples thousands of years old in Sicily, been inside a 5,000 year old passage tomb in Ireland and stepped foot over the doorway of stave churches in Norway over 1000 years old.  Those are a few of the incredible things I've done.  And my traveling days are far from over.  Next on my list?  Pretty sure it will be Paris.

I've been pretty fortunate to travel as much as I have.  Below is a favorite quote of mine from Mark Twain, and it is absolutely true.  Whether you are traveling to a "Westernized" country or not, even going to somewhere that speaks a similar language to yours the customs are different and you are out of your element, rushing headlong into the unknown.  I found this to be absolutely true when I spent a month in Ireland.  That is what shakes the rust off.  Getting out of your "little corner of the world".

And I'm not talking about staying in a fancy hotel in the touristy areas.  I'm talking about living where the people live, getting to know the culture, how they live day in and day out.  I have found that is where the magic of travel is.  Nothing wrong with luxury, but you miss out on the things that make a country or a culture most spectacular by staying on the beaten path.  You find hidden little gems you would never have known about if you are willing to venture even a few blocks outside the tourist traps.

So I would encourage everyone to get out, travel.  In a time where our leaders are working very hard to instill fear of others, go experience a country or a culture not your own. Travel IS fatal to prejudice because you get to see first hand the beauty and the cruelty of the world and you are often relying on the hospitality of complete strangers.  The times I took those risks turned out to be the best and most life-changing experiences.  I've made some life-long friends and connections from these experiences and I would be a much duller person without them.  So don't buy into the fear, get out and see the world.

Errol Heights Nature Trail

On Saturday I got out for a quick walk on one of my favorite nature trails right in the middle of the city!  It only runs for about 6 blocks East to West, but along the way I saw nutria, squirrels and ducks.  It runs parallel to a little creek and a swamp area.  I snapped some quick pics and even got a shot of the nutria.  Those suckers are big! 

It never ceases to amaze me the little gems right under my nose.  I happened upon this one day by accident when I decided to take a look and it is definitely become one of my favorite spots, perfect for grabbing a quick half-hour walk outside andthe bonus is I rarely see another human being. 

Elliott Heights Nature Park

Vegas Baby!

Two weeks ago I wasn't even thinking about Vegas.  Then all of a sudden, a week ago, I find myself getting ready to head out on a "shotgun" trip to Vegas, as my brother and I like to call them.  

I did all the usual Vegas things you do.  Wander the strip, shop, gamble, eat, drink.  Wait, no I didn't.  I didn't do anything I might usually do in Vegas.

I went to opening night of the Wrangler National Rodeo Finals.  Spent 4 HOURS at Cowboy Christmas.  4 hours!  That's as much shopping as i might do in 3 months! I am very proud of myself because I did not buy one thing.  Except for a 1/4 lb. of sweet, roasted pralines because I was starving.

I helped celebrate my niece's 21st birthday with her friend and her mom, my best friend.  For me this was less about going to Vegas and more about being with my best friend of more than 30 years.  We also managed to fulfill one of her bucket list items, to see Reba in concert.  And if you have to ask "who's Reba?" well, shame on you.  She and Brooks & Dunn have a residency at Caesar's Palace.  Nothing like deciding to go to a show last minute.  

My mom used to say things like "you may never pass this way again" and "sometimes you gotta jump the fence".  Pretty appropriate for a rodeo-themed vacation.  We took the proverbial "bull by the horns" and got ourselves to that show Friday night.  

None of these things would I have ever done on a trip I planned to Vegas.  But you know what?  It was awesome.  I was sad when the rodeo ended that night.  We criss-crossed the strip with so many Lyft drivers they all start to blend in my head and we shared some simple moments of time with some pretty cool people.  

And I remember how much I love traveling.  Every. Single. Bit. Of. It.  Traveling shakes the rust off, puts one in uncomfortable places and forces you to learn new things and interact with people you might never have met otherwise.  I talked to some incredible vendors at Cowboy Christmas.  Sat inches away from strangers on the plane rides.  Rediscovered my love for Brooks & Dunn and nearly cried when Reba sang "Just Like Them Horses".  

I am so very grateful for the time spent with my best friend, my niece and one of her best friends. We talked late into the night, squeezed into tight backseats and traipsed from one end of the exhibition hall to another.  I don't know how it happened that I ended up there, but some angels must have been working overtime.  

When I was thinking about whether I should go or not, rearrange my work schedule and put in a six-day work week to make it happen, I lay in bed thinking "if I was dying, would I go?" the answer was a resounding YES!!!  Would that I could frame all my decisions in that light.  Wait.  I can!  

And on the plane ride home, I sat and scribbled notes for not one but two more future books.  One inspired by my very favorite Brooks & Dunn song "Red Dirt Road" and another idea I have been kicking around for 10 years or more.  Not to mention a plan to finish my first book and get that draft completed and move on from there.  A plan to shrink the things in my life that are of little value, and to enlarge those that are.  For me, that is writing.  

I can't tell you everything that happened in Vegas because after all, you know how the saying goes.  "What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas".  But I'm sure thinking about the next time I can go.  Take the opportunity to travel every chance you get.  For me, it is not a luxury, it is a lifeline. 

 

 

How Travel Took Over My Life.

I took my first big trip when I was 11, going overseas to England with a school group.  Just a small-town girl from Banks, traveling to England opened my eyes to the world.  I've never looked back.  I always loved flying, loved hotels.  Not scared for one second.  I loved the adventure of it all.  I even dated a guy who lived in Norway and spent a few months there.  Had a next-door neighbor who ended up stationed on the naval base in Sicily and so my brother and I visited him there and had an amazing time!  That same trip, we visited London and Dublin.  

For a long time I told myself I "couldn't afford" to travel again, and that was partially true. As I started to look at my life and design it over these last few years, I realized traveling was very important to me.  I made a vision board of the places I wanted to go and bought a carry-on suitcase patterned with a map.  Instead of feeling constricted about it, and not looking at places I wanted to visit, I opened myself up to the possibility.  If I needed a break from the mundane, I went on Airbnb dreaming about all the cities I would visit.  

In January I took a month-long trip to Ireland. It was the first international trip in 10 years, and a dream come true.  A month in a rural Irish cottage?  Yes please!  I've been been to San Francisco multiple times, Napa Valley and the Palm Springs area, not to mention road trips through Idaho and Montana, in the last year.  I've been asked many, many times how I'm doing it.  It's easy.  I made traveling a priority. Well, maybe not that easy.  Traveling does take money, it's true.   I had a little help with that in the way of an extraordinary job opportunity last year which made these trips possible.  

I saw this photo on Facebook the other day, and I've been thinking about it ever since.  I do not view travel as a luxury, but as a necessity.  Last night for dinner I made some gluten-free pasta, with a pork cutlet and fresh veggies and squash.  You know what that cost me?  $3.00.  No joke.  So, think about it.  If you want to travel, start looking at the areas in your life you can cut back.  And start eating at home more often, if you don't already .When you say yes to something, you are saying no to something else. It is no different with traveling.  If you want it bad enough, you'll figure out how to make it happen.    

 

 

 

Shotgun

My last post - July.  Pathetic.  Every month this summer I took a road trip.  In July I went to Idaho and ended up in Montana for the first time in almost a decade to visit my dad.  In August, I drove down to Oakland, CA from Portland, OR and back in the span of 36 hours.  This was very unexpected.  Talk about brutal.  I left Thursday afternoon and drove to Medford, then on to Oakland Friday morning.  We loaded up the car, had lunch, and then left for home Friday afternoon.  We got into Portland at about 3:30 am Saturday morning.  

In September my brother and I took another road trip, this time my brother was on his way to Missoula to live with our Dad for awhile.  The plan was we would rendezvous with Dad at our aunt and uncle's house in Spokane.  We left Saturday morning, arrived in Spokane late afternoon.  Dad was supposed to arrive Sunday afternoon.  Well, turns out, Dad could not make it.  Ben and I soldiered on to Missoula.  In one evening, we drove from Spokane to Missoula, I dropped my brother off, then turned around and went back to Spokane that same night.  In the morning, I headed back home.  That trip lasted from Sat-Mon.  

I'm not sure what it is about driving 1200 miles in the span of 2-3 days.  Kind of exhilarating, kind of brutal.  And so we termed them "shotgun" trips.  You load up in the car and make it happen. You stop at gas stations, eat terrible foods, consume copious amounts of energy drinks, coffee and soda. I don't think I ever want to drive I5 from here to California again.  I've had enough.  

So, in the span of one month, I drove roughly 2500 miles, through California, Oregon, Washington, Idaho and Montana.  It makes me tired even thinking about it!  I have no plans for a road trip in October, but then again, I didn't plan on those road trips in August and September either.  With the Freelance Adventurer, you never know what could be around the next bend.  I am hopeful there will be no more "shotgun" road trips.  I would like to take some time and enjoy the journey.  

The problem is I get itchy feet when I don't have a trip planned.  My heart pines for traveling, longs to explore the world and see new places.  Perhaps I'll plan something a little closer to home, maybe a beach trip.  Who knows.  But that's the thing...you never know where I might be at any given time.  So we'll see how long it takes me to get back on the road.  


Missoula Or Bust.

On the 4th I headed out from Portland to Boise to spend the day with my best friend and her family.  Today I sit at a hotel in Missoula, on the final leg of my journey, visiting with my Dad.  In the course of that time, I took a mini road-trip with my best friend Chris up to the Old Sawmill Station campsite, near Clayton, ID, to spend a few nights camping on my way to Missoula.

The drive from Boise to Old Sawmill Station was gorgeous.  We stopped a lot along the way so I could get pictures.  And, if you know me, you know I did.  We had one episode where we had pulled over off the highway so I could snap some pics.  Chris was backing up and all of a sudden I felt the right back tire of the car floating on air.  Luckily, we did not end up in the ditch.  We stopped in at Stanley Lake, Redfish Lake, and made our way to the camp site Wednesday night.  I loved being outside.  Chris cooked us kebobs for dinner and we sat outside enjoying some adult beverages and waited for the sun to set.  And then we saw the deer! It was magical.  The mama and babies were playing out in the field behind the trailer.  There is something so right about sitting on a fence drinking a beer with no place to be.  

Old Sawmill Station Road Trip

On Thursday we spent the morning at the trailer and then decided to go out and see some ghost towns in the area.  We hit Bonanza and Custer, and then went down to the river across from Sunbeam.  The land and scenery is gorgeous!  We drove along the Yankee Fork of the Salmon River (I think that's right) and saw the old gold dredger which turned over tons and tons of rock looking for gold and silver.  And for whatever reason, I collected rocks from every site we went to.  Now I have a pretty good little collection rolling around in the car.  When did I become such a nerd? 

Bonanza Ghost Town

Custer Ghost Town

Yankee Fork Dredge and Sunbeam

We had so much fun kicking around exploring.  The one ghost town we didn't make it to was Bayhorse.  We spent my last night at the camp site hanging out.  We thought we might go eat in one of the towns but Chris ended up cooking up some brats and we sat around and shot the shit.  When I say we, I mean Chris, her boyfriend Brian, and I.  A few of the guys from Brian's job came over and said hi.  They're doing road work at milepost....205 or something like that, so they've been up there for the whole year working during the week.  Then we decided to watch "Hot Tub Time Machine".  Can't say I missed much not seeing it up until now, but after the movie was over, I did get to see the baby deer eating outside the camper.  It was pretty cool.

On Friday I left for Missoula.  I drove the Salmon River Scenic Byway and came into the Southern end of the Bitterroot Valley.  I did stop in to Bayhorse on my way through.  It was awesome!  I love history, so learning about all these old mining towns was very interesting to me.  Fires destroyed most of them, and so people moved on elsewhere.  Custer has a pretty cool museum and they make their own old-fashioned soda, so when we were there on Thursday I got a Black Cherry old-fashioned soda.  The drive went pretty well.  There were a few instances when a deer was out on the road, but luckily no mishaps.  At one point there was a semi truck bearing down on me and I wasn't sure if he was gonna hit me or I was gonna hit the deer, but everyone was safe.  I didn't take a lot of photos of the Bitterroot Valley because I was anxious to get to Missoula and had already wasted a bunch of time.

Bayhorse Ghost Town

It's been raining in Missoula since I got here Friday.  A little unusual for this time of year.  So, I've been hanging out with my Dad and doing mainly inside stuff.  But, today we might get out to a baseball game or do some exploring since it has stopped raining.  We'll see what happens.  I'm heading back to Portland on Tuesday.  I'll be glad to get home but will most likely start planning another adventure.  I've got some ideas in mind already about where I might go.  I'm never happier than when I'm on a trip, or planning one.  

Where is Elk Rock?

Last Thursday, the 18th of June, I decided to go on a little local adventure.  I knew about Elk Rock Island, and knew it was in the river South of Milwaukie but had no idea how to get there.  I looked it up, figured out how to access it and then called to see if my 12-year old nephew wanted to go with me, so he agreed and I went and picked him up.  The island is accessed via a short trail at 19th & Sparrow, just off River Road in Milwaukie.

In the winter, when the water is higher, it is only accessible via the river because a slough fills in the land bridge.  But now, because the water level is so low, it was easy access.  Apparently, based on the parks & rec site, the island "represents part of an ancient volcano that erupted about 40 million years ago. The large, jagged rocks (Waverly Heights basalt) found throughout the island were formed by lava flows, and may be the oldest exposed rock in the Portland area. The island contains seven distinct habitats, including wetlands, forests, and grasslands. Across the river, there are high cliffs which are Elk Rock proper. A Native American legend holds that this was a good spot to stampede a herd of elk over the cliff. The island gets its name from being near Elk Rock." Also I apparently said "basalt" wrong because my nephew corrected me and then proceeded to launch into a monologue about the different kinds of rocks there are.  

The trail from Elk Rock.

The trail from Elk Rock.

Elk Rock from the trail.

Elk Rock from the trail.

It was a pretty cool place to visit.  There are so many places around the Portland area I have never even been to.  The island is criss-crossed with little trails, and takes maybe an hour or so to walk around.  There are beachy spots you can spend the afternoon if you so like, and there were a few people out doing that.  We decided to call it a day and go do some more urban exploring in Milwaukie.  I made a deal with my nephew I would take him to a game store to trade in some games. That was his reward for agreeing to go with me to the island. We also decided to go visit the chocolatier in downtown Milwaukie, Enchante.  And, if you have not been, go!  The store is gorgeous.  Not only do they have chocolate, but old-fashioned candy and Paris inspired decor and vintage treasures.  

Store interior (not my photo, credit to www.gallivant.com)

Store interior (not my photo, credit to www.gallivant.com)

After that we visited the old soda fountain/antique store in Milwaukie, Main Street Collectors Mall.  It is rumored JFK (I think) visited and sat right at the counter.  Connor loves going in there to check out the knives and cool stuff they have.  And we made it to the game store and then rounded out our day at Cha Cha Cha, eating chips and salsa and quesadillas and tacos out in the sun.  For some reason, I love Mexican food on a hot, summer day.  And this was definitely that!  Mission accomplished for the day.  Where am I off to next?  Boise, Idaho for the 4th and maybe just maybe sneaking off to Montana to see my Dad.  We'll see where my travels take me.  

 

The Longest Beach in the World!

On Monday of last week, the 15th of June, I decided to go to the beach for an impromptu overnight.  It had been awhile since I had seen my Grandma, and I had never seen the facility she is now living in.  After a tiresome work week with Pier 1, off I went.  

It took me some time to get there.  I-5 was backed up, so I decided to take an alternate route and go Hwy 30, through Scapoose, St. Helens, Clatskanie and Astoria.  The weather was beautiful!  I booked myself a little room at the Seaview Motel and Cottages. $75 a night?  Hell yes I'm there! I had been contemplating booking a night in a baby travel trailer at the Sou'Wester Lodge, but chose not to for this time.  I did do some investigating of the lodge, and learned they do artist residences for a week at a reduced rate.  I think I'm going to inquire and see if I can go for a week in August.  

It was so good to spend some time with my Grandma, and my uncles.  One of the coolest things that happened was a black bear sighting on the way to Astoria for an early dinner.  We were driving on 101 between Long Beach and Chinook and he just loped across the highway and went on his way.  I can still see it in my mind.  I was speechless for about 10 minutes just taking in the the awesomeness of what just happened.

I spent a few hours talking with Grandma, and videoed her while we did so.  At 90, she's still so sharp, and hilarious.  I did a separate blog last week with all her videos on it, but here's one for fun.  

After visiting with Grandma, I drove through town and found these really cool painted....well, I don't know what they are called, but they were behind an old gas station.  Reservoir tanks of some kind, maybe for propane or something.  But I had to stop and take some photos because they were cool and unexpected.  

And, I made it to the beach at sunset!  Long Beach was not as warm as Astoria, so I stood there, on the beach, one of the few, and snapped photo after photo of the setting sun while the beach steadily grew colder.  I didn't care.  One of my favorite things to do is take photos, and I often lose myself in the moment.  I determined to stay until the sun slipped below the horizon, and so I did.  I walked back to my car with cold, red hands, but I didn't care.  It was worth the experience of seeing that setting sun, on the edge of the world, cold hands or not.

 

I slept so well at the motel!  The bed was so clean and fresh and comfortable.  The bathroom, not so much.  I could have almost showered in the bathroom while sitting on the toilet.  Seriously.   But, the room was comfortable enough for overnight.  I decided to take a quick shower so I could get to the Shelburne Inn for breakfast.  I'd always wanted to eat there, so decided to go.  After seeing they had a "Hangtown Fry", which included oysters and bacon, I was in!   

The Shelburne Inn is cool.  If you haven't been, check it out next time you are in the Long Beach area.  I took lots of pictures of the outside, and some of the inside.  But breakfast was so good!  Strong coffee, and a scramble filled with juicy, good-sized fresh oysters that reminded me of the sea as I bit into them.  I left some eggs on my plate, but not a bit of oyster.

I rounded out my adventure going thrifting with Grandma, and then a light lunch at Dooger's.  I scored some amazing deals while thrifting, but you will have to discover these places on your own.   I can't give away all my secrets!   I had my oysters, so I wanted a cup of clam chowder.  Dodger's is the place to go.  Their chowder is delicious!    Creamy, but not overly thick and lump.  Tender clams, small chunks of cooked potatoes.  I want some right now! The bonus on that is we also saw the restaurant managers, who lived in the House of Jubilee with my parents way back in the late 60's, before they were married.  But that's another story,  for another time.  So make your way to Long Beach, it's a pretty cool spot.  I didn't even talk about the arcade, candy and ice cream shops or the tacky souvenir places you can go.  Something for everyone.  One thing I intend to do when I go back is to take a horseback ride on the beach.  Yup, they have those too.  On to more adventuring! 

 

 

Oakland and Alameda Are Awesome!

Earlier this month I had the good fortune to ride back to Oakland, CA with my brother.  I had never spent any time in this city at all, so I was super-excited to see where he lived and to explore it.  First of all, he lives in the coolest industrial warehouse loft.  I spent a lot of time taking photos of the place because it was so cool. 

And, one of his roommates is Cobalt, a sweet, gorgeous pit bull.  I did the other half of the photos of him. 

We spent time in Alameda, which is just across the bridge from where Benj lives and is the coolest little island city.  We went and had late breakfast at Ole's, a throwback diner, and sat at the counter. It was perfect.  I found some amazing jewelry at a shop called Therapy, we went to a few bookshops and we even went to a movie at the Alameda theater.  The whole experience was pretty cool.  

Benj and I picnicked at Lake Merritt (who knew there was a lake in the middle of Oakland!)

 drank swanky coffee at Blue Bottle Coffee (they asked for rights to use my Instagram photo!)

checked out First Friday in Downtown Oakland, joined a dance party Friday night at the Oakland Museum of California, and ate BBQ on the sidewalk from Kenny's Heart and Soul Food (pulled pork mac n' cheese anyone?).  

I had a blast.  The thing that stuck with me most is how incredibly artistic this city is.  Art oozes out everywhere, from murals to re-purposing old things for outdoor and home decor to street vendors.  I think Oakland is amazing, and I cannot wait to go back and explore more.  




Wilhelm's Mausoleum, Sellwood, OR.

I've been a bit behind on updating my travel adventures.  Just ramblings about interesting places I might go.  And sometimes I like to go to weird places.  I have this, well, I wouldn't call it obsession, but, I love to go to cemeteries or even mausoleums and take photos.  I don't know why, exactly.  Part of it is my love for history.  Part of it is the peacefulness you feel hanging out with all those who have gone before.  Another part of it is thinking about death and what comes after.  I would say it's because my mom died, but I was visiting churches and graveyards and cemeteries before she passed away.


One of my favorites is this mausoleum because it's so huge! And, it is a very central character in my novel I'm working on.  Once a year, over Memorial Day, they open up what is called the "Rae Room", and you can go in and view the marble caskets of the Raes.  I'm not going to go into all the history about them, you can check it out here:  http://koin.com/2014/05/15/eternal-love-george-elizabeth-rae/.  But, I did get some fun photos.  I've posted the majority of them on Flickr, but here's a sneak peek: 

My favorite parts of the mausoleum are the older, lower levels. You can almost feel the palpable presence of all the souls who have gone before.  To get to the lowest level, you have to find the elevator that takes you down one single level, and yet, you feel you have gone down many floors.  I remember the first time I visited, I nearly had a panic attack because I thought I was going to get stuck in the mausoleum with all those ghosts.  Ridiculous.  This time, as I walked to this area of the mausoleum, on the 2nd level, I believe, I could almost see the ghosts on these old pieces of furniture.  

There are some beautiful stained glass pieces in the larger crypts in the lower, most Southern levels, and I almost always go straight there after visiting the Rae room.  I had also seen a quote on one of the floors that I thought was so cool, and searched for quite awhile to find it.  It was tricky, hiding on the 3rd floor mezzanine level, but I finally found it.  If you consider yourself a ghost-hunter, and you haven't been to this place, I strongly urge you to go next Memorial Day.  And for now, I'll leave you with this.


THIS SHIT IS FOR REAL

This last week I finally sucked it up and "drove" 30 hours for Lyft.  And by drove, I mean logged in to the app for 30 hours.  There were some times when I did not have rides, but being logged in at home still counts.  What do I get for 30 hours?  A 10% bonus, as long as I drive 10 "power hours", and have a 90% or above acceptance rate.  

What are "power hours"?  Designated times by city when driving is deemed to be the busiest.  For me in Portland, it is Thursday night, Friday night and Saturday night.  And by night I mean starting at 5-6pm and going until anywhere from 11pm-2am.  By acceptance rate I mean the rides I say yes to.  Lyft gives me 15 seconds to decide, and then off I go.  

I'm going to show you a real picture of my earnings summary from yesterday, Sunday.  

 

You see, my brother referred me as a Lyft driver.  And, because I used his code, we got a "double-bonus".  Once I completed 30 rides HE got $250, but so did I!  Yes!!  My paycheck for this week should be right around $500.  Guess what - you can do it too!  If you want to become a driver and have fun meeting some awesome people, use this link: https://www.lyft.com/drivers/JENNA389228

Yesterday I had one semi-mishap that I totally blame on Apple Maps.  I picked up a couple in North Portland, to take them up to the Wonder Ballroom area on Russell.  Being the good Lyft driver and following the navigation, Cyrus put me on Skidmore, the longest unimproved road in North Portland!!! The car bottomed out more than once, I cussed a few times and once I got in there was no way getting out.  Who knew you could bushwhack in North Portland with a car?  Well, I found out you could.  The other stupidest navigation thing Apple Maps did was to try and take me from downtown, across the river, all the way down the East side and then back over the river to take a passenger to her hotel at the South Waterfront from just off of W Burnside and 13th.  Thank god I did a double-check!

On Saturday I met an artist who has a gallery in Mexico where she lives most of the time, a concert pianist home for a weekend from her program in New York and a really awkward guy who sat in the front of the car with me but said about two words.  Those were the highlights of the weekend.  Oh, and the group of 4 youngsters who were face-timing their friend in Korea while we were on our way to Wurst.  I guess I should try driving some really drunk people around to get even better stories.  

I love this job like I've loved no other.   I get to meet mostly cool people, drive around my beloved city and share interesting tidbits with out-of-owners.  Yesterday I even played part counselor and invited an aspiring musician to open mic.  You never know who is going to get in your back seat, which is really fun.  

What do I love most?  The flexibility.  F**k working a 9-5 job.  I don't think I ever want to do it again.  My favorite time to drive?  After 7pm, when the sun starts its' slow descent to the horizon.  Driving across the bridges while the sun is setting is nothing short of magic.  I am learning so much about my fair city and it is awesome!  

Some New Shit.

I've got some new links up on my site to some cool products.  Chris Guillebeau is one of my top "inspirers".  He's got some great guides on living an "unconventional life".  I have adopted a lot of what he is about.  I mean, the man has been to every single country in the world.  If you want to "Get Paid for your Writing", want to know how to "Live and Work from Anywhere" or how to get luxury travel "Upgrade Unlocked", check out the guides on the left.  I am picky about who I advertise for, but he is just too awesome.  You might have heard about the "$100 Start-Up".  Yea, he's that guy.

I have not been doing much traveling myself, except for driving around the city.  I spend so much time ferrying people around I figured out I might as well get paid for it.  So, I have now signed up to drive for Lyft and I am in the process of getting all set up with Uber.  Last night I turned on my pink mustache for the first time.  I like to ease into things, so I logged in for about an hour.  I had a ride request just as I was getting home.  Just kidding!  The ride was cancelled.  

Same thing happened today.  I have been logged in for part of the day while at home.  I got one ride request and tried to accept but a rare phone call interrupted it.  Argh!!! And then I accepted another ride, only to get punked again.  Oh well.  It's my training week so I'm figuring out how stuff works.  And, if you are interested in driving for Lyft, they need more pink mustaches out there!  If you do, please be so kind as to use my referral code:  JENNA389228.  That way you get money and I get money.  Or, you can use my custom code: SASSYGIRL in order to get a $20 credit on your first ride.

While were at it, if you have never heard of or tried Airbnb, it is the lovely site I found my magical cottage in Ireland on, and, let's face it, like porn for travelers.  When I need a travel break, I just pick a destination I want to visit and go look at Airbnb listings.  I have a referral code for this one too, for your first stay:  www.airbnb.com/c/jamundson1?s=8.  You must be a new user, but get yourself signed up!  Much more fun than a traditional hotel.  

Let's hope I can get my first rides in this weekend.  I am determined.  And then I will have even more stories for you.  In the meantime, be sure to sign up for Lyft, use my codes, and sign up for Airbnb, if you have not already. 

10 Reasons I Will Go Back to Ireland

Sitting in Costello's Travel Caffe, I thought it only seemed right to compose a travel-themed blog.  Seriously.  Why have I never been here before?  I have lived in Portland a long time.  This is almost  inexcusable.  But, I found it now.  Wrap-around canvas prints of photos from around the world grace the walls, there is a "travel special" running via tvs around the space and delicious coffee and food.  I even scored a gluten-free donut!  Trust me, that is not easy to find.  And it was tasty.  So I digress.  Back to why I am going to Ireland, sooner than later, ranked in no particular order:

1. Love. I think about Ireland.  A lot.  I am always trying to figure out when I can go back.  I would probably book a flight in a month or two and just go.  But, that might not be the best financial choice.  Or maybe it would be!  Who knows.  When you love something, or usually someone, you want to see them again and will do whatever it takes.  This is how I feel about Ireland.  I have never felt so connected to another place, not even Portland.  I must go back, and sooner, rather than later.

2. Vikings. Not the real Vikings, but the tv show "Vikings" on the History Channel.  After watching the most recent episode, I decided to find out where it was filmed, because it did not look like Norway to me.  And the majority of the outdoor scenes are filmed in the Wicklow Mountains.  Of course they are!  Somehow it escaped me this is an Irish show.

3. Weather.  I experienced every kind of weather you could imagine.  We had more than one windstorm, lots of rain, sun, sleet, snow and hail.  And I still loved it.  It simply invigorated me and I loved being out in it.  And it was January!  If I loved it this much then, how much more would I love it in the Spring or the Fall?  I intend to find out.

4. Music.  What can I say about this?  The music is just as you expect it to be, wild and raucous.  I found one of my most favorite bands ever, the Eskies, at the Shannonside Winter Music Festival in Sixmiledbridge and Bunratty Castle. That was an unexpected treat, and the Eskies now have a lifelong fan.  When I go back to Ireland, I intend to take in more trad sessions and find out where the Eskies are playing, because I am going.  

5. People. The people in Ireland are wonderful.  First, the accents.  I never tire of them.  Full of joy, used to working hard, very wonderful people.  Every where I went, even though technically I was alone, I felt made welcome by shopkeepers, farmers, servers, bartenders....let alone my host Steph and her friends.  They were so hospitable.  I cannot wait to go back and make some more friends.

6. Scenery. Ireland has it all.  Lakes, the sea, beaches, mountains, rolling hills, rocks and so much more.  If you like to fish, go to Ireland.  If you like to golf, go to Ireland.  If you like to hike, go to Ireland.  I think you get the picture.  I intend to go back and explore Connemara and the various peninsulas, Dingle being first and foremost.  And I intend to drive and explore as much of the Wild Atlantic Way as I can.  I picked it up here and there, but I intend to drive all of it. 

7. Alcohol. I definitely did not drink enough whiskey or beer.  I was driving so much, and I wanted to keep my wits about me.  This next trip I intend to settle into some villages for the night where I can walk to a pub and still make my way home without a car.  Be a little more adventurous at night. 

8. Castles. Almost every single castle across the whole of Ireland was closed for the season, except for Bunratty.  I am grateful I was able to spend an afternoon exploring it and an evening at the Medieval Banquet, but there are so many more I did not get into!  Dunluce Castle in the north, Trim Castle, Slane Castle...I don't know, you get the picture.  I want to go when things are open, not closed.

9. Giant's Causeway. I am still pissed I did not get to see the Causeway.  And the Antrim Coast.  The Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge, one of the harbors where they filmed "Game of Thrones".  The weather was scary windy.  But, this time, I will go up North via Donegal, rather heading up the Eastern side of Ireland.

10. Daylight. If I would have had even 2 more hours of daylight, I could have got around a lot more.  So, I intend to return when I at least might have a full 12 hours of daylight.  I knew going in January I would only get about 8 hours a day, but I intend to go back when I can explore to my heart's content and still have light well into the evening.

 

 

7 Things on My "Shit" List.

I have a new Twitter friend, Luke Marlin (aka @BackstreetNomad) who inspired me to write this blog.  And, he writes "Anti-Travel Guides", which I love the idea of!  That is brilliant.  Anyway, he made a comment about my Twitter mantra "Do Epic Shit" and then came the idea for this post.  I'm "sorry not sorry" if you don't like the word shit.  Read no further.

I also have a new Facebook friend, Jeff Buehner.  So while stalking his page, as I do with new friends, I came across this quote photo, which is another "sorry not sorry" post to do with shit.  Love this too. Jeff is one badass musician who plays in a Bon Jovi tribute band, Steelhorse.  He also collaborates with some other badass musicians in an original band, The Loyal Order. But, think on this.....

A few years ago I started writing down every possible thing I could think of that would be epic shit on seven blank sheets of legal paper taped to the back of my bedroom door. I wrote all kinds of things, but then I started writing other things related to shit.  Not just doing epic shit, but other things related.  So...here's my "shit list":

1.  Do Epic Shit.  Of course this is number one.  This became my Twitter mantra, and it lives on in me.  One of my very best friends even bought me a small framed photo of an old-fashioned, angry little girl with her arms crossed, with the mantra underneath her photo.  On the back of my door, I wrote things down like "quit my job", listed places I want to travel to, put down things like "make $120K in a year".  Just whatever came into my mind I listed, no matter how seemingly silly or out of reach. Oh, and I did quit that job.  And then went on to travel, having just spent a month in Ireland, by myself, which is some pretty epic shit, at least for me.

2. Clean Shit Up.  Whatever is cluttering up your life, clean it up.  And I mean physical shit.  Most of us have way more shit than we need, lots of shit we don't use, broken shit, torn shit, whatever.  If you don't love it, get rid of it!!!  Donate what you can first, then trash the rest.  I periodically clean my shit up, usually every 3 or 6 months.  It keeps me light, I'm not burdened down with a lot of shit I don't need.  Not having a lot of shit right now allows me to do what I want to do, which is travel and write.

3. Get Shit Healthy.  We all have areas of health we need to work on.  Our lives are like onions, peeling off a layer at a time.  I'm not just talking about working out or fitness shit.  I'm talking about our soul, our spirit, our personality.  If you find yourself asking "Why is this not working? What am I doing wrong?" find someone to talk to, write about it until you get an answer from yourself, get some books on the subject.  Take a look inside and make sure your shit is as healthy as it can be.  It will never be perfect, we all know onions have TONS of layers, so this will be a lifelong process, if you accept it. We don't need to carry around residual shit from other people either, so get rid of it.  This ain't healthy.

4. Make Some Shit.  I think everyone has creativity.  I don't buy that shit that only this person or that person is creative.  If there is something you want to make, do it! Or find someone to teach you if you don't know how.  Maybe it's writing (that's my shit), maybe it's visual art, music, furniture, maybe soap...candles...I think you get what I mean.  This might turn into your "epic shit".

5. Own Your Shit.  We all say it, we all agree with it, but I'll admit, it's hard to do.  So be who you are, and own your shit.  If you want to be a crazy fool, whatever that means, then do it!  But don't blame it on mom or dad or Obama or the economy or zombies.  Live your shit out and recognize you create your own reality.  And don't get your shoes dirty with other people's shit.  If you own your shit, you have no time to worry about everybody else's piles.

6. Be Happy With Shit. This is gratitude.  Wherever we are in this crazy journey called life, I can bet there is always one thing you can be happy about.  Right now, I'm happy I'm sitting out on the patio in sunshine with birds singing. There, was that so hard?  No.  And guess what...that happiness shit grows.  So try it.  

7. Let Shit Go. This is HUGE!  Probably why we all have such a hard time with it.  Loosely translated, it's forgiveness.  Forgive the guy who cuts you off in traffic, forgive the idiot who parks their cart in the center of the aisle at Trader Joe's, and forgive people's shit even when they DO NOT deserve it.  Why? Because that frees you up.  Holding on to shit, at the very least, creates unnecessary stress in the body which can lead to things like....cancer.  So let shit go.  It only hurts you anyway.  If it's hard, think of whatever shit it is like a balloon.  Send it out to the Universe,  just don't hold on to that shit. 

I am sure there are so many more things I could add to my shit list, and maybe I will, eventually.  But this is a good start.  

 

 

The Tree of Life

For Valentine's Day,  I took myself to Joshua Tree National Park.  From where I am, in La Quinta, it took about an hour and a half to drive to the main park entrance just outside Yucca City.  I wanted the whole experience, so I started at the main visitor center.  I knew there was an entrance into the park not for from where I was, but I decided I would drive through the whole thing, if I could.  And do at least one manageable hike.

What I didn't know is that due to President's Day, entry to the park was free.  Bonus!  Immediately the beauty of the rocks pushing up through the ground and the miles of Joshua trees marching on struck me with their otherworldly beauty, and I had to pull over for photos.  I saw faces staring back at me, could feel the oldness of the tumbled rocks, as if some giant had been clearing the land and dumped the rocks where they lay. I could feel the ancient pull of this primal landscape, a complete stark contrast to the lush green of Ireland.  I felt a little like I was on Mars.  Blue sky, orange rocks, baked earth.  Lizards skittering this way and that to get out of my path.

 

The park straddles the Mojave and Colorado deserts, and you can see the difference once you cross that invisible line.  The Joshua trees virtually disappear, and the mountains rise up, little more than jumbled piles of rocks.  The sky was doing incredible things, and it seemed every time I drove around the next bend, it was a new breathtaking view.  No wonder it took me six hours to drive up and around through the park.

 

I did stop and do the mile loop to Barker Dam.  Smartly, I decided not to wear or bring sunscreen.  But, that's okay, because I'll be more tan than anyone in Oregon for the entire rest of the year.  Apparently, they tried cattle ranching in this area at one point.  Though what in God's name would possess anyone to do that, I cannot rightly say.  It was fun scrambling around and through boulders back to the dam.  Even got a chance to view some ancient petroglyphs, though they had unfortunately been outlined in paint.  And, some idiot decided to carve he and his girlfriend's initials on one of the trees skin, scratching the bark away to get at the tender pulp inside.  If there would have been a ranger at the trail head, I would have turned him in.  That's not okay.

 

I enjoyed the spots in the park most where the people were not, obviously.  Every now and then, it would be absolutely still and quiet, with only the hot, desert breeze to keep me company.  I took some time to walk out in the desert, find a sloped, flat rock to sit on and take my shoes and socks off.  I had this great desire to feel the heat of the earth beneath my bare feet, the sand, the rocks and to imagine this place a thousand years ago, and maybe even thousands of thousands before that.  


It was a beautiful day.  I am so grateful to be having all these varied experiences.  I find as I get out in nature more, it feeds me and I crave it.  Nature keeps me grounded, and absorbs the restless energy I feel, helps me create.  Quiets my mind when I get tired of the ceaseless buzz of incessant noise from people and machines.  

I wound my way down through the mountain passes and across the valley towards the I10 and La Quinta.  I cannot imagine having crossed this space of land in a wagon, on horseback, or even on foot.  They say to take a gallon of water per person, and it's true!  You need it! I nearly consumed 2 litres myself mostly just driving around the park.  The desert is a very unforgiving harsh land, but still beautiful for all that.  


I cannot wait to get home and start to do more exploring in my own backyard.  And though I appreciate the desert's beauty and warmth, I miss the trees and the mountains, the ocean, the rivers.  I now turn my attention to the many textures and layers of the landscape at home, and the exploring I can do when I get back.  It seems this is not the end of my adventuring, but barely the beginning.   

The Road to Idyllwild

Yesterday I ventured to Idyllwild.  A small mountain town, elevation over 5000 feet, in the San Bernardino mountains.  State Highway 74 is no joke!  Several miles of hairpin curves and deadly drop-offs had me more than a little nervous.  I don't do the best with heights so I was going extremely slow the way there and back.  

 

I came across Lake Hemet, unexpectedly.  And roused a Great Blue Heron from its' resting place under the trees.  As it took flight, I stood, breathless, simply watching the great beating wings cutting through the air.  It was just me, no one else around.  I love the beauty, the majesty, of everything in nature.

 

And I figured something out.  I love exploring.  I love being outside.  When I don't get to do those things, I burn up inside with a restless energy.  Now that I've opened that door, I can hardly close it.  I'm not about eating out, going shopping or to the next coolest place anymore, though those things are fine and fun at times.  But me, I need to get out and see the world.  On my Twitter bio I stated "wanderlust grips me hard".  And it does.  I can no longer be bound or constricted by my own old way of life.  Ireland completely changed that for me. 


I loved Idyllwild, a quirky little mountain town.  I found the Funky Bizarre, which is run by a character named Peter.  He greeted me at the door, gave me a 45-second show, dressed in tails and a bowler hat.  I ended up with a Doobie Brother's Greatest Hits album for $2, some "Naughty Pussy" soap, and a candle he hand makes as an Idyllwild souvenir.  I don't know if I'll ever make it back to that little town in the mountains, but I'm so glad I went.  I bought fresh black tea and mukluk slipper socks from Merkaba's, met a woman in a tiny shop full of custom clothing and jewelry, and rounded out the day with lunch from Oma's, a European restaurant.  All in all, a beautiful day.


I don't know how much more I'll get out here.  We'll see.  Joshua Tree National Park is so close, I would love to get out there early tomorrow or Sunday and at least drive through part of it, and see what I can see.  The California desert does have a certain beauty, but it's not for me.  I can't imagine I would ever vacation here again, unless I was desperate for some sun.  

Salvation at the Mountain.

I stood at the edge of the Salton Sea yesterday.  Usually, I want to get in the water.  This time, I wanted to get away from it. I had heard the sea was toxic, and the shoreline littered with the bones and skeletons of dead fish.  It's all true.  The setting is still beautiful, but beauty tinged with the pervasive feeling of death and decay.  I felt sad for the birds that lined the shore, pecking at the dead carcasses of the fish.  I walked across the beach made up of millions of fish bones. Crunch, crunch, grinding them back into dust.  

 

Before I stopped off at this Godforsaken place, I went to Salvation Mountain.  It is one of the strangest places I have been on my travels.  In fact, the whole area feels like the apocalypse already happened there, a place where the people have been left behind to scratch and claw some kind of living out of the dusty surroundings.  I felt like I stepped back in time to the 60's or 70's, when Jesus love was rampant and the societal norms cast off in favor of something more personal and mystical.

 

Tents and camper vans lined the plain surrounding the mountain.  How this ended up in the middle of a desert, I'm not sure.  But the work itself is genius.  I could feel the desperate pleas from a man for Jesus to come, and imagine the thousands of hours this must have taken, laboring in the hot sun.  It seemed to me a kind of penance, a life-long labour of love.  

I followed the yellow brick road to the top, to the cross.  Hot, in the desert sun. I had a few moments where I thought I might fall off the mountain.  But, I figured even if I did fall, it wasn't that far.  I'm still thinking about what I felt there and I'm having a hard time putting it into words.  

The site is a photographers dream.  Vibrant with color, nooks and crannies, hidden, secret rooms.  All comprised of adobe clay.  An organic, living, breathing organism that keeps growing.  I noticed the blue angels.  In one of my favorite "rooms", and then again on a glassed in ceiling of the other structure.  These reminded me of my mom.  

 

I am glad I took the time to go.  I don't know if I will ever make it back.  It's not a part of the country I want to see over and over again.  Maybe never again.  I don't know if it hearkens to a past that won't let go, or a future I don't want to think about.  But the sense of decay was palpable.  Abandoned buildings, graffitied and half torn down.  Weary, tired people and no green.  Just desert dust.  I don't even know what you would do out in an area like that.  I was grateful to get back to the mountains and greener spaces of La Quinta.  I stopped in at the Oasis Date Gardens and had a date/cactus shake on the way home.  Sooooo goooood!!!!


Today I'm going to go picking oranges and grapefruits and lemons.  It seems so strange to be able to walk up and pick them ripe off a tree.  Maybe visit the pool, who knows.  Yesterday I did get hit on by an older guy at the pool, asking if I wanted him to bring me a drink because he was refreshing his.  I said thank you, and politely declined. But, hey, I'll take my compliments where I can get them.

Another Unplanned Series of Adventures

Here I sit in SFO, waiting for my flight out to Palm Springs, and it's Friday night.  I'm getting quite familiar with SFO, I think I fly in and out of here as much as I do Portland.  I was supposed to be gone at 5pm...but, the flight is delayed and may be delayed even more.  I may have to rethink coming in and out of here so often.  

I have my computer, so I decided to upload photos and do another blog post.  Why not, as the adventure continues.  Ben and I left San Bruno yesterday and drove out to Monterey.  We spent the afternoon wandering around the bay, taking random photos of seals, sea lions, pelicans and perusing the restaurants on the Pier for lunch.

Every single restaurant will offered us a sample of clam chowder.  Finally we settled on Crab Louie's and had lunch.  After lunch I got cotton candy and salt water taffy.  We walked over to get a closer look at a pile of seals and a few sea lions lounging on a raft near the pier.  

Ben took me on a scenic drive through Pacific Grove, and over to Asilomar State Park.  The sunset was gorgeous!  Of course we took lots of selfies, and lots of shots of the sun setting.  Beautiful afternoon!

 

For dinner we went to Crabby Jim's, back on the Pier.  I had Bacon Wrapped Stuffed Sole, and it was very good.  By that time, all the traveling and jet lag caught up to me.  I was passed out and sound asleep by 9pm.  


This morning we had breakfast at LouLou's Griddle in the Middle, out on the Municipal Wharf.  What did we have?  What else, but a seafood omelette.  An adorable little yellow and red diner.  Food was served lightning fast and very tasty.  I found out my flight was delayed, and kept getting delayed.  We decided to visit the National Steinbeck Center in Salinas.

 

I learned so much about the author, which I had not known before.  Watched a great short film about his biography, and wandered around looking at all the exhibits.  There is a lot to take in!  The docent at the museum recommended we go to John Steinbeck's house for lunch, and so we did.  Completely staffed by volunteers, we had a delicious lunch.  It was cool sitting in the place John Steinbeck had lived. 


We went down to the gift store, and I brought home a few books of Steinbeck's.  The coolest thing is that one of the guys embossed the books we had bought, proving they came from Steinbeck House.  So cool!

The drive back to SF was rainy and grey.  My flight to Palm Springs was now delayed for 3 hours, due to some kind of grounding.  I'm hoping I'll actually get out of here by 8pm.  The good thing is that the flight is only about 90 minutes, once we take off.  I am so ready to be settled in to the last leg of this journey. 

Not Quite Home.

I'm in San Bruno, CA.  Sitting outside of the motel.  It is nice to be outside without several layers of clothing on, and no jacket!  I am relishing the lovely morning.  

Today Ben and I are going to Monterey.  I have one more night until I fly out tomorrow evening for Palm Springs, so of course, more adventuring is in order.  I was very disappointed because I wanted to sleep the day away, but, I was awake at 6am.  So, down I came for some coffee and early morning writing.  

I don't feel sad to be back in the States.  Although, spending the afternoon at the airport in Boston made me kind of sad.  I don't like that airport, it was a long travel day, and I had to see Patriots crap EVERYWHERE! Gross. I was up for about 24 hours yesterday, though I did nap for a few hours on the way from Boston to SFO.  I need to figure out how to shorten the journey to Shannon for the next trip.  Two seven hour flights with an almost four-hour layover in between is not that much fun.  But, it's over, and I did it.

There's so much depth to what I experienced in Ireland, I don't think I even know all of it yet.  But, my soul has found its' home.  That doesn't mean I'm moving there, but it's the place I love.  And so I carry all the experiences deep within the marrow of my very being, and it's changed me.  Only for the better, as travel will, if you let it.  

Tomorrow when I go to Palm Springs I'm going to see what interesting things I can find there.  I can spend 2 1/2 weeks just kicking it at the house, or, I can do more solo adventuring.  Which do you think I'll choose?  I met a life coach on the flight from Shannon to Boston yesterday, and he was very impressed at all the things I was interested in.  He told me I should take a bow, for being so clear about the things I love and also for taking a solo journey for a month.  I guess I don't think of it as brave. I think of it as my soul calling to me and I listened.  My desire to go overcame my fear, and in the end, I was rewarded with a rich repository of experience I will draw on for the rest of my life!  For now, I am thankful to be in warmer weather.

 

 

I Can't Believe It

It's my last blog post from Ireland.  Everything is packed, dishes done, suitcase weighed.  I had to donate a bag of clothes so I would have enough room and weight allowance to bring home two fifths of whiskey.  True story.

Today I went in to Ennis to do some last-day shopping.  I stopped at a thriftstore and got two pairs of used, but in good condition, Converse for 10 Euro!  And then I went to a few other stores to grab some gifts.  

I stopped in at the Clare Museum, and what a cool exhibition, all about the history of the County Clare.  I was talking to one of the staff there and he told me that the guy that created or engineered submarines has a sub in Portland, and we figured out it must be the one at OMSI. So now I'm going to have to go check that out.  

After I finished at the museum, I drove about 45 minutes to have oysters at Moran's Cottage.  And it was worth the drive!  Six wild oysters on the half shell, and the Moran seafood special later, I was pretty full.  I headed out and noticed a swan in the weir, so I parked the car and walked over to take some pictures of it.  Turned back around and there was a little seal looking right at me.  I missed my photo op of the seal thanks to a big truck going by.  

 

I decided to round out the day with an Irish coffee from Jack B. Yeats pub in the Lady Gregory Hotel.  I don't do much drinking when I'm out and about because I'm the only driver.  But this seemed like a good idea.  And it was.  I drove home and had a beautiful sunset.


I can't even say how much I love this place.  The wild beauty, the people, the varying landscapes, the animals.  It's touched me deeply in my soul and I can see myself coming back over and over and over again.  There is so much more I want to see and do.  I've come to love Ireland in a way I did not expect.  It's like I found a missing piece of me.  

I'll be back in the States tomorrow night, stopping off in SF to spend a day and a half there, and then on to La Quinta/Palm Springs area.  Who knows what adventures await! This has been brilliant.  I could not have had a more perfect stay.