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Posts Tagged ‘Road Trip’

I have come to realise that sometimes you just have to stop.

You have to stop living the fast paced life that you live. You have to cherish every moment and you have to live. You have to take the time to ‘smell the roses’ as they say.. take the time to enjoy.

Recently I was in Las Vegas for the wedding of my friends, Tannis and Dave (watch for post to come) and decided that sometimes there is more to Las Vegas than just the neon lights and high rolling gambling tables (yes there is also awesome premium outlet shopping too).  But the ‘more’ that I’m talking about is the beautiful nature that lies within the desert not to far from Sin City.  The beautiful, amazing ‘Valley of Fire‘.

I won’t lie.  When most people think of Las Vegas they think of The Grand Canyon and I did too the first time I went there.  But some other friends had also told me about the Valley of Fire.  A smaller park not to far from Vegas that was full of stunning red rocks and simply one hell of an amazing drive.

Given that I had been to Vegas twice before and this time I was staying for a week. I didn’t fancy my chances of enjoying the full week on the strip so I suggested to Fi that perhaps we get out-of-town one day and take a road trip.    Well, plus there was the added incentive of this:

Living Life

Who says you can’t live the life of luxury in Vegas.. after all, what happens in Vegas…..

Quite simply our day was truly amazing. I flick back over all the photographs and am still amazed that I have been lucky enough to have witnessed such amazing scenery and I live in awe that landscapes such as this. In such an unknown place exist.

I am simply grateful for the opportunities, the sights and the ability to be able to enjoy such amazing landscapes..

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Picture Perfect Sunset Over Seeley Lake, Montana

 

Part of my love of road trips is being able to experience things that you may never have had the opportunity to see before.  The freedom to set your own schedule and do what you want to do.  To spend as long as you want or as little as you want and the opportunities to enjoy every single moment.

The first day of our road trip from Calgary to Saint Catherine’s had been a long one.  We had hiked the Bear’s Hump in Waterton National Park and driven the spectacular, amazing and absolutely awesome Going to the Sun Road through Glacier National Park.  As much as the drive is breathtakingly beautiful, it is also mentally taxing.   Tight corners, narrow roads and 1,000+ foot cliff drops. But I would still do it over and over and over again.

With no real plans on where we would stay, let alone, where we would eat, we basically drove until we got hungry.   We arrived in Seeley Lake around 8pm and the sun was just beginning to drop.

Rather than ‘searching’ for food we decided that the Hamburger Cafe beside the lake would be a nice enough option.  Something casual and a chance to sit outside and enjoy our surroundings.  Unfortunately the cafe was closed, but the steakhouse next door was still open and still serving meals.  It would have to do.

After taking our seat we were presented with the menu.  Literally a sign that stood 4ft tall and listed 3 items:

The ‘extensive’ menu @ Linsday’s Steakhouse

We both guessed that sirloin was on the menu for the night :-), which caused some snickering between the two of us (don’t worry.. this was just the beginning of our nightly laughs!!).

After dinner we wandered down to the lake with enough time to take in the beautiful sunset.

Chance just happened to land us in Seeley Lake at the time that it did. And Fate just happened to provide us with a beautiful sunset over the water that truly cannot be described.

The tourist brochures all describe Montana as ‘big sky country’…. I think this picture proves it correct.. What an absolutely stunning view..

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Making tracks across the U.S.A.

Solo travel can teach you many lessons, but the biggest ones it has taught me are to ‘Trust your Gut’ and to ‘Take a Chance’.

For me learning to trust my gut has been a huge learning curve.  Growing up I know that I was not the most self-confident person and quite often relied on others for direction and to make the decision for me.  But travelling has changed that and so often it’s one of the hardest things to listen to.  When your mind is telling you one thing and your gut is telling you something else. It’s hard to hold true and follow that gut feeling.

Anyone who knew me growing up knows that I did not take chances.  I was NEVER the first to do something, nor the second.. perhaps maybe the third or the fourth, but preferably always the last.  I NEVER did anything that would put me out on a limb, out by myself, rather more preferring to stay as one of the crowd.  While some of this is still true today, there is a higher chance that I will be tempted to take the plunge.  And I know now from experience that if I trust my gut when I take a chance… I’ll probably be ok.

Packing up and moving myself to another country and starting fresh was the first chance I took.  The second, stepping out and taking the chance to put myself out there to meet total strangers knowing that I might not have anything in common with them and the third? The third was taking a chance to drive halfway across the country with someone I had only met not eight weeks earlier and with whom I had only spent a couple of hours (at the most) with.

What makes someone do this?

The chance of adventure.  The chance to do something that you might never have the opportunity to do again. The chance that you might miss out on something. The chance that you might see something that you would never have otherwise seen. The chance to see it all. But mostly it’s the chance that if you don’t, you will live to regret it the rest of your life and forever ask yourself, ‘what if?’ and tell yourself ‘if only’.

When Laura first mentioned moving to Ontario and the potential of a road trip, I know that my eyes lit up (who doesn’t love a road trip) and I knew that I’d be jealous of her if she did it without me. It’s strange thinking about how easily it is to become jealous of someone you hardly know, simply because they are going to get the opportunity to do something that you know you could only dream of.   So when she mentioned that she needed company and a copilot for the drive, I told her, without hesitation, that I was in.

Preparation of trips can be consuming.  They can also be stressful and loads of fun. Laura can probably tell you a different story but when you email each other a potential road map and your trip routes are almost identical.  I think that you are pretty much on the same page. It almost felt too easy.  We never had any discussions on ‘what if’s’, and the only time I considered the potential of this trip not going to plan was the night before we left when I drew the conclusion that no matter what happened and where we parted company, as long as I had my credit card and could get to a bus station or an airport, I could get back to Calgary no problems.

Thankfully I can say it was the only time I had that thought and now fourteen months on, it is almost a distant memory and one that I am almost ashamed to admit.

In eight days we covered eight American states, including; Montana, Wyoming, South Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana and Michigan and the two Canadian provinces of Alberta and Ontario. But within the confined space of the car we also covered a lot more. We talked and we sat in silence.  We sang and starred in awe. We laughed (OMG did we laugh) and every day I became more thankful for this road trip in more ways than one.

Since that moment we pulled away from the curb in Calgary I have been thankful that I chose to take the chance.

 

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Enjoying Christmas Day at Lake Louise 2011

I love living in another country. I love the ability to step outside of what I know are my comfort zones. To reach out on a limb and take a chance. I love experiencing new things. Love the sensations that I feel when something is new to me and the happiness I feel when I accomplish something that I may never have tried at home.. but I LOVE my family more!.

The past eight to nine weeks have been a whirlwind, but a weekend visiting extended family in southern Saskatchewan in early August gave me the clarification that I needed.

The wide open spaces of the prairie lands. The golden fields of wheat. The sweet sounds of nothingness. The clear skies scattered with a million stars… and the photo’s of MY family hanging on a wall… It was all that I needed for my head and my heart to align and for me to know that I wanted to go home.

Golden Fields of Saskatchewan

The last two and a half years have been amazing. There have been days when I could not have been blissfully more happy and days when I wanted to pack it all in. Curl up, close my eyes and wish that I was somewhere else.

I will miss EVERYTHING here in Calgary..I will miss my amazing friends that have made the two and a half years I have been here so much better, my adopted Canadian family, complete with nieces and nephews and our annual Thanksgiving get-aways and the colleagues and clients that have become part of my everyday life.

I will miss the summer day’s when hiking in the mountains makes you feel alive and the coldest of winter days when it feels like moths are stuck up your nose and you can’t open your eyes because of the icicles on your eyelashes have frozen them shut… but it is not a goodbye.. more simply a see-you-later.

Hiking the ‘Many Springs’ trail in Bow Valley Provincial Park (July 2011)

I am looking forward to coming home. Spending time with my ever-growing family. Meeting my new niece and spoiling all over again, each and every single one of the ten nieces and nephews in my life and annoying my four bigger and older brothers (and their wives).  Catching up with friends and preparing for the next adventure.

My Mum and my beautiful nieces and nephews (before Jorge)… so cannot wait to spoil them all again

By far my adventures, travel and personal, are not over.  They are simply beginning the next chapter.

‘Home James’ …. looking forward to seeing this sign once again

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‘You can tell the Amish houses, they don’t have power connected to them’.

‘Heading Home’
A traditional Amish buggy heading home after the morning in town

We had just turned off Hwy 90 and were on the last stretch of our cross USA road trip, having driven that morning from Milwaukee, skirting Chicago and were about to arrive in Shipshewana, Indiana for our last night on the road.

About 10 years ago my brother, sister-in-law and I planned the ultimate road trip across the USA.  Land in LA, hire the ‘American Dream’ RV and set out across the deep south before climbing northwards to New York and then heading back across the top of the States and taking in parts of Canada.

Needless to say.. the trip never eventuated (not for lack of wanting on any of our behalf’s, especially Jase’s), but something in the planning of that trip drew my attention to the Amish people and their way of life.  The simplicity it held.

I remember seeing a picture of a black square covered-in horse-drawn buggy and men, women and children being dressed in what could only be described as ‘old style’ clothes and being totally intrigued with how they continued to live this way in the current world and one of my wishes was to travel to and stay in one of these Amish communities.

An Amish Boy sells Popcorn to tourists at the local markets

When the opportunity came up to do the cross American road trip with Laura, I had to mention my wish to visit Amish country…and to my surprise, she too was keen to check it out, so the detour to Amish country in Northern Indiana was born.

After arriving around 5pm and checking into the Farmstead Inn and Conference Centre we headed out for a hearty Amish meal at the Blue Gate Restaurant and were not disappointed.. plateful’s of fried chicken, roast beef and fresh homegrown veggies… and to top it all off, amazing slices of Apple and Blueberry Pies for dessert.  To say that we both left full would be an understatement!!

Is your mouth Watering??? Mine is!!
Our Blueberry and Apple Pie slices… to die for!!

Waking up to the clip-clop of hoofs on Saturday morning it was as though we were living in a dream.  The town was busy with both tourists visiting for the weekend and locals coming to town for their weekly outing and grocery runs.

After deciding our plans for the day we ventured to a little hut situated in the parking lot of Yoder’s Shopping Centre, in front of the horse hitching posts, and booked an hour’s private buggy tour to clip-clop like the locals around the Amish Countryside.  For $20 each, our local Amish guide Ernest (from memory) explained to us about the Amish way of life, the significance of the simplicity of dress to ensure that all members remain equal and how over the years families have had to ‘adapt’ to changes in order for their farms to continue to be competitive in today’s fast paced world.

Horse and Buggies at the hitching posts @ Yoder’s Shopping Centre

While many families continue to do as much as they can manually, cows are now beginning to be milked with electronic milking machines and the odd tractor is seen in fields planting and harvesting crops of corn or carting hay to feed the animals.  While these modern-day elements are starting to creep into Amish life, they are doing their best to ensure that their traditions continue in every other sense.

With just the sound of the horse’s hooves on the pavement, the back roads of Shipshewana are magical in every sense.  A chance to see Amish daily life in action…. I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves…..

‘Waiting for the Master’
Horse-drawn buggies tied up hitched while their masters do their weekly shopping

Laura and I enjoying our buggy tour

Corn field outside Shipshewana

An Amish women collects her morning mail

The view from inside our buggy, with Ernest at the reigns

My Favorite..
An Amish Dad and his daughter ride home from town

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