Solo Travel: Now Accepting Women

Even if the answer could have been yes, it still caught me off guard when my camp neighbor for the night ambled over to my campsite and said, “you’re camping alone tonight, darling? You must be running away from a man.”

It’s a sentiment that I come across a lot in my travels. It’s almost as if somewhere between the time that women won the right to vote, and today, a law was passed outlawing women from traveling alone. But I’ve never been told of any such law, so I’m going to keep doing it, even if it makes some people uncomfortable along the way. My road trip travels this week took me from my cozy apartment in Boulder, Colorado, west to Rock Springs, Wyoming, with stopovers at Bear Lake, Idaho, Salt Lake City, Utah, Vernal, Utah, and Steamboat Springs, Colorado, before landing back in the land of indoor plumbing, my favorite pillows, and homey views of my Boulder Flatirons. It’s been a long week, and an incredible testament to the resilience of the mind and body. I’ve traveled over 1,000 miles in my trusty Toyota 4Runner in a week’s time. I walked among wild horses in Green River, Wyoming. I successfully paddle boarded for the first time in the warm waters found in the Flaming Gorge. I faced my fear of horses on an afternoon horseback ride at Utah’s Red Canyon Lodge. A ride that crept along the Gorge’s rim edge, providing so many unmatched views of nature’s true beauty that I completely forgot to be scared. I rode my bike alongside the pebbly beaches of Bear Lake in Idaho. I camped at the lake’s turquoise-colored water’s edge with the gentle sounds of waves lapping against the shore and the soft rays of moonlight lulling me to sleep—all alone— and I lived to tell about it. I mountain biked near a herd of bison in Antelope Island at the stinky, but beautiful Great Salt Lake. I got lost deep in the mountains high above Vernal, Utah, which is also where I found the strength to survive and the extent of the power of the mind. I drove alone. I slept alone. I ate alone. I made a handful of friends along the way. I started campfires on my own. I made camp grub and morning coffee on my own. I pushed my body, my mind, and my spirit, and I realized that I’m capable of so much more than I ever knew. And I did it all without a man. Solo travel is something that everyone should do in their lifetime, but it’s something I especially recommend for women. In a society that tells us we can’t, solo travel reminds us that we can. 

Being Scared is the Easy Part

It’s so easy to be sacred. For the past year, I’ve been scared of just about everything. I was scared to leave my twenties behind. I was scared to a leave a stable job with stable job friends— and health insurance. I was terrified to start my own business and take on the challenge of finding a way to keep a roof over my head and food in my mouth. I’m scared that my writing and words aren’t good enough. I was scared to be alone on trails that I had been hiking for years. Fear is natural, and it’s really easy to succumb to.

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Before heading out on a week-long solo road trip through the rugged mountains of Wyoming, Idaho, Utah, and Colorado, I faced one of my biggest fears head-on. I stood silently and begged my pounding heart not to give me away as I watched a black bear ramble out of the bushes about thirty feet from where I stood. He was beautiful. And even though we stared quietly at each other for what felt like an eternity, one of my biggest fears eventually turned around and slowly re-entered the same bushes he’s emerged from. That moment was a moment that I needed, and I’ve been facing my fears ever since. 

Deep in the heart of the Flaming Gorge in Utah today, I saddled up and climbed on top of a horse named Beacon. It’s not Beacon’s fault that I’ve had terrifying experience with horses in the past. But today, it was his job to carry me and my fears around the rim of one of the most beautiful gorges that I’ve ever seen in my life. As we reached an overlook high atop of the turquoise blue waters below, I could feel my fears dropping— down, down, along the fiery red cliffs to the very bottom of the river below. 

Tomorrow I’m headed to Bear Lake, Idaho, where I plan on riding my bike 50 miles around the lake, tossing fears, and leaving worries in the surrounding green forests. Later on, I’ll post up in cozy camp spot for the night, and spend my evening watching a fire toss flames towards a star-covered night sky above. 

It’s really easy to be scared. But sometimes, when you least expect it, it’s really east to be brave, too. 

All The Wild Horses

Southwestern Wyoming offers up a freedom that can't be found sitting behind a cubicle or confined to a tiny stall. Even the sand at the Killpecker Sand Dunes rambles along the mountainside, answering only to the wind. But the most beautiful representation of rural freedom, is in the faces and messy manes of the many herds of wild horses that roam the mountainsides around Rock Springs, Wyoming. Check out these photos I snapped today my 6-hour tour with Rich Nobles of Green Wild Horse Tours and Eco Safaris. The tour was amazing, and incredibly informative. And the morning sunlight at 8 a.m. as we rose deeper and deeper into the rugged Wyoming wilderness made for some pretty great photos ops to kick off the day. 

Adventures in Dating...

A few years ago, I pitched a dating column to a local magazine... and it got picked up. Writing about dating in your late twenties is the best. Bad dates = awesome material, and I have a lot of good material. With the holidays coming up, and the inevitable "why didn't you bring a date?" conversations commencing for single people all over the world-- I thought I'd share the pitch that originally got me started writing about dating as an adventure... 

"Dating is hard, and dating in your late twenties is like living with a potentially fatal disease—the sooner you’re diagnosed, the better chance you stand of making it. Because if left untreated, you’ll find yourself on the brink of 30, begrudgingly checking the “single” box on your tax documents and listening to the sincerity fade out of your grandma’s voice when she says, “don’t worry dear, there’s still time”. 

Dating in your early twenties is pretty simple. You meet someone at a party, partake in some small talk while searching for your bra the next morning, bond over some hangover eggs and bacon, and BAM!—you’re in a relationship. As the years go on, that simplicity diminishes. I’m quickly closing in on 30 and the last date that I had showed up drunk and ate the last two pieces of quesadilla off of my plate—needless to say it didn’t work out. The poor schmuck before him got lost picking me up for our third date, accused me of lying about my address, and told me to “loose” his number in an angry text message. Nice abs and a cool car just don’t cut it as the ideal anymore.

In a state that’s constantly in the press for being home to some of the smartest, most attractive and athletic twenty-somethings in the country, why is it so hard to find a good date? As a single lady, I think it's time to start getting creative about finding a tolerable man to spend time with. Should I (ugh…) give online dating a try? I'm sure my potential online dates will forgive me in time when they figure out I'm not really a yoga instructor... Maybe I’ll go with the old standby and prance around my local gym in my brand new workout threads. Sweatbands are still in style, right? Or maybe I'll get a kitten and use it as an accessory to attract guys at local watering holes. Guys love kittens. Or are they into puppies... Shit. The dating process might be a lot of things, but it certainly isn’t boring.

“Date me, I’m 30” is the perfect weekly dating column for your magazine.  A combination of real life dating stories, lessons learned the hard way, tons of humor and epic fails, and what it takes to date in the 303 area code in between. This column will give readers a good chuckle, ideas for dates, and some reassurance about their own dating life. "

 

Best of luck to all you single folk this holiday season!

Get Lost in Downtown San Antonio

I don’t wear a watch— and not just because my favorite portable sun-dial broke last year. I purposefully don’t wear a watch because I can’t stand being a slave to the clock. Since I don’t pay much attention to the time, I’m typically running late for things. I know, I know, being on time is important and all that. But what if you’re en route to meet a friend and you come across a double rainbow? That’s like two rainbows, at the same time. Double the rainbows means double the gold…— and gold trumps friendship, right? Okay— not the best example. But things come up. Sometimes it’s a good thing, and sometimes something really bad happens and stands in the way of you being a punctual person. But the fact of the matter is, it’s a really refreshing feeling to just stroll through life at your own pace. 

Last week, I spent a few days in San Antonio, Texas for a friend’s wedding. On my last day in this colorful town, I took a stroll along the city’s popular River Walk in the downtown area. The River Walk is filled with a few of my favorite things: authentic margaritas, great places to snap some cool photos, street art, food… so much food, and people leisurely strolling along a slow-moving body of water. 

This area of town makes it easy to forget where you were going and hard to pass up an empty seat on a restaurant patio. And the best part is, when you answer the beckoning call of that empty seat, there are people there just waiting to bring you freshly-made guacamole, and pork tacos, really good refried beans, and tequila. Tequila for everyone! And because you’ve officially lost track of time, and have nowhere to be and nothing to do but discover a new city at your own pace, it’s totally cool if you veer off of the River Walk for a little while to savor the picturesque scenery of the San Fernando Cathedral in the main plaza. Dating back to 1738, this Catholic church is a breathtaking example of American Colonial and Gothic architecture, with a church square so inviting, even the pigeons seem to be playing a role. It’s one of the best places in downtown San Antonio to get lost in the moment.  

Unlike the serene vibe illuminating the San Fernando Cathedral, the scene at the Alamo is chaotic and pushy. Day-dreaming about the people who have stood on the same ground beneath your shoes dating back to the late 1600’s isn’t easy to do when eager tourists wielding digital cameras and loud tour guides are constantly keeping you on the move. Historical facts spewing from the loudspeakers of passing double-decker busses, and rehearsed employees marketing their business to passerby's on nearby streets is the scene you’ll find at the home of one of the most pivotal events in the Texas Revolution. If you’re planning a trip to San Antonio, you should pay a short visit to the Alamo— and touch the centuries-old stone that triumphantly emerges from sacred ground now surrounded by the inevitable sights and sounds of modern-day city life. 

And when you visit downtown San Antonio, do us both a favor, and leave your watch at the hotel. I don’t care if it’s a shiny new Rolex. Leave it behind. And resist the urge to share up-to-date moments with your 35 Twitter followers and loads of close Facebook friends. Get so lost in the moment that you end up in a patio chair of a busy outdoor bar called the Friendly Place, just south of downtown, drinking in a cold Pacifico, the surreal colors of the sunset, and a day well-wasted. 

 San Fernando Cathedral

San Fernando Cathedral

 The Alamo 

The Alamo 

 River Walk 

River Walk 

Why Moms Make the Best Road Trip Buddies

“Roadkill!”, my mom hollered from the passenger seat, as I swerved to avoid yet another lifeless raccoon sprawled out across the asphalt. She let out a few giggles at her own joke— and it was at that moment, with a brilliant burnt-orange sun setting in the rearview mirror, and miles and miles of open road ahead, that I was reminded just how much like my mother I really am. 

We were an unlikely pair on the on the road that day. Just a girl in her late twenties, her mom, and a car loaded up with stuffed animals, onesies labeled with clever sayings, and a wooden baby crib— an old heirloom handcrafted by my mom’s dad, used by both of my sisters and myself, and brought out of retirement to rock my older sister’s soon-to-be bundle of joy to sleep at night. We had spent the day in a maze of corn fields, big rigs, and a smelly variety of deceased animals, substituting as mile markers on a particularly long stretch of I-80. 

We were on a mission, bound for Kansas City— the home of thousands of newly depressed Royals fans-- and my older sister, her husband, and their two ridiculously adorable pugs. It was my mom that casually threw out the idea of driving the crib and all of the former items from all of the shelves of aisle 6 of Babies R Us out to Missouri. I was in desperate need of a spontaneous road trip, and even though my mom and I hadn’t spent a great deal of time together in the past few years, I packed a bag, and away we went. 

When it comes to road trips, picking a good partner-in-crime is crucial. The best road dawg is someone that already knows your flaws, and weird sleeping habits, and is all too familiar with that awkward pitchy off-note you hit when reaching for gold in every Celine Dion song on your playlist. (Don’t judge me. You’re probably listening to a Justin Beiber song at this very moment…) Like pretty much ever other mother-daughter relationship, my mom and I had our fair share of spats as I was growing up. As a kid, a teenager, and an adult, I’ve always been stubborn. And fiercely independent. And unrelenting. All qualities I share with my mom. But as the years passed, the emotions and traits that make us the same have evolved enough to bring us together. It’s like my entire life, we've been trying to keep our balance on opposite ends of a tight rope, and we’ve finally both carefully made our way to a supportive middle. With each mile, and hour, and town, I felt better and better about traveling with my mom. It’s not like woman I had known my entire life had changed— she hadn’t. She had always been adventurous, and caring, and funny. I was the one that had changed. I’d grown up. And my mom was no longer the woman grounding me for the fifth time that week. She wasn't the woman hiding exhaustion from three girls with countless passions and hopes and dreams. She was the woman sitting across from me at 11 o’clock in the morning on a weekday, sipping on samples of craft beer in Nebraska’s oldest brewpub. She was the one that was wholeheartedly game when I half-seriously suggested we tour the National Roller Skating Museum along the way. She was the one telling me stories of our past. Stories I’d always been dying to hear. Like about the moment when I entered this world on schedule— making it one of the last known moments I was ever on time. She told me stories about her father, who had passed away over a decade before. She was the person to my right, making sure I was drinking plenty of water and holding the bag of carrots out so that I could enjoy a healthy snack as I drove. She tolerated my eclectic music choices for more than twenty hours, but belted out the words every time a Beatles song came on— because when it comes to crafting the best road trip playlist, the Beatles are the great equalizers. 

When we finally found ourselves nestled back between our beloved Colorado mountains, we didn’t hug. We’ve never been the hugging type. But as we said our goodbyes, just like every other goodbye we’ve ever exchanged, I started thinking about our next road trip. Where would go next? I bet she would love the palate of fall colors in Vermont? Or maybe Boston. Our trip theme could be “Tea Party”, which she’d enjoy, because she thinks I drink too much coffee. More memories will come from our next adventure. And when it comes to family, growing up, and adventure, it’s all about the memories. 

 Lincoln, NE

Lincoln, NE

 Lincoln, NE

Lincoln, NE

 Cubby, Kansas City, MO

Cubby, Kansas City, MO

 Oliver, Kansas City, MO

Oliver, Kansas City, MO

 Weston, MO

Weston, MO

 Weston, MO

Weston, MO

 Weston, MO

Weston, MO

 Weston, MO

Weston, MO

 Weston, MO

Weston, MO

 Weston, MO

Weston, MO



The Open Road

Even when I'm home, my head is always somewhere else. In the clouds. Reminiscing about the comforting feel and sound of a warm breeze outside of the Cathedral Basilica in downtown Santa Fe.  Trying to remember the name of the old school BBQ shack in Austin where I waited for 45 minutes in the rain just to get up to the order window. Wondering if "uno mas cerveza" also works in Spain...

Living in the beautiful state of Colorado, it's easy to find adventure not too far from home. One of my favorite things to do is hop in the car and drive-- because there's nothing, nothing like the open road. Today is Thursday, and I'm winding my way through Rocky Mountain National Park, en route to Steamboat Springs. What's in Steamboat Springs? I don't know. But it's where I'm headed. Because it's a weekday, the roads are quiet. The hoards of people that frequent the park each weekend are still sitting in their offices-- signing off on invoices and writing memos. Today-- the road belongs to me. Only the sky and sun can tell me what to do. Out here, it doesn't matter if I didn't check my e-mail today. Or if I eat a whole bag of Harvest Cheddar Sun Chips before I even exit the park. I don't have to explain myself to anyone when a One Direction songs comes across my road trip playlist. It doesn't matter if I don't know where I am or how to get to where I'm going. All that matters is that the sun is shining, and the sky is the bluest blue you'll ever see. 

Whenever I'm traveling on mountain roads, I always think of my dad. My love for the outdoors and adventure comes from him, and the hundreds of stories he's shared about his own love for the open road. As I take in the cool, crisp air on Rabbit Ears pass, I can't help but wonder if he's ever done the same. And if he knew where he was going. And if he too saw that one patch of trees, stubbornly holding on to the burnt orange and dull yellow leaves before the winter wind blows them away for good.

I spend so much time taking photos and taking it all in, that it's almost dark when I drive along the last stretch of road, the lights of Steamboat Springs in the distance. I'm tired, and slightly sunburnt from leaving the sunroof open. A cold beer, a quick bite, and a good nights sleep is the cure. Tips from the locals are welcome. The adventure begins all over again tomorrow morning. 


This Week's Adventure: Harvesting


 The greenhouse at the Lyons Farmette filled with cucumbers, tomatoes, and tons of other farm-fresh goodies.

The greenhouse at the Lyons Farmette filled with cucumbers, tomatoes, and tons of other farm-fresh goodies.

I'm really domesticated these days. Like, I cook meals for myself at least once a week. My cooking hasn't even landing me in the hospital yet, so I just keep doing it. I recently had the opportunity to interview Chef Bradford Heap-- owner of SALT the Bistro and Colterra as well David Asbury-- owner and operator of Full Circle Certified Organic Farms on tips for eating healthy and supporting local farms during the cold-weather months. Both men are incredibly passionate about buying local, supporting local, and harvesting the best, organic ingredients whether it's for a meal out on the town, or at your own kitchen table. I was super inspired by our chats-- so I got a little crazy. I spent an afternoon filling up bags and bags of big, red tomatoes at Munson Farms, and stocked up on things like garlic, farm-fresh eggs, and mixed greens at Cure Organic Farm. I got a little carried away. It happens. I unloaded my massive farmstand haul on my kitchen counter and stared at pile of colorful produce patiently waiting for me to figure out a game plan. The problem is-- I didn't have one. I had no clue what I was doing. So I did what any other helpless human being would do. I cheated. I sought out a canning class at the Lyons Farmette, and let the professionals teach me the ways of harvesting fall produce for the winter months.  The Farmette holds a variety of different classes each month (click here for a full list), each classes highlighting a different part of farm life. During my class, I wandered the Farmette grounds, harvesting cucumbers and apples that would eventually become tasty pickles and homemade applesauce. The folks at the Farmette taught us how to safely can your fall harvest bounty. I left the class feeling a little cocky, and ambitious. So I got to work. I canned some basic bread and butter pickles and made a big ol' batch of tomato and basil sauce that I can't wait to bust out in a month-- just to remind myself that even an old dog can learn some new tricks.

Check out these tips on water bath canning-- and go find a farm. Seriously. It's not only good for your health, but harvesting and canning you own food is pretty good on the ego as well.

WATER BATH CANNING INSTRUCTIONS

  1. READ through recipe and instructions.  Assemble equipment and ingredients. Follow guidelines for recipe preparation, jar size, preserving method and processing time.
  2. CHECK jars, lids and bands for proper functioning. Jars with nicks, cracks, uneven rims or sharp edges may prevent sealing or cause jar breakage. The underside of lids should not have scratches or uneven or incomplete sealing compound as this may prevent sealing. Bands should fit on jars. Wash jars, lids and bands in hot, soapy water. Rinse well. Dry bands.
  3. HEAT home canning jars in hot water, not boiling, until ready for use. Fill a large saucepan or stockpot half-way with water. Place jars in water (filling jars with water from the saucepan will prevent flotation). Bring to a simmer over medium heat. Keep jars hot until ready for use. You may also use a dishwasher to wash and heat jars. Keeping jars hot prevents them from breaking when hot food is added. Leave lids and bands at room temperature for easy handling.  
  4. PREPARE boiling water bath canner by filling half-full with water and keep water at a simmer while covered with lid until jars are filled and placed in canner. Be sure your rack in resting on the rim of the canner or on the bottom, depending on the type of rack you are using. A boiling water bath canner is simply a large, deep saucepot equipped with a lid and a rack. The pot must be large enough to fully surround and immerse the jars in water by 1 to 2 inches and allow for the water to boil rapidly with the lid on. If you don’t have a rack designed for home preserving, use a cake cooling rack or extra bands tied together to cover the bottom of the pot.  
  5. PREPARE tested preserving recipe using fresh produce and other quality ingredients.
  6. REMOVE hot jar from hot water, using a Jar Lifter, emptying water inside jar. Fill jar one at a time with prepared food using a Jar Funnel leaving headspace recommended in recipe (1/4 inch for soft spreads such as jams and jellies and fruit juices; 1/2 inch for fruits, pickles, salsa, sauces, and tomatoes). Remove air bubbles, if stated in recipe, by sliding the Bubble Remover & Headspace Tool or rubber spatula between the jar and food to release trapped air and ensure proper headspace during processing. Repeat around jar 2 to 3 times.
  7. CLEAN mason jar rim and threads of jar using a clean, damp cloth to remove any food residue. Center lid on jar allowing sealing compound to come in contact with the jar rim.  Apply band and adjust until fit is fingertip tight. Place filled jars in canner until recipe is used or canner is full. Lower rack with jars into water. Make sure water covers jars by 1 to 2 inches.
  8. PLACE lid on water bath canner. Bring water to a full rolling boil.  Begin processing time.
  9. PROCESS jars in the boiling water for the processing time indicated in tested preserving recipe, adjusting for altitude. When processing time is complete, turn off the heat and remove the canner lid. Allow jars to stand in canner for 5 minutes to get acclimated to the outside temperature.  
  10. REMOVE jars from canner and set upright on a towel to prevent jar breakage that can occur from temperature differences. Leave jars undisturbed for 12 to 24 hours. Bands should not be retightened as this may interfere with the sealing process.
  11. CHECK jar lids for seals. Lids should not flex up and down when center is pressed. Remove bands. Try to lift lids off with your fingertips. If the lid cannot be lifted off, the lid has a good seal. If a lid does not seal within 24 hours, the product can be immediately reprocessed or refrigerated. Clean mason jars and lids. Label and share then store in a cool, dry, dark place up to 1 year.