Leaving Montana, Driving through Idaho, Stop Over in Spokane, Drive to Seattle…

After a week in Montana I headed to Spokane, WA. Another ride-share with a very sweet college student from Missoula. She was fun and the conversation kept us alert and enjoying all the scenery. She was going home to Spokane for a few days of family time and I was going to my next couch surfing hosts.

The Callahan home. Loved it there. Such a great positive energy. Lots of kids and smiles. Food and drink and lots of goings ons. I felt a kindred spirit with this family right away. It was my first experience sleeping on a massage table and I could not have been more comfortable. We made so many plans to make so many cool things and never had a chance to do any of them so if they will have me I will be going back. 😀

I ended up leaving in the middle of the night the second night, because I got a last minute ride-share from a guy who was driving overnight to get to a rainbow festival in Washington. It was a long ride but with another ride share in the back there was time for each of us to take turns sleeping.

I got to Seattle at about 7 am and my host Denis came a short time later to pick me up at a Starbucks. How appropriate.

Next my time in Seattle….


I left Denver by rideshare on a beautiful morning headed for Cody, Wyoming. I was in for a treat as I moved north in the heartland of the USA. I have never been to Wyoming or Montana even though I have wanted to since I was in my mid twenties. I should have taken the kids here camping while they were growing up.

I have been amazed with the skies!!! Simply breath taking.

My friend in Denver, Richard, did not really get couch surfing so ride-sharing was way beyond him. He was a nervous wreck about me going into a person’s car I had never met. I had found a ride-share through Craigslist. I am an aware enough traveler to check the references on my rides. Still Richard insisted on driving me to meet him. I think Richard finally calmed down when he realized I was going to be in the car with the sheriff of Cody. Actually so was I. I had a great time on the ride and he was great about telling me all about the history of the places we drove through. Just before getting to my couch surfing place in Cody we stopped at a very old (like a couple of hundred years old) saloon. What a hoot. I loved it. Met a guy, the one sitting next to me in the pictures below, who grew up there and the entire town seems to take care of since he is a bit dependent on them after his parents have died. There were several books written by the owner on Cowboy Economics to which I learned a bit. After a couple of beer it was on to my couch surfers….

Couch surfing at the Pollocks. Such a treat. Robbin had just had surgery (yet she was still planning on going camping that upcoming weekend) and was set to be resting on the couch. But nope. She moved around the kitchen setting out food stuff and making sure everyone was comfortable. There was another set of csers there too from back east on their way to Yellowstone. It is always so much fun to be sharing a host. That way not only do you meet the host, but also someone who is traveling too.

Jim cooked a wonderful fish dinner and I sat with the daughter still at home and her friends on the couch. We all had a really nice time. That night Jim called me out to show me the incredible sky with all the stars in it. I have no words. I just loved talking with this family. They are so warm and loving. I feel very blessed that they accepted my request. I know I will see them again in the future.

This family is big into camping and go all the time. They live at the mouth of Yellowstone so that’s convenient. Anyway, Jim is in construction and has this fantastic outdoor fireplace and chimney they have built with rocks from the adventures. I want one!!!

I needed to get to Billings, Montana to meet my friend for a ride to Great Falls. Normally I would have been able to ride there with Robbin because she is a nurse in a hospital there and commutes, but since she was on leave she kindly found me another nurse going that way. YEAH!!!

Next time I go to Cody I hope they will take me with them on a trip to Yellowstone. 😀


Woke up to iced coffee and a sausage McMuffin for nourishment on my travels to Denver (thanks Melissa). Got my back pack and my carry on into Jessie’s car and we were off by 8:15 am. I have really not done all that much traveling by air during this journey so it is always a luxury.
Once at the airport I got thru to get my ticket and since I already had my seat assigned I was off to the gate with no hassles.
It was so cool to be on the inaugural flight of Frontier from Knoxville to Denver. There were lots of animals from the Knoxville Zoo on display, Starbucks was there with coffee and treats, news crews were there and they gave away free t-shirts. Also they gave us ear phones b/c we were given free access to the TV. Nice treat.
Our flight arrived 25 minute early. I have never been on a plane that was anywhere near that early before! AWESOME!!
The other incredible thing is flying without ANY checked luggage. As I mentioned those benefits in an earlier post.
I went straight to eat something and then see a bit of what is becoming an anomaly, the Denver Airport. Very strange airport and goings on reported at this airport. But something I haven’t spent much time researching. There were a lot of odd murals that is for sure.  I took the express bus costing $9 with a free transfer for any of the public transportation options downtown. I had read that Denver was extremely commuter friendly and it didn’t disappoint.

I was in Denver for two weeks and during that time I stayed at four different couch surfing hosts and with a high school friend, Richard Ybarra, so I was moving around a lot.

The first couple of nights I stayed with a really nice family in a great area just outside downtown Denver. They had the coolest dog ever. An Alaskan Malamute who I swear can say “I love you”. I immediately got a headache and had to go to bed. I was really weak. I guess I didn’t give enough credence to the mile high tips as I should have. It was a great place to relax and to get used to the altitude. We had some wonderful meals and lots of good conversation.

I went fishing with Richard and his son and grandson while I was with my first hosts. It was a really hard concept, this couch surfing, for my friend to take in. I had an interesting time convincing him and his family (all of whom have relocated from Southern California to Denver) that it was safe and that I am not totally crazy. Since they have known me since I was in the third grade though they have always known I was a bit off any way. 🙂

Richard and his niece,  Alyssa, dropped me off at Orin’s and Liz’s who were my next hosts for a three day stay. It was there that my backpack broke. Both of my hosts are well-traveled hikers and Orin told me that part of the weight that was hurting my back so much was from the metal all over my backpack. All of the latches, zippers, handles, and pullies on it are hard metal. Weighing it down considerably before I even got anything in it. He gave the backpack a quick fix till I could go in the next day or two to get another one.

At Paula’s, my next host, I started looking up packs online. Then we went to several stores. I finally found the one that I wanted. Also black with grey and white added. I am happier with them aesthetically and with less weight it is much much easier.

Paula and I had such a nice time relaxing and talking she has an AMAZING view of Denver from her window and we cooked meals to eat with glasses of wine on the balcony and just enjoy the views. She was just getting ready at 66 yrs old to embark on a really grand trip herself and we shared lots of tips.

The last couch surfing place I stayed in Denver was Annikah’s. I actually stayed with her for two nights before she left on a volunteering trip of her own in upper state New York for a month. See, it really seems like there are a lot of people that are like-minded to me in Denver!

I have to say I love Denver so much. The architecture blows me away. It is so beautiful. The city is so bicycle friendly. In downtown where one has to go up steps there is a slot to put the bike wheels so you can walk it along side of you up the steps. I loved that where there was a chain link fence a group had gotten together and knitted a floral design right into the chain links to make is so much prettier. All over downtown there were these random pianos. Wildly painted for anyone and everyone to just play. There is a creek that runs through it with bike paths literally everywhere.

The food was good and the beer even better.

Have I mentioned I really like DENVER?

Some of the best times I had while in Denver was fishing with the Ybarras. Lots of laughs, lots of relaxation, but alas no fish. HA


The other really cool outing I did while I was there was with my host, Paula. She took me to the famous Red Rock Amphitheater: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Red_Rocks_Amphitheatre. WOW!! The history, the acoustics and the views. Anyone who goes to Denver and doesn’t make this place a number one thing to see with or without a concert is a fool.

I know that Denver is on my short list of places to live when I am done. The only thing it doesn’t have is a beach. Although it might be smart for me to try to visit a bit in say January before making a permanent decision. Time will tell…..

My Wonderful Adventures in New Orleans, Louisiana

My time in New Orléans ended the third week of December. I learned so much, saw so much and laughed so much that I am in love with this city. I usually blog about an entire place in one post, but I’m not going to do that with my time in New Orléans aka NOLA. I want to post about my adventures first and then I will post my blog on what I have learned about the people and their hearts and perseverance since the devastation of  Hurricane Katrina. I had previously visited The French Quarter three times in the 1990s. I was told, and found out for myself on this trip, that visiting The French Quarter is in no way really visiting New Orléans. That is why I chose to spend some real quality time all over New Orléans this trip. I am so glad I did.

The food!!!! OMGosh, the food!!!!!

I had an idea of some of the food stuffs that I wanted before I got there… Muffuletta (most amazing sandwich ever), chicory coffee and alligator bites. But I had no idea the culinary treats I would get to enjoy… I was lucky enough to couchsurf with a great guy, Vince. Between him and his neighbors I was treated to many many culinary delights. They also were kind enough to take me to all their favorite local pubs.  People in NOLA are apparently as serious about their football as the rest of the south and we spent each Sunday at a different pub watching the games. One of these Sundays two of my friends joined us from Knoxville, TN. Patrick and Will Horton are two of my favorite Downtown Knoxville people. Seeing them always puts a huge smile on my face and they give the best hugs ever.

There were two other couchsurfers with me and we all had a blast. I think the pictures below are worth all the words I could say… We laughed and reveled all day. Finn McCool’s, http://finnmccools.com/,  is by far my favorite of the pubs. The owners are so kind and fun. After meeting the owners,  Pauline and Stephen Patterson, the night before at a private party we went to the pub’s Christmas party that Saturday night. This is a bar full of locals with lots of Irish flare. The owners are from Belfast and had owned the neighborhood bar in Mid City New Orléans for several years before Hurricane Katrina hit. Once they were allowed back to their place they saw that there was extensive damage that left them questioning if they should even reopen. With the help of their many loyal customers they took 6 months and rebuilt.  I am so glad they did…

San Francisco 2010

I have had the most amazing luck and blessings with my Couch Surfing Hosts all over California. I am constantly amazed. I ended up coming to the city of San Francisco a day early and put out an emergency request on the site. I found a great guy who lives in a beautiful home in the Castro District.

I had not heard of the Castro District before. It is a predominantly gay area of SF. My experiences have always been get a straight woman with a bunch of gay men and there is going to be fun. And that is exactly what I had. When I got to downtown I called my host, Jenner. He told me to walk across the street and get on the MUNI = the SF light rail and bus system. So I trudged with my suitcase, tote and backpack – yep I’m down to just those and I am thrilled – and got on the train. I met a really nice guy on the MUNI who told me where I needed to go. He then proceeded to pull my bags up the hill to where I was going. So nice.

Jenner is a hoot. He lives in a great apartment and welcomed me with open arms. I was exhausted from so much travel so after we chatted for a bit he went on and met his friends and I took my book and went to bed. I did have the pleasure having his beautiful dog join me for some RnR.

The next day we went to breakfast and a coffee shop around the corner. We took the dogs. One is a Siberian Husky and the other a Weimaraner about 16 months old. They are beautiful and loved getting out and about. Breakfast was great. Cheesy eggs and pancakes, coffee and juice. The waiter was wearing a kilt with a studded belt that read “nudist”. Sometimes one doesn’t need to go “sightseeing” to see great sites.

After breakfast I was deciding where to go actual sightseeing for the day.  Jenner gave me transportation advice and I was all set to go on my way when he received a text. It was from one of his friends and I found myself invited to join them for brunch. Since we had already eaten we went for the margaritas and the fun company.

We got there at about 11 and got home about 5. One of the fastest days I have ever encountered. Sightseeing the rest of SF would have to wait a day or so cause I was on my way to my next hosting site. Jenner was great and gave me ride. My new hosts live in South SF .

When I got there my new hosts were still working. It worked out very well cause I just crawled into bed and read. I do love to relax by reading. The next morning I got up to another very very warm day in SF. No fog whatsoever.

My host, Dorit, asked me if I would like to go for a hike. I most certainly did. She took me to San Bruno Mountain. There were several spots along the hike to view the city.. At the top there is a 360 degree view. So pretty. Unfortunately there is such a financial crisis in California now that the park is technically closed. No money for park rangers. Sad.

For my third day in SF I set out to see the city. I have visited the Bay area many times, but most always to see family. I have done a few of the touristy stuff there before, but I wanted to visit neighborhoods instead of just touristy places this time. That is what I did.

I took the bus to the middle of the City and just got off and began walking. The main goal of the day was to walk the entire Golden Gate Bridge which is now checked off my Bucket List.

I walked all over SF. I spent time in wandering through Golden Gate Park. I saw so much of the beautiful architecture of the City. I spent time in Haight-Ashbury and the Wharf. It was so cool to just hang out everywhere. At my host’s home we watched movies and ate wonderful food. Very adventurous and relaxing time in a beautiful city.

NEXT: I’m going to back track just a bit and post about the some of the adventures in San Luis Obispo and Monterey (I got a bit ahead of myself)…

Learning to Surf: Bucketlist item #38 CHECK…

My one and only surfing lesson…

Not often does someone know that the first time they ever try something will probably be their last. But I can assure you I am no surfer in the making. I am very proud of myself for trying and my instructors – Sierra and her boyfriend pro surfer Evan – are both awesome people, but it was a one shot deal. At the very least never to be attempted in the cold pacific ocean. Maybe in a non-wave warm Florida Gulf (hehe).

Anyway I  learned some of the lingo, of course there are many in TN who think I only speak California/surfer lingo, the day before. I learned it when we got to Seal Beach ready to surf and there was a yellow sign with a big black ball in the middle of it which apparently signifies no surfing allowed at that time. We originally were going to surf in Newport Beach, but there was a sewage spill and the waves were way to big for me in Huntington Beach.

I have to be honest I felt relieved. I had made the attempt and couldn’t help that I wasn’t allowed, right? So instead we had the Surfer’s Special at El Burrito Jr #2. It was delicious. Huge burritos and a drink for under $5. Melina was with us on this first day attempt although she was not able to go the following day when we tried again. So we just all sat in the sun with the ocean view and enjoyed our comfort food. Perfect!

The next day the kids came and got me about noon. After all the real surfers were done until evening. I thought this was a very smart idea. And we headed for Huntington Beach. I am actually glad that this is where we were able to get in the water finally because this is where I consider home.

First off learning how to put on a wet suit. Not a comfortable outfit by any means. Especially for someone who can’t even wear turtle necks, because I don’t like anything at all around my neck. It is a chore to get one of these on. But once it was on I think I looked quite cute. I know, I know it is for warmth not fashion! After the suits were put on by the Jeep we grabbed the board and headed to the ocean. Evan brought his dad’s long board. It is massive.

With camera in hand Evan was ready to take pictures of Sierra giving me a lesson on how to surf on the sand. I must admit I am a MUCH better couch and sand surfer than wave surfer. I caught on pretty quick if I do say so myself, which I do. I love the fluid motion of going from paddling to actually getting up on your knees then to your feet. It is so graceful. I love to watch real surfers do this. For me it is like watching poetry of motion. Nature and surfer working in sync.

After a few successful stands on the sand we, Sierra and I, headed into the water. I cannot believe how warm the wet suit kept me. Great! I really loved paddling out. I’m actually quite good at it too. After a few pictures, Evan got into the water too *he left my camera with a very nice family on the beach to watch*. He was behind me, but I was so busy paddling out and being proud of myself and feeling so good out there that I went way to far ahead of him and way to far out. That was my down fall.

Sierra came up behind me treading water. Evan got there too and began treading. He is not used to having to tread water as much and got very tired. Sierra is a swimmer so she was faring a bit better. She held the board while I was getting ready to catch a wave. I couldn’t really tell when a wave was coming so she was watching for me. The first one she said to go on I paddled with the wave then got up on my knees when she told me but was a bit to slow and miss the wave so I just rode that one on my knees.

Then the next one!!!! ACK! She again held the board and told me when to start paddling with the wave (mind you we are out a bit further than I needed to be). I paddled and got up when she told me to. I made it all the way to standing before the board went out from under me –  sideways. The board made it safely to shore within seconds. Me? Not so much.

I was thrown to the ocean bottom with my mouth open. When I finally, it seemed like an eternity, broke the top of the water and saw Sierra I couldn’t get a breath in at all. I kinda panicked. Here I have to say that Evan and Sierra were absolutely amazing. They were both encouraging and calm with me.

Evan later told me he didn’t realize at first how badly I was panicked until he saw my eyes. They swam on either side of me just talking me thru. At one point Evan reminded me that I needed to actually swim and not just tread water. And he demonstrated just to jar me. It was needed.

We laughed a lot about it later, but it seemed like I swam for miles when actually it was nowhere near that dramatic. Evan commented repeatedly how choppy the water was. Ends up there was a 5.4 earthquake in the area as I was “surfing”. Great timing, Stacy!!!

So after I was FINALLY back on land I sat my happy self down for a bit of reflection ( oh and to try to start breathing again ) and decided that I was proud of myself for trying. I have two great death fears in my life, well three cause I don’t much want to be tortured either, and they are fire and drowning. So, even though I have a fear of drowning, I tried to do something I’ve always admired others can do so gracefully….surf! GO ME!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Seal Beach the Day Before

My day of surfing (the one and only day)...Huntington Beach

Next my trip up the coast of Cali…