Saturday, December 31, 2016

The waiting game

I know it's been several weeks since my last post but this will pick up where I left off in Bismark, ND.  Many know the basics but here's the full story.  I got two criticisms on my blog which I will implement.  The first was to break up the writing, I was told of this thing called 'paragraphs'.  The other was to add in my insights and such, rather than just the play by play.  Thank you Marcie and David, I appreciate your friendship and input.  If anyone else has a suggestion I'm very open to ideas.  And we're off...

We walked the 3 miles back to the auto shop on a Monday, exactly one week from the accident.  We had yet to hear from the insurance company, awaiting the appraiser who was supposed to check out the car in 72 hours, so much for that.  We ended up talking to a very nice gentleman at the shop, he told us the car would most definitely be totaled.  He advised it would likely cost $20,000 to fix the car and we ought to buy a new car.  The disappointment was apparent in our sunken faces.  We explained our situation and he offered to come out and take a look at the car himself.  We informed him we were not concerned about looks, we just want it working and safe.  That changed the estimate to $1,400 which is much more manageable!  As we were leaving he introduced himself as the owner of the shop.  It was great to know that after talking very candidly with him about fixing the car, insurance issues and how long we could leave the truck sitting there.

Our next walk was about 2 miles to a hipster coffee shop to crash in for a few hours.  We then found an Irish pub that is open until 1am to waste some time in.  Initial plan was to nap in the bus station but they were only open from 2:15am to 6:30am.  We spent 7 hours at the pub.  It was pretty hard to entertain ourselves.  We ended up asking each other questions you ask on a first date (as suggested from sites online).  We passed over a lot of them because they were either completely ridiculous or we could answer the question for each other.  There were some questions that spurred interesting conversation though and it was fun to learn new things about each other.  I felt bad sitting there for so long but they were never busy and we always had something on the table we were slowly consuming.  A little before 1am we bundled up and started the 2.5 mile walk to the bus station.  Almost immediately we had to dodge a car turning too fast while we crossed the street.  They didn’t even slow down to take the turn, at the last minute I saw them coming and moved faster forward, Matthew was behind me and had to jump back to avoid being hit.  The rest of the walk was uneventful.  We arrived 30 min early so we huddled next to the building to block the wind and again tried to entertain ourselves with conversation to pass the time.  Promptly at 2:15am the lights came on and we were let in.  We immediately bought tickets and waited until 3:45am to load on the bus.  I passed out pretty hard on the 3 hour drive from Bismarck to Fargo.

Only shot from our walk around Fargo

We arrived in Fargo at 7am to -3 degree weather, talk about a rude awakening!  Half asleep I waited in the cold to get my bag, went inside to regroup and bundle up properly, then started walking again.  This walk was another 2.5 miles.  We walked to downtown Fargo to settle in to a coffee shop.  It’s only a quarter mile from the train station.   We struggled on 3 hours of sleep that day.  We hung out at Atomic Coffee until 3pm.  I got tired of sitting so we went for a little walk around downtown Fargo, wandering into shops.  Once we wasted enough time we went to dinner, then walked to the train station.  To our great dismay the train station was closed until midnight.  We then made our way back to Atomic Coffee.  We were there for less than an hour when the lights went out.  All you could see were faces lit by computer screens.  Well, crap.  Next we wandered out again and found a hotel that had the lights on.  The intent was to hang out at the bar until midnight.  We were informed the bar was closing soon since they were not running on a generator.  Great.  Onward we pressed to a lovely place called Vinyl Taco.  They had the lights on and closed at midnight.  We sat there for about 4 hours slowly sipping at our drinks, munching salsa and chips and chatting.  We had a VERY attentive waiter.  He checked in on us about every 5 minutes.  After about 1.5 hours he seemed to get the picture and slowed down to checking in every 20 minutes.

 I blinded Matthew while taking a photo
Like a pro he used his phone to shine a light on me and used mine to take the photo

By the time we walked back to the train station we only had to wait 2 minutes until they opened.  We then found out the train was running behind and instead of boarding at 2:15am, we would board at 4am.  That was not to be, the train got farther behind and we boarded at 5:30am.  If you’ve never been sleep deprived then tried to sleep in a train station on seats made specifically for not laying on, I highly suggest keeping it that way.  I got some sleep sitting up and leaning back with my head against the wall.  Once we made it on the train we both passed out pretty hard.  I got up at noon and felt like I could sleep a few more hours.  We brought snacks but needed a meal so we went to the dining car.  They have community seating and we were matched with another couple.  They were about our age, just a few years older.  He lives in Hawaii working with autistic children and she lives in Minnesota working at a temple.  They too met online, but they met on a spiritual meet up site.  It amuses me the many dating site options we have.  We ended up having great conversation that lasted until the waitress had to hint for us to get out.  We then moved to the observation car for a little while before parting ways.  For the last 2 hours of the journey we watched a movie on Matthews computer.  Even with the train being 3 hours late I was able to make my connection in Chicago, with a whole 10 minutes to spare.  It’s a big station so I said a quick goodbye to my phenomenal boyfriend, was one of the first off the train and walked quickly to the next one.

documenting for the blog on the train

The train was nowhere near full so I got two seats to myself.  I again dined on the train for dinner, I was matched with 3 guys, all younger than me.  It was a little awkward and not as easily flowing of a conversation but we made the best of it and ended up having some interesting dialogue and good laughs.  Two of them were brothers, the third was traveling alone like me.  At some point while we were getting to know each other they asked what year I graduated high school, I said 2002 and the younger of the two said,”that’s a loooong time ago”.  I found that very amusing, that 2002 seems a long time ago.  He was right though, if you think about technology and how much that alone has changed since I graduated... shoot just when I think about how much I’VE changed since I graduated.  After dinner I spent a little while reading then laid down on my two chairs.  Using a trick I learned on the last train I raised both foot rests to make a small bed.  It was nice to have a chair to lay on that didn’t dig into my ribs, gotta enjoy the small things in life.  Overall I would vote for traveling by train again.  I was not happy with the delayed departure time but once on it was a pleasurable trip.  Having a place to eat, the observation car and a quiet area to sleep has been pleasant.  Oh, and the views!  Last night before switching trains the view of the moon was fantastic.  What sticks in my mind is how large it looked, the light copper color with the many houses covered in Christmas lights in the foreground, it made me think of the polar express. On the last day I enjoyed the mountains of Pennsylvania covered in snow, and the slushy rivers flowing between them.

 Photos from the train ride:

rundown train station no longer in use, Martinsburg, WV

Initially this was going to consist of everything in the past 3 weeks, but it quickly became entirely too long.  VA trip coming soon...

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Flipping the truck in ND, heading home for the holidays

We departed from Wisconsin on Sunday the 4th and stayed the night in Minnesota, near the border of North Dakota.  The next day we drove into North Dakota and worked our way towards Standing Rock.  We were about 30 miles away in St. Anthony when the accident happened.  The weather had only called for a little snow that day.  Well it turned into a blizzard with whiteout conditions, and very slick roads.
We had 20+mph winds

 We had two route options to take, we chose the longer one in order to avoid the police barricade on 1806.  I didn’t like it, I remember feeling unease about our route.  If you know me well, you are aware that I was brought up Christian, we stopped going to church when I was still fairly young and my parents never pushed religion, they wanted us to choose for ourselves.  I chose agnosticism for a long time, then returned to spirituality during my divorce and now I don’t follow any one religion but do feel more connected spiritually.  I go into that to say, I prayed when we got on that road.  I asked our Guardian Angels to please watch over us and keep us safe.  I don’t know if that made a difference in the outcome but it sure made me feel better and I am extremely grateful for how it did turn out.  Prior to the accident I mentioned to Matthew the 'trick’ when you are going to have a collision - to relax.  It is a fact that in an accident those that are drunk, or unaware the accident is about to occur fair better than those that tense up.  He conveyed that when fishtailing you try to correct but if you start to spin and are past the point of recovery you should just stop trying and allow the car to stop on it’s own.  We were driving behind a white SUV(shown in photo above), Matthew was keeping us a good distance from it but when they hit their brakes he lightly tapped the brake which started the fishtailing that lead to the car spinning 180 degrees, then sliding off the road into a ditch, rolling on the passenger side and settling on the roof.

 We weren’t going very fast, perhaps that is why it felt like we were going in slow motion.  He tried to correct, until we started to spin, I heard him say, “Relax, just relax”.  This caused me to take a steady breath and release any tension in my body.  I thought that was what he meant by relax.  Well, apparently he wasn’t talking to me, he was telling himself to relax and not continue to try to correct now that we were spinning.  When the car settled I felt like I was in a movie and had to move quickly before the car either exploded or started to crush us... neither of those things happened but the feeling caused me to immediately undo my seat belt, open my door and get the hell out.  Matthew couldn’t get out on his side and had to crawl out on my side, we grabbed warm things, assessed we were both uninjured and called a towing company.  I asked if we should call the cops but he figured getting towed took precedence.  Ultimately while I was wrapping up with the towing company a Morton County Sheriff showed up and let us in his car.  It was a first for us to be in the back of a cop car.  It reminded me of a NYC cab, with the plastic panel separating you from the driver... except he was armed.  Officer Bob was what you hope an officer is.  He was friendly, helpful and got us to a safe warm place before leaving.  He took us to Rusty’s Saloon, to wait for our tow truck.  That took about 6 hours.  We spent our time drinking beer, getting something to eat and listening to a lot of country music and local gossip.  We ended up calling a different tow company after waiting 2 hours because they were backed up and didn’t know when they would get to us.  The guy that finally came out took about half an hour longer than he thought he would because he drove so slow.  We could care less of course.  I was just happy he arrived at all.  He was the last guy from his job out towing people, he got the short string that night because he was the one on call.  We thanked him profusely.  He was also a very friendly guy and it was a pleasant, slow ride to Bismarck.

While he was flipping our truck back over and loading it up I started making calls into town to get a hotel room.  I didn’t do it earlier... I forget why but we both agree it was Matthews fault.  Anyway, I was able to get us a room for that night.  We got dropped of around 10pm.  The next morning we tried to extend our stay but the hotel was booked.  Apparently the protesters were being told to leave, the hotel had 3 different conferences happening that week AND the highway was shut down from the blizzard leaving a bunch of people stranded.  We hustled to find a place to stay that night.  We were in an ideal spot because it was only 1.5 miles from the shop where our car was.  We ended up finding a hotel 3 miles away that was almost half the price.  We then got a shuttle from the hotel to the shop, reorganized our crap and packed up a few necessities in backpacks so we could be easily mobile.  We talked to the people at the shop for a little while and I called in the claim to the insurance company.  Then, we started our trek to the hotel 3 miles away.
We bundle up nicely ;-) we ARE smiling under the scarves, this was today, didn't get pics on the 3 mile walk

 We were using my phone for a map... and well, apparently in below freezing temperatures it dies.  So halfway there we lost our navigation.  We walked up to a building that I thought we could ask for directions, as we approached I recognized the name as a shelter (I looked up shelters as a possibility when I was feeling desperate to find a place to sleep).  We stepped in through the first set of glass doors.  There was a phone I used to speak with the woman at the front desk, she came to the door with a map and pointed us in the right direction.  The road she intended us to take was close to a highway, so using the map we took a longer route to use smaller side roads.  At the hotel we were early for check in.  I forgot to mention that I called the hotel and they said they had no rooms but Matthew looked online and was able to book a room that way... I was suspicious.  Anyway, we were early so we got keys, went to the room to drop off stuff, but it was full of other peoples stuff... feeling more suspicious.  So we decide to just go eat lunch then come back at check in time.  When we get back the key doesn’t work...uh oh.  We got to the front desk and are told, “oh yeah my manager didn’t note they extended their stay, I may not have a room for you”.  We remained silent, looked at each other, then back at her clicking away at her computer...”Ok, I got you a room”.  She hands us new keys which inevitably do not work, she has to get the maintenance guy but he’s on break, she’s all alone or she’d do it herself, and no she doesn’t know when he’s getting back but oh yeah she can call him, and great he’s on his way down.  He goes to fix it and comes back saying while trying to reprogram the door his device died on him but he left the door open for us.  Thankfully whatever he did worked because we had no trouble with it after that.  That was 4 days ago.  We are a bit limited due to below freezing temperatures and no car.  We have been watching a lot of television, going out 2-3x a day to get food and found a few coffee shops to frequent to avoid cabin fever.  For the first day or two I didn’t mind doing nothing, it was nice to not have to think about where we were going to sleep that night and being distracted from the worries of what’s next?  Ready to get out of here now.  It has been 5 days since the accident and we are still waiting to find out the appraisal for the car.  There were so many accidents that day it's taking longer than usual.  There are many factors and worries.  We are leaving in a few more days and that means leaving all our stuff and the car behind.  Prior to the accident we bought train tickets to go home for the holidays.  That was a whole mess of its own.  Trying to figure out how  to get to a train station 3 hours away, that doesn’t have any public transportation from here to there.  We ended up getting our tickets moved to a different train station and are using a bus to get there.  We decided to take a train in an effort to both save money and have a lower carbon impact than flying.  The train will take longer, but time is something we have in abundance.  We leave on Wednesday and arrive Friday, Matthew in Massachusetts and me in Virginia, for about 2 weeks.  I have a lot of time to reflect on our situation.  I am thankful we are safe, have been warm, brought sufficient gear to walk in below freezing temperatures, and the majority of our stuff is okay.  With luck we will get the car fixed with a minimal dent to our finances.  Hopefully my next post will be more uplifting.  I'm looking forward to spending time with family and friends back in Virginia.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Michigan in the rearview, hanging in Wisconsin, next stop Standing Rock

So it seems a month has passed since my last post.  The first two weeks of November we were in Michigan.  We spent about a week in the Manistee national forest.  Went on long walks most days, almost every outing we spent a little time along the beach at lake michigan.  I loved getting my feet in the sand and water, even with how cold it was.

We walked along the Nordhouse dunes trail, got a little lost, found Nordhouse lake which was fairly barren, saw a bunch of footprints in the muck and got excited trying to figure out what animals they were.

 Most days were beautiful and fairly warm.  One of my favorite times was exploring the unforested dunes.  We wandered around, I noticed a few plants I’d just learned in Missouri and again we found some fun new animal tracks in the sand.

One of the last days we walked to Big Sable point lighthouse.  It was closed but we were able to walk around it and enjoy the view.

Our second week was in Huron National forest, about 3 hours drive to the east.  We traveled there on Matthews birthday.  He doesn’t make much fuss over his birthday.  On the way to the new campsite we stopped to grocery shop, I took him out to lunch, and then we found him a much needed new pair of pants.  We also enjoyed a better than expected strawberry rhubarb pie from the grocery store. We found a nice spot near a dirt road that doesn’t see too much traffic.  On the second night the temperature before we went to bed around 9pm was 22 degrees... so it got pretty cold that evening.  We stayed warm with our new sleeping pads and down sleeping bags.  I am extremely grateful for my new sleeping pad, I just got it before leaving Missouri and it makes a HUGE difference for my warmth and comfort.

We spent the majority of that week at our campsite, with the exception of a walk and running.  We worked on various little projects, I did some baking over the fire.  I made cookies for the first time over the fire, what took me so long?!  I also made bread pudding which was really good.  One bonus about it getting cold is that we can have foods we weren’t able to before, ie milk.  Matthew did a blog post about us baking.

 There were places to hike, but we stayed at camp for safety reasons.  It was not just hunting season but gun hunting had just started, we heard 20+ gunshots nearby on the first day.

For the second half of November we have been in Wisconsin visiting one of Matthews best friends, Ivan.  Ivan is married to a lovely woman, Lyndsey, and they have a beautiful one month old, Josiah.  We have had a great time, tried to be as helpful as possible as they are still adjusting to life with Josiah.  I have continued to bake, we have taken turns cooking dinner for them and I get snuggles with Josiah whenever I can.

We were here for Thanksgiving and I made my first Turkey!  The exciting part is that it came out perfectly, major thanks to my parents for the recipe!

After thanksgiving we did the traditional thing and picked up a Christmas tree.  They have a very high ceiling so they picked out a 10' tree.  That evening some friends came to visit, we baked cookies and had Feuerganzenbowle!  It was wonderfully delicious.

We went rock climbing on what was going to be one of the warmest days here.. it made it to 46 degrees.  Thankfully the rock was facing the sun.  It was a blast but short.  We had to drive 1.5 hours to get there, only had a few hours before the sun was setting.  We don't have much sunlight time.

I missed talking about Tony!  Tony is a hitchhiker we picked up while traveling from Michigan to Wisconsin.  He is a tall, large, 57 y/o, black man and did not think anyone would pick him up, which would have been a shame since it was cold and snowing.  He was an orphan and has spent most of his life hitchhiking around the country.  He claimed he has been in jail in every state, mostly from being black and a hitchhiker... but from talking to him we learned he is quite the talker and likes to drink so that may have caused some of the issues as well.  He was absolutely hilarious, he projected someone that has had a lot of bad moments in life and tries to stay positive and make the best with what he's got.  It was an interesting experience to say the least.

It has taken a lot of discussion, contemplation and research to decide we are heading to Standing Rock to support the Water Protectors in prayer and ceremony.  We support the nonviolent protest of the DAPL.  Matthew has written a post about this with great links to get the facts about what is going on, which seems to be difficult to get these days.  If you, like us, have had trouble sifting through to figure out what's going on, I highly recommend checking out the links and doing some research for yourself.