Monday, September 29, 2014

Updated calendar

A couple friends have highlighted that my calendar was out of date and many others have commented they just never know where I'm at :). I deleted the old dates that I've already posted about and left the others until I get caught up. 

Part of the issue is that I just change the schedule. I know I have certain dates and locations to work around, but really I can do whatever. And I've been doing just that :). 

The few days between Alexandria and New Jersey last week were assembled completely last minute. Sometimes I'm on my phone/iPad the night before plotting things out. The fact that I travel during the week and school has started seems to allow me lots of flexibility because there are no crowds. In fact, I find myself in the midst of what appear to be travelling retirees. 

Tonight I was suppose to explore Savannah, GA, but it has been raining all day. So I decided to skip it and get closer to my Tuesday destination. 

Florida vacation ends October 9th and other than heading towards Texas, I don't have solid plans yet. I know before Peoria I want to visit friends in Memphis and Kansas City, but still need to plot that out. 

My rough outline is now updated though :). 

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Bits and pieces on Scandinavia

One of the other backpackers in our group recently posted her summary of our two weeks and I think she did a great job summing it up. I did keep a daily journal of snippets of thoughts and actions from the day. It was exhausting and usually when dinner was done and cleaned up I just wanted to sleep. I need to go through my notes and add in some of my own pics. In the meantime, I wanted to share her perspective. Emily was in my hiking group on the infamous "hell day" and was part of my tent and cooking group during week 2. Overall I'd say her comments are pretty spot on my own :).

Tuesday, September 23, 2014


I arrived Friday night and was asleep around 12/1 that night. I slept in and headed out to see the city around noon. Stockholm is very walkable and is easily navigated as many of the main areas of interest are on different islands. I got off at an early stop and started walking just to see the area along my way. I found a street closed to traffic with lots of people out and about. In the middle of the street were all sorts of activities; large chess set, fake ice skating rink, ping pong table, fake grass with lawn chairs and tables. It was pretty fun. Times like these are when it is nice to have a travel buddy. Not quite as fun to play ping pong by yourself ;).
My rented room

This island has a huge cliff down to the water and you get a great view of the city across the way. I could see my destination in to find the ferry. There were tons of people and music to the left, eventually I figured out it was the gay pride parade and I had to head that way to catch the ferry. 
The parade

The ferry

The ferry was quick and I got to the island which I think they designed specifically for the tourists :). It is a concentration of parks, museums and other attractions. I was looking forward to the Vasa Museum which is a ship from over 300 years ago that was recovered only about 1km off the coast and it is 98% orginal. It was very cool. I watched the film, took the guided tour and then walked around on my own. It was pretty amazing. The ship's first voyage was its last as they built it too narrow, with not enough weight in the bottom and they had left the gun ports open after firing a ceremonial shot and the water easily flooded in the gun port holes as the wind started to rock the boat. 
The real ship and a replica of the original look

I was chased out at closing time and unfortunately missed the gift shop. I like museum gift shops as you can often find very unique items there. 

I started to walk and look for a cafe that was recommended. Unfortunately, after a long walk, it was closed already (@ 6pm). I walked, caught the tram and then the ferry to get back where I started. I was near the photography museum, which was open late (like 10 or 11) and decided to go there before dinner. It wasn't as big as I expected but did have some cool photos...and some weird ones. I left there and climbed the stairs up the same cliff from earlier in the day. There is a vegetarian restaurant that was highly recommended there, Hermans. Turns out it is a buffet and you buy a plate, but they remove the food at 9, and it was 9. So I left, thwarted by another restaurant. The sun had set and the skies were growing darker, so I took the train back.  There is a little shop outside my stop. I got a gyro there and ate as I walked back. I was tired. It was now almost 10. I cleaned up, did some internet stuff and headed to bed. I awoke in the early morning hours to a huge thunderstorm. I was glad not to be in a tent and began thinking of what lay ahead and if I was truly prepared to do this backpacking. Too late now, but the nerves began. 
Sunset over the city

I got up at a decent hour and I felt pretty good on the jet lag. I took my time trying to sort through my things, repack and prepare for the day. Helen, the owner, stopped by and we chatted about my plans, about Sweden and got into some GMO discussions when she found out I grew up on a farm. We are probably on opposite sides of the discussion but it was a good discussion none the less and I totally hear where she's coming from. 

She helped me with all my luggage and drove me to the train station. We parted and I went to the central train station to sort out the rest of my day. I arrived around 1 but my train wasn't until 5:50. I first had to settle a duplicate charge to my card for a ticket that was never issued. It was so much easier than I ever imagined. No questions asked and didn't have to wait too long. Loving Sweden :). I found the lockers downstairs almost completely full. I luckily happened upon an Asian girl removing her stuff from a big bin, which I needed. I had some trouble with a pin code but fixed it. All locked up and I headed back to try Herman's (the vegetarian restaurant). I wasn't sure what to expect. I'm usually a meat person. My motto has been in the past if there is meat to eat, I'll be fine. It was mostly pretty good though. Only one item, kinda chilli like, had some harder (I assume root veggies) stuff in it that I didn't care for. The venue itself is pretty awesome though, again a fun place to hang with others. 

Back to the train station where I sat waiting on during a two hour delay to switch out a broken car. At least it wasn't our car :). I started with one cabin mate - Singna (pronounced that way but maybe not spelled that way) - and was on my way. 

Waiting on the train 
My luggage
The train car - I got the very top bunk for my 18 hours

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Flying overseas for a month

I got home from Colorado and ready for the next adventure. Thursday (7/31) I flew to Stockholm via a nine hour layover in Brussels. 

I always start packing late and this time was no exception. I threw all my stuff in one room and Wednesday night after dinner went through to see what I wanted and start packing it up. I was up til about 1am and had my list ready for the next morning. Thankfully instead of my usual morning flights I had a 6pm flight Thursday instead. 

All my stuff spread out. 

My packed bags ready for check-in at O'hare. 

My backpacking course in Sweden did provide a pretty detailed equipment list, which helped. But being gone for a month, I packed way too much stuff :). 

I got out of O'hare fine and landed in Brussels for my nine hour layover. I intended to head into town and then the ATM ate my card. I tried to sort that out and finally went back into the airport with no card and very tired. 

I did see some interesting items while I waited. 
-A pedal power station (exercise bikes to charge your phones). 
-A person (I'm going with a male) dressed in a full white body suit and helmet, reminiscent of a storm trooper in Chuck Taylors, walking down the terminal, suitcase in tow. 
-I went through security twice and set the alarm off twice and received a very thorough and personal pat down twice. TSA has nothing on these guys. 
-A cycling team was waiting in the arrivals hall. Were they going to bike the person home? 
-A banner machine in the arrivals hall to make a banner to greet the person you're waiting for. 
-A type of dog I haven't seen before, like a mix between German shepherd and St. Bernard. 

I did make it to Stockholm later that day. Although it was summer, by 10pm it was dark out. A kind couple helped give me a lift from the train station to the b&b I was staying at. I showered and crawled into bed for a very long sleep :). 

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Meet the Rockies

Mid July seems so long ago! I left Memphis to head to Winter Park, CO where I was arriving early for a girls weekend with friends.  Having audio books for the car ride make it go so much faster! I arrived in Denver and decided to stop at the REI store, being told it was pretty impressive.  And it did not disappoint.  I got my last few items I needed for Sweden/Peru and headed out of town towards Winter Park.  By the time I arrived at the condo, it was dark and I had a hard time finding which condo was ours.  It seemed like it must be the one where there lights were on and a truck was in the drive.  Hmmmm...

I knocked on the door and a guy answered and we quickly worked out that I was arriving earlier than he was told and he was the handyman fixing some things in the bathroom before our girls weekend.  All worked out :)

I then got really lazy since I had wifi again and no real committments.  I did a lot of laundry to get the bedding ready for everyone but otherwise was a bit of a couch potato.  Sometimes when I'm somewhere completely new,  I get overwhelmed and just do nothing.  I'm also figuring out that when TV and internet are options, I'm horrible about being productive and/or going outside.  

Luckily Thursday night Stephanie arrived and then Friday morning her friends Stefanie and Bridget came.  We went to the Winter Park ski resort area for the day - during the summer it turns into a bike park and there was a big mountain biking competition going on.  All ages and sizes of competitors.  They also have a big luge/slide you can go down, which we did and it was awesome. I don't' seem to have any pictures from Winter Park, but Stephanie posted some.  Then we went grocery shopping to grill out for the weekend and even enjoyed the hot tub that night.  We were up in the mountains, so even in mid July it was cool enough for a jacket and jeans at night.  Saturday we went to the Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP) - I bought my annual National Park pass (only $80) and we drove about halfway through the park and did a couple of the short hikes - the skies kept threatening rain so we didn't wander too far.  On Sunday we headed to Denver and they dropped me off in town to see a friend who had been in Singapore with me but was now back in the US.  We had lunch at a really cute place and did a ton of catching up.  Then he dropped me downtown and I met the rest of the crew at Coors Field to watch a Rockies game.  Then we said our good-byes - Stephanie and I headed back to Winter Park for a last night.  Monday I started early and decided to continue our Saturday drive through the RMNP.  It was early enough there still weren't too many people and the people that were coming had come in the other entrance.  The weather was beautiful and the Rockies definitely impressed me after our first meeting.  

Some elk near the RMNP entrance

Stephanie's signature jumping picture

Maybe I knew this at one time, but it was interesting to know this is where the water splits

Stephanie and Stefanie on one of our hikes

Our lunch spot - we saw a momma moose and then her calf a ways off in the distance

The Rockies game - I couldn't even tell you the score or opponent :)

We saw Mr. Fox as we drove along one of the side streets in a small town

Several moose right outside Winter Park

Me & my driving clothes enjoying the drive through RMNP

I did one walk up to this view point.

Stefanie, Stephanie and me