So it’s been several weeks since I’ve returned to my norm but before I bring us totally up-to-date, I thought I would fill you in on the happenings post-Yellowstone.
- From Yellowstone, I drove seemingly forever to Fort Collins, Colorado to stay with one of my best buds for a few days. I’d never been to Fort Collins before so this was a real treat. It’s a fantastic town and I can see why my friend raves (non-stop) about it! I was operating under the misguided notion that Fort Collins was just some crappy suburb of Denver but I was quickly schooled. During my visit we enjoyed some beers at New Belgium (Wow! That place is huge and busy!) and enjoyed two flights at Equinox Brewing. Their Darth Ryder Dunkelweizen is the stuff of dreams! We ate at Lucile’s Creole Cafe which was freakin delicious! It’s affordable, tasty, and the servings are enormous. Plus, it made me miss New Orleans (oh my sweet NOLA…). And although the focus of this leg along my American tour was mostly devoted to eating and drinking, I managed to slip in some exercise and nature. We hiked the Arthur’s Rock Trail at Lory State Park which overlooked the city and the Horsetooth Reservoir bustling with boats. It was a relatively short hike compared to what I was used to and it rained on us, but the views were well worth it.
- After a few days in Fort Collins, my friend and I were off on a long, tedious journey to the east coast. He was going to his sister’s in DC and I was headed to my brother’s in Ocean City, MD. I was so thankful to have him along for the ride because I abhor driving and it was great to actually have some company for once. On a recommendation from my brother we listened to the audiobook of Pete Townshend’s Who Am I for most of the first day. It was interesting to say the least but we both got sick of Pete whining about how no one understood or wanted to back his Lifehouse Project (it’s basically how one musical note can unify the world). Sorry Pete but I happen to believe that life is way too complicated to be fixed by just one note. Our first night was spent in the creepiest campground known to man! I’m not even joking, exaggerating, or putting anything mildly. I believe we were somewhere in Missouri and the “campground” was a field alongside Interstate 70 yet it was completely abandoned apart from us and the owners who lived in a camper. Since my insomnia was acting up and I was a little freaked by my surroundings, I swung on the swing set for most of the night until the coyotes started howling. Then I was beyond freaked and proceeded to run into the tent to hide. The next night we stayed at a super nice KOH campground not too far from Morgantown, West Virginia. There I finally was able to sleep. Then before you knew it, we were just outside of DC and I was bidding my travel companion farewell. After being completely spoiled, I was left to my own devices to brave the DC traffic on my own. Apart from being terrified, I did remarkably well and I was at the Arlington Trader Joe’s (my brother insisted that I stop there to procure a wide assortment of cheap nuts) and then my brother’s in no time. Admittedly, I cried a little (or a lot) on my drive there. It was the first time I’d been alone since I left Yellowstone and I missed it all. I missed the beauty, the animals, the air, the barracks, the danger, my field partner, my friends, and now one of my best friends was gone too. It all felt so overwhelmingly terrible yet it was a welcomed release.
- I stayed with my brother for only a few days–despite his begging that I move in with him and start a family business. My first day there we went on a kick-ass brewery tour and had the best time. You wouldn’t believe how many microbreweries are popping up in Maryland and Delaware. It’s like I died and went to hop heaven. Overall, we hit two states and six breweries: 16 Mile, 3rd Wave, Evolution, Burley Oak, Tale Tales, and of course Dogfish Head. Hazards don’t mess around when it comes to beer. We’re going on brew tour #2 next time I’m down there so Ling Ling can be the designated driver. Having to restrain ourselves was cramping our style. On my second day we went to Rehoboth Beach to eat and drink at Dogfish Head. This is our mecca. Oh my poor liver…but the rest of me was in heaven! We spent our nights watching movies and catching up. He’s truly one-of-a-kind and I’m lucky to have him as my brother. I’m so proud of what he’s accomplished in the past year. The day I left he was devastated that I wasn’t going to live with him. I think he was operating under the assumption that I was for some reason. As I was packing, he gave me the talk about how I was at a crossroads in my life, this is my pivotal turning point, and living with him was the best move. It’s nice to feel wanted and appreciated like that, especially by a family member, however, I already made commitments in the Hudson Valley so I left–with a delicious crab cake in hand– feeling a tad down. The 6.5 hour drive to my mother’s house in Cortland, New York was filled with non-stop rain, sometimes blinding torrential downpours, and bumper-to-bumper traffic. Needless to say, it took me nine, painful, hours to get there. That night I spent about two hours soaking in her bathtub, mindlessly reading her gossip magazines. I never wanted to drive again. All I wanted to do was sleep forever, hide from the world, and just be blue.
- I spent a week at my mother’s trying to get back to some sort of normal life. Detoxing from the grandeur of nature and trying to learn how to be social again. Even now, weeks later, I’m still feeling a little more socially awkward than usual–and that’s saying a lot. I went to the Chemung county fair with my best friend, her parents, and her little daughter Sophia. It was sooooo nice to be with them and feel like I was part of their family. I can’t tell you how guilty it makes me feel to not be a regular part of their lives. We walked around all of the barns and it was neat to see how comfortable Sophia is with animals. On the downside, a mischievous donkey came up and bit me in the crotch. The creature munched me so hard that it left a bruise. I handled it like a champ though because I didn’t want Sophia to think of her Auntie Jaime as being a total wimp. The next day I learned that another friend just had her second baby while I was away so I made it a point to visit her and the rest of the fam. Here’s what a crappy friend I am: I didn’t even know she was pregnant! There are no words to describe how this makes me feel other than that it became blatantly obvious that I had dropped the ball on the best part of life: enjoying family and friends and just being social. I’m vowing to change this but I’m finding that being a hermit is a hard habit to break. And one of the sweetest things happened while I was home visiting: I attended my parents’ class reunion with both my mother, father and my step-sister. I love going to their reunions because their classmates tell me naughty stories about them. Hah! My dad was a handsome, heartbreaking, bad-boy! I’m not kidding. The guy could have been an actor or male model. Even though my father and sister only stayed for two days, the four of us enjoyed dinner at an Italian restaurant, had breakfast at their hotel, and did some catching up at the house. The visit was short but we made it count. I will always be glad that my parents divorced because even to a young kid it’s obvious when people aren’t happy, but I’m blessed that they still enjoy and genuinely care for one another. Plus, I got a great step-sis out of the deal so I can’t complain.
- Then it was time to move back to the Hudson Valley. This go around, instead of living with housemates in the barn, I would be moving back into my old apartment in Connelly. I always loved that apartment but I had to give it up when my biologist job hit the skids and we were all not getting paid. Now that I’m a little better off, I can hopefully afford to live there again. My fingers are crossed. So Ling Ling and her boyfriend Craig caravaned with me across the state to move me out of my expertly packed storage unit and into my new/old apartment. The move, shockingly enough, was smoother than silk. A better moving experience has never been had; I should totally hire them out! Just like my favorite line from Dumb and Dumber states: “Senior citizens, although slow and dangerous behind the wheel, can still serve a purpose.” Horrible, I know! Hilarious but awful at the same time. That brings us almost to today but not quite…