Surviving long drives.

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And another one for Kansas. Middle of Nowhere, Kansas. 1 July 2017.

I know… road trips again? and yep. This trip was so driving heavy that I found myself having to find new ways to make it bearable, because even with my amazing partner and our endless conversations and stops, being consistently stuck in a hot car with your butt falling asleep is always going to be a pain – so much fun, but also a pain.

I’ve talked about games to play, budget points to discuss, responsibilities to dole out, and the importance of knowing the people you are traveling with – emphasis on the driver – again, I know I have covered this stuff extensively (1, 2). But despite my years of experience with many different groups, at many different ages, under many different circumstances, I was surprised at the things that I had never thought about before to help you pass the time or make your travel more fun or comfortable.

First, most of my road trips – at least in the last few years – have really been all about the destination instead of the actual trip. But because we were having a lot of fun – and disasters – along the way, I realized how much better it is when you aren’t all about getting there. After all, that is exactly what makes it a road trip!

So, beyond all the rules and bits of advice I’ve mentioned elsewhere, here are a few more tid-bits that are more important of you don’t mind throwing the path to get to your destination a little bit out the window.

First, don’t be afraid to stop beyond what you have planned. As a kid I remember driving out of Colorado – our final destination – in a detour to see one last monument. While I didn’t appreciate it then (it was a really long trip!), I understand and appreciate deviating from the path now. In Kansas, We pulled over at one stop just because the outlook was just too pretty to pass up. These stops can make your drive longer but also breaks them up and lets you see things you otherwise never would have noticed.

Second, don’t marry yourself to anyone place, but feel free to make it all up as you go. This really paid off in Wichita – if you have been following along – and finding an easier hotel. Sometimes when you travel, your plans will change just because your timeline just doesn’t line up at the end of the day. Again, setting definite points are great, but being free to explore is even better.

Third and final (for now), tell absolutely everyone that you are road tripping. I never thought this was important until the one waitress offered us water for the road. Sometimes people surprise you with kindness when they know you are going to be on the road a lot. Whether this is an extra cup of water or suggestions of things to do or see, getting something from a local source can do wonders for your trip. I don’t care if it’s advice for one more stop you’d never think to visit, or a cold glass of water, you loose nothing by talking to other people.

Again, this is all for now but this trip only inspired my love for travel and road trips more and more, so I am sure that down the road, I’ll think of many more points to share.

This is Leave on the Wind, helping you Soar.

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Surviving long drives.

Getting Comfortable with your Travel Companions…

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Kansas. Middle of Nowhere, Kansas. 5 July 2017.

In case I haven’t made it clear before, through our travels around Kansas and just into Missouri, we were in the car an unbelievable amount of time and, for nearly the 5  whole days I was there (with the exception of a few hours Ryan was at work), we were always together – living in each others’ pockets, as it were. This can either be amazing (we thought so) or can drive you nuts, but either way, the key to this kind of travel is knowing your partner and being as comfortable with them as you possibly can.

When it comes to Ryan and I, we had only been together (as a couple, at least) for a month – all of which was long distance – but we have been friends (best friends) for almost 12 years. Still, being with someone for 24 hours a day for 5 days is intense, no matter how long or how well you think you know them.

First and foremost, you really have to get over the fact that you and your companion(s) are human so human things are going to happen. Bodily functions, habits, and whatever else are always going to happen so the key is to laugh when things get a little awkward and move forward. As the book says, everyone poops. Add to that, dating and there is a whole other level of getting used to someone else being in close quarters. I’m telling you, we have discussed bathroom patterns and have excused ourselves when need be to deal with those kind of personal issues.

Second, follow the road trip rules (1, 2) and we have discussed before and make a plan. This pre-planning will save you so much time and headaches and let you just enjoy your time together. Read those old posts and you’ll get a lot more information!

Third, when being together becomes too much, know when to spend your time apart. This somehow didn’t happen in Kansas – Ryan and I apparently could be marooned somewhere together and be fine, at least during this honeymoon period – however, being able to take time for yourself is really important, short- or long-term.


Again, the whole point is to get comfortable with this person who you are going to be spending an outrageous amount of time and close quarters with so even if my parameters are broad, it’s all about doing what you need to do to make that work: speak up, clear the air, laugh, make jokes, or do whatever you need to do and enjoy yourself.

This is Leave on the Wind, helping you soar.

Getting Comfortable with your Travel Companions…

Palling Around Wichita

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Between here and there, Kansas. July 2017.

Sometimes when you are running the line between local-staycationing, dating, and travel, you come across a day that is an odd mixture of all of the above – for Ryan and I, Wichita was the near-perfect example of this. On the most basic level, the day consisted of lunch, a bookstore date, and a more traditional date – a few hours in an entertainment center.

First up, The Redrock Canyon Grill. Ryan and I decided to try something food-wise that was more local (or at least the we had never tried) and when we did an area search, Redrock popped up near the top places to try. And after our time here, I understand why. The food and service was great. The atmosphere made us feel a little bit under-dressed in t-shirts and jeans but there were a few parties dressed similarly so it wasn’t that big of a deal. I thought the prices were a bit high at first but the portions are huge, so they are actually fitting for what you get.

Our server was amazing, very sweet and, since we weren’t there at a rush, stayed by the table for a while and talked to us about our trip as well as food recommendations while we were ordering. What I loved the most, however, was a small gesture I’d never thought to ask about: when she asked if Ryan wanted his leftovers packaged, we said that we were road-tripping so couldn’t take them. Instead, she brought us ice water in to-go cups because it was hot and she knew it was a long drive ahead of us.

Again, between the food, the service, and this kind gesture, I totally recommend the Redrock Canyon Grill.

The next stop was Barnes and Nobles – in no way a local hot spot. To start, Ryan and I are both big book nerds so whenever we get a chance to hit a bookstore, we will. And, as a book nerd, I love seeing the variations even in these big chain book stores. For me, this is a great line between travel and staycations – it’s not near home, however, it’s like home but different enough to want to run around and explore.

Finally, we wanted to do something very traditionally date-like but also new, so we looked for an open escape room that would be available early enough that we could still hit the road in time to get to Fort Riley before nightfall. This was impossible since these book up pretty far in advance, but we quickly discovered Glow Golf instead. Again, this isn’t an experience you can only get in Wichita – these kind of entertainment zones are popping up all over the country.

This particular location has a lot of choices, and while not expensive, each thing costs you a little and they add up. First off, everything is black light so if this messes with your eyes, you may want to skip out; if not, jump on it! We played golf (two games for the price of one), the laser maze (a thief-type game that we played over and over again), ping-pong, and cornhole with light-up bean bags. Dating with some fun competition thrown in? Yes, please! Especially to break up a long drive day.


Again, none of these activities really scream ‘exploring Wichita’ because they weren’t for that. Sometimes in travel, you need a slacking off day, and I loved our day slacking off in Wichita and wouldn’t take it back for all the explorations we could have done, especially on our time table. But more of that to come as we continue to explore Kansas.

This is Leave on the Wind, helping you soar.

Palling Around Wichita

The pros and cons of hotel jumping

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A Stop in the Middle of Nowhere, Kansas. 1 July 2017.

During my 5 days in Kansas (and Missouri), Ryan and I stayed in three different hotels in three different cities – if traveling to one place isn’t enough to drive you nuts, having to pack up your bags everyday and switch outfits between driving and dates is quite a pain in the butt.

As we have talked about, I am the kind of traveler that (first) likes to take her time when exploring new places – you don’t get a lot of this when you are traveling between two states in 5 days – and (second) likes to settle into the places I am staying – I pack in such a way that I can live out of my suitcase if I need to, but it is nicer when I don’t (toiletries have their place, separating clean and dirty clothes, and hanging up dresses because I get to unpack, is absolutely lovely). Again, you don’t get to do this a lot when you are moving from place to place.

Still, when you know that you will be moving from place to place – even if you do plan on staying for more than two days –  if you unpack or not, you must always triple check every hotel room you stay in, because, in all likelihood, you will not be coming back for anything. And honestly, the more hotel room jumps you make, the more likely it is that you are going to misplace a thing or two along the way.

Luckily for me, on our journey from Kansas City, Missouri to Wichita, Kansas, I didn’t forget anything. However, Ryan left his dress clothes either hanging in the closet or laying on the bed for the play we had in Wichita that night.

Basically, due to the late night at the Starlight Theater and my slight jet lag, we got up a little later than we expected, but with an 11 am checkout time, I wasn’t to worried about us being late. However, with me showering and doing my basic bathroom routines (that I need the sink for) then him showering and doing all his business (while I folded both our random bits of clothes – mostly his since he had the room before I came into town – and finished getting ready), the time did slowly ebb away until I was knocking on the door giving him 15 minute updates.

Once we were both ready to go – after I had reminded him about his suit which he may or may not have moved – I double checked my stuff and we headed down to the car. I will admit that we may have been distracted by one another even as we were walking down the hall – new couple who hadn’t seen each other in about a month: yep. Also, Ryan was more interested in fighting over who carried my bag than double checking himself.

I talked about the stuff we did in Kansas City in my last few posts, which was followed by the almost three hour drive to Wichita. We chatted, sang, watched videos, and snapped pictures – basically having a gay old time. Then, about 30 minutes from getting to the hotel (that he booked earlier as we left Kansas City) which was a tiny bit out of the way of the actual city, but really convenient for a night stop over, he looked over his shoulder and burst out laughing. At my confused look, he told me to look out the window and pay attention to both the completely unblocked back windows – no suit.

We were still 30 minutes or so from our hotel (which was not located near stores) and probably had another hour and 15 minutes before we were supposed to get to the playhouse, which would be another 30 minutes away (give or take). It was time to reevaluate and arrange accordingly. Ryan jumped on the phone and canceled our reservation, looked up any local department store that we could pick up some nice clothes at, and locate a hotel close to both the store and the playhouse so we could have time to breathe and get ready before heading back out.

And somehow, he managed it.

We did the quickest run through a department store – being a good shopper with a good sense of direction within stores finally paid off – to pick up a tie, button up, slacks, and a belt (replacing all the slightly nicer but missing items –  he had had the old ones fitted and dry cleaned, while the new ones didn’t even have time to be ironed) and then crossed the street and check-in to the new hotel.

So yep, hotel jumping is hard and you should always, always send someone to do a final run through check after you get everyone and everything else out of the room – you never know what you may have missed! If you did forget something and aren’t too far away – ie, Ryan lives a few hours away – you should also definitely call the hotel and see if they can send you your lost items.

However, as always, when it comes to misadventures, sometimes the unexpected become great adventures and great stories for later.

This is Leave on the Wind, helping you soar.

The pros and cons of hotel jumping

Rules for Road Trips: Knowing your driver

This past weekend, I was at a camping event that seemed to be fighting the environment. We were all sandblasted by a veritable dust/dirt storm the fist two days and had off and on showers (more on than off) on the final day – mostly while trying to pack everything up (which brought out many more bugs than is ever necessary).

I camp with my sister, meaning that we have a easy system. One works and packs in the wet, flooded tent while the other takes a break (you can nap, eat, try to get warm, whatever) inside the car and then you switch. Once camp is broken down, we work together to get everything in the back of the truck and settled. most things have a specific place or weight-derived order – to limit the chances of flying debris later – so again, this all goes rather quick and without incident.

I am also the driver and I like to help pack everything up so that I know I won’t have issues when driving. I also like to be the person pressing the buttons to look for music when we drive – I know where everything is without driving and it keeps me going and she knows not to touch my buttons unless asked.

Ki is the passenger. She looks for food, keeps an eye on the navigation, puts up with my music and – most the time – my rants or weird topics of conversation, and she makes sure that when we get food, I am easily able to access mine without killing us both.

The point? She knows her driver. we are partners in this and very rarely – with the exception of terseness over hormonal or exhaustion fueled outbursts – do we have any kinds of problems and ever those are usually apologized for and waved off before the drive is even finished (usually within 5 minutes of said outburst).

Not everyone gets to have these kinds of relationships.

This was abundantly clear while watching others in our group trying to pack up over the course of the day. These ladies were trying to balance multiple duties while tearing down so they had more to accomplish than ki and I, however, I’ve seen this happen on more than one occasion.

Packing their car is insane. Everything has an exact order and placement to make it all fit which makes sense but was easily thrown off by the incremental packing and the elements (rain) fighting against them.

The big problem comes to a head in a matter of workload and conflicting ideas on who and how things need to get done. This groups driver has very specific ideas on how things should go in the car for all three ladies things to fit. She also seems to think that the others should know how to pack said car the way it needs to be packed so that she doesn’t have to guide every step of the packing. As she puts it, she can’t tire herself out with all the packing, because she need to conserve her energy for staying awake while driving so if it looks like she’s lazing around during the process, that’s what’s going on.

Her passengers, however, know that she will get frustrated if things aren’t packed just so – even when certain things don’t make sense to them – so they will need her input and help to do things like set up and tear down. They have admitted that changing some of the tearing down order would probably be done before hand to smooth out the wrinkles.

Despite years of camping together, these small bumps between passengers and drivers makes me believe communication is a real issue and if you are going to road trip with someone, the very first thing you need to do is find out what your companion(s) needs from you. Every driver is different and as someone who fills this road a lot, it’s really nice when we don’t have to think of everything. But drivers, don’t forget to speak up and even set some ground rules.

Every ship needs a captain – figure out how your ship sails best and I wish you many happy adventures.

This is Leave on the Wind, helping you soar.

Rules for Road Trips: Knowing your driver

That time in Yosemite.

In my last year of college, my family took a quick trip to Yosemite National Park and, in theme with my current national park love, this trip was both amazing and filled with it’s own special brand of hell.

Getting There:

If you son;t see the flames from where you are, beware that this is the problematic part of the trip. To set the scene: my family was driving up to the park from the LA area but I – all by myself – planned to meet them at the hotel within the park  since I was finishing my classes and then heading out for spring break. All in all, I was not worried. I was used to trekking the 7-ish hours home fairly regularly so the 4-is hours it was supposed to take to get to the park was never going to be a problem, even if I was starting out between 3 and 4 o’clock.

Cut to me three and then four hours later, missing a phone charger with 10% battery left in my GPS and limited data. Cut to me half an hour later driving through woods in the dark with no reception and frankly no idea where I was (My GPS at the time was really unreliable even for the portable 2010 edition I think it was).

What I remember most was having to turn around and driving back 15  or 20 minutes to a tiny town praying for reception enough to call my family. No one answered. I waited 10 minutes more and the phone rang. The call was patchy but yes, the hotel was just inside the park. That’s about it.

So I thought, F*** it. Let’s drive and hope for the best. I turned the radio up and scream/sang to whatever was on and drove until I say lights. There it was. And there was my older sister looking into the parking lot from the store.

I got out of the can and when she made it to me, I hugged her tight and sobbed, ‘I’m never driving here alone again’ and then just cried.

Yep, she laughed but also hugged me back and brought me food. In the end, with family at the end of the road, I survived and slept very, very well.

But the view was worth it!

After the – may I call it harrowing? – drive down, I really hoped that I would be able to put it all behind me and relax. Yosemite totally delivered.

It’s been about 5 years since this trip so some of the details are fuzzy but others are not.

First, this whole park is beautiful and I wish we had had a longer time to do and see more – I can only imagine it now after all the rain. Again, we weren’t there for very long – we had to get back home for holy week – but we did some pretty cool stuff while we could.

There are a great variety of hike to do at Yosemite ranging from easy walks to check you balance and watch-your-phobias difficult hikes with a wide range of crowd numbers for you to deal with. Since my family ranges in fitness level and desire to trek up mountains, we planned full and partial group activities.

Together we competed the Bridalveil Falls hike. All together the ‘hike’ is a little over a mile round trip and be prepared for misty glasses and cameras. But while the mist is heavy, it is lovely! It’s a pretty iconic view so have your camera out throughout your walk because pictures are great from all over.

Our other hiking day, the family split. Mom and two sisters headed to Mirror Lake (another iconic space but be careful because it is crowded) but the other half of our group headed up to the Upper Falls and Yosemite Point. While this is a pretty long hike – 9.6 miles round trip – the elevation makes it seem like much longer. I really enjoyed myself and this hike started my fitness push – it kicked my butt more than a little bit. Warning, however: if you are afraid of heights, this hike will push you. About 90% of the way up, my sister (who is afraid of heights) had to stop after harrowing through narrow passages and slick roads and a fairly large crowd of hikers in both directions. She ended up in a little alcove with some snacks encouraging those hikers that passed by, a few joining her for a small break – I like to think she helped a few make it to the top with her kind words.

If you make it to the Upper Falls, you should consider the Point as well as your comfort level with heights and climbing down small areas onto ledges. I had to both think of what I was physically doing and yet, shut my brain off to where I was doing it to get to the point (though it looks narrower than it is.). In the end, we were exhausted and soar but even for Bex who didn’t quite make it, the hike was so worth every aching step.

10/10: Would travel again:

While I will never drive here alone again – I only make those kinds of mistakes once! – revisiting this park is definitely on my bucket list! Maybe I’ll even get Bex – a newly inspire ranger-hopeful – all the way up that mountain. Until next time and the rest of my bucket list:

This is Leave on the Wind, helping you soar.

That time in Yosemite.

Notes From the Road

I have never claimed to be a travel expert – in fact, more often than not I’ve made it very clear that despite all my advice, I’m one who makes consistent rookie mistakes.

Well, we are back on the road exploring my old haunts but this time flanked by my baby sister (yes, baby at 22) and grandma. My grandma was really on top of everything; she fleshed out the sleeping arrangements, organized with the family we’re staying with, bought the snacks and waters, and made sure the car we were driving was completely checked out before we set out early yesterday morning (an important step in road-tripping I always forget to mention!).

So, with all of that taken care of, and what could possibly have gone wrong to warrant my non-expert warning in the opening of this post?

Sometimes real life messes with you and that is all there is to it. We started our trip on Boxing Day (December 26) after spending the week leading up to Christmas running around on errand after errand and from family to family. School only let out on the Wednesday leading up to Christmas and running around trying to perp for that distracted me from one of my big trip steps: Christmas evening became laundry time.

To clarify, I had three loads and a washing machine that is pretty good at it’s job (normally). However, when I went to move load two from washer to dryer, the clothes were still dry – something went very wrong. I restarted the cycle but suddenly three loads, which to wash and dry would normally take me 4 hours, weren’t finished for seven and a half hours. With packing, I finally climbed into bed at 2 am (with a wake up time of 6.30).

Still, tired and cold, I got up in good spirits and headed out.

Usually, when I make the trip from my house to Sonoma, I drive straight through and get up here in about six and a half hours. But remember when I talked about knowing who you are traveling with as much as the when? Yes, six and a half hours was a pipe dream.

We were 2 hours into the drive when grandma asked if we were ready for breakfast (seeming to imply that she was). When we settled on a restaurant with a reasonable wait time, I never imagined us eating and talking for an hour and a half (we did) so by the time we got back on the road, holiday traffic had caught up to us.

When I’ve road tripped in the past, one way I always saved time by timing a quick bite to coincide with stopping for gas; now, however, we were definitely not timing anything.

Which leads to one event no one could predict – an accident 20 miles up that took 2 hours to get through. Add in one more bathroom stop wth a gas-up and driving through the unlit woods above Sonoma in the dark, and out 7 hour drive was an all day event; totaling closer to 10 hours and some change.

Still, we made it and are ready and able to go. So, until next time:

This is Leave on the Wind, helping you soar

Notes From the Road