Spontaneously Floating The Boise River

Many years ago, I became online friends with, for the sake of this blog post we’ll call him Job. One day, after months of witty banter back and forth online and every day phone calls full of joking, word puns, and talk of adventure, I asked Job, “what are you up to this weekend?”  Job began to tell me that he was traveling from Louisiana, where he lived, to Idaho to visit his parents at their farm in Boise, and planned to float the Boise River and hang with his younger brother Joe.  Sounded like the ideal adventure to me, so I responded with an “I’m jealous, wish I could float the Boise river!”

“What’re you doing this weekend?” he asked.

“No plans.”

“Well you should come float the Boise with us!”

“Uhh, yeah that sounds awesome, but I can’t just up and leave to Idaho.”

“If I get you a plane ticket you can.”

(not believing he was serious) “Yeah sure,” as I laughed, “I’ll come float the Boise River.”

By noon the next day, Job had called me back and then sent me an email with confirmation of my plane ticket to Idaho.  What??!! He seriously just purchased me a plane ticket and I was seriously going to Idaho to meet a person I’d never seen before?!  Of course I was.  At this point, it would be my very first time flying anywhere alone.  So September 3, 2007, I got on a plane headed for Boise.

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I fell in love with the experience of flying as a I trotted through Chicago’s Ohare airport before my transfer flight, and people watched as a I sat waiting to board my next plane. Like a fascinated little child, I sat on the plane, glued to the window the entire flight. I remember thinking, looking down, that flying gives you such a unique perspective on the world. It makes you appreciate the perfect marriage between Divine Architecture and Man’s Architechture, as you pass over untouched mountainous land and then over a large man made city.

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When the plane touched down in Boise, I excitedly exited into the airport and called Job on a pay phone because my cell phone didn’t have free long distance (yes we had cell phones back in the stone ages, just not ones with free long distance). I walked through the airport to where he guided me to meet him and it wasn’t until I got to the top of the escalator down into the baggage claim area, that I began to get nervous.  I was about to meet a complete stranger half way across the country. Here’s hoping he’s not an axe-murderer, I thought out loud.

When I saw him, I was relieved, and even more so when he smiled and gave me a big hug. We started chatting away as he walked me to the parking lot.  He had come to pick me up in his dad’s old white farm truck and I disctintly remember him purposely running over the curb in the drivethrough of the restaurant we ate at (all that flying made me hungry) to make me laugh.  By the time we got back to Job’s parents house it was dark.

We stayed up half the night talking about life and what we’d do while we were there, until we finally dozed off. I woke up in the morning to the sun shining through the open window and when I got out of bed, stretched and looked outside, I was thoroughly impressed with the sprawling view. The farm sat on rolling hills with a barn back behind the house and a few horses, one who’s my cousin Tristan’s namesake (I had to call and tell her) lol.

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We spent the first half of the day driving around Boise, where Job showed me the capital building and treated me to a trip to Lucky Peak Lake to take a dip under the GIANT fountain. We ate lunch in town at a little cafe, and then headed back to the house to pack up the raft and paddles into the station wagon.  We drove around for about a half hour looking for a good place to put into the river. It was hot, well into the 90’s but the water in the Boise river was COLD as ice. We pumped up the float and carried it to the river, got in and spent the remainder of the day floating down the river, talking, laughing and being goofy. When we reached our destination, Job’s brother was supposed to come get us, but we couldn’t get ahold of him so, what did we do? We hitched a ride with a complete stranger back to the place we parked, with Job and a half deflated raft in the back seat.

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Finally ariving back at the car, we loaded up and headed back to the farm, where we cleaned up, then headed into town for some dinner.  He took me to a little Italian restaurant called DaVinci’s. Afterwards we had drinks and played not real darts at Mulligans Pub, where I made two, count them two, bullseyes!! We stayed out on the town until around 2am having fun, dancing and drinking.  When we finally made it back to the farm, we were ready to crash.

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The following day we woke up to 107 degree temperature and decided it’d be a good day to spend at Roaring Springs Water Park. It was the coolest waterpark out in the middle of nowhere. Job’s brother joined us and we spent all day swimming and getting sunburned. My favorite was the giant half pipe they drop you into on a raft followed closely by the slide that is like a giant toilet you get flushed down.  After swimming we grabbed some snacks, played some games in the arcade where Job won me a sheriff sponge bob and then played a round of putt putt golf.  With all my days there being packed to the brim with fun, adventure and excitement, I was pooped.

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Luckily my flight and Job’s the next day wasn’t until later in the day. Job’s whole family came to the airport to see us off, him back home to Louisiana and me back home to Cincinnati.  We had airport lunch and after some bittersweet goodbyes we parted ways and headed to our terminals. I  called my mom to tell her I was headed home and then boarded my plane. When I reached Chicago to catch my transfer flight, it was EXTREMELY delayed so I spent several hours people watching and riding the baggage converyer escalator belt thingies.

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I reached Cincinnati around 1am, and my parents were anxiously awaiting my arrival at the airport. I was so grateful to have someone picking me up, because I was so tired I fell asleep in the car.  All in all my trip to Boise was an amazing experience and meeting a complete stranger turned out not to be so bad (knock on wood). I think if you put positive energy out there into the world, you attract other people who are like minded. I’ll never forget my trip to Idaho, my first time flying alone, or that one time I floated the Boise River in a blow up raft.

Visit Our New Project at GoFundMe!

Hey all, thanks for checking out my blog!  Many of you know about my travels and adventures, but I wanted to take a minute to share something I’m working on.  I’d love it if you’d support the blog by making a donation, even if it’s small at http://www.gofund.me/nomadorwhat.

I wont tell you my entire life story here, you’ll have to wait for the book to come out to hear the rest, but I will share a bit about my background, what led me to this place in my life and why I’m asking for your donations.

As a young girl, I learned at an early age that life is not always easy, and sometimes it’s just downright hard.  By my 5th birthday I had already experienced the death of two of my grandparents.  At 15 I was sexually assaulted at school by an older student.  I was devastated and emotionally scarred.  While stile trying to heal from one emotionally difficult situation, I was forced the following year to face another when my father, who had been dealing with long term depression and other mental health issues, attempted suicide. As an impressionable and emotionally fragile 16 year old, I was the one who found his nearly lifeless body that fateful day.

I became for many years a victim of my circumstances. At 20 I suffered through an extremely abusive relationship that isolated me from my family and friends, and managed to barely make it out with my life.  As I turned 21 and entered my adulthood, I was so broken and lost. Outwardly my life would appear fine as I held a job, sometimes two, supported myself, and sometimes someone else, and also went to school.  But inwardly I was torn apart by trauma and self loathing.

Through my early 20’s I struggled to find my place in the world and in 2008, fed up with corporate slavery, I quit my job at P&G in Cincinnati, and my boyfriend at the time, and I, left behind the state of Ohio.
We traveled the country for nearly a year, working on cattle ranches (one in Nevada where I adopted Eureka) to support ourselves. The journey changed my life.  It made me realize that I was bigger than my circumstances and greater than the sum of the bad things that had happened to me.  Returning back to the East coast, a new fire burned brightly in me.  We settled back into society and moved into a little country house in Kentucky with 8 acres.  There we adopted a horse and another dog and I felt that this was the beginning of a beautiful new life and adventure.                                                                                                                                                    (Weibe, my horse, giving me nuzzles)
3 months later my vision was shattered when I returned home from work to find missing, all my most valuable possessions, a safebox with $2000 I’d saved up and also my boyfriend.  After calling the police, filing a report, and trying over and over again for a week to contact him, I finally reached him only to be shocked with the news that he had been abusing drugs.  He had stolen from me and abandon me there in KY with a house, 3 dogs 2 cats and a horse.  Needless to say that was the end of that relationship.

I was forced to start over for what felt like the 1000th time.  I lived in a motel 6 in Cincinnati with 2 dogs (I had to find a home for the other) for 3 months while I worked two jobs to save for an apartment.
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Finally I made enough and settled into my new little place.  The following year I moved into a quaint little one bedroom house in Norwood Ohio and landed an excellent job at 5th 3rd Bank.  Things were looking up! I worked there and lived in my little house for almost two years, the longest I had lived anywhere.                                                                                                                                   (Eureka lounging on the couch at our new house 2009)

In the beginning I liked my job and was eager to learn, but as time went on my heart knew this was not the job for me.  With no room for creativity, no ability to be impactful and very little time to work on myself personally, I struggled internally to be there every day. I stuck with it though, fearful of following my dream of being a photographer full time.  What if I couldn’t make it?  In July of 2011 I got laid off from the bank and knew there was no time better than the present to follow my heart once and for all.

I started my photography business and haven’t looked back.  Through all the paths my life has led me down, photography has been the one constant thing that has allowed me to express and pour out into my work, the joy and the pain of my life.  Since then, I have made many sacrifices to continue doing what I love, and learned that self employment is a great challenge.

In July of 2013, the culmination of every trauma, stress or difficult time I had not taken the time to heal from, resulted in the darkest time of my life.  An over whelming cloud of darkness and wave of terrible anxiety settled over my life, with no light and no end in sight.  Fearful that I was beginning down the road my father had traveled, I became frantic and even more anxious at the thought that I was officially losing it. But somehow, even in the darkness and the midst of 24 hour a day panic, I found that little light in me, glistening like the last ember left after a fire dies out.  And through sheer determination and strength I didn’t even know I had, I began to push myself towards healing and total wellness.

I couldn’t sleep well, and what little sleep I got was interupted usually right at 4am with my heart racing out of my chest.  Though nauseous (I had lost 20 lbs from not being able to eat) I began forcing myself to get up, and walk 2 miles every day.  I felt terrible, but walking helped just enough that I knew it would ease my symptoms throughout the rest of the day. I totally changed my diet to cut out processed sugars, gluten and dairy and I read and researched and read some more about anxiety, depression, it’s causes and natural remedies. I read about spirituality and awareness, about life and the universe. And the more I read and learned and applied, the better I felt.  After one year of working hard, with no medication ever, I had reached a balance and rid myself of the crippling anxiety I had began with a year before.  I was finally at peace with myself and happier that I’d ever been.

Why am I sharing all this? Certainly not for pity.

I want others to know it’s possible.  What is “it” ? Anything!  I’ve been reaching out to individuals in my community who I feel can benefit from learning my story. Because I’m no super hero, I’m just an ordinary person, who learned that the human will is extraordinary. We are all mirrors for one another to see the parts of us that are broken, undiscovered, or forgotten, the parts of us that are beautiful, strong and perfect.  It’s time for me to take that message, and my work on the road.

For the past two years  I have been building this blog,  to share my travels and my experiences with all you guys in hopes to encourage you to go explore the world around you.  I have also been planning to create a more self sustaining and minimalistic life by downsizing to an RV that will allow me to travel to work and to speak to people around the country about humanity, strength and the will to overcome, as well as document my journey along the way.

With the funds I raise through Gofundme.com, I plan to find a safe and reliable RV.  I plan to use a portion of the money to get my materials written out and then begin a speaking tour to share my experience in hopes that I can be impactful through my words and photography, and give others hope.  Any additional money, will be invested in equipment I can use to document this journey. In the end I hope to publish a book about what I’ve learned through my journey (where you’ll be able to read all the nitty gritty details of the rest of my crazy life).

I’m ready to be a part of the solution, the answer is love. And I need your help!
If you would like to contribute to helping me spread a message of hope and strength while continuing to build a life around what I’m passionate about, please donate to my campaign.  More than you can possibly ever know, I appreciate every penny and will make sure that it is used to the fullest potential.  Hopefully I’ll have a chance to thank each and everyone of you personally in my travels.

(I currently have one week to move my things from the cabin I’ve been living in, and I’d like to move them into my new RV home, so the sooner I can reach my goal the better. I’m working hard to come up with what I can through my work and plan to match as much of the donation amount as possible with my own personal money.)

You can also follow my journey at the NomadorWhat facebook page.  or view my photography work at the LiVon Photography facebook page.

Thank YOU!!!
//funds.gofundme.com/Widgetflex.swf

 

 

A weekend at the Red River Gorge

With only two more weeks until one of my best friends leaves to go back to Michigan and then to embark on the journey of a lifetime, we decided to make the best of this past weekend with a trip to the Red River Gorge in Slade KY.  Our other friends Ben, the Gypsy Rover, Farmer Annie, Music Man Kyle and Sammy Jo joined us for a weekend of outdoor adventures.

I’d like to know which government agency you apply to, to receive extra hours in your day, because Friday I could’ve used at least 4.  I had planned on leaving very shortly after my one o’clock photo shoot with baby Connor and his little dog hippo (is that not the cutest name for a dog?!)  Anyway my photo shoot ran over and by the time I packed my gear and got back to the bf’s house in Mason Ohio it was 3pm! He wanted to have lunch together since I was leaving and he was also leaving Saturday morning for Disney World for a week.  So we met at Putters in Kings Mills and had a yummy lunch and a beer.

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Afterward I drove back to his house to pick up Eureka and then head back to the house to grab my camping gear and meet up with Viking Greg.  Of course once I was at the house I had to upload the photos from my session and take a quick glance through. Perfection! By the time we got the car packed and left the house it was around 6pm and we still had to stop at Krogers for food, REI for sleeping bag fabric repair tape and lastly the gas station, for gas, of course.

We bought about $90 worth of snacks and stuff to sustain us over the weekend. Basically gold fish crackers, beef jerky, trailmix and alcohol, lol.  We drove completely to the other side of town to REI, where I’d never been before, and I don’t know why not, because it’s awesome.  It’s like an outdoorsy person’s heaven!  They have everything you can possibly think of pertaining to outdoor activities.  I got tape to fix the hole in the awesome Marmot Trestles 0degree mummy bag that I found on craigslist earlier in the week. I also found a BRAND NEW, never been used or even set up Big Agnes tent for literally half the retail price! I decided while I was at REI I may as well pick up a pair of waterproof hiking shoes. We cashed out and headed towards Kentucky to grab some quick dinner and get gas.  At Taco Bell, we waited in the drive-through for literally 25 minutes behind one person, who must’ve ordered the entire restaurant.  FINALLY we got gas and hit the road.  I checked in with the Gypsy Rover (Ben) to see if he’d talked to Music Man Kyle to see where we should meet up.  After confirming with him, I entered Red River Gorge into the GPS and off we went.

Before long I realized that the way the GPS was leading us, was definitely not the way I went the last time Ben and I went to the Gorge.  Turns out, the GPS took us backroads, literally the entire way there.  While most people would see this as a pain, and become frustrated, the Viking and I saw it as an adventure. The scattered cloud cover and bright moon made for a beautiful view on the back country roads.

Greg is lost!

Greg is lost!

We decided it would be pretty comical to stop and take a photo of Greg in the middle of the road with an expression that said “I don’t know where the hell I’m at.”  As we pulled over, I saw a handful of hovering blue lights in a field.  As my eyes adjusted to the dark I realized the lights were on the eyes of horses. Cyborses!  I pointed them out to Viking Greg. I’m pretty sure he thought I was ‘effin with him, but he soon realized that I wasn’t.  After taking a couple neat pictures we hopped back in the car and I promptly googled “horses with blue lights on their eyes.” Turns out they use the lights on brood mares to put them in season earlier.  Who knew!!

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After about 2 1/2 hours of winding back roads we finally arrived at the Gorge and headed in to the Indian Creek campsite where everyone else had set up. Greg swore he could remember where it was from the last time but after several times turning around I wasn’t so sure lol. When we finally found the campsite, lucky for us they had a nice fire going, because it was chillllllyy!  After setting up my tent and spending a few minutes admiring its beauty, I joined everyone else around the fire.  My toes felt frozen and I began to regret not buying boots instead of shoes.

After warming up and chatting a bit, I decided to turn in and Eureka and I crawled in our new tent.  I laid a blanket down for the dog and the folded another blanket and laid it long ways under my sleeping bag for extra padding and insulation from the ground. Unfortunately, the blanket wasn’t long enough and though my body and upper legs were warm, my feet felt frozen and numb all night long.  For those of you who’ve never slept in a mummy bag, there’s only 2 maybe three positions you can sleep in; flat on your back, flat on your stomach or flat on your side.  No curling up on your side or bending your legs due to the structure of the bag, which is designed that way to keep you warm.  My rest on Friday night, was not great. I woke at around 7 am with Eureka curled up on my pillow next to my head. I instantly shooed her back to her own blanket and spent a moment pulling her hair from my mouth and fully waking up.  I could hear Music Man Kyle and Sammy Jo chatting, the fire already crackling, the stream by our campsite babbling and the Gypsy Rover groaning from his tent. I crawled out of my tent and joined everyone else around the fire.  Music Man and Sammy Jo were kind enough to bring breakfast food to share so we feasted like kings on fire cooked sausage, bacon and egg burritos. They were friggin delicious and really hit the spot.

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Since we were meeting farmer Annie at 3 at the Shell (the only place you get cell phone reception) we decided to hike Half Moon since it’s a short trail with an awesome view.  It was my first time up there, but Sammy Jo recommended it, and that girl knows the gorge!  We walked along a trail and came to a point where we had to climb up some rocks to continue.  Since Eureka and Dhalia (Ben’s dog) couldn’t continue one the path they were instructed to stay.  We reached Half Moon and I was far from disappointed with the absolutely spectacular view.  We soaked it in, took pictures and goofed around (a safe but still scary close distance from the edge).

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The Viking and I decided to try a bound headstand, which might I add, I did perfectly on the loveland trail just a week ago.  He went first and I captured a photo (I was a proud teacher!). When I went to do mine, fear took over my brain and I just couldn’t get my feet up and get balanced.  Viking offered to help me lift my feet up but I didn’t realize he was standing behind me and when I swung my feet up I kicked him directly in the face, specifically the nose, which was red and bleeding. What an awesome friend I am! Geez.  I felt so terrible, but he was gracious and even gave ME a hug and told me it was ok, that he knew it was an accident.  Needless to say, I did NOT complete my headstand.

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We took an “Us-ie” and headed back down the path. When we reached the dirt trail the dogs hadn’t moved an inch, ok maybe an inch, but there they sat loyally waiting for our return. What awesome dogs we have and even better, they are best buds.

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We arrived back to the cars just a few minutes after 3pm and headed to Shell. Farmer Annie was there waiting on us.  After a brief food stop, we headed back for camp. We spent the remainder of the evening hanging around the fire like a merry band of woodland dwellers.  We drank under a clear crisp night sky and a bright moon. We played the “word pun” game. It was so much pun! After enough drinking, the singing began. I’d estimate we spent the better part of two hours singing acapella, every song we could collectively think of the words to, and some we didn’t know well at all. We struggled through some Madonna, Queen, Backstreet Boys and many others, but we were all smiling ear to ear.  It was so much fun, a memory I’ll keep for a long time to come.

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We started fading out and since it was super chilly we thought it would be best to tent-buddy up, especially since the Viking only brought a hammock and had nearly frozen solid the night before.  The Rover, Dhalia, Eureka and I piled in my tent, Music Man Kyle and Sammy Jo in theirs, and Farmer Annie and Viking Greg into hers.  Kyle let me borrow an extra sleeping bag to put under mine and let me tell you it made all the difference in the world.  I lay there in my mummy bag as everyone drifted off to sleep and thought how grateful I am that the universe aligned and brought together such an awesome beautiful unique group of people, and how glad I am to call them friends.

I woke up to condensation dripping on my forehead like chinese water torture. All the hot breath in my tent had made it quite stuffy and unbearable once I was awake, so I HAD to get out, but once I did, I realized it was a beautiful day.IMG_7853As the sun came up, the frost on the ground melted away.  I thought I was the first one up, but as I stretched and moved around I saw Viking Greg walking back from his car. Apparently he had gone to sleep in there for a few hours because he was cold in Annie’s tent.  Two nights of bad sleep for Greg fried his brain a bit and I could tell he wasn’t functioning at full capacity. So once everyone was up I suggested a Shell run for coffee which Greg gladly agreed to.  We rode with Kyle and Sammy Jo to Shell and left Ben and Annie to build a fire so we could cook breakfast.

When we returned from Shell, Viking and Music Man were much more lively and the Rover and Annie had a HUGE fire going.  Those two crazy critters were going skinny dipping and invited us to join, but you can count me out on that! I have no desire to stick my cold naked body in to close to freezing stream water. But those crazy kids went through with it! Maybe next time when its a little warmer, lol (sorry folks, no photos).

After a steak breakfast, Music Man Kyle and Sammy Jo were packing up to head out and the rest of us headed to Natural Bridge.

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We parked at Hemlock Lodge and took the trail up the hill, the Gypsy Rover practically running as usual with Viking right behind him and Annie and I (us old folks) trailing a bit behind.  We reached the top of Natural Bridge and sat and rested for a while, enjoying the view.  IMG_8073

After snapping some pictures we continued on the trail to Lookout Point. As I was sitting there, just a few seconds after snapping a picture of Annie, I somehow lost hold of the lens cap (which belongs to the fisheye lens I BORROWED) and it rolled over the cliff and I heard it tink tink ti ti tink tink tink, all the way down.  My mouth hung wide open. It was like I saw it happen in slow motion, but couldn’t do a thing about it.

I was determined to go look for it, so my friends, although unsure we’d find it, humored me and we hiked down Devils Staircase to the trail that wraps around the front of Lookout Point.IMG_8153

The trail is about 75 ft downhill from the rock face itself, and in between the trail and the rock is very dense plant life and fallen trees.  It wasn’t an easy climb to get up there, but once we did, we found there is another trail that wraps directly along the rockside.  Not two minutes into looking I heard Viking yell, “I found it!” I was so relieved I wouldn’t have to tell Steve I lost his lens cap over a cliff. Turns out the trail we found was pretty rad, and in a way I’m glad that I lost the lens cap over the cliff.IMG_8174

As we made our way back to the parking lot, we all agreed it was time for some Miguels Pizza!! Miguels is a popular spot to find the Gorge’s most ambitious climbers as well as some pretty darn good pizza. We all met there and sat at a Picnic table out back to have our fill of pizza and enjoy the beautiful weather. After Miguels, Annie left for home and the Rover, the Viking and I (and the dogs) headed back for camp.

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We debated on whether to stay another night or not. Final concensus; yay. We were all out of firewood so the boys spent the next hour collecting and chopping wood. We got a little fire started and as they chopped I built up the fire little by little. We finally had a nice fired going and were relaxing and conversating, when out of nowhere, it started to rain. At first it rained gradually, then pretty hard. We scrambled to get all our stuff in the tents to keep it dry.  The rain made me want to turn in early so Eureka and I crawled into our tent. Ben pulled his tent across the campsite closer to mine and him and Dhalia turned in for the night. Since the Viking didn’t bring a tent and I’m not mean enough to make him sleep in the rain, he tent buddied up with me and Eureka. It rained well into the middle of the night, but I was warm and comfy.

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the ride home

We packed our stuff early the next morning to head home. Since my tent was soaked I shook the water off and stuffed it in the trunk to lay out to dry once I got home.  We said our goodbyes and headed for home. Driving out of the gorge, as the sun rose, just peeking through the trees, I thought, “I’ll miss this, a lot.” Although I plan to have many more adventures to the gorge this year, this was the only one with Viking Greg and I’m so glad we made it!

What a lucky girl I am to have met such diverse and wonderful friends in the past couple years, people I can share adventure and exploration with, people who share my passion for life. You guys rock my socks!

Cabin Life

I woke up this morning with a chilly breeze seeping into the open part of my sleeping bag.  From inside the bag, I could barely see the morning light. Damn, I thought, I let the fire go out again. Since I moved to the cabin on the hill, I’ve been learning valuable lessons about how thankful we should all be for gas powered furnaces and running water in our houses and the comfortability of not waking up freezing cold with purple fingertips and having to pee outside.

The cabin is decent sized, not huge but a good amount of open space, with a small wood burning stove to heat the entire thing. I moved here after the first week of December on the 11th, thinking in my mind, I’m tough and this will be a new adventure. There is no electricity besides whats run off an extension cord (an OSHA nightmare) and  no bathroom, kitchen, or plumbing in general installed at all yet.  The walls are uninsulated and really not walls at all because they are just studs and plywood uncovered.  Basically I’m living in a construction site. But Kenny has built this cabin with his own two hands, and despite being unfinished is an awesome example of what one person is capable of.  The cabin is constructed of materials that were donated or re-purposed by Kenny’s friends, and I think that it’s neat to see it all come together in one unique place like this.  When it’s a finished cabin come spring, it’ll be the most awesome place around here.

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After short notice in mid-November that I’d have to leave the place where I was staying in Rabbit Hash, Kentucky, I had begun looking for other places to live that were affordable. One day as I was sharing my plight with one of the locals, my friend, Kenny, he offered to rent me the “studio” as it’s called. He assured me that I’d love the cabin, and the view, and so I drove down the road and took a look. As usual, what one may see as an unfinished cabin full of junk, I saw as potential to be something cozy and homey as well as a way to challenge myself to live beyond the bounds of modern society while still maintaining connection with the world. I’ll be inspired by this, I thought, made stronger.

Before I moved in

Before I moved in

Before I moved in

Before I moved in

The Kitchen

The Kitchen

The Bathroom

The Bathroom

20 days later, I’m freezing, can’t feel my toes, fingertips or nose and am feeling unmotivated to dig a ditch in the cold frozen ground to run a line to the cistern. Although living without my own bathroom is the pits (thankfully Kenny lets me use his), digging ditches up hill, isn’t exactly easy, especially when it’s 20 degrees and the ground is frozen solid.

The first few days here I tried sleeping in the bed in the loft. I quickly realized that the mattress up there is a bit, uhh shall we say flexible. My back and hips were hurting so bad from sleeping on it, not to mention I was tired from crawling up and down the ladder in the middle of the night to put fire wood in the wood burning stove every few hours. So once I got a couch here, I started sleeping on it. It’s colder down stairs but I’m much closer to the stove to feed it, and the couch is oddly more supportive than the bed. I can’t wait to get my own mattress here.

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So my routine has been to get the fire going nice and hot before bed, close down the stove (close the dampers and floo to keep the heat in the stove) and crawl in my sleeping bag with it all the way up over my head. Despite the wood burning stove (which is too small for the space) its never really too warm in here, and due to the lack of insulation, there are spots where it is VERY cold and drafty. So I sleep bundled in two 20 degree rated sleeping bags (and usually a few layers of clothes).

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I then set an alarm for two and a half hours from the time (to wake up and feed the stove), then another for two and a half more hours and so on, until the time I think I’ll wake up.  That worked for the first few nights, but I’ve become so tired from that routine that I am literally sleeping through my alarms and the past two mornings I’ve woken up freezing cold with nothing but a few coals left in the stove. Last night it was 19 degrees outside and with no insulation and no fire going, I’m pretty sure it wasn’t more than 25 degrees  when I woke up.WP_20141231_002

Its been tough. Probably the most challenging place I’ve lived.  It’s hard work cutting, splitting, carrying wood.  Its frustrating not having a kitchen to prepare my food in or a bathroom to use. But if I can live here, and I can make life work, then I can live anywhere, and most likely, I’ll be more than grateful the next time I have running water, heat and all the modern amenities of life, and I will be more conscious about wastefulness and conservation.

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I know I’ve done a lot of complaining about life in the cabin, but I wanted to take just a minute to go over some of the things I love about cabin life.

#1 The View

Rabbit Hash is situated right on the river in the Ohio River Valley between Kentucky and Indiana and some of the most spectacular sunsets I’ve seen right here in my own front yard.

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There is a bald eagle’s nest back in the woods behind the cabin so some days I see the Eagles flying over the house, and down to the river to fish. I’ve also seen red fox, deer, turkey, possum, raccoon, coyote and we have a handful of kitties that hang around (some who I’ve buddied up with and now let in the cabin to keep warm). Looking out the windows in the loft of the cabin is like looking out onto my own little piece of heaven.WP_20141214_001

#2 The Town

Rabbit Hash is the first place I’ve ever lived that I felt attached to.  I have been surrounded by such a wonderful community of friends here and even if it’s cold as shit, my heart is warmed by the thought that I feel a sense of belonging here among my hashians. Rabbit Hash has been kind and generous to me and will forever hold a special place in my heart no matter where in the world I go.

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#3 The Rustic-ness

I love the smell of the wood burning stove, and the sound of it crackling, or roaring when I open the floo. I love the natural feel of being surrounded by wood and not the man made materials that fill most houses. It suits me, and my gypsy life. It’s simple and beautiful and despite all my complaints, I’m thankful for it.WP_20141214_003

#4 The Challenge

I enjoy pushing myself outside my comfort zone, and find that usually in life when you are able to do this, that you are rewarded. I have had many nights where I wanted to cry, because I was cold or miserable, but I’ve also had many nights here in the cabin filled with music, laughter, and good friends, some I’d even call family.

All in all the cabin has been an excellent learning experience. Its brought me joy and misery and is a reminder that in life, and in all things, you must find balance between the good and the bad. Here’s to Spring, it can’t come soon enough! lol

I’ll be doing a follow up post about life here at the cabin on the hill soon. So stay tuned for more gypsy adventures!

My Almost Make-out Session at Big Bone Lick and Randomly Running into Rabbit Hash

So this is the first blog post I’ve written on location thus far. I somehow wandered into the little town of Rabbit Hash Kentucky today.  It is the most awesome thing that has happened randomly in quite a while.  Earlier today I met one of my bridal clients to iron out the details for their upcoming wedding.  Since the coffee shop we met at was right around the corner from the venue I figured, once we wrapped up, that I could drive over and take a look to check out the lighting, setup, etc.  After my trip to the Florentine, which is in Union KY, I went driving around the area looking for a good outdoor location for bridal party photos.

The Florentine

The Florentine

About 5 minutes down the street I ran across a place called Farm Haven.  I decided to be nosy and pulled onto the property and took a look around. I couldn’t find anyone to talk to, besides an alpaca, so I walked back to my car with plans to look them up online and give them a call later. Note in phone: check! Its the first absolutely gorgeous day we’ve had in a while, so I figured why stop my adventure here. The big brown sign for Big Bone Lick State Park was staring me in the face and the gorgeous beaming sunshine and blue skies were beckoning. With my foot to the pedal, old school 80’s rock blaring out the windows and the wind in my hair, I headed 10 miles down the road to Big Bone Lick.

Old closed down shop on the road to Big Bone

Old closed down shop on the road to Big Bone

I haven’t been there in probably 10 years or so. Its always weird when you revisit a place after so long. Its never quite the same as you remember it, especially if the time span is from childhood to adulthood. The lake seemed smaller that I remembered, but still shimmering and beautiful. After snapping a few pics with my phone, since I failed to bring Mark (my Camera) with me, I walked up to a nearby park bench to sit for a moment and soak in some sun.

The Lake

The Lake

I noticed off in the distance, a man laying on a blanket enjoying the sun as well.  I hopped up, ready to do a little exploring, and found my way to a little dirt path. Well, I better investigate. Let me see where this leads. Turns out, the path winds completely around the whole lake. So, despite my lack of good hiking shoes, I followed the path, enjoying my time in nature.

The backside of the lake

The backside of the lake

When the path finally came back to the place where I had started, the man who was once laying, was at the bench, rolling up his blanket.  “Beautiful day!” he called out. I agreed, and mentioned that I thought it was sad not enough people understand the importance of spending time in and having a relationship with nature.  Peter, as he introduced himself, was an older man, I’d say in his late 40’s, maybe early 50’s.  He donned a leather jacket, jeans and and had a few camping utensils hanging from his belt.  He had a kind voice and spoke passionately about life.  After about 15 minutes of chatting about philosophical stuff, I asked him if I could take a picture of him by the lake, for my blog, so that I could accurately document my trip. He obliged and even offered to snap one of me by the lake for posterity.

Peter

Peter

I took down Peters email address to send him a copy of his photo, and as I looked up from my phone, he pulled me close, by my waist, stared deep into my eyes and said… “Kiss me.”  Well, I hope you all know how this turned out. Lol. In the nick of time I barely got my hand up in front of my face to stop his lips from coming into contact with mine.  Awkwardly, I cleared my throat. “I can’t”, I explained. “I’m sorry.” With a nervous laugh, he said,”You can’t blame a guy for trying. You’re smart, funny, and beautiful.”  I was honestly flattered (although also weirdly creeped out).  As I bid Peter adieu, I walked back to my car literally laughing out loud at life and how the weirdest things some times happen to me.  I don’t think I’ve laughed that hard in a very long time. So thank you Peter, for thinking I’m beautiful and also for making me belly laugh that a stranger in a park would try to make out with my face.

Before leaving I stepped into the Big Bone Lick Visitor Center and read through some historical info about the park and the area.

Visitor Center

Visitor Center

I pulled out of the park and upon reaching the exit, I realized I forgot the way I turned when I came in. So I decided to gamble. I took a left.  As I descended down a hill it was like I had driven into another time.  I turned left into the small town of Rabbit Hash, totally fascinated with the originality and authenticity of each unique building.  I parked in front of a little store. Since there weren’t many cars I wasn’t even sure that anything was open. I approached the porch of the General Store and opened the front door.

The General Store

The General Store

I felt like I walked into an eclectic, vintage version of gypsy heaven. It smelled wonderful, like old time soaps and candles. It was warm, with a wood burning stove crackling in the back of the store.  The owner, a lovely middle-aged woman with dark brown hair a warm smile and interesting jewelry, exuded this free spirited and loving energy which compelled me to introduce myself.  Terrie Markesbery is the Proprietor at the Rabbit Hash General Store and a kind soul who has passion for travel, dance, and people.  Terrie and I chatted for a long while about life, love and travel.

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Terrie

I browsed around looking at all the General Store’s treasures, while Terrie tended to customers. I pet Travis the cat who was taking a snooze in the chair. He reminded me of my Smokey (RIP). I met a few other new friends while I was there, Annie and Barry, both Farmers in NKY and Biscuit and Face Racer, the Bikers on the front porch.  Everyone there was friendly and welcoming.

Travis

Travis

Terrie was gracious enough to let me tour the Old Hashienda, which is a beautiful rustic apartment that guests can rent out for special events, festivals, or just to have a relaxing weekend.

Old Hashienda

Old Hashienda

And now here I sit, writing this blog by the wood burning stove while my cell phone charges, since it is COMPLETELY dead after taking so many pictures.  Next time for sure, I’ll have to bring along Mark for some better quality photos of one of my new favorite places!  If you ever are around Union Kentucky, and aren’t afraid of backwoods, homegrown, friendly folks, this is definitely a place I’d recommend visiting. Who knows, maybe you’ll even be lucky enough to meet Mayor (a Border Collie) Lucy Lou. You can find more information on Rabbit Hash at www.rabbithash.comAlso if you’re interested in visiting Big Bone Lick its not far outside of Union and also well worth a visit. You can find more info on Big Bone at Big Bone Lick State Park.

Business Turns Into Play on a Dreary Day in Lexington KY

A couple months ago, a lady contacted me through an ad I had on Craigslist about a camera I was selling. She told me that she lived in Hazard, KY which is about a six hour drive, but that she’d be in Lexington sometime in the upcoming months for work. With all the crazy responses I get on craigslist I was unsure the lady would ever call me back, but sure enough about a week ago she texted me and asked if I still had my Canon 60d. We agreed to meet on Wednesday, March 12th in the morning at a little camera shop in Lexington called Murphy’s. So Wednesday morning I woke up, hopped in the shower, packed my camera gear up and headed for Lexington. Lexington is about an hour and a half from where I live so I spent my drive listening to tunes and enjoying the scenery (even though it was cold and raining. I stopped for gas and as I was pumping my unleaded into the civic I realized, I’ve never been to Lexington before! Here’s a place I’ve never been to that’s only a little over an hour away! It just reminded me that there are so many ways to adventure, even close by your own hometown. Of course, upon that realization, my business trip to sell my camera was quickly evolving into a personal play time. I reached Murphy’s a few minutes early and went in to meet with Rebecca.

Murphy’s

After chatting with her and some of Murphy’s employees we finalized the sale and I was off to adventure. Of course the blast of bitter cold air in my face on the way out the door deterred me slightly, but who am I kidding, nothing ever stopped me from an adventure besides, we’ll errrr, nope, nothing ever stopped me. So where to? First stop, the side of the road to take a picture of the Lexington sign and google some info on what to do in Lexington. Unfortunately a lot of Lexington’s best attractions are best enjoyed in warmer weather. After a bit of research I decided to head to Ashland, the Henry Clay estate, to have a look. For those of you who are unfamiliar with Henry Clay, “The Great Compromiser”, he was a lawyer, a politician and a skilled orator who represented Kentucky in both the US Senate and the House of Representatives in the 1800’s. He was, according ton Charlie (my awesome docent) a mason and a ladies man. He ran for presidency three times and lost all three times, the last time due to his supporting stance on slavery. To learn more about Henry Clay and the Ashland Estate visit henryclay.org. I arrived at Ashland, via my helpful GPS and was heavily impressed with its oldness. Lol. Even though it was cold out, the grounds were meticulously kept, and as I walked through the varied buildings on the property I imagined a time long ago. The estate itself is a very large brick home which is a duplicate of the home that once stood during Henry Clay’s life. The house was torn down by his son after Henry’s death and rebuilt as a replica of the original house, as well as updated to the Italianate style of architecture with touches of Greek revival.

Ashland

Ashland

It’s massive 8000sqft spread holds over 18 plus rooms with grand high ceilings and beautiful wood frame work. The house is filled with furniture, and personal belongings of Henry and the Clay family. My favorite thing in the estate is a painting that is, if I had to guess, which I’m not any good at, about 6ftx8ft that adorns the walls of Ashland’s Parlor. It depicts the Washington family, George, Martha, and their adopted children (who were actually Martha’s grandchildren) George and Eleanor as well as enslaved servant who is assumed to be William Lee. This painting has been with the estate for over 100 years except for in the 1950s when it was sold at auction and then donated back to the house museum of Ashland, where it now resides. The best thing about this painting is that it was commissioned of an artist named Henry Inman, by James Johnston (who’s that?) and given to Henry Clay as a gift for his wife Lucretia in 1844. It is a hand painted copy of an original painting, Edward Savage’s iconic Washington’s Family, that hangs in the gallery of art in Washington, D.C.. Apparently copying well known paintings was not considered a second rate thing at that time. Photographs inside the estate are not allowed, which of course nearly made my head burst, but I decided I’d become ok with it and it would just force me to pay attention and live in the moment instead of capturing it and reliving the moment later. After my tour of the house, which I enjoyed very much, I chatted with the nice woman who worked in the gift shop, Libby, and purchased a few small things to take back home. I also introduced myself to the ladies I took the tour with, who were from Utah and told them they should look up my blog! So if they do, hey ladies! Hope you had a safe trip back home. I hopped in my car and headed for downtown Lexington to see what interesting places I could find. As I passed into downtown, on my right on Midland Ave is Thoroughbred Park.

Thoroughbred Park

Thoroughbred Park

It just takes up a small 2.3 acre triangular section where two roads split off from the main road. It was founded by the Triangle Foundation which has created several other parks in downtown Lexington. Along the entry way to the park are 7 bronze statues of thoroughbreds and their jockeys racing, cleaving the wind, portrayed expending every last ounce of energy to reach the finish line first. It’s really a breathtaking sight, and the sound of nearby traffic fades in the distance as you’re taken to another place.

Racing to the finish

Racing to the finish

There are 6 other bronze horse statues throughout the landscape of the park, including two foals frolicking in the grass. As you walk through there are 44 plaques along the walkway that loops through the entire park, that honor the men and women who spent their lives breeding, training, racing and owning these magnificent thoroughbreds. Lexington is famous for its devotion and dominance in the equine world and this park does an does an excellent job of displaying this.

After walking around in the cold with misty rain and wind whipping me in the face, I thought to myself, I could really go for a cup of coffee right now (decaf of course, it’s been 10 months since I kicked my caffeine habit). I reached the civic and Lo and behold I parked myself right across the street from A Cup of Commonwealth, which turned out to be one of the coolest little coffee shops I’ve ever had the pleasure of visiting. I was warmly welcomed by the owners who currently run the shop themselves. Chris Ortiz and Salvador Sanchez, A Cup of Commonwealth’s founders are two coffee-and-fun-loving guys who are centered around improving their community through a system they use called pay it forward. How do you pay it forward? With the pay it forward board of course, and if you’re still lost there’s instructions written in giant colorful letters behind the counter. Basically you purchase a cup of coffee, of any particular kind for a friend who isn’t with you. You leave them a note on the pay it forward board and when they visit the shop the next time they can check the board and receive their paid forward coffee. The best thing is you don’t just have to pay it forward to someone you know, you could write something like, “for a teacher” or “for someone who loves dogs”. You can even make your own stipulations for receiving the coffee like the person has to sing or dance to receive their yummy beverage.

Pay-It-Forward

Pay-It-Forward

I had a White Chocolate Mocha and it was smooth and delicious to the last drop. I utilized the pay it forward system and left a coffee for my friends at Frameshop Lexington. Chris and Sal graciously allowed me to take their picture.

Chris & Salvador

Chris & Salvador

I said my good byes and I was off. Driving through downtown, I looked on the outskirts for eclectic shops, artisans and whatnot. You know, the kind of stuff Gypsies look for. I drove past a really interesting looking spiritual healing store, which after I parked a block away and walked there, I realized was closed. So I went next door to Liz Douglas designs and met Liz and Doug who specialize in faux finishing anything using chalk paint. Their shop is exemplary of their fine craftsmanship, and we’ll worth stopping in if you’re ever in Lexington.

Liz told me if I like eclectic that I simply must visit Third Street Stuff & Coffee. So I did. Third Street was like being in Portland all over again, which is awesome! The outside of the building is wildly painted with bright colors, designs and sayings. The inside is adorned with neon colors, artwork, design and a really cool collection of stuff for sale. Since I’d just had coffee, I decided to purchase some oddities including but not limited to, buttons for my backpack and a mustache tin full of mints.IMG_0084 copy

I had worked up an appetite, so I pulled out the little paper list of awesome restaurants that Sal and Chris from Commonwealth had created for me. I chose Stella’s because Stella is my cats name. When in doubt I use my excellent reasoning skills. Stella’s is at the corner of Jefferson and Ballard streets. I really enjoyed sitting by the large old windows and watching the snow fall outside. I had a side salad with their amazing house vinaigrette. When I say delicious I mean really yummy! This homemade dressing tastes killer on a salad. I enjoyed a nice glass of Pinot Grigio and mowwed down on some truffle Mac and cheese, followed by a piece of Melt-in-your-mouth Mary Porter Pie.IMG_0153 copy

By this point it was nearly 6 pm as I sat, food coma’d in Stella’s dining room. I let my food settle a bit and then headed for my last stop of the day before heading home. My Lexington friend, Corey, said I must visit the Ward Hall Greek Revival Mansion for its creepy appeal. As I pulled up the long winding driveway of Ward Hall, I thought out loud, this place is most likely haunted, but eh, who cares. This large creepy mansion stands on 40 acres of rolling hills. It’s three stories tall and the three floors are connected by an elliptical staircase.IMG_0160 copy

Although there is a rope blocking off the front porch, since obviously no one lives there, I crossed the rope and creeped up to the front porch hoping I wasn’t about to become another episode of Unsolved Mysteries. I peeked through the windows at the furnishings and was thoroughly in awe of the interior architecture as well as pretty creeped out by the emptiness and just overall energy of the house. I walked all the way around the house and suddenly nature was calling and I needed to find a restroom. Rather than drop trough right there, I decided to GPS the closest bathroom. After a stop at subway, I got on the road home. Reflecting on my day as I watched a beautiful sunset over the rolling Kentucky hills,IMG_0191 copy

I came to the conclusion that I needed to seek out the Lexingtons (nearby places I can travel to in a day) surrounding my little part of the world, to encourage you, my readers, to begin your adventures and to show you that it doesn’t require a lot of money and sometimes doesn’t require any money to do so. I challenge you to pick a place, within an hour or so of your home that you’ve not been, and write me about your adventure! I look forward to hearing all your stories!