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We’ve had the best time in this sleepy little mountain town visiting friends and getting to know the quaint town of about 150,000 they call home. Roanoke Virginia is a mixture of mountains, valleys, old buildings and houses with some new blood.

Yesterday, we had breakfast at Thelma’s Chicken & Waffles (www.thelmaschickenandwaffles.biz 540-343-8888) in downtown Roanoke. Not only was the food amazing but the lady who served us made the whole experience that much more wonderful. The sparkle in her eyes and the smile on her face framed her fabulous energy. The cost was reasonable. Because it was Sunday morning, the place was packed and we ended up being there longer than planned but it was all good.

Issac’s Mediterranean Restaurant (theisaacsrestaurant.com) is one of the best of its kind. I haven’t had better Gyro… ever. The meat was fresh,tender, tasty and juicy. The sautéed kale was the best as was the Vegi Plate. Big recommendation.

Next, we stopped at Local Roots (localrootscafe.com) to try their Cherry-Tini martini-type drink made with fresh squeezed cherry juice, vodka and other good stuff.

The last stop was to see “Midnight in Paris”. The theater reminded me of a mini-Fox Theater in Atlanta. Nice atmosphere and a not-t00-complicated movie with great company.

We headed home via the Blue Ridge Mountains down I-81. The lush vegetation was a pleasant relief to all the vast arid areas I’d just been in for the last month. My daughter and I felt like our skin was sucking up all the moisture in the air like a fish gasping for oxygen when it’s outta’ water.

Blue Ridge Mountains I-81

GREEN!

Then you get into North Carolina and the Blue Ridge Mountains come alive!

North Carolina Blue Ridge View

North Carolina

As my home is nestled in northeast Georgia between North and South Carolina, I’m a little partial to the North Carolina Blue Ridge Mountain views. Just sayin’!

Happy Trails!

It’s been so much fun staying off the Interstates (when possible) and keeping to  the  back roads to get in touch with the towns like I remember doing when I’d  travel  Georgia with my father as a child in the 1950’s. He was the Public  Relations Photographer for the numerous Governors for the State of Georgia over 25 years. When  the current Governor told Dad to cover a specific  event, Dad went and, when possible, I went with him. I sat on the laps of  Governors and knew many important State Legislators; that’s how it was  being his daughter. But, the most   impressionable part of it all to me was traveling those  country roads. I’d sit quietly in his car, imagining what the life was like in the  house we’d just passed where the people were sitting on the porch next to the  old wringer washing machine; the lights inside  barely glowed and looked more like candlelight than like Edison’s invention.

It was  all mystical and alluring but unsettling all at the same time to this little  girl  who was as young as 5  on her first great adventure with her dad. Who were   these people? Where did they work so far away from civilization? Did they play  Checkers? What did those children do during those long, hot, South Georgia  summers? Did they have a swimming hole like we did or a lake?  A million and  one questions raced through my young mind formulating stories, lives yet all the while trying to keep a very low profile so my dad wouldn’t quiz me with words to spell  in rapid fire fashion. Not only was I supposed to know how to spell words at 5  like “kudzu” but also remember the history of it in our state, etc. Needless to say,  I wandered off into their world to avoid answering his questions wrong!

Yep, it was then that I fell in love with country roads and their stories. And, I  guess, it was the hope that the ambiance of the small town still existed almost  60 years later that sent me on the first Great Adventure in 2009. I’m happy to tell you all that it does exist. The rapid rate of technological advancement has NOT deleted this wonderful attribute of our country. Thank you, God!

It’s the back roads I take, the Mom and Pop places where I sleep at night, fill up my truck and buy my food that keep me feeling alive. No big chain stores for me… except for the Truck Stops  (aka Welcome Centers) when the Interstate can get me where I  really want to be mo’ faster so I can spend more time off ’em!

As the weather has been unpredictable with high winds, rain and snow, I really haven’t even been able to pop-up the pop-up as yet. You just can’t fold up a wet pop-up without ruining your bedding and probably the particle board underneath. So, it’s been motel-ville for me. Not what I wanted, but as a friend of mine reminded me, “It’s what’s NOT planned that’s the most fun!” Thanks Big Ed-2 (not to be confused with Big Ed-1, my bro).

So, it was the Mom and Pop in Chugwater, WY and the Mom and Pop near Bryce  Canyon that tell the stories of how families stick together for the greater good of  all. Nice stuff.

At Buffalo Lodge and Grill in Chugwater known to serve the famous “Chugwater  Chili” (307-422-3463), the owner of the facility had become too sick to run the  place so the family stepped up to the plate… not just immediate blood-type  family but in-laws and out-laws alike doing the cooking, cleaning, managing  and baby sitting for those working. There was the cutest little 4-year-old girl  chirping around the small lodge. She ran back and forth between her grandma  in the restaurant to her mom/or aunt behind the desk. I really liked seeing that  part of Americana that appears to be lost in the big cities like Atlanta.

At Harold’s Place (435-676-2350) near Bryce Canyon (at the junction of Hwy.   89 and 12), I met Christy (sp?/Kristi/Christie), the daughter of the Mom and Pop   establishment. She rattled off her duties in rapid fire succession… manager,   landscaper, gardener, security, cook, waitress, bottle washer and overall get ‘er   done lady. When a Brit came into the restaurant and asked her what they   served, she replied, “Food” in the driest of British humor that totally went over   the Brit’s head! It was all I could do to keep from throwing out one of my   spontaneous, turrets like guffaws at her wonderful, Utahns British dry humor.   Thanks, Christy/Kristi/Christie! And, also, a special shout out to  Marty/Mardi (again sp?)  who had recently been hired to help with the hotel part of Harold’s. She’s   following along with me on this Great Adventure. Christy/Kristi/Christie   doesn’t touch computers and doesn’t even want to because they lock up, freeze  up or just go crazy when she touches them. She leaves all that to her dad   (harold@color-country.net).

And, as in the past few days, I woke up to more snow! So, off I went from   Harold’s to explore Bryce Canyon. Boy, was I glad I’d gotten my Senior Lifetime   National Park Pass in Georgia for a whopping $10.o0! It saved me the $25.00   fee to see the small but impressive park.

It snowed all the way through yet another aptly named “Red Canyon” (this one  in Dixie National Forest) to get to an overcast, snowy Bryce. Here’s what it  looked like going through Red Canyon on the way to Bryce.

going through Red Canyon to Bryce

more Red Canyon

Now, finally, at the famous Bryce Canyon:

Bryce

Natural (?) Bridge

At Bryce Peak

coming back out of Bryce

coming out of Bryce 2

Now it was onto Zion National Park going west on Hwy. 9. I had no way of  knowing the magnificent views and white-knuckle driving waiting me around  the bend.

Entering Zion

no stopping for pix... this is on-the-go photo ops

right before the white knuckle driving started & battery in camera ran dry

Ava and I will be driving through Zion (going east this time) to camp there (if  space is available) on our way to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, Four  Corners and other points east on our way back to Atlanta. Even with bad weather, I saw lots of tents and bicyclers in Zion. They must all be young!

As for now, I’m settled in at Ava’s home for the next couple of weeks in Vegas- Baby. I will keep you posted on our adventures here and photos when they can be  published! Just kidding. We’re not all that rowdy any more! Really. Why don’t  you believe me?

See you all soon and thanks, again, for joining me on this Great Adventure. I am  so truly blessed to have this opportunity of combining the three things I love  most in life: my daughter, writing and travel.

Happy trails!

Having fallen in love with Utah in 2009 during my first Great Adventure, I wasn’t   sure that I could fall any deeper in love with the state. I was wrong. Today has  proven that. When I woke up to 4-5 inches of snow after sleeping in a log cabin  (at Red Canyon Lodge – http://www.redcanyonlodge.com) in my favorite spot in Utah (Red Canyon in the Ashley National  Forest within the Flaming Gorge Recreational Area), I knew today would be  magical. Just how magical it could get was what made my trip all worth while.

what a view US 40 South toward Vernal

It was STILL snowing! How cool! ME driving in the snow in UTAH! Wow! I  get all silly remembering the feeling I had when I took this picture.

Ashley Forest Hwy 191 building to crescendo

It was a bitter sweet departure… not wanting to leave but couldn’t wait to see what was in store for me, too.

leaving log cabin was so hard

What I’d forgotten about leaving Red Canyon via Vernal was the fabulous  panoramic view of Lucerne Valley before you arrive in Vernal. Right before.  Nothing prepares you for it as cameras only take a picture of what will remind  you (hopefully) of the magnificence you actually experienced. It fails in  comparison.

Lucerne Valley - it only got better

Lucerne Valley

more Lucerne Valley

and more Lucerne

almost done

Wasn't that worth it?

But, as my dear friend from high school, Bunnie, used to say, “God don’t make   no junk”. She was so right. She even made a needlepoint saying that and hung   it on the wall. Gosh, I miss her. God didn’t make no junk and I  was to see  more of His glory as the day went on with an amazing reminder at the end of  my day’s journey.

It was during this next stretch of Highway 191 that meandered through Ashley  National Forest again that caused me to, literally, hold my breath for most of  the drive in total awe and disbelief. I was transported into the most amazing  winter wonderland of pristine forest, snow, rock outcroppings and mountains  majesty. It was almost too much but just shy of it. Here. See if you can “feel” “it”.

Ashley Forest Hwy 191

Ashley Forest Hwy 191 building to crescendo

Trees heavy with snow -Hwy 191

magnificent views Hwy 191

I know these pictures can’t really show you but it does my heart good to have something of that stretch of back road that touched my heart and showed me yet another place where God lives. I saw a little ranch for sale nestled at the base of these mountains with a nice stream running through it. Drool. The only problem is that you’d have a very long drive to the store!

What could possibly top this? I’d NEVER seen that much snow. EVER.

Well, Hwy. 10 wasn’t too far off the mark.

Hwy 10 South

Ashley Forest Hwy 191 building to crescendo

Trees heavy with snow -Hwy 191

magnificent views Hwy 191

And, it was toward the end of this section of highway where the treat God had been  promising me all day long belonged.

Thank you, God, for a wonderful day.

And, when I was getting into my 7th hour of driving through fabulous  countryside on my way to Bryce Canyon for some hiking tomorrow, lo and  behold, I’m transported back into 1950. I gotta’ go back into this town on my  way to Vegas-Baby. Look a’ here.

the whole town looks like it never left the 1950's

Thanks for listening… and looking… and sharing this wonderful trip with me.   And, I promise I’ll get back to Wyoming when their weather is better! I guess  it was more important for me to be in Utah this trip.

Time to rest. Montana and I have a big day tomorrow in Bryce Canyon. Sleep well and happy trails.

What a day it’s been with the nasty weather rolling across Wyoming. It forced me  to make some painful decisions about what to do today. My plans were to visit  Laramie and drive the scenic route through the Medicine Bow National Forest  but bad weather in both areas pushed me westward into the loving arms of Flaming  Gorge, Utah. Anyone who  followed my 2009 trip knows how painful that decision really  was (not). I fell in love with Flaming Gorge then and couldn’t wait to get back.  The bad weather in Laramie did the trick and off I went. I arrived at Hwy. 530 around 3:30 today and spent the next four hours in bliss… pure, unadulterated bliss.

Here. Let me just show you what I’ve been talking about! The last picture is from my 2009 trip. Like I say, it’s all about the light!

Sheep Creek Geological area

Sheep Creek area

 Leaving Red Canyon

 Green River at Red Canyon in Ashley National Forest, Utah

2009 picture, same view of Green River

Last two pictures are the same shot but different year, time of year and  weather. The one immediately above was taken on my last trip to Red Canyon  in 2009. The one above it is from yesterday. Remarkable  lighting made it look  like a different place!

leaving log cabin

What did I learn today? “No significant snow” means something altogether different to people in Utah! Look what I woke up to!

Today, Montana and I left Denver and made a beeline straight for  a Love’s Truck Stop (Welcome Center?) on the way to Torrington, WY. Their prices are $.50 lower than in Georgia! Huh?

Drove to Torrington and went through the Homesteader’s Museum. The attendant was understanding my time issues and gave me an abbreviated tour of their small but full-of-local-history facility. They sure are proud of their town. It all started with making sugar from beets back in the early 1900’s. There are some discussions over the exact date. The sign going into town says it was established 1906 but their museum information says 1926 and the nice lady says 1925. Like I said, there is some controversy over the date. The best part? The snow plow below! Do you see Montana?

Next, off to Fort Laramie, WY. This fort is on the North Platte River which, at this time, is almost overflowing and there’s more rain in store for this week not to mention melting snow. My friend, Big Ed who knows more about Wyoming than anyone I know, says his friends in Laramie say there’s likely to be serious flooding problems for me later this week as I move westward. Great!

What a snow plow!

Fort Laramie

After walking around this huge fort, I headed for Guernsey, WY to visit the Oregon Trail Ruts Museum but what I found on the way there was a really cool house. So, I stopped to take the picture of the house and turned around and headed for Chugwater where the chili is supposed to be the bomb. I figured a museum about ruts just couldn’t top this house design even if the ruts were caused from the oxen pulling wagons westward.

can't beat this for design

Next stop is Chugwater, WY known for its chili. Big Ed said it would be worth the stop and he wasn’t wrong about the chili. He was just a bit off about the price of the room I had to rent but it’s okay. He was totally right about me stopping for the night here because the wind is quite strong and there are supposed to be some thunderstorms coming and the last place you want to be with that crazy combo is a pop-up camper in the middle of open prairie where you can get carried off back to Kansas! Plus, I forgot my magic red slippers.

what a view!

I stayed at a nice little Mom & Pop hotel in Chugwater right off the I-25 (the exit with the gas station) called “Buffalo Lodge and Grill”. The rooms are clean and the folks are real nice, hardworking Americans trying to make a living. Of course, they serve the famous “Chugwater Chili”, plain or with cheese and onions. Yep. I got mine loaded with a side of Angus beef burger. The town name came from the sound the buffalo made (chug) when the Native American Indians ran the buffalo toward the water… hence “chug”+”water”. Cool, huh?

Tomorrow, I’m skipping over Cheyenne because there’s more to see in Laramie and the Medicine Bow National Forest beckons me. Oh, yeah, that storm’s a-comin’ strong and I’ve got some really cool places to see before it hits… Vedauwoo which is Arapaho for “earth born spirits”, the Geological Museum and the Laramie Plains Museum. How cool is that, huh?

We’ll talk again tomorrow night. It’s gonna’ be a great day!

Silver

Snowy Silver

We drove right through Georgia, Tennessee, Kentucky, Illinois and Missouri on Friday, 13th without one smidgen of  storms. We were told over and over that we’d be heading into them any minute but were blessed by not having hardly any misting on the windshield at all. What we didn’t anticipate was the wind! It was so strong by the time we were deep into Missouri that I knew we couldn’t put up the pop-up. So, plan B was put into action.

Plan B, you ask? It’s pulling into at a truck stop for the night. Now those of you who have never “traveled” with me before don’t know about my newly found love of truck stops… Flying J’s, Loves and, as of last night, TA (not  T & A!). I  made friends with employees at many a truck stop on my first Great Adventure 2009. My first (first always is the most memorable)  was when I had to leave Oklahoma in the middle of the night because of a storm. I found myself  driving when I shouldn’t have (in Kansas) because I was too tired, it was too dark and there was way too much construction. As fate would have it, I-70 in Kansas was being “stimulated” with some of that new money being printed. But, before they could improved I-70, the DOT had to  narrow it down from a divided four lane into two lanes (one coming and one going) all on one side of the old highway. Adding insult to injury, DOT then placed concrete barriers on the outside and inside of these two lanes which left absolutely no emergency lane or wiggle room. The only thing between you and the oncoming traffic was this temporary concrete barrier… you know the ones I’m talking about. Anyway, there was nowhere to go but forward.

After about three hours of driving this way, I saw a faint glimmer of a light in the far off distance. Could it be some form of civilization? Could it be a house? Anything was going to be an improvement. Low and behold, there it was. My first Flying J. I pulled into that truck stop and kissed the ground. When I walked into the front of the store I was met with  the most remarkable, friendly welcoming. Wow! How absolutely wonderful that was. They told me to pull over to the side marked “for cars only” and take a little nap; they’d look out for me. And, you know what? I knew they would and I did. It changed my life. Ever since then, when I’m in a bind, I pull into one of my beloved truck stops, make myself known to the people (mostly women) behind the cash register, go to my car and take a nap without a worry in the world.

There are things to do like put up those sun guards on the windshield, park under one of their street lights preferably in line with the cash register window and make sure you’ve made friends with everyone you see there. You always have to be careful.

So, this time it was those Kansas cross winds that got me. Most of the highway stimulus money had already been spent so I guess they cranked up some of those wind turbines to welcome me to the state! I don’t know how people can make a living farming because of the constant winds.  Seems like the wind would just blow all the seeds away to Siberia. Every stop I made going through that amazing state, I commented as to blustery-ness of the day. I was told that this was a “calm” day. Hmmmmph. Not by my books. I, literally, fought the steering wheel for many hours today. So much so that it dropped my gas mileage from 18.5 mpg to 13.5 mpg. With gas prices at the pump pushing $4.00, I wasn’t too pleased.

We finally pulled into Boulder, Colorado today around 4:30 P.M.  and my family and I have had the best time getting all caught up with hugs and news. I’ll post some pictures tomorrow when I’m not so tired.

Good night all.

Crazy Lil' White Dawg

Colorado or bust!

SWBBF HEADS WEST!

Guess it’s a Baby Boomer thang wanting to go out west in search of new  tomorrows. And, after all, it’s a natural wonder lust for me as I’m a Baby Boomer  who did some blooming of her own by starting a family at the ripe old age of 18.  Now, it’s MY turn and, I don’t mind sayin’ that I feel like Tawanda! Not only do I  have wisdom (thanks kids), money (thanks Social Security), equipment (thanks  credit line) but I’ve also got time on my side and freedom to go where I haven’t  been before! That’s the only rule… go where you’ve never gone before.

So, it’s true. I’m a SWBBF heading west… Single, White, Baby Boomer, Female  and proud of it! I’m also proud that my father and his mother were the kind of  gutsy adventurers who have inspired me to push outside my own comfort zones.  Yep. I’m just gutsy enough to head out with only my crazy lil’ white dawg  camping my way across this beautiful country of ours. This is my third Great  Adventure in as many years. Some women of my age have said that I was an  inspiration to them. That’s really nice but I’m just doing what’s programmed in my  DNAjust like hunting is at the very core of my bird dog. It’s also as natural as  breathing because it’s been a part of my life long dream. And, finally, I’m living  the dream.

I plan driving like a crazed trucker just to get to US territory that remotely looks western, a quick stop over inBoulder,COto see family and off toCheyenne, etc.

Come along for the ride! I promise it’ll be anything but boring!

Pre-Great Adventure 2011

“Silver” is frothing at the mouth, straining at his bridle wanting to  hit the open road again & to top his experience from last year’s  journey on the southern route to Vegas-Baby.

This year, Silver, Montana and I are taking a northern route to Vegas-Baby via Boulder, Colorado with an  extended stay in  southern cities of Wyoming like Cheyenne, Laramie, Rock Springs and cool, out of the way places with great western flavors  of all types. This year’s Great Adventure will be mo’ bigger and mo’  better than previous trips as we ramble 7000+ miles just to get to  Vegas-Baby.

We’re packing what I call the “trucker’s drive-like-hell” food stuffs  of Mountain Dew and Slim Jim’s with a side of cheese to keep us  moving until we get to Boulder. I know. I’m supposed to stop along  the way, but we really want to get where the getting’ is good… Wyoming. So, it’s the high roads towardBoulderfor us. We’ll visit  my niece and her family before getting our hands dirty  in  Wyoming.  Now THAT’S where the fun really begins. Oh yes !Wyoming… cowboys, horses, Indians, adventure… all the things  this Wild Woman loves when Road Ramblin’!

At least  I’ve started formulating the Wyoming adventure by trying  to narrow down the options. So far, I’ve come up with some  headers with the help of a new acquaintance who has  traveled Wyoming extensively. I hear tell that Cody has 7 museums that are a “can’t miss”; that Chugwater has amazing chili;  that west of Laramie is Wind Canyon; that near Ten Sleep is the  Little Grand Canyon; that dude ranches abound between Sheridan  and Buffalo; and that there’s a place called Crazy Woman Canyon  that I, of all people, should experience.

That covers MOST of Wyoming and, because I’ve got to stick to the southern routes in order to make my deadline arrival in Vegas- Baby to hear my girl sing on 5/27, Ten Sleep, dude ranches and anything else in the northern half will have to wait. RATS!

Lift off is Friday, May 13. Yep. That’s my lucky number. Silver ain’t the only one frothing at the mouth to get going but, Lord, there’s so much to get done. More trip planning, research, packing and organizing to do and only 7 days to do it all in. Better get moving and off the computer!

HI HO SILVER… ALMOST AWAY!