Monday, November 05, 2012

I'm dreaming of a white Expo....

Packing for this adventure stateside was challenging., I wanted to pack "light": Just one suitcase, weighing under 50 pounds. I knew my Mom would have no problem with me doing laundry, but I needed to pack for climates ranging from an unseasonably warm 90-plus degrees in SoCal, to a possible early snowstorm in mile-high Denver. Layering was my best option, so I had camisoles, knit tops, sweatshirts, sweaters and, so I fit in in the Centennial State, a black North Face jacket the spouse had given me for Christmas five years ago. At the time, being a SoCal girl who did not ski or enjoy other winter sports, I had no idea what North Face was, so the significance of the gift was lost on me. He still has not allowed me to live it down.

So Wednesday afternoon, Oct. 24, I met scrappy pal, Jenn and her husband, Bill, at their home in the high desert of California to join them for the 15-hour trek across the western United States to see scrappy pal Kathi and attend the Scrapbook Expo near her home in Denver. This trip was the whole reason for my travels from Japan, as this was a trip planned 18 months before, prior to my knowledge that I would be living overseas. But, not one to disappoint myself or others if I can avoid it, I wasn't about to let a small thing like the Pacific Ocean ruin our plans. Jenn and I opted for the longer, yet cheaper option of driving from SoCal to Colorado, which would include our traveling through the states of California, Nevada, Arizona (very briefly), Utah and Colorado. Kathi, and her husband, Casey, were with us via Facebook and text, warning us of a snow storm passing through the area we were planning to drive through. Having lived in SoCal for years, Kathi was very nervous about the snow for us, she and Casey urging us to pack food, blankets and chains in the Honda Civic we were driving in to the wild white yonder. She messages updates to us about every 15 minutes, giving us the blow-by-blow of the freaky fall storm and it's current trajectory. Kathi's nervousness soon began to rub off on Jenn, who, in the high desert, encounters some snow, but not the promised 8 inches overnight forecasted by the Colorado weather "experts." Having lived in Illinois and Flagstaff, Ariz., I, along with level-headed Bill, remained calm. If worse came to worse, we could pull over at a hotel and sleep until the storm passed or the snow melted. We started the 15-hour drive at 7 p.m., planning to drive through the night and miss the storm by several hours.

About an hour and half in to the trip, about 40 miles south of Las Vegas, Kathi's texts were becoming more frequent, about every 7 minutes, warning us of the potential storm hazard we might encounter 12 hours from now. The warnings, of course, were appreciated, and I do not mean to make light of a caring friend. But, I do mean to make light of a caring friend with an unlimited texting plan. So, after one of these updates, I decided to have some fun with my overwrought friend. I texted back: "6 inches of snow in Las Vegas. Whole town shut down. Need to find alt route."

Of course, it was a balmy 65 degrees in Vegas, with no cloud in sight, much less cold, fluffy white stuff. I  just wanted to see what was going to happen to the texts. Kathi texted back immediately, OMG-ing and assuring us that her husband was Googling for a work around and that we should drive safely. That's when Jenn and I officially started LOLing. True to Kathi's word, within five minutes, Casey called us with an alternative route around the fictitiously snowed-in Vegas. Once I stopped laughing and wiped the tears from my face, I informed him of my rouse. He reminded me that I was staying at his house for four nights and that he and Kathi preferred to get even rather than mad. Duly noted for future reference.

The drive, fortunately was incredibly uneventful. Bill and Jenn took turns driving, not allowing me touch the wheel. They said it was because I had traveled far enough, but I am wondering if they did not have faith in my ability to drive on the correct side of the road and obey the miles per hour speed limit signs. But that was OK. I was able to snap these photos along the way:

Somewhere west of Vail, Colo.

Icicles near the Vail, Colo., Starbucks (and GNC). I have never been a  Starbucks regular... until this trip. Having a Japanese iPhone means I do not have access to a data network in the states, so I jumped from one WiFi to another, mostly Starbucks, McDonald's and Wendy's. I don;t drink coffee, but I do drink black iced tea... not shaken.

Between Vail and Denver

Snow flurries
We arrived in Denver Thursday around noon and had the rest of the day to relax, shop and eat. And eat we did! Kathi and Casey were amazing hosts and Casey's cooking was fabulous! Kathi's Jell-o shots weren't bad either, but I digress...

As mentioned, the whole point of my trip to the states was to attend the Scrapbook Expo in Denver, where I did plenty of shopping to feed my hobby from half a world away. Scrapbooking supplies are not easy to find in Japan, so the Expo on Friday was a great place to see what was new in the industry and to get great deals on all the necessary scrappy items. Once we were done shopping, it was time for class!

Jenn, Kathi and me in class.

The album project we did in class.
Friday night was spend organizing Kathi's scraproom, which was a bit overwhelming for her to work in. But we got it in to functional work space so she could get started on her daughter's high school album. I am perfect for this job because I have to reorganize my scraproom at least every three to four years, thanks to military moves! And my hosts' margarita bribes were pretty motivating, as well!

Saturday, our gracious hosts allowed us to be tourists and took us to the Garden of the Gods in Colorado Springs, about an hour and half south from where Kathi lived. We visited the Visitor's Center first, and learned about a dinosaur species found locally and ... scat.

In case you were wondering, the top one is from a coyote, the bottom pile is from a mule deer.
The unusually-shaped rock formations are what make this free public park notable and technical rock climbers, hikers and mountain bikers make use of the park frequently. Our group of five chose a simple 1-mile "hike" around several of the named formations.

View from the Visitor's Center
Welcome message and map

North Gateway Rock

Kissing Camels
Earlier in 2012, Colorado Springs suffered a terrible fire started by arson. They still have not found the responsible party, although they are actively searching:

Proof I was there with the ladies!
More proof.
"Holding up" Balancing Rock

On the way back to Denver, we played tourist again, with Kathi and Casey taking us to Denver's 16th Street Mall. This tower was lit up in purple in honor of 10-year-old Jessica Ridgeway who was abducted and murdered earlier in October. 

Saturday night was our last one in Colorado. After thanking our hosts profusely, we left at noon on Sunday to head back to sunny California. the way home, since we passed through Utah in the dark, Jenn thought she would pay homage to the state on the way home with these beautiful photos:

I got home and in to my bed at my parents' house at 3 a.m., waking up in time for a noon lunch date with a friend from high school without being too tired. Again Jenn and Bill would not let me drive (Their loss... I think I have great driving skills... ), so I worked on an online certification course I am taking, stopping at a Starbucks in St. George, Utah to upload my assignment... multitasking people, multitasking.

Thank you, Jenn, Kathi, Bill and Casey, for a fabulous time!

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