North Country

musings, Travel, United States, wyoming

The drive to my parents’ home is far from a thrilling one. Three and a half hours one sits in one direction. About 230 miles. Northward we go. The car sits in cruise control at 80 mph and we listen to audio books or favorite road trip songs and we go. We travel along swaths of interstate where you can see no one for miles. We pass ancient stone features and the occasional exits that resemble towns. It’s desolate.

Compared to Colorado it’s vast nothingness. It’s open rolling hills dotted by specks if cows, sometimes domesticated American Bison, sometimes horses. This time of year it’s all the color of straw. Last years’ grass turning into remnants before bursting with new life. It’s not much.

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Planning for the Unknown

adventure of the week, Caribbean, colorado, europe, Florida, France, italy, mexico, Nebraska, new mexico, Scotland, Travel, United Kingdom, United States, wyoming

We live in an exciting time of where we have endless information at our fingertips through social media, news sources, books, and endless other methods. At any given second I can go on my phone or online and see what is happening in many areas of the world. In real time I can explore what is happening at a place I plan on visiting.

This is awesome and equally problematic.

From a travel planner perspective, we use the most up to date, thorough and well-researched information at our disposal. Coming from reliable sources like travel guides, national tourism boards, official websites, rail aggregators and other “first hand” knowledge sources. For the rest of the public, their perspective on a new place comes from a video or social media post, perhaps a news article from a well-reputed magazine. Guess what fails to be in the articles and videos? Thorough information on how to get to, explore, or enjoy a specific region.

No doubt this is not a problem that content creators have to fix alone. Because when well-meaning Conde Nast makes a list of places to see before 2020, they don’t expect people to just cherry pick and randomly show up to Machu Picchu. They do think that people research or look into the complexity of getting to Machu Picchu on train, or foot, or bus. But many don’t, because in our world of instant gratification people don’t always understand that other parts of the world have more layers to their exploration.

Like any good history geek I love researching an answer for myself or my clients. I look at the stories that made up a place. I look at train schedules. I call locals to get information on schedules that I can’t find online. I look at sunset and sunrise times to explain to a client when they can get that perfect view. I check weather patterns to explain what they should pack. I love this research. Granted, I get a little more in the weeds than is necessary, thus, I encourage you to find a balance as you set off into the world.

Here are my tips for researching unknown place.

  1. Go to the library or book store and buy the most recently published guide on the area that you are interested in.
    • Pro-tip: ask the bookstore clerk if an updated version of that guide is coming out BEFORE you travel and ORDER it so that you have the best vetted information for your actual trip.
  2. READ the crap out of that book. Make copies, take pictures with your phone, make notes. Learn everything you can so you know what needs to be done when you’re boots on the ground in Argentina headed to Patagonia.
    • Pro-tip: I use sticky notes in a color coordinated pattern to mark places of interest or areas I am headed to. That way I know where to get information quickly. For example, I will use a large sticky note to mark a region and write the name above the edge of the page. Then I know green stickies are dining in Delhi, pink are activities, etc.
  3. Ask Around to people that travel and see if someone you know has been to such and such place and ask them for recommendations. This might save you time, money, and stress when you know someone else was able to enjoy the same vacation or trip you were planning.
    • Pro-tip: vet all the information you get to make sure it’s accurate and safe. Make a list of suggestions and then read up on what your friend/family suggested.
  4. Read reviews with a grain of salt. Reviews offer TRUE experience feedback, but remember that people are more likely to complain online versus compliment so sometimes complaints will reflect a slanted view, good or bad, of a company.
    • Pro tip: if you see complaints ask yourself if it matters if “the room is small” “if the restroom only had a small shower” or if “the price was insane” because sometimes what bothers someone else will not matter to you.
  5. Utilize hotels and locals by asking questions on dining, activities, weather, and how to enhance your vacation! No one knows better than locals on where to eat, drink, and enjoy your best life.
    • Email your hotel, tour guide, or organizer well in advance so that you have time to get a response and make arrangements to enjoy the best parts of wherever you are going.
  6. Plan for emergencies and extra time. There is nothing more frightening to me than having someone with a schedule that has no extra time built in. Why? Because if one thing goes wrong, like a train delay or a volcanic eruption (true experience from yours truly) you won’t have any time to make up for time lost. I always suggest having at least one back up flight or one back up train between you and when you need to be somewhere. YES you may have more wasted time, but you WILL be less stressed about your travels. Cool bonus: people watching is always enjoyable.
    • Pro-tip: don’t cram everything into one trip. Pick your favorite options and stick to a simpler plan. You will feel less stressed and exhausted, and when you slow down truly magical things happen! There is a reason why EVERY tour company offers some free time on varying days and afternoons because they need extra time for the unplanned and everyone needs to slow down.
  7. Teach yourself the customs, some key phrases, social norms, and other details before you go. Nothing will make you feel more insecure than thinking you have pissed someone off or that you are awkwardly getting through life. Read up on dos and don’ts and mentally note how to behave.
  8. Most importantly, have fun! Laugh off your mistakes, learn as much as you can, and don’t sweat the small stuff. In my experience, things work out and you always have a phenomenal time!

HAPPY TRAVELS!

Make Sure You’ve Got the Docs

adventure of the week, Allergen-free eating on the road, Caribbean, colorado, Colorado Events, europe, Florida, France, Iowa, Ireland, italy, mexico, Nebraska, new mexico, Scotland, Travel, United Kingdom, United States, wyoming

So many times I hear this classic “I didn’t know I needed a Visa”.

Here is the truth, you ALWAYS need a Visa.

“What?” You ask. Because in London they stamped your book and you were free to go as a US citizen. This is totally true, but that stamp, at customs and border, was your visa. No pre-registration and paperwork needed. Just the stamp.

Here is the thing though, sometimes the stamp doesn’t happen. And a big reason is that your passport may not have at least 6 months left on it for you to enter a specific country. Or more depending on where you are headed. In fact, many airlines won’t even let you board the plane if your passport is low on time. Meaning that week in Paris may be thrown away if you’re not prepared. This happens a lot.

Now for countries where you need advance permission, it’s vital to learn who needs what and what is needed. Meaning: countries like China may take longer and need you to buy plane tickets before you travel. Vietnam only takes a few days to process. Some countries only need a form when you land and a $50 fee. Just make sure you find out and find out at least a month or more in advance so you have time to plan.

Where do you find these details? Embassy websites and through the US state department’s website on travel: https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/international-travel/International-Travel-Country-Information-Pages.html

Don’t forget to also check warnings on places you are traveling to. https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/traveladvisories/traveladvisories.html/

Even consider registering with the state department in case you go missing. https://step.state.gov/step/

Other needs? Check with a travel agent or specialist that can at least point you in the right direction. Read a travel guide on your preferred country and ask around to others that have been to such locations.

Most of all, plan ahead, and have fun!

Happy Travels!

Throw Back Thursday – Childhood Travel Lessons

colorado, Iowa, Nebraska, new mexico, outdoors, Throwback Thursday, Travel, United States, wyoming

Many people gain a love of travel as children. Sometimes they’re crammed into the beck of a family station wagon, or a small camper, traversing open highways to neighboring states and countries. Others fly away to an annual beach escape, all-inclusive, beach, and drinks.

My family did things differently. As a product of low-income we did things a little less luxuriously. We crammed into a Dodge Neon, five of us. We slept in rustic cabins on our ranch or in canvas tents at a re-enactment. On occasion a worse than Motel 6 room was in the cards. This meant a shower and how to cram three kids in a twin or double bed, absolutely luxury was a queen. We ate at cheap diners and cheese and crackers as we rolled along plains lands.

We went through Montana, Wyoming, Nebraska, and South Dakota to icons like Devil’s Tower, Jewel Cave, Helena, and De Smet. We saw where Laura Ingalls Wilder lived and a Palace made of Corn. And we have many pictures at Mount Rushmore in different outfits, an awkward ages, with relatives that have passed or friends that have moved on.

Reenactment with my cousin Nathan, aunt Mary and baby sibling McClellan.

These journeys taught me how important a hot plate and hot water can be. That boiled eggs are always a good snack. That learning to read in the car without motion sickness is vital to surviving 1,000 miles with two younger sisters. That you can survive 30 playthroughs of the Lord of the Rings soundtrack. That dogs can wedge themselves anywhere if given enough time. And most importantly, short legs make for an easier car ride.

All in all these things taught me to be better at travel in the big wide world. Hot plates turned into hostel kitchens. Small cars meant I can live through a long plane ride. Crappy hotel means I can survive…. crappy hotels and most hostels. I know the importance of hitting grocery stores to cut food costs. I know that picking light makes everything easier. I know that audio and physical books are life savers for endless journeys that have no service, wi-if, or charger.

The frugality of my parents has meant I knew how to save and travel at 19, 22, 23, 24, 26, and 27. It means I know how to pinch pennies and look for deals, to read and study and to plan my journey, to know the importance of flexibility and patience.

My cousin Nathan and I at the family ranch in Wyoming.

While I didn’t see much of the world until an adult, I know these lessons will carry me well into my old age.

Happy Travels!

Cheyenne Frontier Days – Adventure of the Week

adventure of the week, History, musings, Travel, United States, wyoming

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A few weeks ago I got invited to join in on a work event to the Cheyenne Frontier Days. While I had my hesitations, as playing Wild West is not really my forte, it ended up being a great day out of the office.IMG_4723.JPG

The Cheyenne Frontier Days are one of the longest running annual events in the west, and it has been putting together its annual shindig since 1897 when it started as a meet up and spin off of the Wild West shows. Think Buffalo Bill Cody.

Today, much of the same traditions hold. There is a rodeo which showcases the insane talent of bull and bronc riders, barrel racers, and roping professionals. All of these are sports that bring me too much anxiety to watch often. Also all sports I have watched more often than I would like to admit having grown up in the middle of nowhere, Colorado Mountain Town. Think South Park.

Beyond rodeo antics the area is home to a wide variety of artisan goods such as jewelry, leather working, trinkets, and odds and ends. Further afield a massive carnival blows full steam with endless treats of deep-fried havens, and dizzying rides. There also seemed to be a lot of trash bins to handle this combination.

Late night brings in country and rock music, such as Nickelback and……other people I have no idea about.

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I spent my day wandering with two work friends talking about the art we saw and trying on hats, overall just having an enjoyable and laugh-filled day.

However, beyond all of the typical Western American novelties and goods there was a unique and special feature to the Frontier Days, an Indian Village.

This Native American haven provided probably the most authentic presentation of the peoples of this area circa 1890s. The artists selling pottery and jewelry presented their history through dance, music, and living in tee-pees (common for plains native peoples) for the duration of their time at the Frontier Days.

There I found friendly and warm pottery makers, and jewelry designers, all with laughing kids in tow, or older kids learning a traditional craft. There is where I sat and enjoyed some great traditional dance and story telling from beautiful matriarchs grinning in pride at their children and grandchildren. It made every moment of the day worthwhile.

I truly enjoyed my shenanigans at the Frontier Days, and maybe the day-drinking buzz and a party bus helped with the journey. But overall the people I spent the day with made it a memorable and delightful experience.

Next year it starts all over again, come and check out the west!

Happy Travels!

Adventure of the Week – Casper, Wyoming

Travel, wyoming

Casper, Wyoming is an intriguing Wyoming town. Wyoming as a whole can seem like a lot of nothing for endless miles, yet Casper offers a mid-state stopping point for road trippers and locals. As one of the biggest in the state, and the city boasts some impressive features for visitors.

#northern bound #Wyoming #casper #roadtrip

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Arepa Barn – Gluten Free Heaven

Allergen-free eating on the road, food, musings, Travel, wyoming

note: this restaurant closed in 2018

ArepaBarn

It is rare in this part of the world to find a restaurant that is catered to a specific type of regional food. Though it is increasing and improving with Thai, Ethiopian, Moroccan, Mexican, Chinese, Korean etc. becoming more and more common in Colorado. However, an hour North, into the Wyoming landscape, there is less and less diversity and more and more meat and potatoes.

This diet has served the people of Wyoming well for the last 150 years or so. It meant survival and energy to get through tough summers and tougher winters. Yet, as time marches on, more needs and tastes are requested and the landscape becomes that of new needs and peoples.

My parent’s recently stumbled upon a certain gem of Casper, Wyoming. The Arepa Barn in Casper, Wyoming is a beautiful story of an immigrant family from Venezuela sharing their passion for food in a local eatery. On top of the restaurant being a fantastic reflection of Venezuelan eats the entire place is Gluten Free!

 

Having an entirely Venezuelan restaurant us a great treat in most of the United States, having one that is completely Gluten Free, or any restaurant that is totally Gluten Free, is a divine treat.

I visited this temple to Gluten Free eats last weekend when I was visiting my mom and sidling sibling and I absolutely fell in love. So much so that I had asked my mom to bring me some arepas when she visits on Monday.

All around the dining experience, it ended up being one of the best of my life. I will let my Facebook review do the explanation:

Where does one begin? This was all around one of my favorite dining experiences EVER!
1) The owners were very attentive to our food allergy needs. I have only ever seen that level of care at FINE dining locations in Italy and Mexico!

2) The owners are super sweet and friendly, I felt like I was in someone’s home!

3) The food! OMG the food was so good. Every last morsel was devoured at our table. Arepas are their own treat, but the fried plantains, soup, and rice and beans took everything beyond. I can’t speak highly enough of how good everything was. It was 100% fresh and made to order, making it even better than I good have dreamed of.

4) ALL of their food is Gluten Free! And you would have no idea because it doesn’t taste gluten free! As someone with celiac, this was such a treat, and a rare occasion where I could order anything off the menu.

If you can’t tell, I absolutely loved it and if you head to Casper, Wyoming stop by and have one of the best meals of your lives! They not only cater to celiacs, but they offer vegan, vegetarian, and plenty of meat options for anyone’s preferences.

Location: 1040 N Center St, Casper, WY 82601

Website: click here

Facebook: click here

Happy Eats!

Road Trip Survival U.S.A.

Allergen-free eating on the road, colorado, family, new mexico, Travel, United States, wyoming

Growing up in the west, we take a lot of what the rest of the world would see as “road trips”. This could mean just a shopping excursion in the biggest city for 300 miles (Denver) or traveling state lines to get to family, friends, or just out of your bubble.

Growing up in a rural environment meant that we had to travel to get anything and anywhere. 30 minutes to the grocery store. 60 minutes to go clothes shopping. 120 minutes to go to a concert…. it took a while to get places. Then of course you had to return, usually the same day.

In some respects I feel like a road warrior, always prepared with a book and wet wipes for whatever may come my way. Yet I always cringe a little bit at the prospect of a five hour drive from where I live to my hometown. Thus, there are always a few things I bring along to make sure I can survive without going batty.

  1. Entertainment
    • This depends on the journey and if I am going solo or with family or friends. If I am solo, I bring out the audio books. Especially longer books I have been struggling to get to with my own eyes…..hello Ulysses. If I am going with a buddy I make sure we have a good song playlist.
    • Remember to download files to your phone or device as cell phone service is often unreliable or totally nonexistent in many parts of the American West.
    • If you aren’t the only driver, bring some physical books, movies, magazines, or anything else to help pass the time.
  2. Comfort Food
    • This doesn’t have to be food that’s bad for you, but rather something you enjoy munching on that fills in the gaps between meals. I personally love chips (crisps to you brits).
    • Don’t go heavy with your snacks, make sure it’s not something that will upset your system or leave you bloated and uncomfortable. I find vegetable based treats and minimal grease make the best combination.
  3. Plan You Meals
    • I often pack a car lunch of tasty meals so we don’t have to make extra stops. This is often breakfast or lunch, with the next meal being one we stop for.
    • This is often a sandwich of some sort such as an egg and bacon for breakfast, hummus and veggies for lunch, or peanut butter and jelly. I always plan for something that won’t sour and that will taste good in a few hours.
  4. Leave Extra Time
    • I feel that it’s better to be stupid early than late. Meaning it makes more sense to show up before you planned than to show up late and make a mess. If you can’t commit to a time, don’t make plans and show when you get there. This leaves frustration behind and makes the journey easier.
  5. Plan for Frustration
    • Life happens, especially when you are on the road. Maybe you’ll hit a traffic jam, or an elk jam (this happens) which means you may take longer to get where you are going. This is just a reality of driving through the U.S. of A.
    • Make sure you have an emergency kit in your car, a AAA membership and other things to make your emergencies less tragic.
  6. Plan Your Routing
    • This seems obvious but a lot of people don’t plan their routing ahead of their journey. Yet, when you look into say traveling Raton Pass in New Mexico, you learn that storms can make the journey a nightmare. Make sure you look into where you are headed, especially using local Department of Transportation Websites and other details to ensure a smoother journey.
  7. Bring Comfy Cozies
    • This means something different for everyone. For me, it’s a few things. I bring my down pillow from home (IKEA brand), a hoodie (maybe a little threadbare), and some favorite leggings. This means I have everything needed for cold morning naps, sleeping in questionable hotels, and for comfort during unexpected discomfort.
  8. Have Fun
    • Regardless of the reasons for road tripping, make sure you add some fun. Maybe it’s stopping at a silly museum, or a famous ice cream shop, but make sure you take time to enjoy the journey. Otherwise, why go?

Happy Travels!

 

roadtripSurvival

Packing for the Unpredictable

Caribbean, Cruising, Florida, Ireland, italy, mexico, new mexico, Scotland, Travel, wyoming

Colorado winters overlap with spring in an unusual way. This week has gone from 70° to 25° and everywhere in between. Today it is snowing. It’s April 6, 2018 and it’s snowing.

I try to not get discouraged on these wintery days, after all we need the moisture and the snow has a charm to it. Yet, I do wish it was rain instead of the ice and freezing cold. It also reminds me of the importance of clothing with unpredictable weather patterns. While I have lived my whole life in the Colorado and I am fully aware of wacky weather, I have also been the victim of my own poor planning.  Therefore, it’s imperative that one puts together smart outfits for the unpredictable.

Here are the things I never leave home without:

  • Long pants or jeans
    • You never know when the weather will get cold, especially in the evening, even in tropical areas. Also, if you plan on any outdoor sports of hiking, long pants help with mud, cuts, and other facts of the journey.
  • Hoodie/Sweater
    • Every trip I have taken, whether a warm or cold climate, my hoodie comes in handy. I may not use it everyday, but when airport air-conditioning is too high, or a cold snap hits in Mexico, I am so thankful that I have it.
  • Sandals
    • Depending on how you travel, I have found sandals are a must have. For instance, going through airport security is easier when shoes slip on and off. If I want an impromptu visit to a swimming pool, I’m covered. Finally, if you are hosteling or staying at a number of places with a shared bathroom, sandals make trips down the hall much easier. My personal favorites are Birkenstocks or Chaco’s
  • A nice outfit
    • maybe someone will ask you on a date, or to a club. Or maybe you will want to dine at a fine restaurant. Research what seems appropriate for where you may go, and pack for it. I strongly believe it’s hard to be over dressed (okay maybe a ball gown is too much) so bring something pretty, easy to keep clean/wrinkle free, and a good pair of dress shoes.
  • Boots/Water Resistant Shoes
    • Rain, mud, and floods happen. Maybe I have bad luck, but I have always have had a need for something water resistant on my feet. Make sure you research what you may need, because warm monsoons in India are going to be far different from Spring showers in London.
  • Umbrella
    • I have lost, broken, and bought endless numbers of umbrellas. My biggest issue was not buying a high quality umbrella to deal with the torrential downpours that sometimes hit Scotland in January. My advice is that you should buy the best umbrella you can find and treasure it. Also, sometimes it’s better to just get wet than fight with gale-force winds.
  • Jogging pants, not pajama pants
    • If you don’t plan to do a normal workout routine, then I suggest you bring some warm and comfy jogging pants. These make life more comfortable, and are warmer when evenings get cold. While pajama pants are nice, jogging pants create much needed warmth, especially in winter and spring. Same goes for them as the hoodie, sometimes air conditioning and cold snaps freeze one out. Extra plush makes the day better.
  • Leggings
    • This rule is maybe not for men, or maybe, you do you. Leggings are my go to for flights, and extra layers in the cold. On flights they are more comfortable if you swell like I do with flights. Leggings are also great backups if your other pants are dirty, and they are usually easier to clean in a sink than a pair of jeans.
  • Reusable Shopping Bag
    • It sounds silly, but seriously invest in a shopping bag that is easy to fold up and stuff in a pocket or purse. This is a major convenience as more and more countries have moved from giving out plastic or disposable bags. So having a bag for shopping, or even just to lug around laundry, water bottles, snacks etc. is worth it.
  • Backpack or larger purse
    • Now don’t bring a small suitcase, but a day bag or day pack is what is needed for the day to day travels around the city or town. This can hold your water bottle, sun screen, camera, phone, snack, money and other necessities. Ladies, make sure you get a bag with an over shoulder strap. Backpack lovers, maybe carry it in front in busy areas.

What do you not leave home without?

Happy Travels!

unpreditable

24 Hours in Casper.

Photography, Travel, United States, wyoming

Being in Colorado we have tons to do in the state, but some of us have family elsewhere, or friends we want to visit. I don’t get why they don’t move to Colorado, but I do need to reciprocate in visits. So I packed up my bags and borrowed my boyfriend’s daughter and a friend and we headed North.

My parent’s, my Great Aunt and my cousin and his family all live in Casper, Wyoming. Only abut 3.5 hours from Fort Collins, it’s not an unbearable drive, and if the weather is decent with minimal wind, it’s not frightening. Which driving through Wyoming can be.

So if you want a quick getaway, ours was just about 30 hours, then Casper is a great idea! We got up at 4:30, were on the road in an hour and there before 9am in order to get the most of our time. We stayed the night, and headed south again the next day at 9am to return home about 12:30pm. With minimal traffic (this you can almost always count on) it was a quick and comfortable drive.

Check out the WYOCITY campaign for Casper, which tells you about the whole big load of things you can do!

For entertainment we went to the college and the free Geological/Paleontology museum called the Tate. Where you can admire a massive Mammoth at the entrance, touch real fossils and rocks, talk to experts and brush up on your natural history for the price of FREE!

This statue was also pretty bad ass!

For food Casper has a lot of options for visitors, we tried a thai food place for lunch. With their large lunch sizes the kid and I shared a Pad Thai and enjoyed the beautiful and fancy atmosphere for a pretty good mid-range price. This would make a nice date place.

Then we spent the afternoon with family. I got to snuggle the baby cousin Ivy. Who wanted to play with my phone more than take a picture.

Finally we ended the day at a historic restaurant and bar called the Wonder Bar, where they have a small brewery and 1/2 priced burgers in the middle of the week. I got the salad bar for a cheap $6, all I could eat, full of fresh options. And everyone else enjoyed their massive variety of burgers for about $5 a pop. No wonder the place was packed, and with locals. A great deal and end to celebrating my Great Aunt’s birthday!

The next morning we went to Sherrie’s Place for a light breakfast before leaving town. Another place that was packed with locals, and full of great deals. My friend and I split a $6 breakfast and were totally full, along with drinking endless coffee! The kid’s pancake was also huge and came with milk and bacon, making the munchkin happy. A good, greasy little gathering place with friendly staff and good food. Well worth a visit.

If you are looking for more to do in Casper have no fear. There is plenty of outdoors sports and museums that discuss the wild west and early settlers. Such as the Historic Trails Museum and Fort Caspar. Check out more that Casper College offers and more!

Happy Trails!

Best,

Rebecca Lee Robinson