Month Sixty Four was half focused on catching up with friends and family and working in Denver and Phoenix, and half road-tripping through Colorado and Arizona.
We spent the first nine days of the month in the greater Denver area staying with three different family members – two aunts and my brother-in-law. I was mostly getting ahead on work and getting organized before our next road trip, but I also managed to squeeze in a couple of hikes, a fall colors day trip to Nederland, and along the Peak to Peak Scenic Byway, and hangouts with friends and family.
From Denver, we traveled to Buena Vista where we rented a big, adobe-style house for two nights of fun with Toby’s brothers, their partners, a couple of cousins, and his Dad for what we like to call the Outlaw Party – more on that in the highlights.
Then we really hit the road, for a 12-day road trip down to Phoenix!
Along the way, we stopped in my two favorite mountains towns – Crested Butte and Telluride – to chase more fall colors and do some hiking, then onto Canyons of the Ancients to see the cliff dwellings there, before crossing into Arizona.
Our time in Arizona was spent between Williams, the Grand Canyon, Flagstaff, Sedona, Jerome, and Prescott, before arriving in Phoenix for a week of visiting Arizona based family and friends.
During our week in Phoenix, we swam in the pool, went to a Drive-In Halloween Double Feature, spent a few hours exploring Old Town Scottsdale, did an afternoon and evening trip to Carefree and Cave Creek, and did a private tour of the Heard Museum with my friend who works there.
It was still too hot for my liking but we had a fun time none-the-less.
From Phoenix, I said goodbye to Toby for three months, and flew to LA where I spent the last two nights of the month chilling out in the lovely South Bay of LA – it was pure bliss to be back by the ocean again after five months away!
And then on the last night of the month, I flew to New Zealand!
Now onto the stats.
Countries Visited: USA
- Colorado: Denver, Aurora, Brighton, Morrison, Nederland, Buena Vista, Crested Butte, Telluride, Rico
- Arizona: Williams, Grand Canyon Village, Flagstaff, Sedona, Jerome, Prescott, Phoenix, Scottsdale, Avondale, Glendale, Cave Creek, Carefree
- California: Los Angeles
National and State Parks, Monuments, and UNESCO Sites: Golden Gate Canyon State Park, Canyons of the Ancients National Monument, Grand Canyon National Park, Montezuma Castle National Monument, Tuzigoot National Monument
Islands Visited: No islands this month
Best Meals: The Pilgrim pasty with turkey, stuffing, sweet potato, and cranberry sauce from The Cornish Pasty Co. in Flagstaff; Crispy rock shrimp tacos and adobo roasted potatoes from The Mission Old Town in Scottsdale; Spuds Deluxe hash browns with eggs, green chile and avocado from Snooze in Phoenix; Oregon rockfish Cajun-style with garlic mashed potatoes, asparagus, and sticky toffee pudding from Rock’n Fish in Manhattan Beach; Maine lobster with garlic fries and broccoli from Fish Bar in North Manhattan Beach.
Worst Meals: Another BBQ letdown this month, this time with Oak BBQ in Telluride – fatty chicken, weird BBQ sauce that was more like a fruit chutney, and a soggy bun.
Best Craft Beer: White Wedding White Chocolate Wheat by Rickety Cricket Brewing from Kingman, AZ.
- Red Rocks trail in Morrison, CO 10km/6.2 miles
- Toll Gate Creek trail in Aurora, CO 8km/5 miles
- Clear Creek trail section in Wheat Ridge, CO 8km/5 miles
- Black Bear and Horseshoe loop in Golden Gate Canyon State Park, CO 8.4km/5.2 miles
- Kenosha Pass North trail near Jefferson, CO 8.4km/5.2 miles
- Barbara Whipple trail in Buena Vista, CO 5.3km/3.3 miles
- Ptarmigan Lake trail near Buena Vista, CO 10km/6.2miles
- Caves to Point Lookout trail in Crested Butte, CO 14.5km/9 miles
- Jud Wiebe trail in Telluride, CO 5.1km/3.2 miles
- Sand Canyon trail in Canyons of the Ancients National Monument, CO 11.3km/7 miles
- Section of Rim trail in Grand Canyon National Park, AZ 4.8km/3 miles
- South Kaibab trail to Skeleton Point in Grand Canyon National Park, AZ 10km/6.2 miles
- Observatory Mesa and Karen Cooper loop trail in Flagstaff, AZ 9.7km/6 miles
- Devil’s Bridge trail in Sedona, AZ 7.4km/4.6 miles
- Cathedral Rock trail in Sedona, AZ 2.4km/1.5 miles
- Grand Canal trail in Glendale, AZ 7.6km/4.7 miles
- Manhattan Beach to Redondo Beach boardwalk in Manhattan Beach, CA 14.5km/9 miles
- Manhattan Beach to El Portal boardwalk in Manhattan Beach, CA 10km/6.2 miles
Watching: The Haunting of Bly Manor – wow was this super creepy and so, so good. I was on the edge of my seat and watched the whole thing over two nights. And like every other female, I also watched Emily in Paris, and although she annoyed the hell out of me I still enjoyed it, simply for the fact that it is set in beautiful Paris.
Reading: The Color Purple by Alice Walker. I had never read this classic American novel before and I felt like it was important to do so – especially now. It was hard to get into in the beginning but I quickly got over that and enjoyed it immensely.
Bitter Blood by Jerry Bledsloe – a true crime story that has to be read to be believed. The truth really is stranger than fiction.
The Lost Girls of Devon by Barbara O’Neal. My favorite book by this author yet – a great read about witches, murder, love, and more, set in a small Devon village.
Posts Published on The World on my Necklace This Month:
21 Best Eco-Travel Tips That Will Also Save You Money
I updated this old post with more tips about how to travel eco-consciously, and save money while you do it.
Ultimate Guide to the Best Sydney Walks
This is one of my favorite posts that I have written and one of the most detailed free guides to the best Sydney walks online. I added a new walk and republished it in time for summer in Sydney.
Fall Colors in Colorado
We got to see some fall colors last month, but this month was even better! We spent a day hiking in Golden Gate Canyon State Park, which has some of the best fall colors near Denver, then we drove the scenic Peak to Peak Byway up to Allenspark to admire the fall colors even more.
I missed the peak colors on my hike at Kenosha Pass, but we saw some great colors on Cottonwood Pass going into Crested Butte, all around Crested Butte, Ohio Pass to Gunnison, and in Telluride and the surrounds.
My absolute fall color highlight was riding the free gondola from Telluride to Mountain Village, which has incredible views over the mountains covered in golden aspens – it was so indescribably beautiful.
This is my favorite season in Colorado so I’m glad I definitely made the most of it this year.
Lots of Family Time in Colorado and Phoenix
I was lucky to spend so much time staying with and visiting lots of Toby’s family last month, after not seeing them much for most of the summer due to COVID and the fact we were on the road a lot.
I still feel so lucky to have such an incredible American family that have always made me feel so welcome. I know for a lot of people, the idea of spending lots of time with their spouse’s family doesn’t exactly conjure up joy, but for me, it definitely does.
An Outstanding Outlaw Weekend
So this was my first outlaw party, but there have been a number of them in the past. Once my father-in-law and my mother-in-law split, he started calling himself an outlaw as he was no longer an inlaw to her family, and thus the outlaw party was born.
It’s basically a way for my father-in-law to catch up with his sons, their partners, his niece/goddaughter, and one of his favorite nephews – and to party!
The house we rented was a beauty, and it was right by the town of Buena Vista, so we visited Cottonwood Hot Springs and did a hike near town. We also drank a lot, had turns cooking elaborate meals for everyone (mine didn’t work out as planned, unfortunately), played games, and did Karaoke – something I have done a lot of this year.
It was such a fun weekend, and I am looking forward to the next one, which will hopefully be next year.
Revisiting my Two Favorite Colorado Mountain Towns
There are quite a few mountain towns in Colorado that I love, and can see myself living in, but my top two are definitely Crested Butte and Telluride – I really, really love these lively mountain towns.
One of the few good things to come out of the pandemic has been more local travel, and I feel so lucky that I was able to visit Crested Butte twice this year, and Telluride three times, and that I was able to see both of them in all their beauty in fall.
Both towns were absolutely breathtakingly beautiful with the fall colors, and I also loved eating out at some new restaurants, doing some fall hiking, and walking around town looking at the shops.
I hope to return to both again next year.
Visiting Cliff Dwellings in Colorado and Arizona
I love visiting cliff dwellings – both for their beauty and their history – and it is a goal of mine to visit all the accessible ones in the southwest eventually. Honestly, I must be getting close now because I have been to a lot over the years!
I visited two new cliff dwelling sites on this road trip – Canyons of the Ancients National Monument and Montezuma Castle National Monument, as well as another pre-Columbian site in Arizona – Tuzigoot National Monument.
The main one I want to see now is Keet Seel in Navajo National Monument, which is a 15-mile return hike – hopefully next year!
Hiking Into the Grand Canyon
While I have been to the Grand Canyon twice before this recent visit, I had never done more than a short hike into the canyon itself, so my goal this time was to do a longer hike into the canyon. I ended up doing the six-mile return hike on the South Kaibab trail to Skeleton Point – and I LOVED it!
Although it got pretty hot hiking back up, the scenery was outstanding, and I could even see and hear the Colorado River from Skeleton Point, which was pretty special.
I really want to hike the whole way into the canyon at some point, camping or staying at Phantom Ranch.
A Return to Flagstaff
I really enjoyed Flagstaff when I housesat there for 2.5 weeks back in 2017, and I have been wanting to come back ever since. We spent two nights there during our road trip and it was great to be back.
I have done all the main attractions in the area already so we mostly just chilled, eating out and shopping in town, hitting up a local brewery we hadn’t visited yet, and I did a local hike. It was familiar and relaxing – just what I needed.
Hiking and Shopping in Hippie Sedona
I love the hippie/New Age vibe in Sedona, and we enjoyed exploring the shops and doing a couple of hikes during our time there on our road trip.
Like the Grand Canyon, this was my third time visiting Sedona, but my first time doing any of the popular hikes. We did the hike to Devil’s Bridge and the short but very steep hike up to Cathedral Rock where there is a vortex – both were gorgeous but very hot. I will definitely visit in winter next time!
A Day in Old Town Scottsdale
Despite visiting Phoenix many times, I had never been to Old Town Scottsdale, so I rectified that on this recent visit. We took Toby’s Mum out for lunch at the excellent Mission Restaurant, then wandered around town, checking out the shops and taking lots of photos.
Phoenix generally feels like a city that is full of strip malls, and I really don’t like strip malls, so Old Town Scottsdale was a refreshing change from that with beautiful old buildings, and very walkable shopping streets.
I would love to come back at night next time to see it all lit up.
Going to my First Drive-In Movie Double Feature
Drive-In movies seem to be a very American thing, and I had only been to one in the past – a few years ago in Utah. Toby’s cousin Nate really wanted to go to one while we were visiting, so we ended up going to a Halloween double feature in Glendale, and it was really fun!
We watched Beetlejuice and Dark Shadows with two of Toby’s cousins, his cousin Lauren’s partner, and her six-year-old. It was a fun, socially-distanced activity, and I will definitely make sure to go to more in the future.
Seeing More of the South Bay of LA
I have loved the South Bay since I first visited back in 2010, and I was excited to spend a couple of nights there before my flight to New Zealand. I based myself at the retro Seahorse Inn in Manhattan Beach, which was very affordable for the area, had a lovely pool, and was within walking distance to the beach.
During my time there, I walked the coastal boardwalk from Manhattan Beach, south to Redondo Beach, checking out the shops and having lunch in Hermosa Beach on the way, I watched the seals and stingrays from the Manhattan Beach Pier, I ate delicious seafood meals including a whole lobster in Manhattan Beach, I visited the sand dune park and walked north to El Portal beach.
As always, I loved my time in the South Bay and I will definitely be back.
Toby Got a Job!
After COVID destroyed Toby’s livelihood and left him without a job for a year (he works in Events), he finally got a job – as a COVID tester!
The pay is good, and it is pretty flexible, with month to month contracts in different spots around Colorado. He will do this at least until I get back from New Zealand at the end of January, and likely longer. I might even join him when I get back to bank some cash because we want to buy a new vehicle soon.
We will see what opportunities come up as he might be able to switch to another state (I’m hoping for a warmer location!)
Dealing with Difficult People
It has been a really hard time to be in the US, with the country more divided along political lines than it has been in years. I have been feeling it hard, and it has caused me a lot of anxiety and even some mild depression.
Although there are a few family members on the other side of the line from Toby and I, there is really only one that feels the need to constantly bring up their views, most of which I find extreme and unpalatable. It hasn’t been good for my mental health to be around this person, and I don’t think I can put myself in the same position again in the future.
Worrying About my Flights
I have been a nervous flyer for a long time, in fact, I used to have a full-blown phobia at one point that I had to take medication for. Luckily it isn’t as bad as that anymore, but I still don’t like flying and don’t sleep well in the lead up to having to take a flight.
I felt more worried and stressed than usual in the lead up to my New Zealand flight and had a bad feeling that something was going to happen. Luckily the flight was uneventful and I worried over nothing. Phew!
Messing up my Outlaw Weekend Meal
Although I enjoy cooking and experimenting with different dishes, I am only an OK cook, as it is not something that has ever come naturally to me (my brother is the chef in the family). Each couple was assigned a different meal to cook at our Outlaw family weekend in Buena Vista, and Toby and I got the first breakfast.
I wanted to make something special, so I found recipes for bacon and egg breakfast pastries, and even did a test run a few days before which turned out really well.
Unfortunately, when I went to cook them on the day, I had lots of issues with the oven, and they ended up not cooking properly. Some were burnt on top, others took a lot longer to cook and the eggs wouldn’t cook in the middle. I was so disappointed they didn’t turn out how they were meant to but at least they were still edible.
A lot of these costs are my half with Toby paying the other half. I also don’t include international flights in my recaps.
This is definitely more than I wanted to spend, there weren’t even any big or unusual expenses – I just splurged a bit more on food and drinks than usual, bought some clothing I needed, paid the next three months of van insurance, and spent more on accommodation than I do most months.
I’ll be in New Zealand next month, and in isolation for the first half of that so it will definitely be a cheaper month.
My paid accommodation this month consisted of four nights renting a room from family in Denver, two nights in a huge rental home with family in Buena Vista, four nights in motels on our Colorado/Arizona road trip, two nights camping at the Grand Canyon, and two nights in a motel in Manhattan Beach.
My free accommodation for the rest of the month was 13 nights staying with family in Denver and Phoenix, two nights free camping on our Colorado/Arizona road trip, and one night on a plane on the way to New Zealand.
Food and Drink $956
Yikes, even worse than last month! We were on the road for half the month and treated ourselves to nice lunches and dinners on more than one occasion. I also treated myself to a few cocktails and they are never cheap. Next month will definitely be cheaper because I will be in isolation with free meals for the first half of the month.
- Jumper $33
- Hiking socks $8
- Thermal top $13.50
- Hiking top $36.50
- Gas $88
- Parking $4.50
- Flight Phoenix to LA $43
- Lyfts to and from airport in LA $38
- Cottonwood Hot Springs in Buena Vista $24
- Gold King Mine and Ghost Town in Jerome $8
- Drive-in movie double feature in Phoenix $12
- Toiletries $70
- Hulu $6
- Kindle Unlimited $11
- Phone plan $40
- Phone cover $14
- In-ear headphones $4.50
- Turbo tax $60
- Camping gear $4.50
- Toiletries bag $15
Website Costs $12
- Monthly payment for Keysearch $12
Van Costs $71
- Car Insurance for 3 months $71
What’s in Store for Next Month
I am SO excited for next month because it will be entirely spent in New Zealand!
The first half of the month will be spent in an isolation hotel where I will be mostly staying in my room, with occasional visits to the walking area within the hotel grounds. I won’t be able to leave the grounds but I’m OK with that, I have my client work as well as all the work I have been wanting to do on this website – maybe I will even write a new post or two!
After my lockdown, and as long as I don’t test positive for COVID, I will have true freedom for the first time in months when I get out. We have hardly any cases in New Zealand and the cases we have are contained, so that means that life is completely normal here, except for the border being closed to everyone but New Zealanders.
No masks, no social distancing, bars, movies, museums – ahhhh I can’t wait!!
The last two weeks of the month I am spending between Auckland and Tauranga, visiting family and friends but also eating at my favorite restaurants, doing some walking and hiking, and just generally enjoying regular life.
To read additional Monthly Recaps, you can find them here