Month Thirty Eight was a really fun one, with a good mix of old favourites and new discoveries, some much needed routine for a whole week, and a road trip through five new states!
I started month thirty eight with a week in the small mountain town of Eagle, Colorado, where we had a housesit looking after an older dog and a large breed puppy.
This was one of the harder housesits that we have done because the puppy we looked after was such a handful – and so damn big. I dreaded walking the dogs because the puppy would just go nuts, not listen to any commands, and nearly pulling me over a couple of times. The older dog was really sweet but would wake us up every morning at 5.30am which also wasn’t amazing.
Other than the bad points, the house was nice and we managed to both explore more of the area around Eagle and Vail, as well as having lots of time to chill out and work. I even went to my first rodeo – which was an interesting experience and an insight into god-fearing, super patriotic American culture, something I am not exposed to often.
After our sit in Eagle finished, we drove down to Espanola, New Mexico via Leadville – with a French traveler we had rescued from an unpleasant volunteering experience in tow. Lucylle had been volunteering at a stables in Vail and the living conditions were terrible and the hosts unfriendly so we convinced her to go to Santa Fe – because it’s awesome of course – and dropped her at a hostel in Santa Fe before heading to Toby’s Dad’s in Espanola.
We spent four nights in New Mexico, heading back to old favorites in Santa Fe including Meow Wolf, revisiting the miracle church of Santuario de Chimayo, and eating at one of the best restaurants in New Mexico, Rancho de Chimayo.
I always love my time in New Mexico, and this time was no different.
After picking up Lucylle, we left New Mexico and headed back into Colorado to our next housesit in Manitou Springs, with a stop at the isolated and rustic Valley View Hot Springs overlooking the San Luis Valley.
Our Manitou Springs housesit was great, with two super friendly and chilled dogs, and a beautiful house with views over Garden of the Gods. I just wish it had been for longer.
Then it was back to Denver where we dropped Lucylle at the bus stop – she was heading onwards to new adventures in Breckenridge.
We had a week in Denver before hitting the road again and it was a fun week filled with family events, jazz in the park, working in cafes in the Highlands and Olde Town Arvada, and swimming and hiking in my beloved Golden.
Then the last two weeks of the month were all about new destinations and road tripping – through seven States!
I spent three days driving from Denver to Nashville solo, stopping in Hays in Kansas, Kansas City in Missouri and St Louis in Missouri, where I managed to squeeze in a few sights, local food and beer between all the driving.
In Nashville I picked up my friend Dani and we spent the next couple of days exploring the street art, country music bars, incredible food and local beer that make Nashville such an awesome destination, and we even managed to squeeze in a visit to the nearby town of Franklin.
Our next stop after Nashville was a small mountain city that I had wanted to visit for a long time: Asheville!
We spent the day driving there via the cool city of Knoxville and Great Smoky Mountains National Park, then just before we arrived, we got a flat on the highway. Luckily we got fixed up pretty fast and got into town in time to hit up one of the many local breweries in town.
Asheville turned out to be a cool little city and I loved the cute cafes, vibrant brewery scene and friendly locals during our short time there.
From Asheville we spent a long day driving part of the beautiful Blue Ridge Parkway and stopping along the way for a couple of hikes, and then taking the back roads through small towns to Chattanooga.
Chattanooga didn’t end up being my favorite town but we did have some delicious food there, and I liked the Bluff Views Art District and visiting another Yellow Deli – I love the ones in Katoomba, Australia and Boulder, Colorado.
After one more night back in Nashville (and more delicious Southern food and country music), I left Dani and hit the road again for my long drive back to Denver.
I spent my last night of the month in a motel in the small town of O’Fallon outside of St Louis, hanging out by the pool and catching up on work – exhausted and probably a few pounds heavier, but happy.
Now onto the Stats!
Countries Visited: USA
- Colorado: Denver, Brighton, Eagle, Vail, Minturn, Leadville, Manitou Springs
- New Mexico: Espanola, Santa Fe, Chimayo
- Kansas: Hays
- Missouri: Kansas City, St Louis
- Kentucky: Paducah
- Tennessee: Nashville, Franklin, Knoxville, Chattanooga
- North Carolina: Asheville, Blue Ridge Parkway
- Illinois: O’Fallon, Chouteau Island
National Parks and Monuments Visited: Gateway Arch National Park, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Chickamauga & Chattanooga National Military Park
Islands Visited: Chouteau Island in Illinois
Best Meal: I’ve been eating out a ridiculous amount this month, which isn’t good for my health or waistline, but it was pretty fun for my taste buds! I loved the tuna poke from a Hawaiian food truck based out of Vail, Colorado; the vegetarian plate which included chile relleno, bean and cheese taco, a cheese enchilada and Spanish rice and beans with green and red chile from Rancho de Chimayo in Chimayo, New Mexico; the smoked portobello mushroom Z-Man sandwich from Joe’s BBQ in Kansas City with seasoned fries; the ricotta dumplings with roasted grapes and a masala sauce from Silo, Nashville; the spinach and potato cakes with eggs and a biscuit from Early Girl Eatery in Asheville; the Bonuts – fried biscuit donuts with blueberry compote – from Biscuit Love in Nashville; and the wild blueberries we picked while hiking in North Carolina.
Worst Meal: Yep, really gotta stop getting vegetarian Banh Mi – this month’s disappointment was from Counter Culture in Santa Fe. Too much mayo and didn’t really resemble a Banh Mi at all, just a sub par sandwich. I was also disappointed by the fried chicken I had at a cool looking Old Skool Diner somewhere off the I-70 in Colorado – so tough and overcooked.
Best Craft Beer: I have had some pretty awesome beer this month! I loved the limited edition Bug Zapper by Avery – a wild sour beer with mint, ginger and lime. Boulevard Brewing in Kansas City impressed me massively with their delicious beers – particularly their Jam Band Berry Ale and their Ginger Lemon Radler. I also loved the Mood Ring with Double Vanilla and Strawberries from Bearded Iris Brewing in Nashville.
- Cross Creek Trail to Surprise Lake in Minturn, Colorado 5.5 miles/9km return
- Haymaker Trail in Eagle, Colorado 3.5 miles/5.5km return
- Booth Falls Trail in Vail, Colorado 4 miles/6.5km return
- White Ranch Loop Trail in Golden, Colorado 4 miles/6.5km return
- Section of Clear Creek Trail in Wheat Ridge, Colorado 3.2 miles/5km return
- Chain of Rocks Bridge across the Mississippi River in St Louis, Missouri 2 miles/4.25km return
- Chimney Tops Trail in Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee 3 miles/5km return
- Skinny Dip Falls on the Blue Ridge Parkway, North Carolina 1.5 miles/2.5km return
- Section of Art Loeb Trail on the Blue Ridge Parkway, North Carolina 4 miles/6.5km return
- Bluff Trail to Sunset Point near Chattanooga, Tennessee 2.2 miles/3.5km return
- Signal Point Trail to Swing Bridge near Chattanooga, Tennessee 3 miles/5km return
Nothing this month. I tried to listen to an audio book but my iPod is stuck on shuffle so that didn’t work out so well.
Crazy Ex Girlfriend is back and I am loving it! This show just keeps getting zanier each season – especially the musical numbers. If you haven’t seen it yet, go and watch it now – there is nothing else like it on Netflix. The Cray Cat Lady song is my favorite.
Getting into a Routine in Eagle
A routine – what a novelty! Having a routine may sound boring but to a perpetual traveler, it is a god send. We got into a nice little routine during our ten-day Eagle sit: Wedding planning and working online for a few hours a day, going for a hike or a one hour loop along the bike trail and through town, eating at the local eateries, drinking at the local breweries, cooking dinner most nights, and catching up on Netflix. Even though it wasn’t for a really long period, it was just what I needed.
Spending Time in One of my Favorite Cities: Santa Fe
Santa Fe never fails to disappoint – it truly is a magical place, and it is one of my favorite cities in the world. On this visit we visited our Santa Fe regulars – time in and around the Plaza, strolling the galleries of Canyon Road, and soaking up the crazy wonders of Meow Wolf, and we also went to a couple of new to us spots including the excellent El Rancho de los Golondrinas – a living history museum just outside of town, and to the hillside Cross of the Martyrs.
There are still so many more places I want to go and to eat at in Santa Fe but it was nice to cross a couple more off the list.
Briefly Experiencing Valley View Hot Springs
I had been wanting to visit Valley View Hot Springs since I first heard about it a couple of years ago, but it is damn hard to get a reservation for this place, unless you want to pay the yearly membership fee which gets you nothing except for the ability to book in advance (which is why we have thus far refused to get it.)
The hot springs form part of a land trust that also includes hiking trails, cabins and a camping ground, which are clothing optional. We managed to snag a day pass and stopped in for a couple of relaxed hours of soaking in the rustic pools, and it was really relaxing.
We definitely want to try staying a couple of nights in the camping ground the next time we are passing through so we can spend longer in this chilled out place.
Exploring More of Magical Manitou Springs
Manitou Springs is one of my favorite mountain towns in Colorado so I was happy to get a housesit there this month. It was only a short sit but we managed to fit in a lot during our two nights there including a fancy dinner at Mona Lisa Fondue Restaurant, numerous games of skee ball, breakfast at one of my favorite Manitou cafes – The Mate Factor, and a visit to the Manitou Cliff Dwellings.
We are returning again to housesit at another spot during Labor Day weekend and I already have a list of things I want to do for this next visit.
A Solo Road Trip
There’s nothing like a bit of solo travel and I especially love a solo road trip. This three-day solo road trip took me through four states, three of them new to me – Colorado, Kansas, Missouri and Kentucky – before I met up with my friend in Nashville.
I sampled local beers in Hays, Kansas; ate famous Kansas City BBQ, checked out the Art Deco buildings in the Power and Light District and marvelled at the inside of the gorgeous Union Station in Kansas City; took the tram to the top of the Gateway Arch, walked the iconic Route 66 Chain of Rocks Bridge, and checked out the cool Soulard neighborhood in underrated St Louis; and strolled the historic riverside and downtown of Paducah, Kentucky. It was all fantastic and I won’t hesitate to do another solo road trip again in the future.
Experiencing Underrated St Louis
St Louis may just be the most underrated destination I have ever visited. Whenever I mentioned to anyone that I was spending a night in St Louis on my solo road trip, their reaction was somewhere along the lines of ‘Why the hell would you go there?’ or ‘It’s dangerous, be careful’. I nearly changed my plans to skip it but I am so glad I didn’t.
I only spent a night there but I crammed a lot in, including walking over the Chain of Rocks Bridge north of town – an iconic Route 66 site, checking out the Gateway Arch Museum and taking the tram to the top – which was really impressive, wandering the cobbled streets of the historic Laclede’s Landing and the manicured parklands of the Gateway Arch National Park, and discovering the charms of the historic and leafy neighborhood of Soulard.
Next time I want to go to the City Museum, which I have heard is fantastic, and I want to hit up some more of the parks around the city. So St Louis turned out to be pretty awesome and interesting. I am looking forward to my next visit.
Reuniting with a Friend in Nashville
Dani is one of my favorite travel partners because we pretty much like to do all the same things: Drink craft beer, eat delicious food, check out cool cafes, hike and walk everywhere, and explore different neighborhoods in the cities we visit.
This visit was no different and we burnt the candle at both ends, trying to see and eat everything. It was so fun to catch up and explore some new places with someone who sees the world the same way that I do.
Eating My Way Through the South
Traveling through the South and the BBQ hub of Kansas City a month before I get married probably wasn’t the best idea, because of course I wanted to eat all the biscuits, BBQ sides, fried green tomatoes, fried chicken, Nashville Hot Chicken, Mac and Cheese – yeah, you get the drift.
I ate SO well on my Mid West and South road trips and I had a lot of fun doing so, although I did feel sluggish and unhealthy at times. Now I am in diet mode so I can fit into my wedding dress before the wedding.
Enjoying Some Great Hiking
Along with all the delicious food and beer that we partook in during our Southern Road Trip, we counteracted at least some of it with all the hiking we did. I loved how different the Blue Ridge and Smoky Mountains look compared to the Rockies, with lush foliage, hanging vines and tropical flowers – they reminded me of a more tropical version of the Blue Mountains of Australia.
We did some great hikes to mountain and river viewpoints and waterfalls, and even found lots of wild blueberries and blackberries along one of our hikes in the Blue Ridge Mountains. I’m looking forward to visiting the mountains here again in the fall sometime – I have a feeling it will be even more beautiful.
Driving Through the Southern Countryside
Like I mentioned above, it was a treat to experience mountains that are so different to my beloved Rockies and I thoroughly enjoyed driving through the small mountain towns between Nashville and Asheville.
There is natural beauty around every corner as well as cute little hamlets, and it reminded me a lot of driving in the also super green North Island of New Zealand. After driving through the sun-scorched plains of the Mid West, it was a feast for the eyes.
Brewery Hopping in Asheville
I never thought I would find a place that had more breweries than Denver but Asheville may just take the cake – per capita at least. This little city really packs a punch with it’s incredible and diverse brewery scene and we didn’t let our short stay stop us making a dent in the offerings – we managed to visit nine breweries during our time there, including a Sake brewery (turns out that I like sake if it is habanero and pineapple infused).
I was feeling pretty tipsy by the end of it but we had such a fun afternoon and evening of brewery hopping, and town was really pumping on the night that we did it. A must do for any Asheville trip in my opinion.
Meeting an Author I Admire
When Dani said that we were going to meet up with Kim Dinan, author of the excellent travel memoir ‘The Yellow Envelope’ and the travel blog ‘So Many Places’ I was really excited.
I had been following Kim’s travels on her blog for the last couple of years, and I enjoyed her book even more – the rawness and eloquence of her writing has always impressed me, along with the way that she and her husband choose to live their lives.
Kim and her husband Brian turned out to both be fabulous people, just as I expected, and it was really fun to get to know them a little bit in person over a couple of beers in Asheville. It’s always nice when you meet someone you admire and they turn out to be exactly how you think they will be.
Sick in Santa Fe
I’m not sure what happened, but as we were getting into downtown Santa Fe, I suddenly started feeling really sick and nauseas. It ended up passing after about half an hour but I felt so close to throwing up or passing out during that time that it was a pretty horrible experience.
The only thing that I think may have caused it is motion sickness as I was reading something on my phone when we were driving and I have been prone to motion sickness in the past. Whatever it was, I hope it doesn’t happen again any time soon.
Booking the Wrong Accommodation Dates
I may have been traveling and booking travel for over 13 years but I still make stupid mistakes sometimes. When I was booking my accommodation for the first couple of nights of my solo road trip, I somehow confused my dates and booked a motel and the hostel for ten days later than I was meant to.
The hostel changed the date with no problem, but I couldn’t get hold of the motel and ended up having to just book another one – losing out on $40. At least it wasn’t a really expensive mistake, but frustrating none-the-less.
Another Flat Tire
We have had such bad luck with tires the last couple of months! After spending a ton to get four new tires, I ended up getting a flat while driving on the highway to Asheville. It was so sudden – going completely flat instantly. Luckily we pulled off the highway and straight into a gas station where a helpful but weird guy changed the tire for us.
We had insurance for the tires and the next day went into a tire shop affiliated to the one where we purchased them to get a replacement. The guy said that there was no obvious reason for why the tire went flat and that it looked like the tire was faulty. Because of this, Toby rung the original tire shop and made them pay for the fitting fees so it didn’t end up costing us anything – except time.
Fingers crossed we won’t have any more issues!
Rainy Weather on our Southern Road Trip
Man, the South in summer is a rainy place – something I am not used to after living in sunny Colorado for a while. It rained almost every day from when I got to St Louis – but at least it wasn’t for the whole day. We still managed to get a lot of hiking and city exploration in, although some of our plans had to be changed because of the weather.
Sheer Exhaustion From All Fun and No Rest
What happens if you are out exploring or driving from early in the morning till late at night every day for ten days – exhaustion happens. I have no regrets because I didn’t have long in each place I visited and I wanted to maximise the little time that I did have, but man, I couldn’t continue to travel in this way for a longer period of time, I think it would kill me.
The six hours of driving on narrow and winding roads after little sleep and with a hangover after our brewery hopping adventure in Asheville saw me at the height of my exhausted state and it was probably quite dangerous to be driving when I felt so dog-tired.
Urrrgh – feels like I have been haemorrhaging money the last couple of months between van costs and visa costs. Really hope it will be more reasonable next month although I doubt it. Next month we will have wedding costs that will come out of our own pockets – so far we have been using the money my Dad generously gave us for the wedding.
My paid accommodation this month consisted of two nights in cheap motels – one night in Hays, Kansas and one night in O’Fallon, Illinois; one night in an Airbnb room in St Louis, Missouri; and one night in a hostel in Kansas City, Missouri. I also spent nine nights housesitting – split between Eagle, Colorado and Manitou Springs, Colorado; 11 nights split between family in Denver, Colorado and Espanola, New Mexico; and seven nights in Airbnbs paid for by my friend on our Southern Road Trip.
Food and Drink $766
Another month, another massive overspend on food. My excuse this month is that I was roadtripping for ten days of the month and ate out for almost every meal. Worth it but now I’m on a diet until everyone comes into town for the wedding.
- Silver Wedding Heels $14
- Summer Dress $32
- Parking in St Louis $5
- Lyft Trip in Nashville $5
- Gas $337
Lots of money on gas this month because we drove down to Santa Fe and I did an epic road trip from Denver to Asheville, paying for all the gas myself.
- Eagle Rodeo $22.50
- El Rancho de los Golondrinas $6
- Valley View Hot Springs $15
- Manitou Springs Cliff Dwellings $10
- Gateway Arch Tram $10
- Phone Credit $46
- Toiletries $33
- Two months of Disposable Contact Lenses $77.50
- Wedding Dress Alterations $20
- Feather Necklace $38
- Boot Koozie Souvenirs from Nashville $15
Visa Costs $1278
- Bank Fees $15
- Adjustment of Status Visa Application for Green Card and Biometrics $1225
- Copying and Scanning $12
- Passport Photos $16
- Postage for Visa Application $10
Vehicle Costs $218.50
- Van Registration $125
- Portable Shower $15
- Tapestry for Van Ceiling $8.50
- Wood for Van build out $70
What’s in Store for Next Month
I still have a couple of days left on my road trip which will see me picking up Toby in Kansas City then spending a couple of nights with friends in the college town of Lawrence, Kansas.
From there we will be returning to Denver, where we will be spending most of month thirty nine – doing the final preparation for the wedding and welcoming out of town guests and family.
We have one Denver housesit set up for a few days, and we are hoping to get another one from the 10th September until we move into our Golden housesit for the three days covering the wedding. Otherwise we will be staying between family member’s places.
We do also have a three night housesit in Green Mountain Falls – only 15 minutes drive from one of my favorite mountain towns, Manitou Springs, and I am looking forward to finally hiking the Incline, a super steep set of stairs to the top of a mountain. Wish me luck!
To read additional Monthly Round Ups, you can find them here