Drive to Mangonui, New Zealand

Waking up completely rested, I made a plan in my head including times I wanted to get done with some of the events so I am not arriving and looking for my next place to stay at midnight… or sundown…

My plan as usual – implemented to perfection (ish)…

Breakfast was a brief walk to Sky Tower where I had a good breakfast sandwich, will want to make it like that at home… 🙂 Then pack and check out by 9:40 to take my brief walk to the bus station. Arrived at Avis at 10:34 (4 minutes past, but that is ok – nothing to panic over) and in the car at 11… My journey was supposed to take 4 hours and 50 min… It took me about 5 hours and 30 min.. I stopped for lunch and to just take a break. As you know, I am a driver now that does not like to drive over 2.5 hours a day… I don’t know how I became that way, just I get tired and worn out… to stop and check things out sometimes just procrastinates the inevitable… I had it in my mind already that this was a driving day and I was fine… 🙂

Driving on the left side of the road usually takes about 2 turns to get used to… the car has these – KEEP LEFT stickers on them to try to remind the drivers… having driven in Ireland, Turks and Caicos and recently Scotland this way, I was a little nervous but not scared…

Most of this driving was two lane highway anyway and when turning is the only times I had to really think about it. Following signs and making sure I am not veering to the right when it has been a long time since I have seen someone was enough to keep me alert.

Driving through this countryside was one of my wonderful things I wanted to do… I remember driving in South Island New Zealand and was amazed on how many sheep farms I saw, I remember my friend who I was with commenting about it – New Zealand had more sheep then men per capita.. Here most of what I saw were cow farms, hardly any sheep farms…. I mean the landscape is gorgeous, every time I wanted to stop for a picture though, there was no shoulder to stop on, I will have to figure that out on my next drive day on Friday. Maybe my GoPro – I can see about mounting it…

My new ride for the next two weeks

Alas I arrived and almost easily found the AirBnB I am staying in… just had to turn around as I passed it by 3 houses.. Here are a couple pictures from the place.. Interesting, I was thinking of getting one of these sheds and converting it into a living area, now that I am in it, not sure I will want to do that, maybe for guests, there is no closet space or area to put my suitcase…

Good thing I am traveling alone, the bed mate is my suitcase 🙂 I mean – perfect companion to sleep with, never moves – always there when you need to put your arm around something and if you need to get something out of your suitcase, you don’t even have to get out of bed….

When I went to get something to eat, I drive into town found a great spot to park and a marina, I suddenly forgot about my grumbling stomach and went to check out the fishing boat that arrived and was cleaning the boat from their trip. They had a whole bucket of bait (they looked like filet large fish) that they gave to the people fishing on the dock. My camera and I looked a little out of place 🙂 But they still smiled and said Hi to me, made sure I didn’t fall of the dock when I was walking and looking through the lens not realizing I was almost going over… 🙂

Finally my stomach started talking to me again and I left the dock, when I turned to go to Manognui Fish Shop I saw a tour bus just parked and all the patrons walking to exactly the same place… Sigh… Alas, I went left instead of right into a cute gift shop where I met this great lady and was chatting with her about the area, how to pronounce this town and the others around me and just travel in general.

Having a well deserved beer at Mangonui Fish Shop

Figuring I needed another 20 min to kill before the tour bus people left, when I drove in I noticed they had open market (farmers market) today, so was able to buy some cucumbers which look white (insert picture)… The guy next to me saw that I had no idea what I was about to buy so he let me know how he and his wife usually eat it… 🙂 take the skin off, soak in malt vinegar and salt and pepper and perfect.. 🙂

Put the food into my car and walked over to the Fish Shop…. It was really good, had a beer and fish and chips which was locally caught today and really good… There are only about 5 places to eat here and two of them are food I am not a great fan of (Thai and Pizza) so I might check out the other Fish and Chips place tomorrow 🙂 Anyway, the view from the restaurant was peaceful and enjoyable…

View from my home from the next couple days

It’s about 7:30 and I was back at my home for the next couple days and I exhausted… Deciding to take a small nap, I laid down and woke up at 8:30 PM still exhausted and just accepted it, already in my pajamas, brushed my teeth and went to bed…

What a great day!

Love you!

Auckland in a day…

Hello my love,

Wow, after a great night sleep I woke up mostly rested. Woke up with a slight headache knowing I didn’t drink enough water the day before. After finding a wonderful place to have some coffee and a chicken curry puff pastry. I looked and spoke with the attendant asking her what she thought of my itinerary. I learned and changed my plans based on her recommendations…

Walking to the Sky tower I went to take a picture and ended up returning to my room as I forgot to put the battery in my camera. That was a good thing as I learned the best way to get to Auckland Domain Park was to Uber there instead of walking there… Spending most of my morning there I loved it, it was exactly what I needed… I mean doesn’t everyone go to visit a city and the first thing you want to do it spend 1/2 the day a park to get away from the city. Walking through this park was invigorating. I spend a couple hours in the Auckland History museum learning that the tree bark and a sperm whale are very similar… Also, saw the boats they used reminding me of Moana… I can still hear that song in my mind.

Then several hours just walking the park, taking pictures, sitting under a tree and relaxing.

After lunch and a short power nap, I decided to swing by the hotel to get my sunglasses before I head to the harbor. Having only walked 4 miles and not wanting to miss any part of the park, I decided to walk through it a bit more, I somehow went down this street looking for a trail, found the trail – no one on it and so – of course – I took it, looking like it was a jungle I thought of Sofie and how she would love walking through this. Thoughts went from, let check this trail out to Sofie would love this to I love this to I could live here aside from the city with this park to I have countless trails just like this and it is not in the city. Laughing at my thoughts, I settled on – I love this day in this park and am blessed to be able to be here experiencing it.

After resting a moment in the hotel, grabbing my sunglasses and set back off. Walking through a downtown is like walking a through downtown – you have many many many shops, lots of restaurants, businesses in the above floors, people walking everywhere… It was great to see and walk through, people weren’t rude or in a hurry, it just had a pace. As you might know, I walk slower than most so when I heard a family coming up behind me closer and closer, I just merged left to let them pass. Yep, that is right, you walk like you drive here, on the left side of the sidewalk… Slower traffic keep left 🙂

Making it to the harbor I took the Davenport ferry… Knowing there was a 35 min hike to the top of one of their volcanoes and it was already 3:45 and had already walked about 7 miles, I decided to just walk around the town a bit and see what is there.. Finding a quilt store was just a bonus, speaking to the store owner and asking her questions was a lot of fun. They didn’t have many different things than I had already seen so with no bag in my hand and a great memory of conversation.

Waiting for the next ferry, I decided to grab a snack and a glass of wine. Wanting New Zealand mussels which I pay so much for at home, I thought this will be great. The place I went to unfortunately were out of mussels and oysters… So I settled with a glass of wine and calamari. The ferry ride was invigorating, the ocean water and wind reminds me how much I miss the water and the ocean on a daily basis. Now some of you might raise an eye brow knowing that I live within a .5 mile of the Columbia River and know I see the water every day. Being on the water and in the water are so different, at least in my mind they are. Pretty much means, I either get in my kayak more often, rent boats or just go on more vacations 🙂 I think I will probably choose the first and the last options.

Craving mussels and oysters, I had researched/yelped this place called – Shucker Brothers… There, at the Auckland Harbor I found them and enjoyed oysters first, then enjoying watching the ferries come in and out and people watching I decided to have another glass of wine and mussels and shoestring fries… By the that was all done it was about 7 pm and time to start heading back to a bubble bath.

Reflecting on my day, walking 8.7 miles through a park and through a downtown, feeling the sun on my face, enjoying good food and wine and ending it with classic music and a bubble bath… I am ready to begin the driving part of this trip. See the northern half of this wonderful island.

Love you always,

me

Getting to Auckland

Hello my dearest,

I cant believe 6 months ago I booked this trip, not knowing what to expect and not sure what I wanted to do but I knew I wanted to do this o my own and be with just me… Doesn’t matter that I live alone, I spend most of my weekends alone, at home there is always something distracting me, here – that is pretty much impossible and I am loving it.

After a very long flight and a couple frustrating moments which I thought – holy crap – seriously why am I going… Then I remembered to breathe and thought, it is not the end of the world that you set the alarm off at your house at 2:45 am with a newborn next door… Just breathe… It also didn’t matter that you couldn’t remember if you locked the door cause it was 2:45 AM and it was pouring rain and the wonderful Lyft Driver was getting soaked waiting for me to get my bags… It is all ok, at that time… Just had to relax and breathe… After that, I thought – hey – I am good still getting to the airport at the right time and checked my bag in. – no problem.. Went to go through TSA and noticed TSA pre-check wasn’t open.. That almost sent me over the edge… I know – I know… spoiled… I just cant remember the last time I had to take my shoes off and my laptop out of my bag… After pouting about that, I walked the length of Portland airport no problem – cause why would TSA open both sides at 3:15 AM???

Once inside, no problem – I went to get coffee and a pastry, got on the plane with no problem. In Seattle, I was again blessed with walking from one side of SeaTac to the other side of SeaTac to catch my next flight… With plenty of time, 20 min to spare, I decided to walk in extended circles knowing I would be on the plane for about 6 hours…

Once on, I am grateful that I upgraded to Economy Plus, there was a kid and his mom next to me, before took off, I learned that this beautiful kid is ranked 13th in the world for speed kayaking… I didn’t even know it was a sport… He was a good kid, told me all about it… he placed 3rd in this tournament just last month in Hungary… Apparently it is a big thing out there.. No idea… Sometimes I love meeting new people in the plane, you never know who you will be meeting. Thankfully we didn’t speak throughout the plane ride… Boringly we landed in Hawaii, wow – hello humidity and heat… It was like I was home, I loved it… My hair quickly responded by growing in volume. Walking again to the other side of the airport – just another airport, I looked and I had walked already 3.5 miles when I have been on an airplane more than on land… 🙂

On the plane in Hawaii, I experienced the wonderfulness of Hawaiian Airlines (upgraded to economy plus emergency exit). Not Business Class but pretty close, for a nine and a half hour flight, it was actually pretty comfortable.

Arriving at 9:50 PM we arrived and quickly went through the passport control line. It was amazing, just put your passport in the machine, unfortunately no stamp though. I was bummed about that. Getting my bag within the first 20 bags, I went through the rest of checking out and found Vodafone which had my card ready, within 3 minutes I was all set with my new SIM card ready to get some cash which was again easy… It was amazing, less than 16 hours ago I was frustrated about setting off the alarm and having to walk all the way around Portland Airport – all that was forgotten when everything after that went perfectly. And now in my room at midnight, I am ready to sleep and get started with looking around Auckland for the day.

Love you and am so glad you are as adventurous as you are.

~me

Buffalo, Wyoming

Hello my dear,

So, in Buffalo many things happened… First my parents went home on Sunday, we met for breakfast and the 4 days in which they were here went by in a flash.  Sad to see them go, I am so relaxed and still so happy to be here in this town.  My plan on Sunday morning was to go in a hike in the Big Horn National Forest and then maybe head over to Ten Steep (tiny town) for lunch.  It is a scenic byway which many recommended so I wanted to see for myself.

The trail head was kinda tough to find, I found plenty of boon dockers though.  It looks like fun and not much different then having a camp site.  Will see if I try it, I mean free is so much better then 48 bucks a day as it really adds up.  While looking for the trail head, I found all this amazing new aspen tree growth, just beautiful.  Then I turned a corner and found all the wild flowers.   With the flowers in the foreground and the snow capped mountains in the back, I barely was able to remember to breathe I was taking photos and taking it in so much.  We finally found one trail to go on, it was good, the elevation is higher and it seems that Sofie prefers it this way as she was finally in front of me, though on the way back there were a couple times she just slouched behind me. 🙂

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The views were unlike many I have seen, maybe it was the clean air, the readiness to see other beauty as the first half of my trip was mainly red rocks and coral sands then green prairie lands with rolling hills and now being in the pine trees, I feel refreshed and ready to see this beautiful land called Big Horn National Forest, hopefully I will see a big horn sheep.

After a fun filled day of hiking and driving through such amazing landscape, I could only take some pictures as they do not do it justice and I have to work on my words, as I can’t find the right ones to describe the way it made me feel.  Just content, happy, relaxed, those are just some of the simple feelings.

Sofie of course had fun on the running creek where we stayed (Buffalo KOA), she loved it.  This place was so clean and the shower house was so new and nice, it was like taking a shower back home,  I will miss this place though I will not miss the cost.

On Monday, I signed up to tour a local wool mill (Mountain Meadow Wool).  Another hidden gem, they are a family owned and operated mill, they get the sheep wool from local farmers and it was so cool to see how it was made.  They even had buffalo wool, which they sheered themselves in only like 50 seconds per buffalo so they get about 50-60 lbs of buffalo wool.  Of course, I had to buy some of that as well as some local wool to make a couple things for me and one baby blanket for Jill and Matthew.  I just loved this store and shop, I would highly recommend buying from there as they ship anywhere.

After the tour, we went on another “urban” heritage park hike, this town once was a main train station and so the tour was showing where everything once was and how it changed over the years.  While touring, there was a homestead house replica as this part of the country was all homestead land, it was really interesting to see how simply one can live, it really changes the way you view some things.  While talking to my sister, she laughed and said that if I didn’t buy a home in Washington to fast and if I came out to Wyoming, she would have thought I would have bought something out here.  I can see it, the vastness of land, the amazing landscape, the cowboys :)…   AND this is where they filmed parts of Longmire. I drove by the office – very cool.

Maybe one day, maybe not, all I know I am really loving it up here and I have another month to enjoy it.  Why do you ask??? LOL – I saw in the tourism magazines the Cody, WY rodeo is set for June 30 – July 4… This rodeo looks so cool, on Friday the 30th they will have Xtreme Bull riding.  How can I not stay.  I checked the tickets and they are about 20 bucks, the RV park is a little costly as I want to stay close to town, but I think it’ll be a once in a life time for me. 🙂 So yeah, I will be in the north of Big Horn NF for a week, then head to Wind River Reservation for about a week (4 days-ish) then to Great Teton for 4-5 days… I figured I can see Yellowstone while in Cody…

So now that my plans are sort of set, am trying to think about what is after Cody, and I get to enjoy Wyoming a bit longer.

It has been a good couple days…

Custer, South Dakota

Finally made it after that really long hour drive… 🙂 The drive up here through the Black Hills was… (this is where I need to look for more adjectives) beautiful and peaceful and just – sigh.

When I arrived at Echo Valley Campground and RV Park, I wasn’t too sure… Then the host Gary came up and greeted me, told me to walk through this road where there are 4 ponds and pastures, that I can run Sofie and not worry about a thing as it is all his land.  He was gifted it from an old man who had no family so Gary’s family became the old mans.  This area was an original homestead handed down and gifted through this old man’s family.  Unfortunately, he had no kids or real family to gift it to so Gary and his family was his new family.  Here are just a couple pictures of this place, the cabins and archery is there to use, there have been wedding and family reunions and everything else here and when I look at this area, I can see why. I would definitely have a wedding here, it’s amazing (not that I plan on getting married, or even have someone to marry)… Just saying.  Maybe we will just stick to family reunion. 🙂

The next day my parents came to visit and vacation with me, we had so much fun.  Arriving at dinner time, they picked me up and we went to the next town over to Hill City and ate at this really hometown good place.  Thinking we needed menu’s and the one on the table was the drink menu the waitress asked what we wanted, she said – we only have two things – bacon wrapped filet or pasta primavera… Bacon wrapped filet it was and they were really tasty.  The dessert menu was quite extensive, all homemade and about 34 options… Mom had the tiramisu and I had huckleberry ice cream.

The next morning we finally decided on going to Badlands National park, which was good cause I saw some pictures in a magazine and thought – holy crap, I gotta go there. With Sofie and I in the back of my truck we headed out.  Something must have been in the air cause when we got there, I put the strap in my wrist and started taking pictures with my camera, holding onto Sofie and taking pictures is always an effort and requires flexibility.  I went to grab her leash and looked at my wrist to make sure my camera was strapped, let go and watched in slooooooow motion my camera (my new camera with my new long lens) drop to the ground… Yep – I said it – the ground…  It snapped the lens off the camera and bam – there went taking pictures with my awesome camera for the day.  Thankfully it only cracked the lens connectors and not the camera or the whole lens so I think I might be able to order that… But sheesh, my iphone took all the pictures.

While we were there, we saw sheep – which Sofie barked at… and the beauty of what made Badlands Badlands.. It was weird – cause driving up all you saw were rolling hills of farms and prairie land, then you turn right on the exit, about 2 miles and BAM – the badlands…. Sorry – that was more funny in my head than on this paper.. One of these times, I will video record these…

The mounds or hills or whatever you call them (will look this one up) were so delicate looking, and the formations with the colors, we were there in the middle of the day so the sun was high and not forgiving.  I can imagine what it looks like at dusk when the shades start showing the different colors…

After that, we drove home through Rapid City, ate an early dinner or very late lunch and headed back.  With a swing by to see Mount Rushmore.  Again, holy cow – when I think I am amazed and in awe, I find more of it and so humbled by these monuments.  Because of them, I am able to have my first world problems.  I mean really, when Jefferson was writing the declaration, I knew he thought, in years beyond my life there will be a gentle soul searching for something greater than herself, wanting to make a mark in the world and therefore I must write this declaration carefully so that she might live the life she intends, and her name shall be Haydee… Clearly – all of them though living at different times thought of me and knew I would come and visit them one day.  Right? I knew it and so do you – deep down, cause we all feel the need for purpose and making your mark – big or small.

The second day, we wanted to drive through Custer State Park and I with a not so heavy heart had Sofie stay in her crate in the camper with the fan on and windows open.  Knowing we would encounter buffalo, I did not want her to feel so anxious again.  So while she was hanging out sleeping…

We had a great time driving the windy roads, going through small tunnels, being completely surrounded by 2 different herds of buffalo, seeing Mount Rushmore from so many different views, I’ll let the pictures make the impression.

And now the last day is here and I am so happy and thankful that my parents shared their vacation with me and allowed me to spend Fathers Day with my Papa.. Tomorrow we will go through Deadwood, SD (where Wild Bill was killed).. This cute little town was comprised of saloons and casinos – totally cute and lots of history.  Also, we saw Devil’s Tower and stay in Buffalo where they will head south to fly home and I will stay there a couple days. 🙂 or week… Want to check out Big Horn National Forest now….

On the way from Devils Tower, Papa was great to let Mom drive with me to Buffalo.  It was so fun to talk to Mom while I drove.  We were almost there and mom was just commenting how we were able to avoid every rain storm, and BAM, gust of wind, monsoon rain came down, I slowed to about 43 mph with the window wipers on high and still it was hard to see.  She asked, are you in the middle of the road, I just commented, I am trying to stay on the road and in my lane hopefully.  While all of that was going on, Papa was driving behind us and took this (I assumed he was being responsible while taking this)… Amazing picture though – so I am not complaining.

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Love you and hope you enjoy,
me

Hot Springs, South Dakota

Hey there,

It’s hard to believe this little place exists.  With such a small population and with tourism as their main source of income, I see this place as a little gem which most would just drive through and not stop.  It would be a true miss in discovering the beauty of the Black Hills National Forest.  Known for it’s hot springs, the town has a walk along the creek/ spring where the water is warm and clear.  The town is small with a lot of charm, between the wonderful people at Big Time Pizza letting me sneak in Sofie on the patio so I could eat, the speakeasy where the place was chill and fun to the pet store lady who has aussies herself, the people in the town are just as helpful and nice as the KOA management team who helped me find Big Pizza, helped with getting me into the RV site and most importantly kept checking to make sure I was good.

When deciding to stay in Hot Springs for a couple days, I went to their visitor website to see what they had going on.  As a treat to myself, I signed up for a photo tour with wild mustangs.  A rare opportunity to get up close and personal with these beautiful animals.

So during the day, Sofie and I drove partially through Wind Cave National Park and Custer State Park.  This is where I think to myself and say, I should have known better as Sofie is protective especially when in comes to – ummm – buffalo.  So of course, I am in Custer State Park and we come across some beautiful buffalo in the distance, no problem, Sofie is fine… Then we drive a bit more and the buffalo are closer, I of course am excited to get some pictures, Sofie – not so much.  I pretty much gave her a heart attack a couple times.  When I saw a pretty big herd and realized I couldn’t really turn around and Sofie was just barking like crazy, I did what any normal person would do, turn around in the middle of the road with about 50-80 buffalo around us watching us.  The buffalo were beautiful though, many new babies to see and protectant mothers, all slightly spoiled by the protection of Sofie.  She was either trying to protect me or herd them, I wasn’t sure I just know the windows were up and I hoped the buffalo didn’t hear how loud she was, I of course had ringing in my ears for a while.   Knowing this was probably causing anxiety for both of us, I went back to camp to relax before my photo tour.

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As I was there, two new RV campers came.  Two couples and a guy, the guy looked younger and of course pretty good looking.  He came to meet Sofie right away, and they played for a bit, of course I was the one just saying, her name and how old she is and what breed she was, the typical stuff, trying to not look at him too closely as he had beautiful blue eyes and a German accent.

Experiencing this rare opportunity to see wild horses, mustangs some of them, rescued horses and new foals in one place, was breathtaking.  Hopefully the pictures say enough.  If you wish to donate, as they survive by donations, the site is – wildmustangs.com

When I arrived back, I let Sofie out and the cute German came by to pet her and asked if he can give her some bones he saved for her.  Seriously, blue eyes, just the right height, cute, and saves treats for my dog.  I think Sofie would have gone home with him if I let her.  We ended up talking for a while and listened to his story.  It was a really nice evening sharing stories of Bielefeld, Germany, working, wine, a camp fire and a kiss at the end of the night.

Of course when I got into my camper, I totally did the happy dance and almost screamed in joy as that was the first kiss in… well… a long time, crazy long time… Like – its shameful to admit… So I won’t to protect you all.

The next morning, we said goodbye to the German squad and I started to figure out how to back up – uphill on gravel perfectly to connect my camper within a centimeter of the hitch ball.  I was dreading that since I unhitched and was fully prepared to go to the KOA team and ask for help… I wanted to try first, and I did with only about 4 corrections, I was dead on… I am getting good at this. 🙂

Off to Custer (40ish mile drive) and meeting my parents.

Love you always,

me