Last weeks of the adventure

From Idaho to Montana
On Sunday morning it’s time to say goodbye again. It’s my least favorite part of traveling. What I find most challenging is that I never know when I’ll see my friends here again. It’s not like you can come over for a weekend or so. I give them a big hug and hope to see each other again either on this side of the ocean or the other side. Today I feel quite double. I’m sad because I’m leaving my lovely friends here, but I’m also excited to visit my grandma in Montana. It’s a long drive of 7-8 hours again and I listen to quite a few podcasts to distract myself a bit. At the end of the afternoon I arrive into Helena, Montana. Just as always, as soon as I drive into the city I feel like coming home. Even though I enter the city from a different road than usual and don’t recognize the neighborhood immediately, I feel a sense of calm and am happy to be here again. Not much later I arrive at my grandma’s house and surprise her by being an hour earlier than planned. Since I was here just last winter and we stay in touch a lot, it doesn’t feel like it has been a long time. It’s great to see her again and since it’s around six in the evening we start preparing dinner. The weather is still nice and we eat at the patio. Before I came here I wondered if it would be much different now that my grandpa isn’t here anymore, but all is fine and my grandma is doing very well. I think that’s one of the things I admire most in her, that’s she is practically always positive. After dinner we watch one of our favorite shows ‘Last man standing’, just like we usually do. It’s good to be here again and I’m happy to spend the coming week with my grandma.

Fun times in Montana
It’s about two weeks later now. I haven’t written on my blog since I was with my grandma. I just wanted to make the most of our time together and I’m glad I did. The week with her flew by very quickly. We went on hikes in the hills around the city, played a lot of Scrabble, drank coffee and, on her request, went out for breakfast, lunch and dinner a lot. One of my favorite things was our nights of watching our show ‘Last man standing’ in the evenings and eating ice cream. The days in Helena were very relaxed, we just enjoyed spending time together and doing fun things. One night we went out for dinner with friends of my grandma that I also know quite well from previous visits. He invited me to go shooting the next day at the range. That was quite an exciting experience. He taught me how to shoot with guns and a big rifle, the same type that the American army uses. It went better than I expected and I hit the target several times. On one of the last nights there was a concert in town where my grandma and I went and there was a huge fireworks show. My second fireworks show on this trip, pretty cool. I surprised my grandma by staying one day longer than planned, because I wanted to spend some more time together. That day we drove to a big mountain lake where we had a peaceful morning and enjoyed the view. Sooner than we wanted the week was over and time fore me to continue the road trip. I really hope I can come back next year for another visit.

Continuing the roadtrip
It’s always sad to leave Montana, but the prospect of some more adventures helps making it better. First I drive to Yellowstone. I plan to camp there again, but the campsites are already closed for the season. That’s a bit of a bummer, but fortunately I find a free campsite just outside the park. It feels a bit cold at night and in the morning I find that there is ice on the outside of my tent. It turns out that it was freezing during the night. Good to know that my tent and sleeping bag are warm enough to go camping in winter weather. In the morning I drive back into Yellowstone National Park and walk around the volcanic area near the Old Faithful geyser. I get to see it’s eruption again and enjoy this unique landscape of boiling pools and colorful caves with hot water.
The next drive is through Wyoming, one of the most boring states in my perspective. The roads are long and the landscape wide and quite uneventful. In the evening I find a free campsite again, this time in the middle of nowhere. There is a wide outstretched landscape and a lake, the nearest town is about 10 miles away I think. There is one car with a camper, but no one is around. I set up my tent and when the sun goes down I see a silhouette walking my way. It’s a man with a big rifle on his shoulder and a dog with him. I would be a good scenario for a scary movie, but it turns out to be a super friendly guy who went out to go hunting. He offers me a beer and we get to know each other a bit. He tells me he lives half of the year in Alaska, a place I’d love to visit some day. We talk until I get tired and go to my tent. In the morning he greets me with “Do you have a mug for coffee?” and brings out a French press full of good coffee. What a blessing. I’m glad he’s camping here with me and I’m not alone here in the middle of nowhere. After coffee he drives off, I break down my tent and also continue the road trip.

Visiting friends in Colorado
I text my friend Jennifer in Denver if she and her husband would like me to stop by and I get an excited response within a few minutes. For me that’s a clear sign what my next destination will be and I drive about eight hours to Denver. I arrive there somewhere in the evening and it’s great to see my friend again. It’s been about six years since I’ve seen her, but we just take off where we left back then. I like that with some friends you can’t see each other for years, but when you’re back together all is kind of the same. Her husband turns out to be a very friendly dude as well and we have a fun time together. During the day they have to work and I decide to also have a workday in a local coffee place. I enjoy some programming work again and the day flies by. I also make another visit to one of my favorite stores ‘Outdoor World’ and get myself a nice flannel shirt for the winter. In the evening we go out for dinner and the next day we hang out again and end the day with a funny movie. I’m thankful to have friends all over the country here. I stay about three days with them and then continue my road trip again.

Driving, hiking, swimming and camping in national parks in Utah
I first wanted to go back to Telluride in the south of Colorado, but the weather forecast is very bad and so I head west to Utah. A few days ago a friend from the Netherlands sent me some information about a state park called Escalante and that’s where I go. I arrive late at night, but meet some friendly people at the full campsite who let me set up my tent next to theirs. In the morning I go on a beautiful hike to a big waterfall. It’s still very early and it seems I’m the first one to hike this trail today. After sitting at the lake with waterfall for about 15 minutes, some more people start to show up. I’m doubting a bit, because it’s quite chilly this morning, but then decide to go for a dive in the lake. It’s cold, but I love it. I try to swim to the waterfall, but the stream keeps pushing me away and it’s even more cold at the place where the water hits the lake. When I get out of the water there is an older guy with white hair and beard taking off his shirt and also jumping into the water. I’m impressed that an older guy goes for this as well and start a conversation with him and his wife. She tells me that this is normal for them, because they’re from Canada and used to the cold. Since they’re so friendly, I decide to hike back with them. We talk along the way and I’m happily surprised by how friendly and outgoing they are. It’s quite different than what I can remember from the Canadians I met when I was in Vancouver, who were more reserved. The hike back goes quite fast and we say goodbye with a big hug. I’m thankful that there are friendly people everywhere.
I decide to drive to Bryce Canyon National Park which is only 1-2 hours away and enjoy the beautiful red rock formations there. The next stop is Zion National Park, which is again only 1-2 hours away. That’s the nice thing about this area, several national parks are relatively close to each other. I want to camp in Zion, but there is a sign that all campsites are full. I drive around the campgrounds and it looks indeed completely full. I’m about to give up and start looking for hotels in the next town when I decide to drive one more round over the campgrounds. I meet with the camp hosts and ask if there is any chance that there is a free place. “I might have something for you”, the camp host says and tells me to drive to the entrance of the campgrounds to meet them there. I wait there for a few minutes and then he tells me “You’re lucky!”, his wife adds “You’re very lucky!” I follow their golf cart to an empty site. I’m about to give them the money for the campsite, but they say that a lady had reserved this place and left earlier, telling them to give this campsite to the next person. That next person is me. I’m super thankful to get a free campsite in a fully booked campground in Zion national park and happily set up my tent. When my tent is set up for the night, I drive to town for dinner and then return to the campground and end the day with watching a sitcom on Netflix. I fall asleep happily and wake up in the morning to big thunder and lightning. There is a big storm and so I decide to stay in my tent. I don’t mind it all and think it’s a cool adventure. Around 9am the thunderstorm and rain go away. I dry my tent as much as I can and pack up again. I feel like this is a good final night of camping. As I drive out of the park, there are hundreds of cars lined up at the entrance. I’m glad I didn’t stay longer in Zion, because it’ll probably be an extremely busy day. I’ve noticed that since the last two years the national parks have gained a lot more popularity. I think I prefer visiting them in the winter when it’s quieter.

Back to California
Today is a long day of driving again, because I want to make it to the west coast. In the evening I arrive in Hollywood and book a hotel for the night. I wake up very early and decide to go for a sunrise hike to one of my favorite places in California. In the dark with my headlamp on I hike to the Wisdom Tree and the Hollywood Sign. Five minutes before sunrise I arrive at the big white letters and enjoy the beautiful view. I’m the only hiker up there, but there are a handful of painters walking around. I talk with one of them for a while and they tell me they’re painting the Hollywood letters. They do that every ten years and the whole job takes about two months. While they climb down to the letters (I asked, but wasn’t allowed to go there with them) I sit down and enjoy the view. After a while a few other hikers arrive and join me for a moment. I stay up there for more than an hour enjoying the view. When it’s getting quite hot I feel like it’s time to hike back down. I take a longer route than I usually do and enjoy a great view on the backside of the mountain where you can see the Warner Brothers Studios and Universal Studios. You can see the back lots and I recognize several places from the Warner Brother’s Studio Tour I’ve done various times in the past. When I’m back in the car I make myself breakfast and take a slow drive through Hollywood and along Sunset Boulevard to the coast. That’s a really long and slow drive with many traffic lights, but I like driving there and just looking around at all the buildings and big houses. When I’m at the coast I follow the historic highway 1 south to San Diego. I watch the sunset and have dinner at a In-and-Out restaurant (I think you have to go there when you’re in California). Later in the evening I arrive back at my friend Brittany’s house where it feel like coming home. It’s nice to see her again and we talk about the journey I’ve made in the past few weeks. In the morning we drive to Imperial beach. She’s never been there, but I walked on that pier a few years ago and remember it was nice. While we walk at the pier we get a really fun surprise. There are dolphins swimming not so far from the pier. It’s the first time I see dolphins in the wild and it’s a really fun sight to see them jump around in the water. After walking the pier we drive to Coronado island where we have a nice lunch.

One more adventure in Hollywood
I tell Brittany that part of me doesn’t want the adventure yet and that I’d like to go back to Hollywood tomorrow. She completely understands and brings up the idea to go there tonight already and stay there in a hotel again. I hadn’t thought about that, but it sounds like a fun plan. So when we’re back home I pack some of my stuff in the car and drive back up north. I get stuck in heavy traffic and feel a bit down about that. I call with my grandma and she points out that it’s a real LA experience and I like that perspective. I decide to look at it with a positive view and don’t mind the traffic anymore. Around sunset I arrive in LA and am very happy to see the skyline of the city again. I drive to Hollywood, but have a hard time finding a hotel with parking. I call Brittany and she searches with me online and points out a hotel a bit closer to downtown. It’s called hotel Normandie in Koreatown. That was a great recommendation, because it’s very beautiful hotel. It’s an old building and feels very authentic. There are big leather couches in the hotel lobby and I plan to do some reading there in the morning. Next to the hotel is a burger restaurant which is also very convenient. The burger is great, but the beers are very expensive so I pass on them. The barman is very friendly though and offers me a discounted beer and then even a free beer. I enjoy the conversation and free beer and am thankful to find blessings everywhere I go. I hang out there til the restaurant closes and then go back to the hotel. In the morning I take a shower, get dressed and walk to a coffee place around the corner. With a cappuccino in hand I walk back into the hotel lobby and sit down on one of the big leather couches. I enjoy a relaxed morning with coffee and a book. I’m very glad that I decided to go back to LA for another vacation day. After quite some reading time I get hungry and drive up to Hollywood where there is a restaurant on the road to the Hollywood sign. I’ve been there before and want to spend the morning writing this blog. I know it’s a long story again, but I just wanted to write down my journey before I go home.

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