Since my aunt departed so abruptly from our lives, mourning her has been a process that occurs in bits and pieces. Like early in the morning when the Cub is doing something quiet and I take a picture and then she’s not around to “like” it on Facebook. Tiny things, small moments, that I wish I could still share with her. When I was 12 she moved to Florida, a dream she had talked about as long as I could remember, finally realized. She lived in Satellite Beach on the space coast. A sleepy town that housed snow birds during the winter, but was also full of vibrant locals and lots of karaoke. Maybe not the most exciting place for me to visit, especially as I moved into my 20s, but still interesting and beautiful in its way. I always loved to take walks along the beach early in the mornings, or during the evenings, watching rockets take off from the Kennedy Space Center, and sitting by myself at dusk and watching the waves roll in and out. I was hoping I’d get to take one more stroll on the beach when I went down to say goodbye for the last time, but the weather was not cooperative. Instead, I managed to take in a few miles of the main road during sunset.
Did I somehow manage to spam my own blog with my Polyvore creations? Oops! Looks like I forgot to turn off that “share on WordPress” feature. Now you all know my deep dark secret. I build outfits late at night when I am up feeding the Cub. Then I spend an inordinate amount of time window shopping for shoes on Zappos. Anyway, now you know. I’m glad I got that off my chest.
Over the weekend I had brunch with some girlfriends in the Northern Liberties section of Philly. This is a neighborhood that has been in transition for several years now, and there’s still a ton of construction going on. One of the oldest sections of the city, NoLibs was once home to great deal of industry which is now being demolished in favor of new construction. Walking around you get a mix of old, modern, modern made to look old, and a lot of great places to eat and browse around. Since I parked so stinking far from the cafe, I took some snaps with my iPhone as I made my way through the narrow streets and navigated past all the construction. Most photos have been edited using VSCOcam.
Throwing together a military wedding is tough work. Sure, a regular wedding is tough work too, but military weddings are always planned under an umbrella of uncertainty. In a world that is constantly changing, we always have to be ready to go at a moments notice. I know because I had about 2 weeks to cobble mine together in a short break when DB was between missions. My good friends Lizzie and Tom held a similar affair not too long ago, but also took the time to plan a bigger wedding in Salem, MA. Fortunately, no one was called away unexpectedly and DB and I were able to use the weekend as a mini-vacation (baby moon maybe?). I was hoping for some epic fall foliage on the way up since it’s something we missed living in the PNW, but it seems we were about a week or so early. Still it was nice to have a long drive where DB and I could listen to some classic rock and not have to frantically dive into the backseat to rescue discarded cups or toys or blankets. It’s so rare that we get to be adults without also being parents.
On Friday night we enjoyed dinner and cupcakes at the Old Town Hall, which we totally geeked out over since there was quite a bit of Naval history, and who doesn’t love hanging out at a museum after hours. It was also really great to catch up with friends who I’d not seen in ages and introduce them to DB.
Saturday we got all dressed up and had a lunch date. I’ve been to Salem before, and I remember it being busy, but it was downright crowded this day. Even though he was wearing his dress blues, DB blended in seamlessly with all the early Halloween revelers. Admittedly, I was a little jealous. I wanted to wear my blues as well, but couldn’t hunt down the maternity version in time. Which brings up another issue…finding a wedding-worthy maternity dress is tough. I’m so glad that ASOS has a great (and affordable collection). I went with this one, and it was perfect. Comfortable enough to wear all day, but classy for an event (oh and $40? yes!)
Of course, this isn’t about me, the bride was lovely, and the flower girls were the sweetest little things. It’s funny how life takes its twists and turns. Right before I was getting ready to have the Bear, I heard via Facebook that Tom who I’d not seen in quite a while was joining the Navy, and not only was he joining the Navy but entering the same rate as DB and I. We chatted about it over the weekend. How wild it was that a couple of hardcore kids from Philly, in or near their 30s decided that it was time for something different, something more and we joined the Navy and now we live far from home and are starting our families. Also, how awesome is Lizzie for taking on this life as well? Military marriages are a team effort, without that bond they fall to pieces. I’m pretty stoked to welcome such a strong and wonderful couple to the Navy family, and I’m glad to have some old friends on board to turn to for support and give support in turn.
After a delicious meal of steak AND crab cake, we danced the night away and then headed back south the next morning through rain and slightly changing leaves feeling tired, but also revived from our little vacation away.
After Colorado we said goodbye to seeing mountains everyday and hello to the flat flatness of the Midwest. At this point, we’d been in the car about a week and were starting to get antsy about getting to the east coast. Now, of course, we weren’t (and still aren’t) thrilled about the fact that we’d not only be living on the east coast, but would be going from a pretty rural setting to a hugely congested metropolitan one. Still, being somewhere would be better than being nowhere so we dashed through the second leg of our journey as quickly as we could stopping mostly just to eat, stretch, or sleep before continuing on the next day. Still, even from the dashboard, we saw some pretty great things.
PS. If you’d like to see the full set from our travels click here.
By the time we hit up Rocky Mountain, most of the holiday traffic had receded and we were able to enjoy a beautiful day exploring the different ecosystems the park has to offer without all the added stress of tourist throngs. We spent about half a day which was enough time to explore about half the park. We entered by way of Estes Park and worked our way up along the Trail Ridge Road. The road itself was once a hunting trail used by ancient inhabitants of the area. Now it’s the best way to “car hike” the park through its sub-alpine, alpine, and tundra systems. The Tundra was pretty awesome. Barren with just a few scrubby plants clinging to the landscape…and cold. Having never been in such an environment before I have to say it was my favorite part of the park. We stopped at the Alpine Visitors’ Center for lunch and spotted an elk herd hanging out on a patch of snow.
In the evening we visited Boulder where my friend Kelly lives and had a great time eating too many nachos and catching up. Bear had a great time at Pearl Street, exploring the parks and ultimately taking the plunge into the water fountain. We were so glad he was recovered from his illness and could really enjoy himself.
Our next big stop was at Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks. I’d visited Yellowstone for the first time nearly 10 years ago and absolutely loved it. I was really looking forward to sharing with with DB and the Bear. Of course, trying to do that on the 5th of July was probably not the best idea, but we worked with our dealt hand just the same. We entered the park through the West entrance and headed up to Mammoth Hot Springs. Poor Bear was still feeling under the weather, but by the time we hit the Hot Springs Visitor Center he seemed in better spirits and we thought we’d grab lunch and take a walk on the boardwalk. Naturally, as soon as we put in our food order the fire alarm in the restaurant went off. It seemed like DB and I were the first ones to stand up and realize that we should probably get out of there, but soon everyone followed suit to a portico across the way. While we waited for the alarm to be cleared by the fire marshall a hail storm rolled up. The Bear thought it was awesome, of course. Unfortunately, it became evident that neither the fire alarm or the rains were going anywhere so when it let up a bit we hightailed it back to the car and continued south skipped Old Faithful and heading straight into Grand Teton.
After a long and stressful day sitting in wildlife jams and dealing with terrible drivers, we were relieved to take in the quiet of the Tetons, majestic against the receding storm clouds. We hardly saw anyone on the roads and had a quiet drive down to the Hostel in Jackson Hole where we spent the night. The following morning we did a quick visit back into the park and then continued on our way.
It can be tough traveling with a toddler on a good day. Traveling with a sick toddler brings its own set of challenges. DB and I were both itching to bust out the Osprey and take the Bear into the parks to see and experience the environment around us, but it wasn’t meant to be. At least now we have a better idea of the places we want to revisit when he’s a bit older. We agreed before we left that this trip was more of an overview to get our feet wet. We knew we wouldn’t be able to spend the amount of time in the parks that we wanted to, but we figured car hiking was better than no visit at all, and we were right. These are beautiful and majestic places that everyone should have a chance to see, no matter how briefly.
The first major stop on our cross country adventure was Glacier National Park. We set ourselves up in Kalispell, MT for two nights and were able to get one full day in the park, though sadly the Bear was quite ill so we weren’t able to get out and explore as much as we would have liked. None the less, we got a gorgeous overview (minus the throngs of other tourists) and can’t wait to go back at some point. The Going to the Sun Road was every bit, if not more, beautiful as the guidebooks make it out to be. We started off cruising past Lake McDonald and then stopped for a quick hike through the Trail of Cedars. From there we hugged the cliffside as we winded our way up through the glacier carved valley, admiring waterfalls and trying not to hit any other distracted drivers (pro tip: avoid all National Parks on major summer holidays, like 4th of July). We stopped briefly to picnic at Logan Pass and continued on to view the Jackson Glacier. For a place that was carved out by these massive living ice sheets, only the Jackson Glacier is still viewable from the road. The rest have retreated into the parks interior and it’s estimated by 2035 they’ll be gone completely. This was put into perspective for us when we realized the Bear would be just about finished high school when this happens. We stopped for a few photos at St. Mary’s Lake and then headed back to enjoy the valley views once more.
We had hoped to go back for a bit the following day, but unfortunately poor Bear had come down with a nasty virus. We spent most of the night in the ER and the next several days dosing him with ibuprofen to keep his fever down. Poor little guy, I know he was terribly uncomfortable, but he handled it so well.