Day 31: Thursday, July 1st, 2021

Well, I did so much in Stillwater yesterday, that I didn’t have much in the area left to do today.  I woke up extremely too early, so I worked for a bit, and then tried to get more sleep.  Lately this is the time I would be getting migraines, so I have been diligent on keeping my activity fun, but nothing crazy exciting. Calm, relaxing, enjoyable…I even thought about a Spa today.

I wound up taking a drive to Hudson, Wisconsin which is just on the other side of the St. Croix River from Stillwater. The area was setting up for the 4th of July, and I had that moment of “Oh hey, that’s going on isn’t it.” When you are on the road, I feel like Holidays seem to fall to the wayside because you’re in travel mode. At least for me anyways. My 4th will be celebrated in my car driving to South Dakota, so yeah, nothing exciting there.  After the drive through Hudson and Stillwater again, I headed back to the hotel. I have been sleeping on and off all afternoon….feels AMAZING.  I guess I needed it more than I realized.  So since today is more of a “quiet” day…I wanted to share with yall what I have learned traveling the first month of my 12 month trip.

Lesson #1: For now, being alone is lonely.

Let me start with this, I knew June would be the easiest month. Why? Well, friends after friends, then family after family, I was enveloped in love and able to tour places with always someone by my side. With that constant for the last 30 days, to then go from that to by myself has been a bit of a shock to my mental health.  I know I am ok, I know this is truly a once in a lifetime adventure, but I also know that it would have been enjoyable with someone by my side the entire time.  It’s been exhausting to be everything, every day, and not have someone drive after a long day or run for food…it’s all on me, and I have done it before, but it makes me miss the special ones in my life.

Lesson #2: Wide open spaces of time are not my friend.

I like to have a plan- to get up every day and have a destination already in place so that it’s just a matter of putting it in my GPS and getting gas before hitting the road. Having nothing planned, and heaven forbid two days of it, throws me into a tailspin of overthinking. Plan good, no plan, bad.

Lesson #3: Talk to the older folks…they are where the magic lies.

Stillwater was the purest example of this. They are willing to talk, they love an audience, and they will share stories with you that will blow your mind!  It’s amazing what they have lived AND what they have lived through. They are usually kind, willing to listen to your story, and more than happy to help you along on your travels. AND if you are lucky, they become new friends you make a long the way 😊

Lesson #4: Don’t be scared to nest in your hotel room.

Ok, this may be an odd one to you, but I have a bad habit of bringing the bare essentials in and then being uncomfortable with the little I DID bring in because I am too lazy or tired to bring in the rest.  Days likes these where it’s just me and the room, I NEED everything that connects me to family and home so I don’t feel like I am floating around the U.S. not being tethered to anyone or anything. 

Lesson #5: Finding any kind of small routine will help.

Working on an exercise program for my mornings, still doing protein shakes, and drinking more and more water is key right now. Not running has been actually really hard on my body and mental health, so finding something to replace that “high” for my physical body is key.

Lesson #6: I can’t control what’s happening anywhere around the Country.

Let’s see….since I have been on the road there have been wild fires out a Glacier National Park, timed entry passes for lots of National Parks, a heat wave melting the sides of homes, bear attacks in Yellowstone, your buffet of road closures and bridges shut down…. I mean, all happy stuff right? I CANNOT DO ANYTHING ABOUT IT.  I know, I am aware, but all I can do is keep an eye on it. I get notifications from the National Parks on the status of my time frame (camping at Yellowstone) and I watch the news online, but that’s about it. I will adjust of I have to, pivot when needed.

Lesson #7: Less is more.

Still shedding things from my luggage all over the U.S. LOL  Things I thought I needed I am tossing or giving away, left some stuff at my Mom’s, and so on.  The temptation to “shop” is quickly squashed with the thought of where I would have to put it in my car for the next 11 months. Funny how then I only buy stickers for my luggage and that’s it.

Lesson #8: What’s the point?

I have been asked several times “What’s the point” of what I am doing.  I never know if I should feel offended or rise to the challenge to explain it. Isn’t the point to just LIVE an adventure? To live a life of passion and vigor? To find the fun and excitement in the smallest to biggest? I answer people this… “The World was ugly last year, the anger felt heavy and hard. I wanted to spread some kindness across this Nation, meet new people, show others that good still exists out there. So that’s the point.”

Here’s the thing….it’s my life and my journey. I don’t expect you to understand it, love it, or embrace it. I HOPE you do. I WISH that you find it in your heart to be inspired by my kindness and others to act upon it in your own ways. A movement? Wouldn’t that be cool. Whatever it inspires in whoever inspires, I will feel good about that. The strangers that have become friends are worth it’s weight in gold. I dreamed of traveling and meeting new souls, connecting smiles to memories, small kindess for big results…and I think I am doing it. I just have to have the courage to keep going, to not quit, because I don’t have to do this, but I know I want too. It’s finding that fire that started this all, igniting it every day, and leaning into my faith and goals to keep me going. I can do this. I can do this. I CAN DO THIS. See you tomorrow.

Stillwater. MN

Thank you for your support and kindness!!

I LOVE sharing the joy of Adventure, and Travel! Every dollar you support me with goes right back into my mission for equipment, gas, and essentials. But most importantly, when you support me financially it tells me you BELIEVE in me and MY VALUE, and that means more to me than ANYTHING! So THANK YOU for YOU!!

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Day 30: Wednesday, June 30th, 2021

I have been on the road for a month today…. A month.  And to be honest, I am not really sure on how I feel about it. I planned for months, I did my research, but there were and are pockets of time I need to fill in on the fly sometimes. And for the first time, today was one of them. The emotional goodbye of the last family for a while, missing my family in Florida, and not really “feeling” travel today…It was all a bit much for this sensitive heart this morning. And as I closed my car door, started my car, and put in my GPS my next location (like usual)…. I broke down crying. Just a big old whopping panic attack, right in the middle of Minnesota.  I cried it out, driving through the sadness, and trying to get it together. I couldn’t check in until 3 p.m., so I knew that I would have to occupy my time.

Today and tomorrow was slated for Stillwater, MN…a beautiful city sitting on the banks of St. Croix River. But I didn’t plan anything, so I felt a bit like a fish out of water. And with the emotional morning, I didn’t really know what I was even in the mood for. So I parked by their Historic Courthouse and got it together, took some deep breaths, chewed some gum, and rolled down my window to talk to the woman who was planting outside the building.  Her name was Cindy and said the place was open to tour whenever I felt like it, but guided tours were later. Since I had the place to myself, I just roamed the hall ways and stairwells. My brother had gotten married to his first wife here 15 plus years ago, and I didn’t honestly remember most, if anything of it, I think he’d rather have it that way anyways.

After I had been on my own in the building for awhile, even walking the old jail connected to it which was SOOOO creepy, Cindy and I started chatting again in the hallway and she offered to show me everything else normally on their “Nook and Cranny” tour they hold once a month.  Well, I am only in town for 2 days, so she was kind enough to take me to the second floor jail, the oldest part of the first jail, AND the basement.  Every horror movie you can think of was how that basement felt to me… merge “The Conjuring” and “Insidious” together and THAT was the level of creep factor!  She showed me where they keep all the historical documents and items, how they decorate and stage rooms, and we even used the ghost app for a bit in the jail area…. “Jones” and “Virginia” was said while in the cells. She was incredibly kind and nice and VERY helpful…if you are reading this Cindy, THANK YOU for being so sweet on a day that my sensitive heart needed it the most.

My stomach was talking out loud, so I needed to find lunch.  How Stillwater is set up is that a lot of the homes are located high in the hills (a San Francisco feel) and the Main Street businesses are at the foot of the town against the water line of the St. Croix River.  I was able to find the downtown area with no problem, free parking on the street, and it was then all about walking around and absorbing the energy of the town. (VERY MUCH like Galena, IL).   A red and white awning caught my eye, a 50s Diner called “Lou’s” on the corner! How fun! So after a small wait, I was seated by a nice, big picture window. I ordered a cheeseburger and onion rings with a Diet Coke, I thought perfect meal for a diner. Now, it was my first time eating alone in awhile, so that was a bit weird to get used to… but then I just wound up talking to the waitress, the guy sitting alone at the table next to me…and the two women who sat down after he left.  I may have a social addiction…whatever, I don’t care. If people don’t want to talk to me, they can leave, run, scream or all the above. I would like to note, that has never happened. The food was delicious, company was great, and I paid today’s kindness here first…big tip for my young waitress. LOVE making them so happy!

With a full heart, I walked around some more, headed to the water area where they made one of their bridges JUST for pedestrians and cyclists, and made a new bridge a couple miles over. This helped keep the main traffic out of the downtown area, giving the locals of Stillwater their city back. It was a beautiful day, so it was a nice time calling the family while walking the bridge. It actually connects Minnesota to Wisconsin….pretty cool. As I was walking on it, the attendant who lifts the bridge for boats coming, he saw me opening my candy cigarettes and said “Is that what I think they are?” I said “YES!! They have candy cigarettes in town, want one?” He said yes and was so happy- I felt great. Nothing like some middle aged peeps chewing on candy cigarettes on a bridge in MN.

After my sugar high, I headed to the Trolley ticket booth and inquired on the next tour.  The booth was easy to find, ticket’s were $13.50- affordable, the tour was for 45 minutes and I didn’t have to wait long for my 2:00 tour time. I chatted with a woman who sat with me on the same bench while we waited and asked her if she was thirsty, and she said yes, and I said that I was going to get a bottle of water, would she like one. She seemed shocked I asked, then more shocked I paid for it without any strings attached. The ticket lady saw what I was doing and gave me the bottle for the other gal for free. Nice! 

The tour started promptly at 2 pm with plenty of seats available for the choosing. It was open air, and I never felt hot, plenty of breeze so that you weren’t sweating to death. Windows were nice and clear for taking pictures through, and Bob was clear and detailed with every home, location, historical spot, and even trivia.  He obviously loves what he does, and his passion and talents for being a trolley guide came through his speech and smile.  He was easy to understand, and loud enough to hear in the back. Sometimes I go on these tours and you can’t hear them very well or they muddle their words and so you spend a lot of the time trying to concentrate on every word instead of relaxing and enjoying. THIS was relaxing, even exhilarating at some points as Bob would maneuver through the steep hills of Stillwater- both up and down.  It was great, and I would HIGHLY recommend taking the Trolley tour in Stillwater…ask for Bob, because he’s the best! Tell him Amy, the Relocated Tourist sent you. He was even nice enough to introduce me on the trolley to everyone and what I am doing on this big adventure, it made me feel very special.  **** SIDE NOTE- on the tour you get to go past JESSICA LANGE’S home that she lived in when she lived here. YES!! Being an “American Horror Story” fan…I geeked out. Bob, the Guide, also owned a Restaurant in the area, years ago, and was close friends to Sam Shepherd, her husband, and she would come in with him as well to eat as his place. HOW COOL IS THAT?!?!?!?!?

So a full day, and it was then a trip to the hotel for much needed rest, time out of the heat and sunshine, and to just veg without thinking about anything for awhile.  But, God has a sense of humor, and when I checked in, my room wasn’t ready, then the tv didn’t work, and all I wanted to do was lay down. So happy to report I have picked up dinner from Cub Foods, taking it easy tonight, planning tomorrow, and writing up today’s happenings. I hope you enjoyed this, see you tomorrow!

Relocated Tourist

Thank you for your kindness!!

I LOVE sharing the joy of Adventure, and Travel! Every dollar you support me with goes right back into my mission for equipment, gas, and essentials. But most importantly, when you support me financially it tells me you BELIEVE in me and MY VALUE, and that means more to me than ANYTHING! So THANK YOU for YOU!!

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Day 29: Tuesday, June 29th, 2021

Today has been a weird day.  Have you ever been one place and there’s a lot going on for other people somewhere else and you feel like you should be with them instead of where you are? Since I can’t, and since I wasn’t needed, I have to stuff that feeling deep down and keep moving forward. So, Ryan had to work today, so I had a free day to find something to do on my own and join him and the family later.  And since I know how to do my research pretty well, I got lucky with stuff that was close by to his house. So, let’s go explore!

First, I headed to the “Largest Candy Store in Minnesota.”  Located off a busy road, this large, and I mean, obnoxiously very yellow building, CANNOT be missed when driving by. I mean you’d literally have to have your eyes closed to miss this blaringly sweet sunspot. I wasn’t prepared walking into this place….although Spider Man hanging off the side of the building should have tipped me off. Because, you know, candy and Spider Man make sense right? LOL  Yeah, I didn’t get it either.  The entrance is lined with almost a “swap meet” feel…. Wares of yard signs, ornaments, and what nots line the sidewalk along with the “Largest Jigsaw Puzzle” framed here.

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Then you step into this place and it’s like entering Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory….because I literally felt my jaw drop open with the sheer size of the place, the amount of candy lining every bit of space, and the theming was INSANE!!  Walter was so excited to get his picture taken, we had a blast moving from room to room, even grabbing some mints and candy cigarettes a long the way. I don’t even know how to remotely explain this place, just to say it is DEFINITELY a not miss if you find yourself in Jordan, MN!  Especially if you are looking for a certain candy, this is the place to find it!  I spent over an hour in here looking, reading, taking pics, and enjoying the feel of the place. Check it out!

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Next I headed to Excelsior, MN….a quaint town nearby to the Candy Store. Located on the banks of Lake Minnetonka, I walked the yesteryear streets, enjoying the sunshine, and getting the vibe of the town. Not much open, so it was a brief stop, but an adorable place to grab a bite on Main Street  or grab Lake Wear for a day on the water.

Finally, you don’t come to the Minneapolis area without hitting the Mall of America. Is it kitschy? Of course it is, it’s just a big mall full of stores you have in your city or ones you have never heard of. Is it worth it? I mean, there is an Amusement Park in the middle, always fun for families, and the 4th floor is lined with lots of fun and cool Restaurants.  It was lunch time and the “Sugar Factory” looked fun an inviting. Yes, there is one near “The Eye” in Orlando, but I never ate at it.  So I enjoyed the Rainbow sliders, a nod to Pride Month and all of my friends who celebrate it, and I really thought they were pretty patties. (Yes, that’s a nod to SpongeBob via my oldest daughter).  They were really good, a bit salty for my taste, and yes, expensive, but the point was to try something new, somewhere new…mission accomplished. Walter was satisfied with burgers his size…probably tasted good after he hit the candy cigarettes pretty hard.

I got about 7,000 steps in at the Mall, grabbing pics here and there of all the action, and left exhausted. Came back to Ryan’s and fell asleep, hard, and it felt amazing. Napping is key to this trip, recharges ye old brain for the evening of other goodies to be had, writing to be done, and energy to play with my nieces this evening.

Even though it was a quick visit, I got done what needed to in the time allotted for it. Off to Stillwater in the morning, see you tomorrow!  

Thank you for your kindness!!

I LOVE sharing the joy of Adventure, and Travel! Every dollar you support me with goes right back into my mission for equipment, gas, and essentials. But most importantly, when you support me financially it tells me you BELIEVE in me and MY VALUE, and that means more to me than ANYTHING! So THANK YOU for YOU!!

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