Wednesday, August 26, 2015

First fortnight in Flagstaff

Brandon and I have been in Flagstaff for two weeks now, and everything is going swimmingly.  Shortly after moving in, we got the internet hooked up which is great for my low cell phone data and since Brandon's full time job depends on it.  Brandon spends the week days working 7am-3pm.  The sun has been rising around 5:45am which is a pain for someone who wakes up with the sun.  With that being said, the sun goes down around 7:15pm.  The state of Arizona does not observe daylight savings, so we are always on Mountain Standard Time.

While Brandon is working, I am just chilling around.  I've been looking for easy recipes online, researching the Flagstaff area, and keeping an eye out for upcoming events.

There is always something to do here in Flagstaff.  There are discounted bowling nights, happy hours, events on the square, etc.  There are quite a few festivals coming up as well like the County Fair, Festival of Science, Star Nights, and Octo"beer"fest.

In addition to lolly-gagging around the apartment, I've been trying to explore the city.  I opened up a local banking account to make things easier, applied for my AZ drivers license, and got my student ID card.  I've also been reading information about the public transportation and FUTS (Flagstaff Urban Trail System).

Brandon and I have been taking turns making dinner.  We haven't done anything too fancy, but my favorite meal so far has been the crockpot enchiladas.  They were so tasty and unhealthy, haha! Since we are on a budget after this initial move-in, we've been trying out best to go out and eat.  In fact, we've only been out twice since moving here.  We went back to Diablo Burger and went to Beaver Street Brewing Restaurant...both were local and delicious!

So the first weekend that we were here (Aug. 15th), Brandon's friend, Nick, came up from Phoenix to visit us.  We decided to hike Mount Elden because why not.  I did some research, but clearly not enough!  We arrived at the pack trailhead and had to park across the street at a credit union.  The beginning of the trail was pretty flat and was a part of "Fatman's Loop."  Instead of staying on the loop, we decided to go to the overlook because we were already half way there.  Well little did we know, it was steep.  I mean extremely steep!  The switchbacks were killer, and we staying on the same side of the mountain the whole way up.  As we had about half a mile of so left, it began to thunder and get dark.  We tried our best to make it to the top before it started to rain.

Now to give you an idea, Flagstaff is already at 7000ft in elevation, and Mount Elden's outlook is at 9300ft.  I was a little out of shape but determined to make it to the top.  There were some points were it was hard to catch my breath because of how high we were.  Anyways, we eventually made it to the top, and it began to thunderstorm bad.  We would have loved to taken some pictures and observe the views, but we had to get out of there.  As we were hiking back down, it lightening and began to hail on us.  The hail was pretty big!  About the size of marbles.  The hail was pelting us, and we had to take cover at some points because it was so painful.  We passed several other hikers who were trying to make it to the top.

Of course, hiking down wasn't a walk in the park.  It was steep, and any wrong move you make, you could bust your butt!  Not to mention the mini river that overflowed the trail at some points.  Once we were about a mile down, it was nothing but dry and sunshine.  We finished declining and made it back to the parking area.  My legs felt like jello, and I was so glad to be off that mountain.

Aside from Mount Elden, Brandon and I have been walking every evening after dinner to see where all we can walk to from our apartment complex.  One night, we even went to a dance lesson on the historic square.  I met another out-of-state grad student and we and another of her new friends walked around downtown to see what it's like.  Her friend actually has lived in Flagstaff for the past two years so he showed us where the best places to go were.

REI, which is a dangerously 2.5 miles from our house, had a garage sale on Saturday.  Me and a few other grad students met there to see what all they had marked down.  I didn't find anything, but that was okay.  Afterwards, we went to the REI workshop where the manager talked about the Grand Canyon.  Believe it or not, she lived in Gainesville, Ga for a few years and attended Bernau University!  Small world!  The workshop was great and sparked my interest to go to the Grand Canyon.  Afterwards, Brandon and drove around town to try and find a couch/futon.  We ended up going to two animal shelters to see what they had.  We ended up not adopting (we aren't ready yet), but it was nice to know what type of dogs that they do get in this area.

Yesterday, Aug 23rd, Brandon and I drove over to Walnut Canyon National Monument Park to check it out.  It was really neat, and of course, started to thunderstorm towards the very end.  I got the military pass so we can go back whenever we want for free.

I have orientation on the 25th and begin classes on the 31st.  I'm looking forward to school, but I also enjoy being lazy during all of this free time.

I'll try and keep this blog up to date! :)

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

GA to AZ: Part VI Pueblo to Flagstaff

We had another good night's rest and even slept in a little bit before hitting the road once again.  We left Pueblo around 8:30am and drove south towards New Mexico.  We stopped in Trinidad to use the restroom and get a couple of geocaches.  Before we knew it, we were in New Mexico.  Our objective was to get to Santa Fe and hang out for a little bit.

We stopped here and there to stretch the legs and to find some geocaches.  We arrived in Santa Fe around lunch time.  It wasn't a huge city, but there was some stress over finding a parking place.  We went to the lot that said "public parking" and parked there.  Of course, it wasn't free, so we had to pay a couple of bucks for a pass.  We walked over to Upper Crust Pizza and ordered one of their specialties.  It was pretty good, then we walked over to the Travel Bug Cafe because there is a virtual geocache there.

We walked over and completed the requirements to log the cache.  We walked inside the Travel Bug Cafe and couldn't believe our eyes!  There were maps, travel books, and guide books all over the walls.  There were inflatable globes hanging for the ceiling.  They had a small section to purchase travel gear, and they had a small cafe where you can purchase bakery goods, coffee, tea, or fruit smoothies.  We chatted with one of the employees, and he showed us this detailed topo map of Arizona.  It is a $120 map, they were trying to sell it for $50, and he told us that he would sell it to us for $15.  Brandon took it to the car, and couldn't get it to fit (the car was slammed packed!).  We told him to save it for someone else traveling through.  There were a lot of people that came in all at once.  Lots of older couples trying to find a specific book and singles walking in grabbing a drink.  There were already about 3 people in the store sitting at one of the tables thumbing through some travel guides.  We spent maybe an hour in the store looking around and talking with the guy.  We finally grabbed some fruit smoothies to-go and got back on the road.
Inside the Travel Bug Cafe

By this time, we are getting close to 5 o'clock traffic in Albuquerque.  We made it through smoothly and continued our way to Arizona.

It began to rain while driving through New Mexico, which was the first rain we hit while on our roadtrip.

It was finally 7pm MDT, and we had originally talked about staying the night in Gallup, NM or driving another hour and a half to Holbrook, AZ to crash.  We still had energy since we weren't driving a lot today, and decided to make it to Flagstaff.

We arrived at the Arizona Welcome Center and walked around and snapped some photos of the Arizona sign.  We continued through the very boring section of Arizona.  We passed the painted desert and Winslow, but both of those attractions aren't far from where we live.

In addition, we went back an hour since Arizona doesn't observe Daylight Savings Time.  As we approached Flagstaff, and it started to pour.  We eventually took the first exit where we saw 5 hotels.  We ran into 3 of them, and they were all booked full, and one of them wanted $170 for one night!  Brandon called a Quality Inn and said that they had a room for $120...

So we drove down to the next exit and found the Quality Inn.  It was on top of a hill.  They had a huge lit sign on top of the hill, and the "Inn" was flickering. We drove up the drive way in the rain towards the flickering Inn sign.  We felt like we were going to a haunted house!

I said to Brandon, "Are we this cheap?!"

We parked in the lot and ran inside the lobby.  The clerk told us that she would give us a room for $99, which was still expensive (all of the b&bs were cheaper than that!), but we really needed a place to sleep for the evening.

The hotel was clean and neat, just had a creepy vibe on the outside.  We would leave early in the morning to go to a geocaching meeting, then to the apartment complex to finish up some paper work, then to the UHaul place to pick up our U-Box and start unpacking!

Overall, we had a great road trip.  We saw some interesting things and had a nice time just relaxing before our move-in day.

Monday, August 17, 2015

GA to AZ Part V: North Platte, Nebraska to Pueblo, Colorado

After a great night's rest in the middle-of-nowhere, Nebraska, we made our way to Cheyenne, Wyoming.  Now, we could have just went straight to Denver, but we wanted to stop at this frontier town since we weren't that far away.  When we hit the road, within 30 minutes, we went back an hour, which is nice for traveling.  We found a couple of geocaches here and there until we hit Cheyenne.

We arrived in Cheyenne around 11am.  We stopped to get a geocache which happened to be right next to the Sierra Post Trading Outlet Retail Store.  We wondered around inside to see if there were any deals, but we both knew that there wasn't any room in the vehicle.  They had to this cool section called "thirds" which was the extreme clearance section.  A majority of the items that were in this section were returned items.  They either had a slight defect or were washed by the previous owner.  They had a lot of shoes, but none in my size.  I feel like this store could be a hit-or-miss store, and it was a miss today.

We worked up an appetite and drove downtown to see what kind of grub we could get.  Cheyenne's downtown was not intimidating at all, unlike Omaha.  We found this restaurant called "2 Doors Down" which was a hamburger joint.  The food was delicious and really hit the spot.  After lunch, we roamed around for another hour finding some geocaches and checking out some of the city's history.

We finally hit the road towards Denver.  Our first stop was a huge liquor store called "Daveco Liquors."  Our host the night before told us that it was something to check out.  So, we did, and it was huge!  It was about the size of a grocery store...maybe even bigger!  They had aisles and aisles of all types of liquors.  The whole back wall was nothing but beer coolers and was categorized by location (Colorado beer, Mexican beer, German beer, etc.).  We stopped at the Colorado craft beer section to check out their prices.  A guy approached and told us what we had to get.  He was a brewmaster himself and recommended Odell Brew beer.  We ended up buying a 6-pack and went back on the road.

Airbnb near Pueblo
We arrived at Denver around 3:30pm, and it was a mess!  The traffic was terrible, and there was construction.  We pulled off and grabbed a geocache, and went back on the interstate.  We finally got through it, and even traffic in Colorado Springs was bad!  We continued our way until we arrived in Pueblo.  We found another geocache then at dinner at a Mexican restaurant.  It was around 7pm, and we made our way to the next Airbnb.  Our host lived 25 miles away from Pueblo in a small community in a valley.  The valley was gorgeous as it was protected by mountains.  We arrived at the b&b and was greeted by our host, Alan.  He showed us the b&b suite, which was pretty cozy.  We didn't chat for long since he had to be up at 5am for his shift-- he is a public transit driver for Pueblo.  We made ourselves at home and even slept in a little bit since we had an easy day ahead of us.

Only one more day until we arrive in Flagstaff.

Stay tuned for the final part!


Friday, August 14, 2015

GA to AZ part IV: Sioux Falls to North Platte, Nebraska

Chief War Eagle
Tri-State monument
We left our B&B around 7am and drove over to where South Dakota, Iowa, and Minnesota meet.  This was my first time being in three places at one time.  After we took some photos, we drove on down to Sioux City, Iowa to grab some geocaches.  We first stopped at Chief War Eagle's memorial to get some information for a virtual geocache.  Once we were finished there, we drove on down to Nebraska!

First stop was Omaha, Nebraska to get a few geocaches.  We stopped at the Labor monument by the Missouri River.  Next, we stopped at Creighton University to get a webcam geocache.  We were starving for lunch by now, and tried to find somewhere local to eat.  Traffic was terrible downtown, so we got back on the interstate and got off a few exits down.  We ate at this chain called "Taco Johns" which was pretty good. 

Once we were full, we swung over to Lincoln and picked up another geocache.  We once again were staying at an AirBNB and wanted to get there around 7:30.  We took our time on the road and stopped at several rest areas to stretch and relax.  The speed limit was 80mph and traffic wasn't bad.  We finally arrived in North Platte and grabbed some bratwurst to cook at the B&B.  Now, you're probably wondering why we decided to stop in the middle of nowhere, Nebraska.  Well, we didn't want to drive ALL day, and this was smack dabbed in the middle of the state.  Also, the next county over changed time to MST.

Labor Monument
We arrived at the B&B, and Muriel, our host, walked outside to greet us.  She was a little older and was wearing a homemade dress.  I quickly asked what I got myself into, but when we walked inside, I quickly realized the family wasn't all religious or old-school.  Our room was nice and cozy along with the guest bath.  We heated up our brats on the grill since they had just finished cooking on it.  We were also offered some potatoes and local-grown corn on the cob, which was amazing! 

Nebraska stop
After dinner, they offered us a beer and we sat and talked.  They have been hosting for several years and had people from all over the world stay with them.  Mark told us to stop at this huge Liquor store in Colorado and to keep our eye out for Odell beer.

After a long day of driving, and especially after the last 3 hours in nothing but corn fields, it was nice to relax in a cozy house.

Found the Weiner-mobile while in Omaha, Nebraska
Part V......

GA to AZ part III: Chicago, IL to Sioux Falls, SD

We woke up bright at early and left our B&B at 6am and drove 5 minutes to grab the Beverly geocache.  Once again, we were planning on grabbing some geocaching highlights, and Beverly was an absolute must!  As I mentioned in the previous post, Geocaching was created in May 2000, and there were only a handful of geocaches published during the month, not to mention that there are only a few still active today!  May 2000 is like a unicorn.  One of the most popular May 2000 geocache is Mingo, which is in Mingo, Kansas.  It is the oldest still active geocache alive, and Beverly isn't that far behind.  There is also one in Oregon as well as New York.

Since Beverly is found often, we had a good idea that it would be an easy find.  We parked at the park's lot and quickly found the trail.  We continued to follow the path until the GPS pointed off the trail.  We searched around for a "geo-trail" (a trail made by geocachers due to high traffic), and followed it to the ammo can!  Once again, it's not too special, just an ammo can in the woods; however, we now have the May 2000 block in our grid filled it....yay!

We walked back to the car and began our drive to South Dakota!

Wisconsin Craft Beer
After paying some tolls and avoiding rush hour, we finally made it to Wisconsin!  We found a couple of geocaches there and drove on some nice country roads that took us past some dairy farms.  The weather felt great and the sun was out!  We decided to roll down the windows and PEW-EW!  The nice smell of
Castle Rock
cow dung!  During our time in Wisconsin, we stopped at Castle Rock, which was a very interesting geological formation.  Afterwards, we stopped for some lunch at a chain called Culver's.  It was your basic fast-food joint, but claimed to have its dairy products made by local farms.  It was still delicious!  I had a single burger and some Wisconsin cheese curds followed with a root beer float (with homemade rootbeer and frozen custard).  I felt like a cow, ha, but it was so good!

Our time in Wisconsin came to an end when we approached Minnesota.  It was a pretty easy drive despite the construction, but it wasn't too bad.  While passing through, we stopped in Blue Earth and said hello to the Jolly Green Giant!  We would have loved to stay longer, but we wanted to get to Sioux Falls before the sun set.

We eventually arrived in South Dakota and went straight to the Falls Park.  Here, the falls are displayed for you to walk around and explore the Falls' history.  We spent almost two hours at the park, which once again felt good after sitting all day.  The falls were gorgeous, and the weather wasn't bad either.

Once we soaked in the beauty, we drove through town and stopped at a pita joint.  It was like Subway, but everything was suppose to be healthy and made into a pita.  It definitely hit the spot, then we drove over to the AirBnB that we were staying in.

We stayed at a modern home only minutes away from the Falls.  Valarie was our host, and she was also very warm and welcoming.  Her and her roommates made a bonfire for us, and we sat around and chatted until 11pm.  The room that we stayed in was super nice too.  She provided us with organic snacks, wine, and toiletries.  Unfortunately, she left for work at 5am, so we didn't spend a whole lot of time with her, but this AirBnB stuff is pretty awesome.  I don't think I want to stay in a hotel again! 

Stay tuned for Part IV!

Thursday, August 13, 2015

GA to AZ Part II: Memphis to Chicago

After our two day stay in Memphis, we hit the road for our next destination: Chicago, IL.  We left Tennessee around 6:30am and made our way to Arkansas then Missouri.  Along the way, we grabbed a few geocaches and stretched our legs.  There was a lot of construction going on, especially once we hit Illinois, so we made sure to not get off the interstate unless we really had to.

We had two main objectives today:
1.) To see my childhood friend that I haven't seen in over a decade
2.) To grab a geocache that was placed in November 2000.
Jen and I after lunch

We arrived in Charleston, IL around 1pm and met Jen for lunch.  We had a great time catching up and eating good food.  I would have loved to stay longer, but she had to go to work, and we had to get back on the road.

After lunch, we made a detour to Terre Haute, Indiana to get the November 2000 geocache.  You non-geocachers probably have no idea why this date is important.  Besides just finding geocaches, there are several challenges you can achieve, and one of those challenges is finding a geocache that was placed for each month since geocaching was created (May 2000).  This challenge, the Jasmer, may seem easy, but it gets difficult when you are trying to find older caches, like those that were placed in the years 2000-2003.

Anyways, our Jasmer grid was missing the November 2000, so I did a search to see what geocache(s) meet the date in the United States.  Believe it or not, there is not one close to Georgia.  To get a November 2000 geocache, you must travel to New York, New Jersey, Indiana, or California (to name a few).  Since we were planning on going to Charleston anyway, Terre Haute was just an hour away.

Anyways, since you now understand (hopefully), Brandon and I made the drive over to get the Fowler Park Wilderness Stash (  We arrived at the parking area and attempting the hike.  We discovered that there was an easier and faster way to get the cache, so we drove on over to another area.  We walked on over and met with the bike trails. 
We continued to hike (which felt good after sitting in the car all day) until the gps pointed uphill.  We both went uphill, in different directions, to find the geocache.  I got stuck in thorns, spiderwebs, and dead limbs.  Oh, and I was wearing flipflops and getting eaten alive by mosquitoes.  I felt terrible for not helping Brandon, so I told him to look at some of the photos on the geocache's gallery.  He was able to find the tree that was pictured in several photos and found the geocache.  We quickly made it back downhill and back to the car in one piece.

Fowler Ridge Wind Farm
By this time, it is 5pm EST, and we were staying at an AirBNB in Chicago at 7pm CST.  We got back on the road and took a country road towards the big city. During our ride to Chicago, we passed two wind farms!  There were hundreds of wind turbines along miles and miles.  Also, they were all running and producing power!  It was such a thrill to see this sustainable energy being produced in the "middle of nowhere", Indiana.

We arrived in Chicago and had a "blast" with traffic.  There were so many interstates, turnpikes, and bypasses that we were getting on and off.  We didn't pay the first toll on accident because we didn't realize "electronic" meant the I-PASS.  Whoops, but we paid the rest of them! 

We arrived at the AirBnb around 8pm.  Our host, Ken, was very warm and welcoming.  He lived on the outskirts on Chicago, and 5 minutes for the Beverly geocache (next post!) which was perfect for our next leg.  The room was nice and comfortable.  We were able to sleep with the window open which felt nice....yay fresh air!  The price for the bnb was cheaper than a hotel.  We unfortunately didn't get breakfast.  Ken asked if we wanted any, but I told him that we were planning on leaving early (6am), and I didn't want him or his wife to wake up that early.

Overall, very busy day with about 12 hours on the road.  This will be our longest day driving, but it took us to two geocaching benchmarks, and I was able to see my childhood friend!

Stay tuned for part iii.....

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Gainesville, GA to Flagstaff, AZ: Part I

The ultimate roadtrip Part I:

Gainesville -> Canton -> Murfreesboro, TN -> Jackson, TN -> Memphis

We left Gainesville bright and early at 11am.  Okay, definitely not bright or early, but we did end up leaving later than we wanted.  We drove on over to Canton to jump on I-75 North, and ended up eating lunch at Which Wich,
a sandwich restaurant.  This was our first time eating at this establishment, and it did not disappoint.  After lunch, we finally headed north, only to get in a lot of traffic.  We noticed there were several people standing on overpasses with American flags all along I75.  We honestly had no idea why.  Once we finally got out of Georgia, we began our stretch to Murfreesboro, only to be greeted with a DOT sign saying "find alternative route."  I quickly went on Google Maps and found an alternative route; it looked like out initial route was delayed due to construction.  We arrived in Murfreesboro, filled up with gas, found a few geocaches, and went our merry way West towards Jackson.  We finally arrived in the area and grabbed a few geocaches before our final destination for this part.

We arrived in Memphis at dinner time, 6pm CST.  We stayed with my grandma for the night and the following day.  We explored the new Bass Pro Store that's downtown.  Memphis is pretty much a mess right now-- they have a lot of construction going on on I40 and I240. 

We would have loved to stay longer, but our trip was ready to begin. 

More to come.....

Long Time, No Blog...

Life has been crazy this past month.  During the last month of my internship with Forsyth County, we were allowed to work 40 hours a week, which was fine and dandy, but hard to squeeze in extra time for going to the gym, arts & crafts, and map making.

The last days at Forsyth County Schools-

Mackenzie and I finished up the schools that we were working on.  We were digitizing updated floor plans for the renovations that are going on in the next year.  We also tried our best to collect as many GPS points as we could for storm water, but the Georgia heat was getting to us.  We attempted using the locater to find Water, Gas, and Power lines, but had no luck with gas and water.  Overall, I am glad I worked these past 6 months at Forsyth.  I used my GIS knowledge for facilities and maintenance, which is something I never thought about, but I can now try and find a job for a water authority or another school system if I wanted to.

About to hit the road-

After looking at all sorts of moving procedures and alternatives, Brandon and I agreed to move via UBox, which is U-Haul's verison of the "POD".  The UBox was perfect for the amount of stuff we have; we were able to get a Queen size mattress and box springs, 2 bicycles, a table and two chairs, and a whole lot of boxes.  We packed our more valuable items in Brandon's car along with our day bags.  With this freedom, we are now able to make the ultimate roadtrip without
worrying about hauling a trailer or paying an outrageous amount in gasoline for a truck.  We did, however, pack Brandon's Subaru full and to the point you couldn't use the rear-view mirror...oh well.

The Route-

So after getting the stress of packing off our chests, Brandon and I sat down an examined what type of route we wanted to go on.  The first and obvious route would be direct, via I-40, but no no no.....we didn't want easy.  Since Brandon was given a week off from work, we made a 3 day roadtrip to a 5 day roadtrip and almost doubled the miles.  BUT NO REGRETS!  I will add more details about the trip in my next blog.

What lies ahead...

Unpacking, getting the apartment figured out, school, and making a list of absolute must-do's while living in Northern Arizona!