Rock on Living’s Travel Guide: Friendship, Maine – Planning a Personal Retreat

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March 2019

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“Solitude is where I place my chaos to rest and awaken my inner piece.” – N. Rowe

Why Maine?

The stars.

The sunrises.

The sunsets.

The coast.

The clean air.

The quiet.

The Woods.

No billboards, noise.

Pristine Stillness.

To set the tone for a trip to Maine and planning a Self-Care Retreat, I will begin by reposting a link to a  think-piece piece I wrote during this time entitled, “Slack Tide.”

https://rockonliving.com/2019/03/07/slack-tide

Like Yellowstone, Maine is one of the United State’s hidden gems. Acadia National Park, located in Maine provides maybe the most stunning sunrises in all of the United States (but you have to be up early to catch!) A few summers ago, our family had one of our favorite camping experiences in Acadia.

If you like open skies, fresh clean air, extremes in weather, lobster, art, woods, hiking, skiing, hunting, relaxing or communing with Mother Nature, Maine is the place for you!

“Take time to do what makes your soul happy.” -unknown

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Slack Tide

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The “Lobster Pound” – the cottage sets right on the edge of the former lobster pound. For those of you who follow me on IG, you know how I delight at finding Hearts in Nature! Look at the ice floating in the center of the pound upon my arrival to Maine.

I am in Maine for what I will call “slack-tide.”

Time away. In silence.

I traveled just about as far up the Northern Coast of the United States one can travel to ‘get away.’ I am staying at a family cottage that sits on the Atlantic Coast in Delano Cove in pristine solitude.

Time like this doesn’t just happen. Self-Care usually doesn’t. This time was the fruit of generous family, much discussion, coordination and planning on the home front. Our life is deliciously full and time away had impact on all involved.

It was becoming abundantly clear to me that this mama needed to step up and practice a little of that “Self-Care” we understand to be essential to our mental, physical and spiritual well-being.  We spend much of our time and resource making sure our families are receiving and doing the things they need and that make them whole – I knew it was time to invest the same for myself.20190305_082044

In previous posts, I have shared that mothers, motherless daughters in particular, could benefit from performing more self-care acts for themselves in ways they wished someone would else would think to do without asking.

Self-Care is personal and Self-Care is universal. Only you know what your soul needs. It’s like the ground plug on an electric cord – you can plug and run items off it all day long, but if there is a power surge, a frayed wire, without a good ground your cord is going to fry.

I could sense my brain was overwhelmed and over-taxed. Been there?

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Road Trip USA – Day Fourteen “Land of Enchantment”

en-chant-ment noun – the state of being under a spell, magic.

One of my favorite words is enchantment – the magic...

In life, I try to sprinkle pixie dust to the mundane to helps us remember that at every moment we have the opportunity to make the ordinary extraordinary! So it is no surprise that I had lived in a state with a tag line boasting “the land of enchantment” for many years!

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Has it really been over a year since I started the journaling of our Road Trip USA? What in the world?!  Seriously? Time is moving at warp-speed.  So without further ado, I offer our final day, the closure to our Road Trip, our visit to New Mexico!

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We concluded our Southwest trip with a visit to Albuquerque, New Mexico.  We snuggled with our former neighbors, visited friends and favorite places. We consumed as much green chili and breakfast burritos from the Frontier Restaurant as humanly possible! This was an awesome way to wind down from our trip, reminisce and connect. Home.

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I loved our life in New Mexico. I clearly remember the day we arrived in Albuquerque for the first time. The manner we arrived echoed the feel of our new “home” – simple and expansive.

Before moving to New Mexico in 1997, Quinn and I had owned a home in Virginia Beach. Once we decided to take a leap of faith and move out west, we downsized and sold it all! Now that I am reflecting, it seems a pattern or habit of ours…hmmm.

We packed up everything we owned in our two cars, cats riding gunshot and drove for a week across country. What a simple time.  To basically carry everything you own in two cars.

I will never forget our approach to Albuquerque. The song “Great Pets” by Jane’s Addiction came on the radio and all of a sudden the flat, open endless terrain became interrupted by the enormity of the east side of the Sandia Mountains. For a girl that was raised in Ohio, this mountain looked enormous!

With excitement and anticipation we began our drive through the more lush, rural side of the Sandia Mountain to the urban west side of the mountain – Albuquerque. The enormity, expanse and simplicity of the town is incredible. After our almost 11 years of life in this town I am convinced one either falls under the enchantment spell of the west or doesn’t. It is isn’t a place for everyone, and honestly, the natives and inhabitants of the town like it that way.

“When you turn around, you’ll see something I bet you’ve never seen before. If it takes your breath away, then you’ll fit in nicely. If you don’t feel anything, then maybe you don’t belong here.”  Veronica Randolph Batterson

We were moving so Quinn could attend The International Institute of Chinese Medicine (IICM) to study Chinese medicine.  I had interviewed and accepted a position at the best hospital in the world, (I’m a little biased, but I am pretty sure it is!) Presbyterian Healthcare Services in the Coronary Intensive Care Unit. I made some of my closest friendships at that hospital. Many of my friendships in the unit began in our early twenties and we shared an intimate lens into our ‘growing up.’ We partnered each other as we entered adulthood with one another- growing our families, marriages, divorces, careers, celebrations, buying homes and holding each other close through some of our friends and families untimely deaths. Special people. Special bonds.

We were living in a sketchy part of town, in our rented apartment and life was good.

Neighbors 

After a few years, and being the victim of several crimes in our apartment complex, we decided to rent a home in a better area of town.  We rented a sandy-brown flat roofed stucco home that would hold some our most special memories –  Quinn’s completion of studies, my completion of a Master’s degree in Science and Nursing and the arrival of our first two daughters. It was also the home where we met Sherry and Tom, or as our family calls them, “Sherrytom.”  Sherrytom – a perfect compound word.

 

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Sunday Dinner with Sherrytom.

 

After a few weeks in our new home, Quinn was out back playing horse-shoes by himself. Tom came up to our fence (think Mr. Wilson) and said, “howdy neighbor.” Quinn invited him over, the two drank some beer and played shoes and this began a friendship that we believe was inevitable.  From that day forward, we spent every Sunday together having “Sunday dinner.” Tom even built little wooden steps between our two homes called the “neighbor’s steps” so we could visit each other more easily. They became our best friends. When we moved, they gifted us a pendulum clock with a plaque engraved “neighbors by chance; friends by destiny.”  

Good Buddies

Sean and Liz are our Good Buddies.  We met Sean and Liz through Quinn’s school of Chinese medicine. Sean and Liz are the type of friends that you can enjoy a bottle of wine and then sing and act out the entire score to the musical Rent. (yes, this did happen!)

Inside jokes, intimate memories and shared life.  Good Buddies. Circling back through Albuquerque, visiting and spending time with Neighbors, Good Buddies and all our friends was the perfect ending, like a cherry on top of a big old sundae on our road trip adventure.

 

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Breakfast at Frontier with Good Buddies.

 

 

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Lunch at Garduno’s with some of the CCU gang! (best margaritas, ever.)

 

This trip was a trip of a lifetime. I know for sure our family is at its best when we are doing life – having adventure – and we are committed to continuing to make changes and adaptions in our everyday life to allow for more!

If you have never visited any of the National Parks in the USA – GO! Experience them! They are treasures, truly, and a gift for you and I.

I conclude with a quote by Theodore Roosevelt…

“In the Grand Canyon, Arizona has a natural wonder which is in kind absolutely unparalleled throughout the rest of the world. I want to ask you to keep this great wonder of nature as it now is. I hope you will not have a building of any kind, not a summer cottage, a hotel or anything else, to mar the wonderful grandeur, the sublimity, the great loneliness and beauty of the canyon. Leave it as it is. You cannot improve on it. The ages have been at work on it, and man can only mar it.” – Theodore Roosevelt

Road Trip USA – Day Three “For the Benefit and Enjoyment of the People”

Day THREE:  “For the Benefit and Enjoyment of the People” 

Monday, August 22nd 2016

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Everyone had a great sleep and woke up ready to roll for Day 3!  Our food system is being refined and tweaked and we almost have a solid rhythm.   We are finding by keeping all the breakfast food in one cooler it minimizes searching for food items and helps us be more efficient.  We typically eat a huge breakfast, stop somewhere for a roadside picnic lunch and then have a smaller dinner in our room at night. 

For breakfast we have been enjoying oatmeal (my favorite) with toppings like crushed walnuts, blueberries, raisins and brown sugar.  We also have hard boiled eggs, bagels, muffins, yogurt and bananas. We use our electric tea kettle to make French press coffee (yes, Quinn brought our French Press – we love coffee!) and warm water for oatmeal and hot cocoa.

Mammoth Hot Springs (Wyoming), is a very short drive from the Inn – you cannot miss it.  Parking was easy and there are boardwalks for your safety and exploration.  This hike does contain some impressive stairs – great exercise. 

 

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Mammoth Hot Springs

 

Mammoth Hot Springs is, well, a mammoth geothermal feature of hot springs on a hill of travertine!  Once again, I am not a geologist, but my best understanding of the Springs are they formed over thousands of years. They are the result of hot water from the spring cooling (I think the water temp at the spring was around 150-170 degrees Fahrenheit and deposits calcium carbonate (the springs are mostly white) as the water cools.  The manner in which the water comes up the vents from the spring through a layer of limestone (which I believe provides the calcium carbonate) provides this beautiful slow creation of these Springs.  Due to the heat of the water (the Springs are technically on the outside of the Yellowstone caldera) there are also some beautiful orange, brownish formations from the algae that propagates the formation.  In Yellowstone, you can tell a lot about the temperature of a feature by the colors in the formation.  Due to shifting land and earthquakes some areas of the Springs have ‘shut off’ and other areas continue to grow at an impressive rate.  There are some beautiful boardwalk hikes to look out areas for amazing views and photos of the Springs.

 We spent a couple hours at Mammoth Springs and then enjoyed another beautiful drive to the north entrance to Yellowstone National Park where we visited The Roosevelt Arch (Montana). You see many warning signs in Yellowstone…some that confused us…like below… 

 

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Falling Rock or Broken Tortilla Chips ahead? We were not sure…

 

The Arch, built in 1903 (after the government had approved the legislation to create Yellowstone in 1872) and was the historic landmark left for the people of the United States as a ‘gift’ and ‘reminder’ of the sacredness of the National Parks.  At the top of the arch it is inscribed, “For the Benefit and Enjoyment of the People.”  You can park your car along the side of the road (parking is available), walk through the arch and snap your historic photo!

We ate lunch next to the arch and watched some type of antelope – deer animals (not sure what they were) play in a football field near the arch.  After lunch, we packed up the car and headed to our next destination, The Canyon Lodge Cabins for a two night stay.  On our drive we were so excited to see our first bison!  There really are no words to capture how you feel as you drive through these beautiful lands and see a herd of bison grazing, running, and playing in the valleys – no words…

Due to the number of places to see in this area of the park, we decided to stay in this location for two days (the longest we will stay in one place this trip).  We stayed in the cutest cabin at the Canyon Lodge.  The Canyon Lodge also has a mini shopping/visitor center attached where you can learn more about the area and shop.  My thirteen year old fell in love with bison on this trip which sent us on a scavenger hunt to find the perfect “Benny the Bison” stuffed animal.  No kidding, we literally went to three different locations (over several days) until we finally found this special souvenir…all three girls bought the same bison and they really came to serve as a symbol of this trip for our entire family.  We even have a Benny the Bison song and dance!

 Our cabin would not be ready for a few hours so we set out to begin enjoying what is called “The Yellowstone Grand Canyon.”  There are several entry points along the canyon, all with amazingly stunning views of rock formation and waterfalls!  We spent a lot of time here just taking in the beauty and having fun with photography. 

An interesting observation we made on our trip was the number of visitors from other countries.  (Our trip coincided with the European holiday, too).  It was very cool to hear the smorgasbord of languages all around us.  It gave us an appreciation of how fortunate we are we LIVE here!  When you see families plan their holidays and vacations to experience Yellowstone from other countries, it reinforces the magic the parks behold.

 We watched the sun begin to set into the canyon and then drove back to check in to our cabins.  The stars….the stars…the stars…my word.  It is one of those places so dark you look up and see the Milky Way and so many constellations, planets, stars and satellites.  I will share our star gazing experience tomorrow…for those of you who know me, you will understand how my fear of being eaten by a wild bison or bear in the middle of the park had to be overcome so we could enjoy a once in a lifetime experience.

 

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Our Cabin.

 

We checked into our adorable cabin, met ‘grey shirt boy’ (more on him tomorrow), ate some dinner and went to sleep.  Once again, no T.V and no internet allows for wonderful mental rest too…

Road Trip USA! Day One – The adventure begins. Packing, Planning & Travel.

 

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Our Two Week Road Trip USA Story:

Here is the Cliff Notes Version of our Trip:

My husband was a rock star planner for this experience.  He planned awesome places to stay, fun excursions and thought through all the important details like sleeping arrangements, shipping, rental cars and food!  All the planning allowed for some flexibility when needed and so much fun!  We didn’t have to ‘worry’ about daily activities of living as they were all handled prior to arrival.

Locations visited:  Jackson Hole, Yellowstone, Devil’s Tower, Deadwood, Mount Rushmore, Crazy Horse, Grand Tetons, Salt Lake City, Moab, Grand Canyon, Carlsbad Caverns & Albuquerque.

 Down and dirty:  My family of five (Quinn & I and our girls ages 9, 11 and 13.) frequent flyer miles to fly our family to Jackson Hole, Wyoming where we rented multiple vehicles (will explain later) to tour Wyoming, South Dakota, Utah, Arizona and New Mexico.

Total Cost of Trip:  I will calculate grand total and the end of our 14 day adventure, but share costs as we go…

Packing:

Each person packed a carry on and a back pack.  We had to pack creatively because our temperatures would vary from 36 to 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Layers was the way to go! We packed enough for about 7 days with intentions of doing laundry half way through our trip.

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Prior to our arrival in Wyoming, Quinn ordered and shipped a cot, tea kettle and sleeping bag to their local UPS store for pick up to help us with warming water for coffee, oatmeal and while in Yellowstone, hot chocolate!  Being a family of 5 means someone needed a cot & sleeping bag to sleep on through this trip.

UPS in Jackson Hole (970 W. Broadway Suite E, Jackson WY 83001 307-733-9250) would hold your items for $5 for a ‘small package’ and $10 for a large package.  For reference, our package was considered ‘small.’

DAY ONE:

Saturday, August 20th 2016

Due to our early flight time, we had the kids go to bed in what they were going to wear on the airplane…yoga pants, t-shirts and then throw on a hoodie sweatshirt in the morning (the hoody they would use in Yellowstone) and their bulky hiking shoes.

We were dropped off at the airport for a 7:58am (ouch!) flight from Raleigh to Dallas.  Checking in and going through security took about an hour and went pretty seamless.  Good news!  Our kids were all prescreened and were not required to take their shoes off!

 

When we got off our plane in Dallas we could tell right away by the enormous lines at customer service and people everywhere that “Houston, we had a problem!”  It was muggy, but Dallas to me, is always muggy.  We looked up at the departure/arrival flights and quickly discovered over 75% of the flights and been CANCELLED for the last two days because of record rainfall, 10 inches, in two days!  By the grace of the universe above, our flight was ‘ON TIME’ and based on the looks on the tired, hangry people in the airport, we were so grateful.  We were starving by the time we landed (1pmish) and with quick layover, we picked up some sandwiches and boarded.

Our flight to Jackson Hole was AMAZINGLY awesome.  We were on a newer plane and there was more space and each of us had our own T.V. to watch from a plethora of movies!  Our family thought this was so fun!  Two of us did not have headphones and when I asked the stewardess to purchase two sets ($5/set) he very kindly walked passed me and just dropped them in my lap and kept walking…

The landing in to Jackson Hole was out of this world!  Beautiful landscape and got us so excited for our trip.  You land in a very small airport in the middle of nowhere next to the Grand Tetons! We took a shuttle to the rental car facility Alamo (1225 State Highway 22, Jackson Hole) and picked up our minivan #1.

 

Our first stop was the UPS store to pick up our shipped items (cot, sleeping bag and tea kettle).  Everything was there and we unpacked it all in the parking lot and in the rear of their store they have a recycling dumpster we tossed the trash.

While Quinn was picking up our items, there was the cutest used book store next to the UPS store that the girls and I explored.  Unfortunately, we had very little space available for souvenirs so no books were purchased (much to my eldest dismay – they had some beautiful books!)

After that stop, everyone was starving and tired from being up early and travel and we found the cutest outdoor tavern called “Cuttthroat Tavern” (1140 West Highway 22 Jackson, WY 83001) and sat outside on a balcony and ate the most delicious Gardenburgers and French fries, ever!  Quinn and I drank a beer and the girls had Shirley Temples.  We Cheered the beginning of our adventure!

Quinn and I both were on the same page with eating out and meals on this trip.  A cheap meal for us is a minimum of about $40 and on average, & $75.  A two week trip??  3 meals a day??  Snacks??  That would kill our budget!  We would much rather save our money on food and spend it on experiences!

We spent time googling road trip/camping meal planning prior to arriving and had a menu created and shopping list for when we arrived.  We did agree, to a few treat meals on the trip and this was one!  I think because we agreed to a few special meals “out” when they occurred there were a treat!  Also, I must say, our breakfasts and our picnics were some of my favorite memories of our trip!  We ate well, slow and enjoyed it so much. I will share our shopping list in a moment.

After filling up everyone’s tummies, we went food and supply shopping!  We did our research prior to arrival and knew there was a Kmart (510 US-89, Jackson, WY 83002), Albertsons Grocery Store (105 Buffalo Way, Jackson, WY 83001) and a Whole Food or Wild Oats type of Natural Food Store called Jackson Whole Grocery (1155 South Highway 89)within a few miles of each other.  Being vegetarian, this was awesome as we could stock up on vegetarian lunch meat & some deli types of food.

We bought 2 coolers & 3 stackable tubs to organize our food.  We filled one cooler with breakfast food and drinks (so we would only have to carry one cooler in the hotel at night) and the other contained our lunch/dinner items.  We used gallon size ziplock bags to make two ‘ice packs’ per cooler.  We double bagged the ziplocks in case of a rip/tear/leak and at night when we checked in to a hotel we would refill the ice bags and then again in the morning, before we left.  My middle daughter became our “ice girl” and handled this task for the family!

Our total food cost including supplies, such as, coolers, tubs, plastic wear, toiletries, etc (not included eating out) was $851.73.   That was 42 meals and snacks for a family of five for 14 days.

We designated one cooler the ‘breakfast cooler’ and the other cooler held other perishable items.  We had 3 stackable tubs and we organized them as follows: 1. snacks 2. lunch items 3. paper products.

The shopping took several hours and by the time we left to make it to Yellowstone it was near sunset.  We had a pretty hefty drive ahead but it was wonderful because we drove with the sun setting and it was stunning!

We arrived late (around 10pm) at the Old Faithful Snow Lodge ( and my word the stars!!!  It was COLD.  When we left Raleigh, NC there were heat warnings and Yellowstone at night is in the 30s!  The website describes this lodge as ‘rustic’ and we had to laugh…the only ‘rustic’ part about this lodge was there was no T.V.!  The lobby and rooms are wooden/cabinish and so adorable.  They have the cutest little teddy bear soaps in the rooms and we loved how respectful they were of the environment in everything they do.  Recycling, Reusing, Reduction is the theme everywhere.

Everyone showered & snuggled in for the night. Sweet dreams.