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olé losers!

olé losers!

so i went to mexico! usually i bring a laptop with me when i travel and i blog every night, but i didn’t want to bring one with me this time, so i am blogging post haste at home before i forget what we did.


lori picked me up and we headed to jane’s house around 4 p.m. from my house because we had to leave for our flight at 6 a.m. the next morning. the most exciting thing we did was go with jane to get her some flipflops.


the next day was almost entirely travel. we left MSP and had a layover in mexico city, where we changed money and had lunch, and then we caught another plane to puerto vallarta.

we left at 6 a.m. and got to puerto vallarta around 8 p.m. in the rain (no time change!). no one told us it was the rainy season! the good news is that it rains mostly in the evening and night, so our mornings and days were pretty nice. hot and humid, but nice. that night when we got in, we took a brief tour and then headed to one of the restaurants for buffet supper (food wasn’t great, but it wasn’t bad).


our first full day in mexico! first, i have to say that i was impressed with how much spanish i understood and how much came back to me. i was able to converse somewhat coherently. we woke up bright and early on friday because we had an excursion planned. we partook in the breakfast buffet, which was the best part of the all-inclusiveness of our resort. the bread in mexico is awesome.

then we got in a cab to go to our jump-off point for the one tour we had planned. we took a hosted ride up to san pancho and then sayulita. it was nice because we learned a lot about the area from our guide and got to drive through the rainforest and mountains to each little town. on the way, we stopped at a roadside stand to try some local fruits (jackfruit, pineapple, tamarind, coconut, etc.) and i got some vanilla extract – 3 liters for $20!

san pancho was quiet and small, and we visited a chocolate shop, a community center, and the beach. i have to say i am totally impressed with mexico’s recycling program. not only do they have a good one in place, but the people actually recycle. score one, mexico.

then we headed to sayulita, which was a little more intense.

we stopped at a tequila shop so liz could buy something for doug, and then we went on the beach where we stopped and had a piña colada and tried to ignore the vendors strolling about.

after that, we headed to a quieter location where our tour group fed us some pretty awesome tacos and i had a spicy mango margarita. (also: no fresh mangoes down there! i was a disappoint.)

we got back midafternoon and then it was beachtime!

the ocean was warm. the sun was hot. my sunscreen held.

that night we decided to try out the “steakhouse” at the resort, and it was mediocre at best. my “medium” ribeye was well done. the good food on our plates was the fried bar food – onion rings, fries, etc. but the view was nice and we saw some baby turtles hatch and make their way down to the water!


this was a lazy day! we started off at the beach after breakfast at the buffet (the breakfast was, once again, the best thing about the food). i also need to point out that all of us were usually drinking each morning by 10 a.m. i guess one good thing about all inclusive is you can find a bartender at any time.

there was a pool with a swimup bar, so we took advantage of that! then we’d head out to the beach and listen to the waves. after lunch on saturday (another mediocre buffet except i managed to just eat a plate of vegetables [good job self] and i had this amazeballs butterscotch cream puff), i requested we walk down the beach because i thought i’d seen a massage hut, and lo! we found it! i got an hour massage for $30USD including tip. i pay $70 for an hour massage here without tip and that’s relatively cheap. jane and i both pretty much flashed everyone at the beach because it was an open air massage, but you gotta take that if you’re gonna get a massage next to the crashing ocean.

that night we decided to go somewhere else for supper. i found a little restaurant right on the beach that had 4.5 stars on google, so we got in a taxi and braved all los topes (speed bumps) into buceria to mar y sol. we started off on the beach with our feet in the sand and ended up moving indoors when it started to rain.

we ordered some chips and guac and then some giant drinks. liz and jane each ordered basically two entrees, which neither finished. i got a plate of fresh seafood in a garlicky sauce.

i mean, yum.

after liz and jane stuffed themselves and we left a huge tip, we put our food in doggie bags and our server said he’d hang onto it for us and to come back so he can get us a taxi (finding a good taxi is necessary). we took a walk down and couple blocks and back to check out buceria. THEN i found the best thing ever: a churro stand. huzzah! i got fresh churros stuffed with nutella. we also stopped at an art gallery where jane got a couple pieces.

we were about a half a block away and our server was waving us over telling us he’d already gotten us a taxi and that we should have a seat, pulling out a couple chairs. (that’s how i knew we left a huge tip.)

once we got back, i ate one of the churros, and it was probably the best thing i ate on the trip. it was still hot and crispy, covered in sugar and cinnamon and stuffed with nutella. even the next day when it was cold and slightly soggy, it was still delicious.

then it was saturday night! we played some bad  rounds of quiddler and then headed down to the resort’s dance party. we found some awesome mexican tías (or, they found us), and we danced with them. the best was when achey breaky heart came on and EVERYONE LINE DANCED. wat.

after the dance party ended, the discoteca opened up, and we went in there and danced for a while. jane left early, then liz made a creepy friend on the dance floor. after lori and i thought liz had been kidnapped by the drug cartel, we all made it back to the hotel room. whew!


our last day! sad face. once again a buffet breakfast, then to the beach and pool. the waves at the beach were giant – i decided i did not want to get in there. then liz got slapped in the face with a fish and the fun was over. we spent some quality time at the pool; we got there early enough to sit at the swimup bar and order some drinks early on. we did some water aerobics with a group of people who were no younger than 50, but it was super fun. the instructor was jazzed and i was tipsy enough that it was a blast.

another veggie-licious buffet lunch for me, then we all took a nap to recover from saturday night a bit more before heading out to puerto vallarta’s malecon, a streetwalk of sculptures and art along the beach, which then crosses over into the gay district.

at this point, it was getting pretty steamy and we had been walking a while; jane was ready to call it quits. we decided to sit on the top floor of a restaurant and get some snacks to see how we felt after that. the breeze was nice, the guac delicious, and the fish tacos even better. but the best part was the view.

after that we walked another couple blocks and then caught a cab back to our hotel, just in time for a fantastic sunset on the beach.

then it was time to pack 🙁

you’ll be happy to know that, unlike california, all my junk fit quite nicely in my trunk. including the 3 liters of vanilla!

we hit the hay early because we needed to be out the door by 6:30 the next morning.


travel day. we had two layovers: one in mexico city and another in atlanta. i got the middle seat with two strangers during the flight from mexico city to atlanta, so that was fun.

but the plane back to MSP was ginormous and not full, so lori and i shared 3 seats and liz and jane shared 3.

we headed out the doors of MSP into 40º weather and whispers of october snow that fell while we were gone. when we opened the car door at jane’s house, it smelled like fall. and so now i sit at home again with routine lulling me into my false sense of time to be had. time to travel more.

and even though you’ve heard it many times when returning from travels, i leave you with my favorite quote by michael perry:

“…to this day my two favorite things in the world are solitude and motion. I’ve found them in the next county, in a semi crossing the Nevada state line, on a Hungarian train, and on a bus approaching the Guatamalan border. In times of trouble, motion is my morphine. But as much as I love to run, I love even more to come home. At every latitude, my compass swivels to point back here, to little old New Auburn. This place is my true north. A stray dog running, as it turns out, is just circling the rug.”

wildlife win

wildlife win

my reception in the hills was not great, so i’m posting from home after 10 hours in the car. getting home is always nice 🙂

buffalo on the move!

day two of the hills started off well with the wildlife loop through custer state park. the buffalo roundup was last weekend, so we saw all the bison slated for auction in november. we also saw a few prairie dogs and some very curious donkeys.

after cruising through wyoming where the pronghorns were prolific, it didn’t surprise us to see a few more.

tuesday ended up being a really nice day – 70s and sunny. so we took needles highway, stopped in hill city, drove past rushmore, stopped in keystone, and then took the iron mountain road back.

going to the hills in october is great if you can time the weather right. you spend a lot of time with the older crowd – not a lot of kids but a lot of retirees. i’m ok with that!

we saw mountain goats on needles! at this point, we’d seen bighorns, goats, buffalo, donkeys, pronghorns, p-dogs. nate said all we needed was a rattlesnake.

we got back to camp and ended the day with a nice supper at bluebell lodge – buffalo sirloin tips for nate and a sirloin steak for me. the food at bluebell was fantastics.

wednesday started off great, temp wise, so i decided to go for a hike on the centennial trail.

see that river? i forded that river with my camera gear on my back. i was so scared i’d go in the drink and be out my camera gear. but i made it across and then back.

and guess what?

I SAW A SNAKE. i don’t know if it was rattler (no rattle) but it COUNTS. wildlife bingo complete for this trip.

i got back to the cabin and the temp peaked for the day about about 70. the temp then dropped nearly 20º in about a half hour. i went from baking in my sweaty clothes after a hike to shivering in my sweatshirt.

so nate and i took off again, stopping at custer, then heading to hill city to check out the train museum. then we went to keystone for lunch/supper at the ruby house. they branched out since i was last there, with more affordable food options.

then we went a packed to go home. booo. this morning we left in 30º ice pellets. huzzah. it rained the entire way home. we did stop in wall for breakfast, but it just wasn’t the same with anticipation at its highest.

now here i sit in my house with my kitties. i drove home through the avon hills and could see the leaves are starting to turn. i’m excited to see what the leaves have in store for us. vacation is nice, but it’s just as nice to come home.

hills update

hills update

here’s a quick photodump while i have some internet! service has been sketchy at best. took me forever to pay my parking meter at a website yesterday. *eyeroll*

stopped at the badlands and saw TWO bighorns, which is unheard of. then got to bluebell as the weather was most depressing – 40s, rainy, and foggy. gross.

but it cleared up for yesterday. went to devils tower and stopped for a jewel cave tour on the way.i forgot how lovey wyoming is. tons of free-range pronghorns, red rocks-esque landscape, sweeping vistas, kind of desolate but in a panoramic way. northeast wyoming is really nice. also, it’d been a while since i’d been to devil’s tower and WOW i forgot how huge that thing is.

then headed down through spearfish canyon, which was gorgeous. stopped at deadwood for supper, then stopped at pactola dam just as the sun was setting.

today is shaping up to be a warm day, and i wish i’d checked the weather right before packing because i packed for cold weather. might need to buy some shorts.

anyway, i’m sitting in the parking lot of the bluebell restaurant waiting for it to open and taking advantage ofr the 2 bars of LTE i suddenly got on my phone!

not sure what’s in store today. maybe a wildlife loop? have NOT seen a buffalo yet this trip.


westward ho!

westward ho!

after standing at the top of buffalo ridge early this summer and seeing the bison herd and waving grasses urging me to head west…well here i am at the cusp of the missouri river ready to spend some time in the hills.

nate and i headed out around 9 this morning and booked it down hwy 23 to the border. i forgot how long that drive is, and i drove it in june!

anyway, we stopped at the teepee for a photo opp. it was cold. low-mid 40s all day. huzzah for cold vacations. (still better than work.)

then, much to nate’s chagrin, i made him stop at the corn palace. talk about hokey. but you gotta do it at least once!


you know, given my propensity toward corn, i think i don’t need to go to the corn palace anymore. hmm.

onward and upward to chamberlain! we stopped at the rest area to check out the new “dignity” statue, which is absolutely fantastic. the placement, the area, the size. she was all just great.

then i topped off the evening with a visit to the atka lakota museum, which i’d visited in 2015 but wanted to visit again. it’s a very informative museum, and after reading about the lakota’s never-ending relocation problems through the summer at all the mn state parks, i thought it was fitting to see how they managed in south dakota. every time i learn about native people’s past, i just feel ill. i don’t know what i can do, but i did leave a donation in the museum donation box. people have this misconception that the lakota/dakota were a warring people, but they really weren’t. they got pushed out of eastern MN by the ojibwe, then they just worked really hard to keep their way of life and lands, both from the ojibwe and then the europeans. i feel really sad about how the lakota were treated. i think that prominent item like Dignity bring more light to these issues  and pull them to the surface. learning about the past is the first step. then figuring out what to do from here is the next. is it returning the black hills to the native americans? i’d be ok with that.

spending the night in chamberlain at a super8 in a cheapo jacuzzi suite. tomorrow we’re off across the western half of SD, picking up wall and the badlands, then ending up in our camping cabin at custer for the next four nights!

finally lake time!

finally lake time!

dock_2_cropped_4x6it’s lake time! last year, there was no derry family reunion, which made me sad – i had a severe lack of lake last year. this part of the state is conspicuously absent of lakes. i know i could drive an hour two, or go put my feet in the puddle that resides in the state park, or setup my chair next to the mississippi that masquerades as a lake. it’s just NOT the same. 
i didn’t realize how swell i had it in the NL-S area with the multiple lakes, then the central MN area with not quite so many but still more than here number of lakes. 
but this weekend is leech lake time, and next weekend i’m heading up to spicer to spend some time on lake george for a bachelorette party. i’m definitely getting some lake time in this summer. 
(the only sad thing about this weekend is that nate isn’t coming. he already took a week off this summer and has to work. boo.)

final thoughts on SD

final thoughts on SD

while the old standbys are fun and tradition, sometimes it’s nice to branch out and try something new. i did a few new things this time around in the black hills. nate and i went to see a cave, skipped rushmore, stopped at mt. coolidge lookout, and actually spent time in custer and sturgis (as opposed to driving through). 
next time i really want to get in on the missile tour, check out the 1880 town, and see the other cave that’s a national monument. i’d also like to venture off the main roads – there is a lot of hills to the west of the main roads. i was talking to my dad a couple days after i came back, and he had a good point: while we do a lot in the hills, there is still more that we haven’t done. 
it might be a matter of making sure that we get out there on a more regular basis. i would be ok with that.

so long, SD

so long, SD

on friday, nate and i got up early and left sturgis a little after 8 a.m. for a long trip home – we drove through and made it back at home base by 6:30. on the way we stopped at al’s oasis for lunch, where i had my chocolate shake. 
but once we crossed the missouri, the west was gone 🙁 
i was feeling melancholy about leaving south dakota and watching the hills recede my the rearview mirror. it’s always so short.
but as we headed east toward home, and the grass got a little greener, the trees got a little (ok, a LOT) more prevalent, i began to see why people come to minnesota to vacation. (in fact, after i unpacked the car, i was ready to go to the derry reunion because i felt it was definitely time for a lake.)
we rolled up our driveway, and i was so happy to be home. vacation is awesome, but there’s something about coming home, especially after a week of different landscapes, and seeing the regular with fresh eyes.

a hit!

a hit!

the marshmallows were yummy! the only bad thing about them was that when roasting, they got gooey really quickly, so you had to be on the ball with the rest of the s’more. and half the marshmallow dripped out of the s’more. but it was good!
if you would’ve asked me ten years ago which of my cousins would be at the derry reunion every year and which would only come part-time or not at all, i would’ve been wrong. i think it’s just odd that the people i thought would’ve made it a priority have not and the people i thought would’ve been meh about it are gung ho. some of it is due to distance, yes, but some is not. it’s just weird how it’s switched in my head. or maybe i’m weird for getting excited for a family reunion? maybe…but it’s my one for sure vacay of the summer, and i get to see people i like at the same time. win win?



mandan over the fourth is nuts. but here’s the thing. as awesome as it is seeing fireworks all over the horizon and hearing popping firecrackers for 5 hours straight, i would much rather sit underneath a huge display of fireworks. there is something about seeing the explosions right over your head that makes it that much more awesome. that’s why i liked the st. joe fireworks so much – you could sit on the sidewalk across the street from where they launched the fireworks and the explosions of light would be so huge that it was hard to take in, you were so close. my favorite firework of the night in mandan was the one we set off because it WAS right over our heads. it was dinky, but it was right there. i don’t know if maybe i need to drive down to the city fireworks next year or just buy more big fireworks, but i’d like to be closer to the real deal.

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