A Stolen Phone & a Bottle of Wine!

My first training of the new year was scheduled in Los Angles, CA. Coming from the east coast, who wouldn’t want to head out for a week of sunny skies and mild weather? My training was really fun (I had a great group of participants) and the weather was fantastic…so it SHOULD have been a terrific week. However, my phone was stolen while I was there. Not only was it a giant hassle to get it replaced, but I realized how much I rely on my phone when I travel. I use it as an alarm to wake me up in the morning, my watch, my timer during the trainings, my GPS while I’m driving, communications (phone, emails & texts), it holds my travel itineraries, and it’s my camera….ahhhh…it’s my everything! What did we do 15-20 years ago? I know…we used a regular camera, an alarm clock, a watch, a phone, and real maps! Times sure have changed!

I made it out to Manhattan Beach twice during the week. I usually do the same thing every time I go there–I walk out to the beach and the pier to look at the scenery (and people watch), and I visit ‘Pages,’ which is a little bookstore located a short walk from the beach on Manhattan Avenue. I really love this little store, so if you’re in the area…stop in! I bought a birthday gift for my friend, Debbie while I was there.

Happy Birthday, Debbie!
View from the Pier
Don’t fly away…I want to take your picture!
Another poser!
The last time I was here, the aquarium was under construction. It’s now open, and lots of kids were inside having fun looking at the exhibits. It’s a little gem at the end of the pier!
The exhibit sign said, “Please touch!”
A perfect sunset!

When I conduct my trainings, I always beginning by introducing myself. I usually tell my participants how much I like to travel, and about my long distance hiking, including the Camino de Santiago. A few days into the training, one of my participants approached me and asked if I heard of the movie called, “The Way.” It’s a movie about the Camino de Santiago that was written and directed by Emilio Estevez, and the lead was played by his father, Martin Sheen. I laughed and told her that not only had I seen it, but I’ve seen it about 10-12 times! I knew about the Camino prior to seeing the movie and I wanted to hike it, but the movie is what made me commit to doing it.

The next day, she presented me with a bottle of wine. I was momentarily confused, until she explained that her husband was the producer of the movie—the PRODUCER–and that the bottle of wine was from Emilio’s vineyard (he has since sold the vineyard). The gift was so thoughtful and appreciated! I really love the movie, and it holds such a special place in my heart because of my experience walking the Camino. I’ve walked the Camino Frances two times for a total 1,000 miles! And yes, I’m going to do it again!

This gift was so special, so I asked her to make sure to thank her husband for me, and to let him know that I would love to be an extra if he ever films a sequel! Hey, we only live once, so I even told her the story line that I imagined for the next movie! Okay, okay…twist my arm. The main story line would involve the four main characters hiking a different trail together again. A side story, will involve Josst, played by Yorick van Wageningen, meeting my character…sorry, the rest will have to be up to your imagination until Emilo writes the next script!

The “Flavors” of Wyoming

I probably should have named this post, ‘Rocky Mountain Oysters, High School Sweethearts, Naked Men, and what happens in South Dakota, stays in South Dakota!’

I stayed in the town of Torrington, WY for two weeks for work, and while I was there, I was able to sample a lot of the local offerings. On the day I rolled into town, I was told to head over to the ‘Bronco Grill House.’ I asked the waitress for a recommendation, and without hesitation she replied, “Try the peanut butter burger. It’s so good!” I momentarily hesitated, but I went with her suggestion, and I’m glad I that did—it was really good in a weird and wonderful way! I’m happy that she didn’t suggest a side of Rocky Mountain oysters, because I would have had to politely decline!

Peanut butter burger with jalapeños, Swiss cheese & spicy strawberry ginger jelly–wow!
Lira’s, a Mexican restaurant, in nearby Lingle, serves amazing homemade salsa!

Later in the week, I was told to go to the ‘truck stop’ for dinner. I must admit, that originally, I wasn’t overly enticed to head over. However, after several people encouraged me to try it, I decided to give it a chance. The real name of the place is the ‘307 Bar and Grill.’ Except for the bar part, it reminded me of some of the diners that I’ve been to in New Jersey in the past. I wondered why it was called ‘307,’ and someone eventually told me that 307 is the local area code!

I ended up going twice, and the second time I had macaroni & cheese. I cringe thinking about the calorie count, but I have to admit that it was delicious!

Macaroni & Cheese from the 307 Sports Bar & Grill
The Bucking Horse is located right outside of Torrington on Rt. 85. It sits on a bluff overlooking the city. The food and view were great!
Ohhhhh—AJ’s! If I lived here, this place would get me into trouble!

Admittedly, if it weren’t for one of my participants bringing me a spiced apple cider and a gingerbread cookie from AJ’s, I probably wouldn’t have ever thought to try this place out. AJ’s sits on the far end of town in an unassuming, little turquoise blue building. They offer ice cream, all sorts of mix-and-match flavored sodas, coffee, tea…and delicious cookies! You can park and go inside, or you can pull up to a little window on the back of the building, and order from your car.

I tried their mixed soda called, ‘High School Sweetheart’ and I fell in love with it immediately. It’s made with Dr. Pepper, raspberry, and coconut cream. Oh, be still my beating heart–your first “crush” is always the hardest to forget about, and I thought about this drink concoction all week! Their spiced apple cider was delicious as well, and their gingerbread cookies….Oh, I had to control myself! I was gifted one, and then I allowed myself to a get 2nd one, during the 2nd week I was in town. If I lived in Torrington, AJ’s would definitely be problem for me!

One night, after dinner, I was invited by a co-worker to go to a local bar called, ‘Bitch’s,’ and of course I accepted. We laughed a lot and were having a great time, but as the evening wore on, I eventually needed to go to the bathroom. As I got up from my chair, I was ‘warned’ that there were pictures of naked men in the restroom.

I didn’t think too much of it, because I was imagining something more along the lines of what you would see in the ‘Hot Men of 2019 Firemen Calendar’–partially clad hot bodies. Oh, the pictures were hot alright, but not like my PG musings, they were straight out of old issues of Playgirl. Collages of fully naked men in all of their glory, erections and all, covered the bathroom walls! After I got over the initial shock, I have to admit that I’ve never laughed so hard in a public restroom before. I’m glad that I thought to bring my camera in with me–sorry to disappoint, I’m not posting any pictures, you’ll just have to trust me on this one. It was eye popping!

I was grinning as I came out of the bathroom, and as I rounded the corner to head back into the bar, a funny thought crossed my mind. The old timers at the bar had seen me leave the room to head to the bathroom, and now I wondered if they were thinking, “We know why she’s smiling!” With that thought, I actually started to laugh as I re-entered the bar! I didn’t look, but I was told that the men’s room had a similar decorating style, but of course, of the opposite sex.

The name says it all! This was a bar in nearby Lingle.

Toward the end of my stay, I had tried all of the restaurants that had been suggested to me, so I decided to go to Pizza Hut, because it was close to my hotel and I hadn’t gone to Pizza Hut in at least 15 years. The funniest thing happened while I was there. When I walked in, there was only one other table that was occupied, and I was seated right next to them. Another group came in a few minutes after I was served, and the man in the group stood a few feet from my table and said loudly, “Hey—you were in South Dakota this weekend, right?”

I had in South Dakota, so looked up with disbelief. I was about to answer, and the guy at the next table said, “Yeah, we were!”

The first guy said, “I knew it! I saw you at the rest stop!”

Small town! I just glad that I didn’t answer! ?

Walking the Streets in Deadwood, SD–

Deadwood, now designated as a National Landmark, began as a gold rush town in late 1800’s. Famous for the larger-than-life characters who lived there, like Wyatt Earp, Calamity Jane, and Wild Bill Hickok, Deadwood was also known for it’s brothels, gambling halls, and lawlessness. It was a dangerous town where riches could me made (if you could stay alive long enough to enjoy them). To illustrate that point most famously, in the spring of 1876 Wild Bill Hickok was killed when he was shot in the back of the head at point blank range during a poker game in the No. 10 Saloon. Legend has it that when he died he was holding a pair of black aces and a pair of black eights, which later became known as the dead man’s hand. He and Calamity Jane are buried side-by-side in the Mount Moriah Cemetery in Deadwood.

The drive from Mount Rushmore was uneventful, but slow because of the snow. I arrived after sunset, and the town was lit up with Christmas lights and decorations. After checking-in to my hotel, I bundle up and headed into town. The town square had an ice skating rink, a music tent, and crafting tents set up. Nearby a huge Christmas tree was decorated for the holidays, and Christmas music could be heard echoing down the streets. There weren’t a lot of people walking around, but enough to make it feel festive and alive. I loved the old buildings, but it’s a bit sad that most of them are filled with tourist tchotchkes!

Prior to leaving on my trip, I asked one of the women at work to write down a few ideas of things to do and see while I was in Deadwood. I wasn’t sure what time I was going to arrive, so I wanted to have plenty of ideas.

She wrote this list on a sticky note–

Go to–

Pam’s Purple Door

The Pink Door

Madame Peacock’s

*Then walk the streets

After reading it over, I looked up and asked with smile, “What kind of girl do you think I am?” We both had a good laugh at her suggestions! I later found out that Madame Peacock’s is really called, Madame Peacock’s Beer & Bling! It’s a gift store, but it was closed when I was out ‘walking the streets,’ so I didn’t have the opportunity to check it out.

Ice skating rink and a music stage…
The site of Wild Bill’s demise…
Walking the streets…
Everyone must have ducked inside when I took this picture!
I stayed in Deadwood Mountain Grand…

For dinner, I ordered a bison & elk burger with spicy buffalo tater tots on the side, and when I couldn’t decide which local beer to order, the waitress brought out three for me to try. In the picture below, the dark one on the far right was called, Buffalo Snot! It was good and it’s made by the Mount Rushmore Brewing Company.

My Dad’s Favorite Rock Group–Mount Rushmore

I was scheduled to work in Wyoming for two weeks, so it really didn’t make much sense to fly home between the trainings. Instead, I decided to take a road trip to South Dakota. I actually wanted to see two things while I was there–bison and my dad’s favorite rock group, Mount Rushmore, which has been near the tippy-top of my Bucket List for a long time!

I checked and re-checked the weather forecast, because the drive was in an isolated area, and I didn’t want to add bad weather to the mix. On Saturday morning, multiple sources said, “No snow,” so I set off early, insuring that I had many hours of daylight in front of me. The landscape of southeast Wyoming is flat, flat, flat with a backdrop of hills and mountains in the distance. And trees? What trees? The ground had a bit of snow cover from the last storm, and for the most part, the roads were clear, but remnants of snow and ice came and went in patches as I drove past.

I was so fascinated by the landscape, that I pulled over several times to take pictures. At one point, I just stopped in the middle of the road to take a ‘road shot,’ because I couldn’t see a car in either direction!
South Dakota–another new state to add to my list!
This scene was so surreal that I stopped the car to check it out. Everything was frost-covered and the low lying fog and burned trees created a mystical looking environment.

I barely saw any cars as I was driving through Wyoming and into South Dakota. I finally entered the “tree zone” area of the Black Hills, which is where Custer State Park is located. While I was in park, I didn’t see another single vehicle (or person) for the entire time that I was there. It was magical and eerie, all at the same time! I was told that my best chances of seeing bison was at this park, so I kept looking and looking!

At one point, I came round a curve and I saw a flash of movement out of the corner of my eye. I pulled the car over and looked out to see hundreds of prairie dogs popping in and out of their holes. I opened the window and listened to their elaborate communication system–where each would squeak and chirp, disappear underground for a few seconds, then reappear to seemingly start the process again. They looked like the ‘whack-a-mole’ game that many of us have played when the carnival rolled into town for the weekend when we were kids—pop up, squeak, pop down, pop up, squeak! The only thing missing was the whack, whack, whack! I could have watched and listened to them all day!

It was hard to capture them with my cellphone camera, but you can see three prairie dogs in this picture, and you can faintly see many of the mounds in the distance. Look carefully!
This was the only bison that I saw while I was in the park! Bummer!

One lane tunnel–Mount Rushmore can be seen on the other side!
I never knew that you could view the sculptures from outside of the park–you can! Amazing!

They say timing is everything…about 45 minutes after arriving at Mount Rushmore a huge fog bank rolled in. Check out the difference in the pictures! As I was leaving, I stopped at the visitor center and I was told that the fog was expected to stay put for the rest of the day–I was SO lucky! I felt bad to see the visitors walking in and overhearing them ask, “Where is it?”

The restaurant lined with tall glass windows, overlooks the famous rock face, and as I enjoyed the scenery I enjoyed a bowl of bison stew.

When I asked the rangers at Mount Rushmore about seeing bison in Custer State park, they agreed that was the best place to see them. I told them that I didn’t see any and the ranger guessed that the animals were probably huddling up to keep warm, and to protect themselves from the approaching snow. SNOW?

“It’s supposed to snow?” I asked, trying to hid the surprise in my voice. “The weather report said that we weren’t expecting snow.”

He smiled, and replied, “It’s going to snow….soon.”

I saw three deer on the side of the road as soon as I left the park. It was already snowing and the fog was rolling in quickly.

It was snowing by the time I pulled out of the parking garage of the park….so much for no snow! I left Mount Rushmore at a few minutes before 3:00 p.m. and I was heading for Deadwood, which is located about an hour and twenty minutes north of the park.

To sum it up–the drive was beautiful, Mount Rushmore was amazing, but no bison sightings—‘two out of three ain’t bad!’ Now I have to worry about the snow…

Off to Wyoming!

I found out that I was scheduled to work in Wyoming for two weeks in December and two weeks in January, and I was really excited because I had never been there before. As the time drew closer, I found myself thinking (and worrying) about the weather–Wyoming in December sounds a bit ominous, especially since I knew I would be flying into Denver, and then driving three hours north to the training location.

I arrived at my hotel in Denver at around 9:30 p.m last night., and my plan was to hit the road first thing in the morning. After breakfast I checked out, and the man behind the counter asked how long I was planning to stay in the Denver area. After I explained that I was going to be training in Wyoming for two weeks, he asked where I was heading.

His facial expression changed immediately when I told him that I would be about an hour northeast of Cheyenne. “People around here usually say that’s the ugly part of Wyoming,” he explained.

I frowned, and he quickly added, “Oh, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to ruin your time there.”

I replied with smile, “I guess beauty is in the eye of the beholder.”

He laughed and continued, “Let me tell you something that will make you feel a bit better.” He paused to make sure I was listening. “Did you know that there are more people living in the Denver area than the entire state of Wyoming?”

I’m not sure why he thought that would make me “feel better,” so I replied, “Feel better? Now I know that I’m about to drive through the ugly part of the state, and I have to worry about what will happen if I break down…since it’s so isolated, I won’t be able to count on someone stopping to help me!”

A funny look crossed his face, and then he replied, “I’m sorry! I’m definitely ruining your stay! Aren’t I?”

His comment made me laugh and he immediately joined in–it was a funny moment! Beauty is most definitely in the eye of the beholder. I thought the scenery was incredible along the way, but he was right about one thing—Wyoming doesn’t have many people! Few houses, few buildings, and few people…and wide open land as far as you can see!

Welcome to Wyoming—If you squint, you can see bison in the distance!

Rockland Bakery—Nanuet, NY

Okay, let’s first talk about the smell—-as I was nearing the bakery, I could smell the scent of bread from the inside of my car! Seriously—the smell alone must be their secret weapon! I’m training in Nanuet, NY this week, and I stopped by Rockland Bakery this afternoon, because I was told that it was something that I just had to see, experience, and taste.

It was a good tip!

The bakery has a sweets shop, a deli, and the customer is allowed to go straight into the production area of the bakery to hand-select the bread that they want to purchase. My head felt like it was on swivel-mode as I looked around at the Willy Wonkaesque scene that unfolded around me. Conveyer belts moved breads and bagels across the room, on twisted tracks, some running overhead. It was fascinating to watch the workers, and equally as interesting to watch the customers walking around with gloved hands plucking what they wanted from trays stacked high with huge varieties of rolls, breads, and bagels.

As I waited in line to have a sandwich made at the deli, I began to chat with a woman who was standing next. She was there with her young daughter who was clutching two long loaves of Italian bread. The woman told me that she stops at Rockland twice a week to get fresh bread, and that coming to the bakery has been a biweekly family tradition since she was a young girl.

She said that she remembered coming in and being allowed to pick a roll, and being able to eat it before she even got back out to the car. As she told her story, I glanced down at her daughter who was nibbling at the end of one of the baguettes that she was holding. I laughed and unfortunately tipped off her mother, who abruptly halted her daughter’s mid-afternoon snack.

I guess it was a case of, ‘do what I say, not what I do!’ LOL!

Fresh bagel, anyone?

If you find yourself in the neighborhood—stop in! They’re open until 10:00 p.m. every day of the week!

For the Love of Bacon–

I’m enjoying my breakfast at the restaurant in my hotel, and I just noticed that the middle-aged couple sitting at the table next to me is taking a series of selfies. The star attraction–bacon! They’re taking turns feeding each other bacon while aiming the camera at themselves. After each picture, they admire the image, laugh at themselves, and then kiss. Obviously each new pose has to be more creative than the last, so now I’m now watching him dangling the bacon over her head, with her waiting for it, mouth open like a baby bird. Their final pose involved each one putting the end of the bacon between their lips and nibbling the strip of meat until they could seal their accomplishment with a kiss. My seat is directly facing them and I’m only a few feet away, so I have no choice but watch them. Lucky me!

In contrast, off to my right is huge table with 15 people around it. They appear to be an extended family with parents, grandparents & kids. One of the men is loudly telling the kids a series of ‘Why did the chicken cross the road jokes.’ At one point, one of the kids screams out his final answer, “So someone could take a picture of the chicken’s butt!”

The whole table laughed (I did, too!). You pick—would you prefer family chaos or the bacon kissers? I’ll pick Uncle Joker and his lame chicken jokes anytime!

This just in, and the icing on the cake—two women are sitting behind me, and one of them belched so loudly, that it startled me—I actually jumped! Bacon kissers, loud jokes, and a super-sonic burp –ahhh, the joys of public dining!?

Escaping the Cold in Florida!

This week, I trained at Saint Andrew’s School in Boca Raton, Florida. The temperature was great, fluctuating between the high 70’s and the mid-80’s. I was able to experience a few beautiful sunny days toward the beginning of the week, but it rained heavily for the remainder of the time that I was there. I’m not complaining, however, because the temperature at home was damp and cold, hovering near the freezing mark. I’ll take warm summer-like rain over that—yes, please!

Lunchtime view at Saint Andrew’s
Just lovely!

One night, I ate at a place called, ‘818 Heat: Hot Pot & BBQ.’ It was really good. I’ve had hot pot before, but this was an all-you-can eat place, so it was fun to be able to try small amounts of different things. The first thing that you’re asked to do is pick a soup base, and then you need to pick your protein. The vegetables were set out in portions on refrigerated shelves, so I was able to help myself to whatever I wanted to try. The soup base is served in a pot and placed on a warmer built into the table. After the soup base warms up, you add the ingredients as you want, and then eat them when they were cooked. I had fun, but it probably would have been even more enjoyable with a group of friends.

My hot pot experience—I picked beef and shrimp as my proteins and a tried all sorts of different veggies. I even tried something called, seaweed knots. Is seaweed considered a vegetable?

Lots of fresh choices!

One night during my stay I had dinner at the ‘City Fish Market,’ which was located right next to my hotel. I ordered a few oysters as an appetizer and I had sea scallops as my main entree.

The oysters were a “sampling,” which meant that I could pick a number to try (I picked three), and my waiter selected several different varieties for me to sample. They were presented on a bed of ice, and served with a wedge of lemon and two sauces, one being a traditional cocktail sauce with an extra dollop of horseradish spooned over the top.

I was given two east coast varieties—James River and Bluepoint, and one west coast variety—Kumamoto. All three were delicious, but I need to rave about the Kumamoto. It was smallest of the three, but by far, the most flavorful. ‘Kumies’ originated in Japan, but are now grown in California and Washington. They are mildly briny and have a sweet, fruity flavor. I could have eaten a plateful of them—I’m going to be on the look out, so I can try them again!

You can’t say you’ve been to Florida, if you don’t snag at least one palm tree picture!

On one of the nights that I was out and about, I noticed these two businesses situated right next to each other, and yup, I did a double take! I suppose both places could be named, ‘Everything Hair’ if the owner of the ‘European Wax Center’ had a funny streak. ??? It cracked me up!