Paid road trips are my kind of vacation

When was the last time I took a vacation that wasn’t tied to visiting family or working?

Ummmm….

But you know what?  I don’t mind the so-called ‘working vacation.’ I mean, I’m not really one that seeks out a tropical beach with an umbrella over my head and one tucked into my drink.  I’m more of a road trip sort of gal.  I like to seek out cool hikes, scenic mountains, waterfalls, kayaking waters, or funky little museums in out-of-the-way towns in the middle of nowhere, Oklahoma, for example.  So if I can tie a little work into a road trip, work that may take me off the beaten path to explore new towns/wildlife refuges/waterfalls/boating waters–why would I pass that up?

In short, the answer is I WON’T!

Earlier this month I had a meeting halfway across the country–Hubby and I presented a training course on a project we worked on years ago.  And since we don’t board MaeBelle (she would die of a broken heart, being ‘abandoned’ and all) we drove the 1,800 miles to the meeting. The trip served multiple purposes: we attended the meeting, we got to visit family and friends, and I got to do some field work in Colorado on the drive back. Hubby couldn’t stay for the entire two week trip, so it was just us girls on the drive home.

My field work was in NW Colorado–from Meeker to Craig to Maybell (And YES! MaeBelle got to go to Maybell, Colorado!!) and points beyond.  It was a pretty sweet gig–drive around looking for wet spots, take photos & GPS points, make notes, move on to another wet spot.  I’m involved with a project at work where I’ll be mapping wetlands in Colorado, and it’s always helpful to have a little on-the-ground reconnaissance before you begin work, you know?  Lucky for me, Colorado is between Montana and Arkansas, so things worked out pretty well.  I went just a little bit out of my way to visit NW Colorado, but I got to visit a friend in Avon and I got to spend the night with my in-laws (free room & board PLUS dinner and breakfast (I mean, I guess could have had gas station hot chocolate and Cracker Jacks for breakfast instead of the homemade huckleberry pancakes.  Confession: a few days earlier I did have that exact gas station breakfast, so I guess I CAN have it all. Life is good.  2nd Confession: I much prefer Crunch ‘n Munch to Cracker Jacks. That is all.).  Total damage to my odometer?  Well, it was about 250 miles longer to take the scenic tour, which, in my opinion, was totally worth it.  My fuel was paid for, my rooms were paid for, my meals were covered, I earned a few bucks…and I got to hang out with my favorite doggie (who is an AWESOME travel partner still at 13 1/2 years) and see some cool places.  What is not to like about this set up?

I need a bumper sticker that reads:  WILL WORK. WILL TRAVEL. WILL PLAY.

Have I mentioned how much I love my job(s)?

I’m ready for August (I can’t believe I just said that)

This month has been a complete whirlwind and it just about killed me.  Okay, maybe I’m exaggerating a little bit, but I am pretty darn tired on this last day of July.  I was home all of 8 or 9 days this entire month–the rest of the time I was traveling for work, family reunions, and training, with a little bit of fun thrown in here and there.  The good news is I think I will be home for a little while now, which will give me a chance to dig the garden out from the bindweed that has taken over in places (Curses!) and I have plenty of work to do on my storybook and cottage food license before fall.  Oh, and I think I’ll make time to do some canning as well!  And maybe this means more gardening, cooking videos, and blogging.  Hopefully.

And just so you aren’t thinking I’m being whiny about how busy my month was (I’ll admit it, I’m whining), here’s a quick look back at the month that was:

1) Okay, really this happened in late June but it’s part of equation to my hectic month–my friend got married June 30 and wayyyyyyy back in January she asked if I would help her make cupcakes and cookies for the wedding.  “Sure!” I replied eagerly, not thinking about field season when we still had over a foot of snow on the ground.  “That will be fun!”  Fast forward 6 months and I am freaking out because I was in the field in mid-June and I had to leave July 1 for 12 days of field work.  That left me….oh, 5 or 6 days to make 150 cupcakes and 200 shortbread cookies.  It all worked out, but that was a pretty busy 5 or 6 days of work!  I did save a little bit of my sanity by prepping ahead of time.  How?

a) for some of the cupcakes, I mixed together the dry ingredients and put them in my freezer.  When it was time to make the cupcakes, all I had to do was cream the butter, sugar, vanilla, and eggs, and add the dry ingredients.  All the measuring was done ahead of time, which actually saved me quite a bit of time (and washing of measuring utensils).

b) did you know you can make frosting and freeze it, to be thawed later and piped onto cupcakes?  It’s a beautiful thing.

c) same with shortbread cookie dough.  Mix up the dough, shape it into a log and wrap it with plastic wrap or waxed paper.  When it’s time to bake the dough, set it out at room temperature for an hour or so, then slice and bake!  Ta da!  Nearly instant cookies!

How did they turn out?  Pretty amazing, if I do say so myself.  Here are a few of the things I made:

This was honestly a good experience and I’m glad I was able to help make my friend’s wedding day special with some tasty treats.

2) The day after the wedding I left for a 12 day field hitch.  The work was in SE Montana, but the closest town with a hotel was Sheridan, WY.  This was the second summer I worked on this project.  Needless to say, I’m becoming quite familiar with Sheridan.  It’s a quaint little town.  The vegetation surveys I was doing require clipping of vegetation so that annual production can be estimated–this is a coal mine reclamation and essentially they want to know “How is the vegetation doing?”  So we make a list of what’s there and then clip some to take home and weigh later.  Here’s a time-laspe video showing what it’s like to clip.  The plot took about 30 minutes to clip, condensed down to 15 seconds.

3) After I got home from Sheridan I had a few days to do laundry and re-pack my bags for Nebraska, where I attended a family reunion of my hubby’s side of the family.  We loaded up the kayaks and MaeBelle and spent some time on Lake McConaughy, which was wayyyyy more fun than I expected, if I’m being totally honest.  I mean, I’m not hatin’ on Nebraska by any means, but Nebraska in July wasn’t exactly on my bucket list.  We spent most of a Saturday on the water and it was windy that day, which meant big breakers on the beach.  Also lower humidity.  It was a total hoot in the kayaks! MaeBelle had a ball.  And we had Dutch oven cherry cobblers for dessert.  Wins all around!

4) Nebraska was a whirlwind 5 day trip.  We were home for 2 days.  We didn’t even unload the truck completely.  Just did some laundry and bought a few more groceries, then we headed for McCall, Idaho, where I had barre training.  Again, we spent time on the lake in our kayaks.  Fires have erupted in Idaho, and a huge plume of smoke was visible south of town.  We also drove through an active fire area near Riggins. ‘Tis the season for wildfires…but air quality was good in McCall, thankfully, otherwise camping wouldn’t have been nearly as pleasant.  Also, MaeBelle wasn’t feeling well on this trip–maybe she picked up something in Nebraska?  But I can assure you that traveling for 9 hours, then camping for 3 days, then traveling 9 hours home with a dog with diarrhea isn’t nearly as much fun as you might think.IMG_6271IMG_6277

And now I’m back home, picking raspberries and talking to my chickens again.  It’s time to prep my late summer garden plantings (snow peas, beets, spinach) and gear up for canning next month!  Gah!  Fall is just around the corner!  No rest for the weary, but at least I get to sleep in my own bed. Hooray!