Thursday, January 26, 2012

Deal Steadee Deal

Deal got his name on the trail for a reason. He lives for deals and for sharing his deals.

He taught me well.

For the last month while we've been in Colorado, Deal had been scouring Craigslist, eBay and retail stores for a deal on a car rooftop box. He wanted one for at least 70% off. He has been jonesing after one for a LONG time and will never forget the time I made him pass up on one at an REI garage sale so many years ago.

He followed a lot of leads on rooftop boxes in CO, but nothing seemed to pan out. We decided we just weren't meant to own one yet.

Well, I decided to check the local Craigslist one last time before we left the state ... Low and behold, there was one listed within the hour and it was the best price of all the ads we followed and it was on our way out of the state.

A match made in heaven, wouldn't you say?

Our day was filled with other deals. We stopped at the Sierra Trading Post Outlet Store. Everything we purchased was 75% off, of course.

Then we made it to Old Chicago just minutes before their happy hour ended, so our dinner cost under $20.

As my dad likes to say, we are not cheap people. We are just frugal. Very, very frugal. It sounds much nicer.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

In the Name of the Father ...

RevKev came to visit us at the cabin (aka, paradise) this weekend and we had loads of fun. For new blog readers, RevKev married Deal & I five years ago! He was a long-time friend before that and now he lives in Colorado Springs, making yearly visits a possibility.He got here Friday evening and Saturday morning, we set out for a day in Breckenridge. We did a nice hike at Hooiser Pass/Continental Divide and RevKev thought he might die in the first few minutes of uphill at 11,500 feet. It didn't help that the winds were still wicked, as they have been all week, but we all survived and enjoyed. After all that hiking in snow and near-death experiences, we needed a stiff drink, so we headed to the Breckenridge Distillery for a tour and some tasting. Deal & I love touring breweries, but this was our first distillery tour as a team. Apparently, distilleries are the new wave of tours! In any case, Breck's Distillery makes delicious vodka, whiskey & spiced rum and it was fun to learn about the process.
The rest of the weekend consisted of lots of 500 rummy-playing (for the record, I never got in first place in the 4 games we played) and playoff football-watching. Did you know that priests can be this cool? Luckily, we do and cherish our time with RevKev.
We are leaving the cabin (aka, paradise) on Wednesday with sad hearts. My dry, bloody nose and heaving lungs, however, are thankful to return to normal elevation. Even still, we have thoroughly enjoyed our time here and are thankful to DocDoc for a temporary relief on homelessness. In return, we did not kill your pets while you are in South America. Kosby the cat is happy as long as we feed him (at 16 lbs, we've realized he is always hungry). As for Bailey the dog, she has warmed up to us a bit, as she spent a whole 15 minutes out of the closet and on the couch with us the other day (this is progress, people). On Thursday, we are Chicago-bound!!!!!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Fire Safety 101

Fire is NOT something to joke about, which is why I am happy to report we survived our first chimney fire on Monday evening.

Apparently the powers that be decided that our life in the cabin was getting a little too boring. I beg to differ, but so be it. And I'd like to say we kept a cool demeanor through the chimney fire, but it was more like organized chaos.

Let story time begin.Deal started our nightly fire in the wood-burning stove around 5, as he has every night since we've been at the cabin. Then he jumped on the phone with an old friend.
At this same time, I was cooking dinner (BBQ spare ribs in the crock pot, pasta salad and green beans, if you must know).

Then the smoke detector started beeping (loudly, of course) and the alarm system started yelling, "Fire, Fire, Fire." I immediately shut off my green beans, wondering how they could have set off the alarm, grabbed a towel and started waving.

The obnoxious beeping and "fire, fire, fire" would not stop. I grabbed a larger towel and said, "can you get off the phone, please?" because my frantic waving was not doing much.

Deal turned on the fans and went downstairs to see if anything was going on. Nothing. He thought maybe the smoke was coming from the wood-burning stove, so he concentrated on that. Then he went outside to see if anything was going on and that's when he noticed the flames shooting out the chimney.

Enter chaos.

"Call 911. Where's my phone? What's the address here? Get the pets out!"

I got the dog out no problem, but I'm afraid there was a little tail pulling with the cat. Meanwhile, Deal is on the phone with the 911 lady who is yelling at him, "get out now!" But we all got out safely and by the time the fire department (which includes half the town of Fairplay) arrived, the fire was out.
I waited in the car with the pets while the fire department cleared the scene (I always wanted to say that line). Turns out, there was just a buildup of creosote at the top of the chimney.

So we lived without the beloved wood stove for 2 blustery nights (seriously, winds got up to 50 mph). This morning, we got the chimney cleaned (on the instruction of DocDoc & her family ... remember, as much as we love this cabin, it is not ours).

We've had a fire going all night and so far, so good.

Back to being boring. (Mr. McKinley, shield your eyes for this picture.)

Monday, January 16, 2012

Work It, Girl

So guess who else got a job besides Deal? MEEEEEEEEEE!!!!

I am once again going to be a full-time medical writer! I am beyond excited and would like to share my job-searching story.

I saw a job posted for a medical writer based in northern Virginia back in early November. Knowing Deal was interviewing for the trail center job in that area, I figured it didn't hurt to pursue.

I was shocked to get a call for a phone interview in early December. After doing more research, I was immediately interested in the job and the company and stoked for the opportunity. The work was very similar to what I did at my old full-time job, which I loved dearly.

The phone interview turned into "are you going to be in the area for an in-person interview," which I was and hence scheduled. I felt even better about the job and company during the in-person interview. At this point, I was dying to get this gig.

Three days before Christmas, I took a timed writing test, which gave me sweaty armpits and hives (I was never a good test-taker; my high score on the SATs was 980). I think I passed because then he called my references, who apparently sung my praises and led to a job offer!

Things have definitely fallen into place for us and we feel very, very, very blessed. I knew Deal would find a job within 6 months or so, though it ended up being only 2 months! As for me, I didn't think I would ever find a full-time writing job after I got l laid off in 2010. I actually thought my career was over. I know that sounds silly since I was only in my early 30s, but I spent 8 years at one company and couldn't see myself somewhere else. My initial job search revealed some bleak choices. The freelancing thing was ... slow. I figured it would eventually take off when we returned from the trail and I put more effort into it, and if not, I might be forced to switch careers. So this new position is very good news, even if I have to work from midnight to 8am. Did you catch that? Midnight to 8am. It's a good thing I inherited my mom's caffeine-filled genes to stay up all night.

We are happily welcoming this brand new start in 2012. Yes, the changes will be challenging, between the atypical schedules and the general craziness of running a hostel and living there. We just came from a year of complete freedom and are heading into a year of zero freedom. We have no doubt we will make it out alive and love it.

My theory is that you have to risk failure in life; it is the only way you'll succeed.

Stay tuned for my next post on how to survive a chimney fire.

Retirement is oh so good

It's good to be back in Colorado and at the cabin and we are waiting for the snow. Seriously, what a disappointing winter!! But alas, we have still gotten out as much as we can to do some XC skiing, especially with SILAdventure/Jamie & DocDoc/Rachel here with us this past weekend.
We all attempted a little trickery on the skis to no avail.We also went to a local bar and watched the Denver Broncos lose. Now technically, we should be Pats fans with our New England "roots," but we were in Broncos territory. And with the Giants winning today, we are really hoping for a Pats-Giants matchup again!Deal & I will be here at the cabin for 10 more glorious days. We are cat & dog sitting for DocDoc & SILAdventure as they make their way to South America! I've never met two pets who crave people food as much as these two.
We have lots of projects to work on while we are here pet sitting, including a presentation about the AT. Did I mention yet we are extending our road trip all the way to New Hampshire??

Oh, and I still owe y'all a very important blog post about our future ... maybe tomorrow ...

Saturday, January 14, 2012

South Dakota, Great Faces, Great Places

Before this week, I had never been to South Dakota (4 states left on my list!!!), while Deal has been on his road trip to move out to Phoenix in 2002. But since South Dakota was a quick 7-hour road trip from CO, we figured WHY NOT?

Well, folks, it was well worth it. I have very good things to say about South Dakota, at least the southwest corner of the state. News alert! It is not just lifeless and treeless prairie lands!

Mt. Rushmore ... every American should visit this national monument. It is bold and beautiful. Plus, we saw a mountain goat!!!!Crazy Horse ... not sure what y'all know about Crazy Horse, but back in the 1940s, some starting carving out an Indian head and horse in the mountain, much like they did for Mt. Rushmore. Well, the progress is slow. So slow that the carving hasn't changed at all since Deal visited in 2002.
Deadwood ... a really cool old western town with a haunted hotel, where we gambled. Deal walked away with a profit of $0.75 and I with $3. Yes, we are big spenders these days.Custer State Park ... home of South Dakota's high point, Harney Peak at 7,242 feet. I think it is one of my top 5 high points (out of the 25 that we've done so far) because it was just so impressive. Custer State Park is full of needle-like granite spires and ponderosa pines, which is how the area became known as the Black Hills. Harney Peak rises above all the spires and has a beautiful fire tower at the top built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in 1939 (they did a ton of work in the area, actually). Not to mention Harney Peak is the highest point east of the Rocky Mountains and West of the Pyrenees Mountains. We knew there's a risk of snow when visiting South Dakota in the middle of January and snow we found. The trail was tricky, but we did okay. I did better than Deal because I borrowed some YakTrax ... I think they saved my life. Needless to say, we had the whole peak to ourselves and the temps were in the 50s, so we hung out and enjoyed.

We drove all around the rest of Custer State Park and Iron Mountain Road. There are so many twisty turny roads in the area that are so scenic! We saw tons of wildlife!!! Mountain goats, herds of buffalo, prairie dogs, all kinds of deer ...Wind Cave National Park and Jewel Cave National Monument ... On Wednesday, the temps in South Dakota turned brutal (below zero with wind chill). And thankfully, that was the day we visited the caves. Cave temperatures always stay between 45 to 55 degrees. We ended up having private and extended tours for both caves since we were the only visitors! This is the greatest part about exploring national parks during the winter! Though the caves were only 18 miles apart, they were vastly different.

Wind Cave is one of the most complex in the world and the second oldest national park. Because the cave is dry, there is an abundance of boxwork, a really cool cave formation that almost looks like honeycombs.Jewel Cave is the second longest in the world (157.36 miles). Being that it is wet, you see more stalagmites, stalagtites, sparkling calcite crystals (hence the name, Jewel Cave) and gypsum. It reminded me more of Carlsbad Caverns, but without any big open rooms. I am just falling more and more in love with caves.Firehouse Brewery ... Because it is winter in South Dakota, there were very few businesses open. We stayed in Keystone, where there was 1 hotel and 1 restaurant open. So we ventured to Rapid City one night and of course found a local brewpub. It is actually in an old firehouse, so a very cool atmosphere and pretty good food.Wall Drug ... a self-made monument in the middle of nowhere since 1931. Random. Unless you are driving that way, just skip it. Unless you have a thing for tchotchke.Badlands National Park ... Originally we thought we might camp here because Deal camped here in 2002 and still believes the night sky is the best he's seen. But, the temps were still below zero and a little too uncomfortable for camping. Instead, we spent a day doing all the little nature walks (brrrrr ...) and driving the park loop. Again, it is such a different landscape than you would expect in South Dakota and even varied from what we had seen in the other parks.
The lesson for today is to visit South Dakota and its gems sometime in your life.

Now we are back at the magical cabin in the mountains of Colorado. SILAdventure/Jamie and DocDoc/Rachel are here with us this weekend (it is DocDoc's cabin after all!) and we are going to enjoy a relaxing weekend together. You can look forward to another post early next week with some more good news from us ...

Tuesday, January 10, 2012