It’s been a long summer and a strange time in our lives.
These past couple of months in Florida were an extremely difficult time for both J and I, and although I initially had some lofty ideas about continually updating the blog to document our new lives settling into a new state and taking care of my dad, in the end I realized that I lacked the verbal abilities and mental fortitude to really capture the emotional roller coaster we’ve been on since June. It also seemed like everyday brought some new challenge or change in direction and I had a really hard time even keeping up with it in my mind, much less find appropriate ways to talk about it. But I know a lot of friends and family members around the world have been sending prayers and love for us all in this journey, so I figured I would take some time today to update you all on where we are now and our hopes for the next couple more months.
First of all, we’re back in Denver and have been for about 5 days. Our departure from Florida may seem to have come quite suddenly for those who had been keeping up with our lives down there, but as I already mentioned, things with dad’s health and physical needs changed so often that we really just learned that nothing was set in stone and tried to stay adaptable to the changes. After a series of stays (and various complications) in hospitals in Gainesville, Melbourne, and Orlando, dad was transferred to the Mayo clinic in Jacksonville to undergo evaluation for a liver transplant there. The Mayo campus is beautiful, modern and (seemingly!) well-run, and from the moment that he arrived there, it felt as though renewed energy and hope began spreading through the family again. However, as Jacksonville is about a 3 hours drive from Melbourne, it was a less-than-ideal place to begin the transplant evaluation process again. After he was released from inpatient care there, I wasn’t sure what we would do if he was needing to be there multiple days a week for his outpatient care needs. Thankfully, his new insurance covered the cost for an apartment rental for such a situation, and it was decided that he should remain in Jacksonville to complete his transplant testing and await a liver after he made the national list.
Meanwhile, his sister and her husband had been making frequent trips from North Carolina to be there for dad throughout the process, and so she generously offered to live with him in his rental and take over the care taking responsibilities that J and I had been doing since July. They had been planning to move to Florida in the fall, so her decision unfortunately sped up their moving process a bit but seemed to be a perfect solution for a complicated situation. While this was a wonderful development for dad, it left J and I unsure about how else we could help out in Florida from Melbourne while also beginning to work. We spent about a week looking at our options and thinking over both the short and long-term implications to our decision, but ultimately came to the conclusion to return to Denver for at least the short term. We had been living out of our shared suitcase for 7 weeks (and 11 months if you count our past year of travel–which I most certainly do!!!!) and were anxious to resume some of the plans (more on that in a minute!) we had made before we found out dad was sick. Although I really hated to leave dad when he was still sick, I felt good knowing he had his 3 sisters and mom (plus other wonderful and helpful family members) close by that he could lean on as he prepared for his transplant. I also had really become fond of Florida, and it was sad to say goodbye to the tropical temperatures, lush greenery and abundant wildlife we had found there.
Before we left Melbourne, we decided to take one last beach trip and it was a beaut of a day!
The entrance to Coconut Point, aka heaven…
final dog day of our summer
A bit of the commonly seen wildlife in dad’s neighborhood that I definitely miss!
A picture of my favorite room at dad’s place–the porch! A place to relax, play the uke, hang with Q and listen to the frogs croaking and crickets chirping all night (notice the full moon peeking from behind the palm trees!)
And so we left on Sept. 22nd, deciding to drive with my mom (who had come down about 3 weeks previously to help out as well) back to Kentucky before heading on westward. We covered a total 2,830 miles in the span of 10 days, and it wasn’t lost on me that when we first began our adventures last July, we began by road tripping from Colorado to Florida and on to Kentucky! It felt as if we were symbolically completing a path we had started down 13 months previously.
I have to say, I left with a pretty heavy heart, but I felt determined to think positively, remembering that nothing is permanent and that we could return to Florida with only a quick 3 hour flight anytime we wanted. And as we crossed the state line in Georgia, my mood began lifting and I think I began my own journey to some emotional recovery at that point. For me, there is such a Keroauc-esque energy to being on the road, and I felt the rush of excitement returning with each white center line zooming past me. Our first night, we ended up stopping in Savannah, and took a beautiful drizzly-rain stroll around the downtown (and came dangerously close to a lightening strike as well!) Quintessential southern charm was to be found everywhere!
they see me strollin….
Gotta love those mossy trees everywhere
We walked through one of the main cemeteries downtown
We even got a rare family photo together!
Mom and her favorite granddog! ❤
We had a wonderful day, but unfortunately as we were walking along, my camera slipped off my shoulder and I kicked it to the ground, where it resoundingly broke! I was gutted, and even moreso that the trip back home was just starting too! Oh well, after a day I got over it and started grudgingly using my iPhone, but I didn’t get photos of our second night’s stop outside of Knoxville to see my cousin and her adorable kids on their awesome little suburban farm! I guess that just means we’ll have to go back and visit again soon! 🙂
Soon enough though, we hit the KY state line (and made a brief detour to let J soak in the splendor of the original KFC!!!) and then I was back in my childhood home. It felt like a warm fuzzy blanket to be back, especially because J and I decided to take a few extra days to enjoy the Bluegrass State in the infancy of fall.
One of our favorite moments was an impromptu 5 mile walk around Freeman Lake in town, where the fall colors and vibrancy of KY’s charm was on full display. (I also randomly ran into a very old friend of mine on the trail, so a shout out to Joe if you’re reading this! 🙂 )
How’s this for dog logic?? Terrified to get in the ocean, hated the pool, but a muddy pond? Let’s go swimming!
We were also able to make a couple of short trips to Louisville and Lexington to see some old and faithful friends, and it was such medicine for my still fragile soul. I love you guys–you know who you are!
However, as each day passed, J started to feel the calling for his own hometown. I think I probably could have stayed in KY for at least a month, but we finally packed up the car and hit the open road once more about 5 days after we had arrived. A short but sweet visit back to my old life…
Then, westwards we went. We took it easy for the first leg of our 3 day journey, stopping along little wineries off the windy roads of Ohio and Indiana. Similar to the wine trail we had discovered last summer on our bourbon quest through KY, both states actually have some pretty impressive touring networks set up for passerbys to enjoy the fruits of the small vineyards that dot the midwestern landscape. It makes sense really, cause that was about the only noteworthy stuff we saw along the way.
Our second and longer pit stop was at a gorgeous winery called Hidden Lakes, and once we saw their property, we decided to grab a couple of glasses and the dog and take a bit of a stroll around their luscious and leafy lakes to avoid the rush hour through St. Louis, which was our first night’s stop.
Finally got to the Arch City and was able to take a load off…
We used our trusty AirBnB website again to get connected with a couple that lived in The Hill, a traditionally Italian neighborhood in St. Louis. They were very kind, but we were mostly interested in tucking into some local pizza, a bottle of the Ohio wine we had bought earlier, and watching some glorious Shark Tank on TV (seriously that show inspires me, haha!). Ahhh, the easy life!
The second leg of the trip was the part I was dreading the most: 9 hours through Kansas. Ugh. It really wasn’t that bad actually (or maybe it’s like childbirth, where you just forget the pain quickly so you can talk yourself into doing it again one day). Of course, there were lots of corn and soyfields but also more wind farms than when I had last made the journey in 2010. I think they’re mesmerizing to watch, especially when they span out across a flat horizon. Also yay for clean energy!
The real surprise though, came when we arrived at our second AirBnB rental for the night in the blink-and-you’ll-miss-it town of Lucas, KS. The place was about 10 miles off of I-70, and as we drove north towards the town we were greeted by some crazy mosaic sculptures, a signpost pointing towards “The Garden of Eden” and a plaque proclaiming Lucas the “Grassroots Arts Capital of KS.” Oh, and did I mention the huge vivid blue lake we drove past on our way? Who would’ve thought Kansas had more colors than brown and green?
It truly felt like an oasis in a desert. Lucas is Americana at it’s finest, folks. Denver peeps, I highly recommend the next time you find yourself about 6 hours out on I70 eastbound, you make a stop for Lucas and Lake Wilson! We stayed in an antique four bedroom lodge right across from the Garden of Eden, which turned out to be the strange retirement project of 62 year old Civil War veteran Samuel Perry Dinsmoor in 1907. Using 113 tons of cement, Dinsmoor built 40-foot tall “trees” surrounding his log cabin to house the enormous and strange figures to create his sculpture garden, finally stopping work on the project in 1929 because he went blind! Our lodge was full of historical photos of the project from the 20’s, as well as a picture of him at 82 looking crazy as hell with his new 20 year old beautiful wife and their toddler child. Bizarre and fascinating!
The town itself was quaint and just plain awesome: basically just a post office, fire department, liquor store, restaurant, general store and a community theatre…oh yeah, and a bunch of artists’ studios of “grassroots arts “everywhere! Fork gardens, flying pigs, giant concrete toilet paper rolls–needless to say we loved it!!!
We managed to get up super early the next morning and head out with the hopes of making back to Denver by 3pm. It was the final stretch of the road, and as the landscape became more and more desolate, I knew we were getting closer to that great city at the base of the Rocky Mountains. Our home sweet home–for now…
Since we’ve been back, it’s been a whirlwind of activities, starting with a DJ Shadow concert that night (thanks again for the tickets, C!), a full list of chores and unpacking on Saturday and then a lovely wedding celebration on Sunday with two great friends.
So, remember those plans I was mentioning about 10 ft. above? Well, basically, J and his brother are working together to start their own construction company. You can check it out here: http://echelonsquared.com
Additionally, J is trying to get his own small remodeling/handyman company started in the Denver area and I’ve been working on getting his website and marketing going (I’ll be sharing the link once it’s all done!) There are a lot of potential big (and small!) jobs coming up for them, and so I’m even taking a teaching break to focus on helping them get organized and manage some administrative duties! It’s exciting time for all of us, and I’m looking forward to seeing where some hard work and luck can take us all.
Of course, I expect we’ll be making a few trips back to Florida over the next few months, but for now it feels good to get to enjoy the cooler temps and crisp changing leaves of Colorado with those beautiful mountains as our background. If you’ve actually made it to the bottom of this enormous post (my hat off to you!!), you can see that life has taken us for a literal ride for these last two weeks and we’ve mostly just been hanging on for dear life. Thanks to everybody for your sweet words, kind actions and support, and I hope to see you back here with more regularity as the dust settles beneath our feet.
Much love! ❤