wiggle your toes in coral pink sand dunes

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Imagine pale pink sand rolling in massive hills as tall as buildings, nestled in a great bowl of red Navajo Sandstone walls. Imagine walking out onto the dunes, a wavering line of your footprints strung out behind you as you walk, barefoot, along the tallest ridge.  Warm, incredibly soft, pink sand working its way between your toes as you walk along, steadily warming beneath the bright afternoon sunlight.

You pause for a sip of water and hear the happy laughter of children up ahead.  Suddenly two curly little heads go whizzing down the side of the dune, holding tightly to a cheap plastic disk, a snow sled repurposed for these perfect desert dunes. A third child, too impatient to wait for the disk to return, launches himself head first down the hill and rolls to the bottom in a pink dust cloud of arms and legs.  He is chased by the family dog, who is mostly confused, though happy because his tiny humans are happy.

Welcome to the Coral Pink Sand Dunes of southern Utah.

The dunes are a protected State Park of Utah.  Here, visitors can walk, sled, ski, snow sand-board, and take ATVs out onto the dunes for a day of adventure.  With a backdrop of red sandstone cliffs all around, its the perfect setting for a Mad Max photoshoot or a Mars Landing sci-fi film.

The Coral Pink Sand Dunes got their beautiful pink hue from the Navajo Sandstone cliffs surrounding them. Over time, high winds passing through the mountains caused the cliffs to erode. The winds deposited the pink dust past the mountains and created the beautiful coral colored sand dunes we see today.

I like thinking about the sandstone cliffs and the dunes and the wind. I feel like there are lessons to be learned there. Maybe the lesson is that only with the constant adversity of the wind, are the mountains able to create the beautiful dunes.  Or maybe the lesson is that despite the constant adversity of the winds the mountains remain strong and permanent through time.  Or, the dunes and the mountains are made of the same stuff. But where the mountains are rigid and unchanging, the dunes are flexible and shifting.

Its ok to be a mountain, strong in the face of adversity. But its also ok to be a dune, created from adversity, and beautiful in its constant shifting and changing. Be a mountain if you want to be a mountain. Or be a dune if you want to be a dune.  The dunes don’t loose their essence, their mountain dust, no matter how many new shapes they take.

You be you! And while you’re being you…go be you at the Coral Pink Sand Dunes, a beautiful pale pink treasure in the middle of the mid-western deserts that’s just waiting for you to wiggle your toes in the sands.

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306545_10100339996775636_297841040_nHave you ever had the urge to just drop what you were doing, pack a bag, and set out on an adventure? Seven years and over two dozen countries later, Aeri Rose is proof that excitement, independence, and discovery await those who are bold enough to say “yes” to life’s craziest choices. When not exploring the world with her little grey backpack, Aeri Rose an be found living a nomadic lifestyle traveling the United States as a writer and entrepreneur.  To follow Aeri on all her adventures, check her out online at travelingwithaeri.com; or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/aerirose.

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road-dog routines

After a long winter at home, I can see the road beckoning on the horizon, and my little heart goes pitter-patter with excitement.

I have spent seven months straight at Mamma Bear Base Camp this year, a practical eternity to a hopeless wanderer, and as the end of my stay draws near I feel the need to take a moment to reflect philosophically on the emotional roller-coaster  I have ridden.

Sometime in early June I arrived home fresh from a successful show season on the road, elated with the new developments, bursting with plans to conquer, and a little nostalgic for the thought of spending some quality time with family and friends.

Yet by the end of September the daily grind of normalcy was starting to take its toll. My part-time office job was pounding out new linear paths in the artistic labyrinth of my mind. Reconnecting with friends meant a parade of well dressed, first apartment-ed, newly wed, career focused fine upstanding young adults marching past. I even began to experience a sort of Stockholm Syndrome. I could be one of those be-suited socialites. Should I be striving to become a well-coiffed, demurely mature, subtly fierce young professional, shattering glass ceilings with a single spreadsheet? Perhaps. I gave it some serious consideration. I brushed off my resume and rattled off a few cover letters.

My exciting life of art and travel seemed so foreign and alien so quickly that not even the arrival of my long awaited vardo could reconnect me with the colorful fairy I loved to be. It sat awkwardly in our suburban driveway, squat and bright with its purple walls and orange trim, and dared me to remember who I was.

vardo

The memories came back slowly. The disconnect was real. Days of khaki slacks and office coffee, car payments and the thought of real estate had made an adult out of me.

Then I woke up this morning and I could practically smell the wild sage and desert sand of Arizona. I found myself craving a WaWa Sandwich…a staple of highway nourishment.  I found I could actually focus on the thought of packing, an insurmountable mental block just a few days earlier.  I mapped my route and learned I had not one but two of my best friends directly en route and simply demanding a visit.

This is the balance I fight to maintain. When I am on the road I love so much about it. The color, the energy, the new friends I meet and the adventures and misadventures I have . But I miss my old friends. I experience such hiraeth; longing for a return to my college days when all my closest friends lived just around the corner. But those days are gone. My friends, fierce young professionals that they are, have carved niches out for themselves all over the world.

But for me at least, perhaps they are still just around the corner. It is just that my neighborhood has gotten a whole lot larger. A trip around the block lasts from late January to early June and takes me on a lap around the continental United States. A visit across town is more like a journey across the ocean and a crash reunion with ex-pats and euro-rats.

I know it won’t always be like this. So until the day that I find my own niche to carve out, I’ll just stay happy with my endless wandering, and content myself with my road-dog routines.

Here’s to stale coffee and sandwiches. To counting the miles, singing out your heartbreak and happiness to the open road, and going crazy one white line at a time.

Until the day we can all be together again,

~Aeri

is this america?

I sit at a stop light and look to my left.

Next to me is a dirty, grey Toyota Corolla. Possibly built in 1992.

Around it’s mirror hangs two endearingly intertwined graduation tassels, hung there by two graduates in a fit of optimistic enthusiasm two years ago.

In the front seats sits a couple. The owners of the tassels?

They rest, exhausted by the day’s labors, heads leaning on fists propped up on window’s ledges, waiting for the light to turn green.

In the back a toddler sits, wrapped in a puffy white hand-me-down jacket, playing with a flashing, whizzing, whirley-gig of a toy.

Is this America?

The light changes and I drive off.

good buddy

“Nothing makes the earth seem so spacious as to have friends at a distance; they make the latitudes and longitudes.”

 ~Henry David Thoreau

And nothing makes the world seem so cozy as to be visited by friends from afar.

I’m sure Thoreau just forgot to add that last bit.

This fall I have enjoyed the new sensation of having friends visiting me. How delicious it has been!

First, a friend from Pennsic War decided to work at the Maryland Renaissance Festival, and we have had the delightful opportunity of spending out weekends together.  How wonderful it is to discover a new kindred spirit!  Whether sharing ciders and laughs, or cheesecake and knitting projects, or weekends have been a hoot!

Then, a friend who has been working in China had work that brought him to Pittsburgh, PA.  And compared to China a five hour road trip didn’t seem too far to travel for a good friend.  So a visit to Pittsburgh was made! And I have to admit I was impressed with that ol’ city.  I expected smoke stacks and coal mounds, and even sought them out for a photo shoot with the new Rainbow Rampage collection, but it was a tough search down by the river’s edge to find the grit and grime.  Downtown Pittsburgh was clean and trendy and full of art and life.  The tourist center even has a sweet little book detailing all the outdoor art installations throughout the city.  If I only had had time to explore more of them!

I did find the time to stay an extra day and attend the Mumford and Sons concert at the First Niagara Pavilion.  Which was so awesome! They were great.  And the adventure that took us from the Lawn to the third row was awesome too!

Mumford and Sons August 29, 2013
Mumford and Sons August 29, 2013

Then Sandra, my Swiss friend with whom I have shared many a travel adventure, came to Boston with her new beau; and I just had to head north again for a visit. It was one of my first road trips with Shelly, my big white van, and I was excited to test out the comfort-ability of the bed in the back.  It was great!

On the way up I stopped off in Delaware for a few hours to visit with a friend from my Drexel days, and we caught up with each other over glasses of white wine and dainty cheese plates.  Oh Wilmington how I underestimated you!

That night I stopped to sleep at a rest stop in Connecticut.

Lets pause for a moment and talk about rest stops, and deciding which ones to stop at.  Not all rest stops are created equal. As a solo traveler it is important to trust your gut and look for clues.  I was let in on this little tip at a Denny’s when I shared a midnight meal and a counter with a group of truckers on the I-10 West of Dallas.  Straight from the lips of professionals, I took their advice to heart.  I like to remember the three S’s:

1. Shakes

2. Semi’s 

3. Shadows 

Shakes, as in restaurants like 24-hour diners and fast food chains, create traffic and energy at a rest stop.  It may seem bright and noisy, but it is much better to stop over at a place busy with people and frequented by patrol cars.

Semi’s, as in tractor trailers, are usually a good sign that a rest stop is well used and on the beaten path.  If the stop is split between car parking and trucker parking…park with the trucks.  I like to tuck Shelly in between two monstrous truckers and find myself gently lulled to sleep by the deep growling idle of a monstrous diesel engine.

Shadows aren’t necessarily your friend. But the light sources that create them are.  If you are just plum exhausted and can’t bear the thought of traveling a single mile more in search of a bright glowing island of coffee and gasoline than pull into that dodgy looking blue sign rest stop off the highway. If you must park, at least park under the light.  Though it was the consensus of my trucker angels that if you have to choose between pulling over under the light on an exit ramp and pulling into a dark and shadowy abandoned rest stop, choose the exit ramp!

In all of my cross country adventures I have to say that Pilot and Love’s are pretty great truck stops. They have 24 hour restaurants and mini-marts, gas pumps, lots of lights, lots of trucks, and lots of parking.  You can always see them from the highway well before their exit because they have monstrous electric signs with the current gas prices printed in green and red which is a great beacon of hope when groggy highway fatigued eyes are searching for answers. And in the morning when you wake up in the front seat with your legs over the steering wheel and your feet stuck in the dash the cashier won’t look at you funny when you brush your teeth in their bathroom and pour yourself a 24 oz cup of steaming hot, incredibly bland, amazingly rejeuvinating coffee before hitting the road again.  Ah the life of a modern gypsy.

But I digress. Boston.  And then Houston, with another old friend and another new adventure.  Perhaps those stories should be saved for another day.  Each deserves its very own post I think, complete with catchy title and a photo that hints at stories yet to be told.

Over and Out,
Aeri

annapolis to boston via…colorado?

I guess I felt silly blogging about my travels when I felt like I was “home” in America. Or maybe we just got caught up in the end of the year rush. Either way, now it is time to play catch up. I know the title of this blog is “France, China, Bostton in a Year”, but the travels continue and so should the stories. You might want to grab some tissues for this one though, its going to be a roller-coaster of story.

So where did we leave off? Oh right, the road trip…

Even before I got out there history started writing itself. The plan was, Adam would be packed and ready to go when he picked me up from the airport and we would leave straight from there. Talk about a short stay! Sadly, we had to push back departure for a few days because Adam had to stay in town to support a friend through the loss of his parents. Of course I understood, and just hoped to be out of the way and supportive. I did get to see his home, meet his friends, and catch a ball game in Denver. Go Phillies! Beat them Rockies!

Then the trip began. We drove South to Santa Fe, New Mexico on the first day, taking the scenic route through this really cool artsy town. We even passed through Larkspur and I got to get an Iced Green Tea from the Pony Espresso. That drink tastes like ice cold happiness. In New Mexico we visited one of Adam’s friends, had great Margaritas and some dinner, and hung-out with the new age hobos in the town square. Then I got the call.

The call from my Mom that you never want to get, especially not when you are across the country. The find somewhere to sit down first call. My Grandad was sick. Two types of cancers, either one of which would have been fatal. But he should have at least six months to live so just take your time, get home safe, and spend as much time with him as you can when you get back. I asked her to buy a tape recorder so that we could sit together and he could tell me his stories. It was already late but I would call him in the morning, to say…what?

For better or worse, we had a long drive ahead of us, thought a brief stop along the highway to take in the amazing expanse of starry-night sky. We wanted to make it to Roswell that night and camp in the desert with the Aliens. We did just that, passing through town around 2:00 am. I think that is the best time to visit a place like Roswell. Do you Believe?? Just outside of town we found a park and set up camp. Well, Adam set up camp. I know better than to get in the way of an Eagle Scout and his set-up routine. In three minutes flat we were tucked in and listening to the coyotes yip and play their midnight games.

From there we had to play catch up and had some long travel days. We shot down to Texas and I visited with Chela while Adam visited friends in Austin. From there we crossed over into Louisiana and stayed with Rachel in New Orleans. We got chased out of Texas by a monster rain storm. In New Orleans we had another chance to “rest” and we spent the day getting drunk on Bourbon street and listening to the great street musicians. Our plans of going to a Southern Baptist church on Sunday morning were thwarted by a couple of rough hangovers, but the timing couldn’t have been better.

From Louisiana we hit Alabama. First the Gulf Shores where some of Adam’s friends were staying at a beach house for a the Hangout Festival. By the time we got there, it was the afternoon of the last day after a rainy morning. The festival decided to let guests in for free once they started playing music again in the clear evening. And so we found ourselves sitting in a sand couch/alligator, with the Gulf of Mexico to our left and a massive stage in front of us, listening to Trey Anastasio (Phish) rock a great set.

In the morning we had lunch at the Floribama, a bar straddling Florida and Alabama, famous for their fish chucking contests and mudslides. In the evening we were in Birmingham, enjoying moonshine and macaroni and cheese on a back porch enjoying the warm summer air. Sadly our stay in Alabama was a short one, and we kept on trucking the next morning.

Up next? Tennessee, Lynchburg, and the Jack Daniels Distillery. This was one of the most relaxing days on the trip. We had a short drive, an afternoon tour, and an early camp. We stayed in a nice park some locals directed us towards, with a big lake. Sometimes you need a vacation from your vacation and this is what this night was. All it took was a camp fire, cool night air, and a bottle of Jack. A quick dip in the lake the next morning and we were ready.

Lunch was in a Nashville bar with a great musician. He played Willie Nelson and my request for some Johnny Cash was met with the San Quentin Medley. Our stay was short though because we were trying to make it to the Maker’s Mark Distillery that afternoon. Sadly we misjudged closing time due to a change in time-zone, so we didn’t make it in time for a tour. We did make it in time for a quick stop in the store though. Adam bought some bottles and got to hand dip them in the signature red wax. There was nothing for it but to keep going after that, into West Virginia and the country roads that would take me home.

After this time was a blur. Make it home, pack the car, visit with family, and head up to Boston before classes started. We spent the night in Philadelphia for my birthday, and held one last party on 32nd and Brandywine with the Philly Crew and the Jersey Boys. I will always love that crappy house.

And then there was Boston.