Friday, November 15, 2013

Still Back in August

Okay aaaannnndddd we're back! Sixteen days after my sister was married in Oregon, My daughter and I drove back out west, nearly halfway across the country, to move her into her college. Did I ever tell you the miraculous story of how Stella found this school and made it all work? Let this be a lesson in believing in dreams, not being held back by things like finances, fear, or your lot in life.   I could learn a lot from my daughter.

I wrote a few months ago about how the horror at the school in Newtown, CT really emphasized the "who knows how much time we have here on this earth" feelings and encouraged me in supporting Stella's dreams of going to college out of state.  Here I am, single mom who has raised my daughter exclusively on one income, no college savings to speak of.  Hell, I'll be paying off my own student loans from my undergrad degree for many years still.  But that's what she was determined to do - so I decided to support that goal.

Last summer we took a big road trip to Colorado, partly for the purpose of Stella visiting CU Boulder but mostly for us to visit friends in Denver and then Durango.  We both fell in love with Durango and Ft. Lewis College.  It just felt more like us.  Boulder's campus is huge and fancy and flashy and high class (not that we're not those things but for the most part....we're not those things) and Stella knew immediately that it wasn't the right choice for her.  So we just went on with our vacation and drove on down to southwest Colorado, where it just feels....more laid-back, more unselfconscious, cooler somehow than the Denver/Boulder/Estes Park area.  The San Juan mountains are glorious.  Stella felt that the Ft. Lewis was just more her style.  She felt at home on campus.  And there's the added bonus of this college being in the same town as one of my oldest friends.  Stella wouldn't be totally alone; there would be SOMEone she could call, if necessary.

So on August 26 at 5:00am we loaded up the car and took off on our adventure. 

Most of the drive out west on I-40 just looks like this for miles and miles and miles:
Windmills somewhere in Texas

Trying out an impulse buy.  That duck is a speaker.  Sounds about as good as you'd expect.

 West Texas?  New Mexico?  Hard to tell.

Love that this girl can help me on road trips now!
Your one-stop Southwest Crap Mecca
Driving into Albuquerque

Walter White land.  Here is where we turn north.

I could live in northern New Mexico.  There's something about that high desert/mountain combo...
North on 550

We picked these flowers from our front yard just before we departed.  Wanted to take a tiny piece of our beautiful home to Colorado.  That tiny jade vase was a recent $1 find at my favorite vintage flea market in town, 410 Vintage.

On the road since 5am.  I look tired; Stella looks excited. 

A trick that Ai Lien taught me - when you're feeling tired or rundown put on your best red lipstick.  It works!

You know I'm a sucker for a sunset.

Pink clouds - sigh. 

Amazing sunset clouds over a deserted stretch of US Hwy 550
Almost to Colorado.
We arrived in Durango around 9pm and fell into bed at Ginny and Derek's.  Their house is cozy and comfortable and is practically a second home now.  Not to mention - HOT TUB!
Ginny and Stella. 

Do you know about the Face Swap app?  It's alarming when you swap with children.  This is Ginny's son Granite.  Love that kid.
The next day, bright and early, we went up to campus to start the move-in and orientation drill.  This is Stella's new home for the next few years!  I'm writing this nearly four months later and I still can barely believe it.  So unbelievably proud of her.
Can you believe that view from campus? 
We went shopping for dorm room decorations and basics. 
My college freshman daughter needs sexy, grown-up panties - don't you think?
We hit up every thrift store in town for affordable dorm furnishings.  One thrift store benefits the Humane Society located next door.  Of course we had to take a kitten snuggling break. 
Very effective stress reliever.

The view of Stella's dorm taken from the main bell tower on campus.

Awww....just so DORMY, isn't it?

This is the "Before" picture.  So hideous.  That awful 60s industrial chic.

This is a racket - paying a guy $175 to loft Stella's bed, making best use of the space in the room. 

Her closet at home is easily twice this size.  This should be quite a challenge.

While the other kids & parents did all these goofy ice-breakers and orientation sessions, we loner weirdos sat and watched the potato sack races and "trust" exercises. 

Inside the living area in Stella's dorm. 

View of the west-facing side of her dorm.


Happy hauler.

More realistic face.

"After" view of her dorm. 

Much more character, wouldn't you agree?

Cozy and the cleanest it'll probably ever be.

Stella's corner of her dorm at night.  That couch was a terrific find at the Habitat for Humanity ReStore.

Lookin' good!

The sunset that night was gorgeous.  She continues to send me videos and photos of the amazing sunsets over the San Juans and Animas River valley.

The next day, my last full day in Colorado, I asked Ginny to take us on a hike.  I didn't want to spend all of my vacation days in Colorado inside the Durango Wal Mart or thrift stores or assembling cheap furniture.  Ginny thought hiking up to the wildflower meadow on Mt. Engineer would be a good hike for us "ladies" (as Granite calls us) and 4 yr old Granite.

As you can see, the hike began beautifully:

We saw a group of men going off the path and holding big paper grocery bags.  They were mushroom hunting and gave us some pointers on what to look for.
Prime mushroom growing conditions

You want to avoid these mushrooms.  Nature has its way of telling us, anyway.  I could never eat something that looks so straight-out-of-Alice in Wonderland anyway.
Amanita Muscaria

Apparently if you look in a big circle AROUND these you can find edible mushrooms

Stella found a huge piece of oyster mushrooms

Giant mushroom find

Getting closer to the top

This guy did SO GREAT. 
When we were almost to the meadow at the top, it started thundering and lightening.  Ginny said it wasn't safe to continue hiking in exposed areas in such conditions so unfortunately we had to turn back when were SO CLOSE to the summit. 

The views were still worth it

We (almost) made it!

You can see the gathering clouds. 

As we started to retreat back down the path it became very dark and cold and hailed like the dickens on us. 

As close as we could get to the meadow. 


We will return, Mt Engineer - don't think we're done with you yet.

At the end of the trail, near  Coal Bank Pass.  Exhausted, sore, but happy to see the sun again.

These two! 

That night I sauteed the mushrooms we picked in garlic and butter.  They were delicious!
Our last night together we only got teary-eyed once.  I have kept my resolve to just be excited for Stella, not sad that my baby has moved so far away. 
The one teary-eyed moment.
The next morning I took off around 6am with an empty car but a full heart.  So grateful for my wonderful, old, close friend Ginny for introducing us to this school.  So grateful for my daughter's intelligence and diligence that allowed her to attend school out of state.  So grateful for my family's support.  Just a big ol' full overflowing sappy heart of gratitude. 
I promised Stella not to text while I was driving alone but made no such promise about snapping photos quickly with my phone.

Last beautiful view of New Mexico before the long, straight, boring stretch through Texas and Oklahoma.

Thank you for joining us on this trip down recent memory lane!  Thank you for following along on this journey for the past six years of blogging and past many many years of friendship both online and in person.