Have Puppy Will Travel

When life gives you lemons…

What do you do when your allergies are getting worse, you have a dog, and it is becoming imperative that you travel more than half way across the country to more copacetic location to look around and find out where you’d like to land? Why you get an airplane approved pet carrier, calming meds for the dog, and you plan to take a week of vacation to go out to look around. Of course.

A recent visit to my allergist gave me a lot to ponder as I am having allergic reactions when I physically shouldn’t be able to react.  The simple answer, my allergies are far worse that we originally thought, and we need to rethink our options for treatment.  And when the allergist asks, “So what happened to you moving to Maine? Why hasn’t that happened yet?” You have to face the reality that life where you are is not your best life. And you need to get your butt in gear to make the move happen.

While we have been diligent in setting us up to be able to move at a moments notice, we hadn’t been out there to look around the areas we’d been pouring over on the internet.  Let’s face it, the internet can only do so much to convey exactly what you are getting yourself into.

And more lemons…

Now be prepared when planning to travel with your pet. I called United and asked about pet relief areas in the most popular connection air ports, after an hour on the phone with United asking questions, I then had to call each airport individually to see if they had pet areas. Thankfully we found one that had pet areas within the secured area of the airport at Dulles, and I was able to find flights through Dulles that would allow us time to take Chaz to these areas between flights without giving an excessively long layover.

Most airlines do not offer you a way to book your pet for travel online.  I booked our flights, picked out our seats (paying more for an upgrade to economy plus for more carry-on room) and then had to call the airline to add the dog – which canceled our seats, so I had to pay (again) for the seat upgrade, and my first charge for the upgrade will not be refunded until after we’ve returned from the trip.  It’s three hours of my life I can never get back.  So word to the wise, book the flight, but leave the seats alone just call the airline and get the pet booked, then get your seats. Save yourself this headache.

Make Limoncello…er…lemonade

Then I had to start planning on how to get the dog through the plane ride.  I talked to the Vet, and got meds.  I’m a huge fan of benadryl for calming the dog down, it turns out that might not be the best option all the time. So, the Vet suggested Tradozone, and that we do trial run while at home to make sure he handles the meds, and that we know what he should act like when he’s on them. Then I ordered the travel carrier.

I will say this about the carrier, there are a lot of them. And I have never been so thankful for a very small dog.  Sherpa has a guarantee that their bag will fit on the plane (or they’ll pay for any missed flights).  I got the large, even though Chaz is much smaller than the measurements for the carrier.  However, it gives Chaz plenty of room to move around if need be, and it offers a small storage area for treats.

We are leaving the carrier out so Chaz can get used to seeing it and smelling it.   Then we did a test run with the meds to make sure they worked correctly, and lasted for the correct length of time.  So, a drugged dog who is spending quite a bit of time in a travel carrier is what the weekend before the trip looked like.  Chaz handled the carrier fine, we even zipped him in.  It took a bit but he was able to lay down and sleep. The good new is that the dog did fine on the meds, though he wasn’t a fan of hubby handling him. The meds solidified the fact that Chaz is a Momma’s dog.

I also got some collapsable bowls for Chaz to drink from while we are traveling. And since they depict Chaz correctly, he is after all a Super Dog, I couldn’t resist these.

Now to find meds that will keep hubby calm on the flight.  I kid! kind of!

And drink it all up…

While we have often traveled with Chaz in tow, we have never flown with a dog, so this is going to be quite the experience.  Add into the situation his issues with food, and it’s going to be a fun time.

Yes, he is still battling his sensitive tummy.  We have a plan to test for food allergies when we get back. In the meantime we will be adding fish to his diet to see if that increases his appetite a bit. The good news is that I don’t think his tummy trouble is caused by a sensitive or stressed out nature.  The meds did not make him want to eat.  Check that possibility off my list.

We connected with a realtor in Maine, and are picking out some properties to look at while we are there.   Now I have to get through a week of work and planning for the trip while hubby is out of town for work, then we have one day to pack and get ready for the big trip. Chaz is a little vindictive about being on meds, once they began wearing off he started having deliberate accidents in the house. Right in front of me, he didn’t even try to hide it.  This week is sure to be fun.

To follow our travels with Chaz and just my complicated life in general look me up on:

Instagram @thecomplicatedtraveler

Twitter @complicatedtrav

Facebook @The Complicated Traveler

 

 

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A Soy-Free Existence Shattered

A Soy-Free Existence Shattered

There is nothing worse than taking a food allergy hit while traveling; especially when the side effects are on the smelly and messy side, followed by a migraine. Though thankfully the migraine came well after we were home, and I had meds to help with the other side-effects while we were in the car.  It takes the motto of “don’t leave home without it” to a whole new extreme.

Exile Brewing Company is located in Des Moines, Iowa, near their downtown area.  It’s very industrial, and the air is filled with the tang of fermenting barley and wheat as you would expect from a brewery.

I was traveling with a group, and a beer after a long hard day at the track is just what this group (minus myself, beer – bleh) desired, for me being able to eat there is the only requirement.  So, I called ahead and checked it out, turns out if I communicate with my server, they can feed me. Great! I let the group know and we head out.

Typically, it’s the third time that is the charm, in this case it was the first time.  I ordered their chicken plate, and it came with a starter salad.  They brought me their house parmesan dressing, it smelled divine – which typically denotes when I can’t have something – but I had them double check the ingredients.  Turns out I couldn’t have that dressing, but I could have their Italian dressing. Dinner progressed without incident, and the group deemed the beer worthy of their taste buds.

Two nights later, we decided to return to Exile.  This time burgers and fries were the desire, as well as beer, after a very long weekend of field and track.  It was time to enjoy the company, fill our bellies, and then get a goodnights rest for the 11 plus hour drive home the next day.

This time, I wasn’t as fortunate.  It was Saturday night, and they were busy. Though we were seated quickly, getting and keeping our servers attention was not easy.  A member of our party has a very drastic reaction to onions, and requested no onions on his burger.  Sadly, when he received it…there were onions present. Thankfully he could pull them off and carry on with his meal, but the fact that they were there was a bad omen for me.

I did my due diligence and asked the server to verify that I could have my desired menu choice, a lovely steak salad with heirloom tomatoes (heirloom tomatoes are a personal favorite).

Now when I had called they informed me that I needed to let my server know about my soy allergy so that they could inform the kitchen of it, and the kitchen could then take steps to prevent cross contamination and use pure olive oil.

I stressed my allergy and he assured me there was no soy in my entrée of choice. It came with the parmesan dressing, so I asked for the Italian instead, and proceeded to wait patiently.

My salad came, and I ate with gusto. I was starving, and realized quickly that it wasn’t enough to cover the energy I had burned at the track meet, so I also ordered a starter salad.  Honestly, I think I wanted the fresh vegetables, it’s one thing we don’t get enough of when traveling to out of state meets.  Plus, the started salad also had heirloom tomatoes, so it was a no brainer I asked for the Italian dressing, and settled back enjoyed the company.

We got back to our room, and my symptoms started. The only thing I can figure is that they didn’t take proper steps in the kitchen to ensure I only got olive oil when cooking my steak.  All I knew was that I didn’t feel well, and if I didn’t start on my meds soon I would be in trouble.

The moral of this story is, you can never be too careful. Just when I think I can eat somewhere new, which is nice for all involved since we carpool and they are typically stuck going where I can go to eat, so it’s nice when we can change things up a bit, then something like this happens and I just want to run back to my hole and only eat at places I know are safe.  It’s kind of sad, I won’t deny it, but the reality of not eating properly is dangerous. And I will take sad over dangerous any day.

After years of going wherever someone else wanted to go and basically living on salads, no meat or any protein just veggies, after a long grueling day of field events where we can be doing anything from running in fields to spot where a shot put, discus, hammer, weight, or javelin fell, to shuttling said tools back to the athletes just to name two jobs; add into that extreme weather from 100-degree heat to 42 degrees and freezing rain for outdoor venues and all of it requires energy for your body to burn, and contrary to popular some beliefs, only eating vegetables is not the best solution (for me anyway). Even if you want/need to lose weight, not eating properly, regardless of the reason, is not the answer.

Once my doctor threatened me with a hospital stay to get my blood chemistry back to “safe” levels, I realized the error of my ways and put my foot down when it came to eating with groups. Sometimes it means I don’t go with the group. That really sucks, especially for my husband because he chooses to go with me and that means he doesn’t get to socialize (something he thrives on), but there is only one me and I have to take care of me.  That is a hard lesson to learn, for some.  (Pot calling the kettle black…right here!)

Thankfully hubby doesn’t complain, much. After four days of the same restaurant he’s ready to eat anything else, but he’s a trooper. I offer to let him go with the group, and Lord bless him he chooses me every time. Thankfully, with my continued efforts to try new places – it is not easy let me tell you, once you experience a food allergy reaction you are very leery to re-live it – I have found some great places of us to eat when we travel.  And hopefully there will be more travel, for fun not track (though we love our track trips) in our near future.

2016: The Year In Review

A lot has happened in this twelve-month period. We put our home on the market, after a mad rush to get it all painted and pretty – inside and out.

I started selling photos this year, it’s been a very slow climb but I think I’m gaining traction. I just pray that it continues growing in 2017 (and I hope for a new lens for my landscapes, just saying).

I also started blogging, and that means trying to find ways to monetize it. I’m finding that my health issues combined with my food and environmental allergies have a foot hold in the blogosphere I just need to learn more about how to grow it into a business which means reading more about it.

I can’t help but marvel at how most of my goals are centered on reading more. I often feel like I waste a lot of time reading, when in reality it is the center to my success. It’s official! I can be paid to read! #GOAL

 

2016 the year of stress… Between getting the house ready to sell, and my health issues “stress” is he only word that could apply to 2016.

Mother nature doing her best to keep our expectations in check… we had a huge hail storm in Southern Colorado and that left me unable to get a contractor out to paint our house until the last minute because so many homes were still unlivable that my house wasn’t a priority.

I had over a month wait with most contractors to get an estimate to get the house payment. And even then they couldn’t guarantee that they could get the house painted within the time frame I needed it done if we sold the house before 1 Nov. I was told this in August. We closed early October.
Thankfully I found a contractor who was able to fit me in, the outside of the house looked great when they were done, before we closed.

Every time we had weather move through I prayed it wouldn’t cause more damage anywhere in the city. I never realized just how stressful selling a house could be. I’ve watched HGTV you don’t see them freaking out on the shows about selling houses, but man! I sure did.

 

We finally sold the house, and we had a hiccup in moving into a rental; so we spent a month in a hotel. I can’t say it was a hardship. Having the room cleaned every day was a huge luxury I completely and thoroughly enjoyed. We had moved into a suite that had a small kitchenette so I could cook – somewhat – and so we could carry on as normal as possible.

Finally, as I was settling into a routine at the hotel, we got a rental. So every crazy bit spooled up again as we prepared to move into the house.

Thankfully we were able to space the signing of the papers and the actual move in so that we had time to clean the house, and buy carpets for the living areas that were hardwood. Everything went as smoothly as it could possibly go – well, other than the people who packed up our pods did so in a way that damaged most of our wooden furniture pieces. We are still trying to work out the paperwork for the moving company to fix everything. (See…stress.)

 

Thanksgiving rolled around, we were set up in our new home and all seemed to be calming down.   We had a wonderful Thanksgiving…then we set off on a journey to see my In-Laws. Two day in a car, one way, and then the actual visit. More stress… but this time with good coffee, good food, and a wonderful day with just Hubby, Chaz and I going and visiting the missions in and around San Antonio.

I have shared about the coffee…but I haven’t been able to get to the rest.  

Finally home, we got down to Christmas. Sadly Hubby’s travel schedule, and my poor health, meant that we didn’t get our decorations up. So we carried our Christmas spirit inside our hearts and let our home remain undecorated.

During this trip I started writing reviews for Yelp and TripAdvisor. I’m gaining a following there, so it will be fun to see where that takes me next year.

 

I hadn’t felt well for most of December, but I couldn’t figure out why. I had started Botox injection in the summer for my migraines and received my shots in December and that should have boosted my energy. Sadly it didn’t. My energy continued to be lagging until the week before Christmas when I realized why I felt so badly.

Kidney stones.

The very mention of them often brings people to a halt, with faces twisted in a sympathetic grimace. I had passed a couple without medications, but finally Hubby said no more and insisted I at least call the nurse to see what needed to be done. I called. Hubby was right (I’ve had to repeat that several times so Hubby can bask in the knowledge that he was right) the nurse said a visit to the ER was in order. So, I was taken to the ER and the CAT scan revealed I had three more stones to go. UGH! I left with meds and orders to see my doctor ASAP.

The next day I called my doctor and went into see him for some different meds that work better for me.   It was then that I found out I also had ovarian cysts, something any woman who has dealt with them will sympathize with me over. Since I had both at the same time, hurting is an understatement.
Finally Christmas Eve, I passed the last of them (or so I thought) and I am starting to feel better. I have more sleep that is needed to heal; thankfully my body has no problem in letting me know I’ve done too much.
So I’ve had to basically write off the end of 2016 as healing time, instead of doing a last big push to finish the year strong. I must admit that is a nice aspect to building your own business; you are the only one to suffer if you have to take time off. It’s also a great learning moment.

I’ve heard the saying that, “When you work for yourself, your boss can be a real jerk” Nathan Lowel [1], so this means that I have to remember to take care of my employees (myself) so they are healthy to produce quality work.

Upon writing this I have discovered I have one more stone to go, my right kidney is not happy but hopefully the end is near.

2017 – are you still with me???

I’ve never been one to set outrageous goals for myself. However, since I passed a milestone in 2016 – the age of 35 was given to me as a goal to reach by my allergist, a healthy dose of paranoia got me here and now I’m ready to spread my wings and reach for the stars.

So my plan for 2017 is several things that I have no way of prioritizing.

  • Make money from my blog
  • Make money by writing
  • Make money by editing
  • Make money from selling my photos

Are you sensing a pattern here?

So here the plan… I need to move out of Colorado. When you are allergic to the sun living at high altitude is not a good idea.   In order to move we have to be able to find jobs in the new location, or have a mobile income to take with us. This is where my blogging, writing, editing, and photography come into play. All of these can be done from the road or a new location, so there you have it.

Look for new posts, areas that are allergy friendly, and maybe even recipes…haven’t decided yet.

New health goals…

  • Avoid dairy, and thus kidney stones, at all costs
  • Continue to fight my anaphylaxis
  • Continue avoiding soy at all costs (had to mark a restaurant off my OK list)

Here’s to a brighter and successful new year…2017!!!

To endless horizons in the New Year!

[1] Nathan Lowell (2014) Owner’s Share (Trader’s Tales From The Golden Age Of The Solar Clipper) (Volume 6)

 

 

A Vegan Breakfast?! What?!

Don’t worry; I have not crossed over the vegan bridge.  If you have chosen to adhere to the vegan lifestyle, more power to you I could not do that for the love of bacon, and steak, and turkey. However, on this day of our trip we had a lot packed into the day and I needed sustenance. So off to my apps I went.  After some digging we decided to try Revolucion Coffee & Juice.

Located in the small shopping center at 7959 Broadway, Ste. 507 (though when we got to that slot they were actually to the left and in the corner though I did not catch the new suite number).  They offered almond milk as a substitute for milk (as well as soy if you are so inclined), but they even have cashew milk for their vegan bowls.

I walked into clean and pristine white coffee house (not something I’m used to seeing).  I waited for the crowd to thin out, so I could talk with the lady at the counter and not feel rushed or that I was keeping someone from their much-needed coffee fix.

I found out I could have their peanut butter and jelly bowl with cashew milk made in house.  Oh my! It was wonderful.  Add into it the Revolucion Latte, a lavender infused honey with espresso and almond milk complete with coffee art, and my breakfast was as satisfying as it was beautiful.

The coffee was good, I wasn’t wowed by the flavor of the coffee, however, I have definitely had worse cups of coffee.

The bowl was very filling, I couldn’t even finish it all. But it stuck with me for the rest of the day, and I didn’t have a night of eating because of all the exercise I’d gotten…a huge deal for me.

It was worth every meatless bite.  The fruit was fresh, ripe, and flavorful, while the granola held up for the duration of the bowl. My last bite had just as much crunch as the first.  Though the PB seemed a little over powering at first, and I was hoping for more Acai flavor since the color was definitely there, still it was a wonderful breakfast.

Hubby deemed the food “too hippy” (a word my family have assigned to food I can eat) for him.  So we left there and went and got him breakfast tacos from a local place.  He checked – I couldn’t eat there but he at least got some sustenance for the day.

Revolucion Latte; honey is lavender infused

Coffee paradise 

Never have I had as flavorful and beautiful cup of coffee in my life, and since I love coffee and go to any coffee place that looks interesting this is a huge feat.


Press coffee offers almond milk as a substitute for milk, and when I asked what was good a vanilla latte with almond milk was suggested.  I agreed and headed out to sit with hubby and the dog at their outdoor seating area.

Tobacco free was the second good news of the day for me.   

The coffee was as wonderful as it looked.  Hubby got his usual iced sweetened latte and a ham and cheese croissant. It was a perfect start to our day. Overcast, and cool, under a tree so old that it had to have stands to help hold it’s branches up.

tree branch brace tree branch brace hanging basket img_0349 img_0350 Chaz hanging out on hubby's lap img_0356 img_0357 img_0358 img_0359 img_0360 there is age in beauty an old old tree

Located at 606 W French Pl, San Antonio, Texas 78212 It is a small area, great for working (inside or out depending on the weather) and the coffee is worth repeating.

You can view my full review at TripAdvisor.com

The Land of Enchantment

Being from New Mexico I can say this, they have the best red chile sauce anywhere and their sunsets are amazing.

Through our journey to see Hubby’s parents we are taking the longer route through New Mexico to stay with some of my family, and so I can get my sopapilla fix on.

This is a very important thing as they are typically fried in oil I can’t have and they just aren’t ‘right’ in Colorado.  I never get a golden pillow of delight begging me to grab the honey jar and meld them together in the perfect after dinner treat.

Instead, when ordering sopapillas in Colorado, you get one of two things: a rock hard pillow that could possibly chip your tooth if bitten into or a flat and floppy piece of…square dough…at least I think it’s dough. Another downside to Colorado’s sopapillas is that they come with cinnamon and sugar, strawberries and whipped cream. And if you are brave enough to ask for them plain with honey the look you get is one reserved for tourists who “don’t know what a sopapilla is”.

It’s so annoying that I stopped asking for them at the end of a meal at any “Mexican” restaurants in Colorado.

Thus our trecking 4hours (round trip) out of our way so we could stop in Albuquerque at the corner of Lomas and 16th Street where Monroe’s is located.

While I can’t eat any of their meats, their red chile cheese enchiladas and sopapillas are just what a New Mexico girl needs when she’s in the area.

If you are planning a trip to Albuquerque give them a call 505-242-1111 and talk to them about your allergies. If you don’t have allergies and simply want to taste a plate of pure heaven stop in and see the lovely folks at Monroe’s on Lomas.

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Our First Week Living In A Hotel

Back Story:

As shocking as it might sound, I want to travel more.  I know, who would have thought that a person who writes about the stress of traveling as a medical freak could wish to travel more.  But I do, thus…in May me and my Husband decided to sell our home to free ourselves up for whatever God might have in store for us.

At the time we had been to Maine for Hubby to go on a job interview.  We figured since they had flown him out and payed a nice chunk of change on him, that he had a pretty good chance at getting it.   Since we haven’t heard back from the company, we are assuming he didn’t get the job.

However, all of that talk about what we would do ‘if’ got us really looking at what we would need to do in order to move.

Other Things To Consider:

I am 12 years younger than my husband. And due to illnesses, freaky medical conditions, and idiopathic anaphylaxis I have only just finished college and started looking at what I could do from home to bring in enough income that my hubby could ‘retire’, something that I would enjoy doing and that would enable us to travel more.

Thus the Blog, and my attempts to get published for stories about the trips we take anyway.  I also am a shutter bug and to help fund my fun I sell photos for stock with several different agencies.

Back To The Story:

We decided to sell our house, as it would be the one thing we would absolutely need to do in order to leave. The housing market was on fire for sellers, so it was a ‘perfect timing’ scenario.  So we contacted a realtor friend of ours, had her do a walk through and give us a punch list of what we needed to do to sell.  Thankfully she knows us well enough to know that we would be working at our own, pain managing, pace.

As of last week, all the paint fume ingesting, paint spattered clothes, and back pain and spasms paid off and we sold the house.

Once that was done we had to figure out where we were going to live, since we weren’t going to buy again.  So we put some balls in motion and hubby made a hotel reservation.

(While I’m going to try and break out the numbers on what we are actually saving by staying in the hotel, I’m slow with numbers so that might not happen.)

Moving In:

Since I have to be careful of the company I keep, we signed the paperwork a day ahead of the buyers and we moved into a hotel.

Another back story:

The closing had been moved at the last minute.  So we were living in our house with a folding table, camp chairs, and sleeping on an air mattress.  Considering we both suffer from nerve and back pain, can you say OWIE!

The hotel was a much needed reprieve.  While Chaz is having to get used to only being outside on a leash. And we are having to get used to taking him outside when he asks, life isn’t all that bad.

When we moved in Hubby spoke to the manager and negotiated a lower price, which will average out once we’ve been here for a month (good tip to know), and we won’t have to change rooms.

The Perks:

After owning a 2800 + sq foot home, with nice grassy front and back lawns, not having to clean or do yard work means a lot of extra time.  There one down side I was dreading about hotel living…the coffee.

We have stayed in many a hotel and the ones that have offered free coffee for their guests fall short on the my scale of good coffee.  When you go to the robust carafe and expect to see a deep umber colored beverage to be filling your cup, only to see a weak brown color (something you would expect to see say when ordering a hot tea) you just know that the coffee is not going to satisfy a coffee snobs tastes buds.

However, I found a way around that little issue.

Can't have bad coffee making for a bad day.
Can’t have bad coffee making for a bad day.

I brought my Keurig from home. (Cue the Cheshire cast grin.)  This way I can choose my coffee, and only drink the best.  This also meant that I could order my k-cups from Keurig and get my favorite Caribou Obsidian coffee to enjoy every morning.

Caribou Obsidian Coffee Keurig K-Cups, 72 Count

The cute little four cup coffee maker that came with the room is tucked away in a cupboard with the offered pre-filtered coffee where it can do no harm. I even brought a favorite mug from home that could handle the amount of coffee I drink in the morning.

You can’t leave anything to chance when your entire day could be derailed by having a bad cup of coffee.

The biggest perk for me is housekeeping.  Everyday the trashes are emptied, and if we wish our towels and bed linens are replaced. All without us doing anything more than holding the dog, or simply taking him with us on an errand so they can work.  They are by far my most appreciated people here.  While we still wash our own clothes, with my allergies I have to be very picky about the soaps I use, not having to worry about the basic cleanliness of the room and linens is a huge relief.

Also they have food (I can only eat the salad, but that’s ok because it means I don’t have to buy the ingredients for salad) Monday-Thursday.  And if Hubby wants breakfast before heading out to work, it’s all right there in the lobby waiting for him.

I’m not gonna lie, I could get used to this.

Buffalo, Wyoming: A Winter Wonderland

What’s a girl to do when big crowds and hot temperatures send her running for the hills?  

Why she visits the iconic summer destinations in the winter, of course!

Living with severe environmental (sun and heat) and food (soy and yeast) allergies travel can be a real pain. In December 2015 my husband came to me with an idea.  We needed to travel six hours north of Colorado Springs…Why?… Because, he explained, “we have been six hours or more in every other direction”. Makes total sense. Hubby did some research and we decided on our destination.

We went to Buffalo, Wyoming.

A place where old and new meld beautifully into a winter wonderland, rich in history yet hip and modern. No matter when you visit, there is history to be reveled in around every corner of the town.

From the Occidental hotel, to historic down town, everywhere you look you can catch a glimpse of the glory days for this small town.

Not the best lighting, but a wonderful historic building with literary ties.
Not the best lighting, but a wonderful historic building with literary ties.
A better view of the Occidental Hotel. Yes, you can still stay in this hotel. http://www.occidentalwyoming.com
A better view of the Occidental Hotel. Yes, you can still stay in this hotel. http://www.occidentalwyoming.com

For the literary buffs out there, you will know this gem as the place where, the Virginian got his man. While the historians will know it for the role it played in infamous story of Butch Cassidy, the Sundance Kid, and the Wild Bunch.  For those who love the story lines of Craig Johnson in his Longmire series, especially if you have watched the show on A&E/Netflix you will recognize the scenery when you walk the paths in Buffalo Wyoming, as the fictional Longmire country.

And if you are in doubt that you’re in the right place, the “Longmire for Sheriff” signs all over town will confirm my description.

In summer time, locals and tourists a like, fill the streets to over flowing.  Whether they are stopping over on their way to Mount Rushmore or Yellowstone the town more than doubles in size in the summer months, making a stay in Buffalo more expensive – and for me more stressful – than it is in the off season.

In the winter, however, the small town feel returns to Buffalo.

Hotels can take time to deep clean their rooms, as the Hampton Inn we stayed at were in the process of doing.

Also no matter where you decide to eat you can almost guarantee a seat without a wait.   They have a variety of restaurants that would appeal to almost any pallet.  They have steakhouses that can, not only work around food allergies, but will serve you a steak and potato meal worthy of a cowboy who had spent a long hard day in the saddle.

For those who prefer an organic option for their meals, take heart… they have that also.  Organic BBQ is a thing, and it is better than one might think. Regardless of which you choose, prepare for the locals to give you a cursory once over, in the friendly small town way, and welcome you to town.

Buffalo Wyoming is a quintessential small town in winter.  So out of towers stick out just as much in winter – if not more – than in the summer when out of towners are expected.

With my food allergies, the steakhouse and organic BBQ were a welcome sight.  As I have come to realize the more hippy (a family term of endearment for food I can eat) the place is, the more choices I would have, and the Winchester Steakhouse and Up In Smoke, two places that were willing to work with me where my food allergies were concerned, were a breath of fresh air in the small town setting.

They also boast The Fix. The all import coffee house, where even the pickiest of coffee drinkers – me being among them – can find a worthy caffeinated beverage when one is needed.  A very important part for any trip I am on, otherwise I am not my normal bubbly self.

They outsource their coffee and syrups so you know you aren’t getting a cup of Folgers for the price of a Starbucks coffee.  Beans and syrups from Italy, the attention to detail was a wonderful addition to our trip.

The town is very pet friendly, over all.

We were traveling with our 9 month old 5 pound Multipoo, and other than eating establishments, which we expected, we were able to carry our small dog around while we reveled in the historic atmosphere.

Taking a short stroll around historic downtown.
Taking a short stroll around historic downtown.

The employees at the Hampton Inn fell in love with our little fluff ball, and did their best to spoil him with attention, as did most locals we happened upon in our exploring.

While we were not headed to another location we did drive through the Big Horn National Park. 

We reveled in the clear blue sky, the white mountain peaks, and the wind – which Wyoming is known for – as it whipped the freshly fallen snow into puffy clouds before our very eyes.

Those clouds are actually snow being carried by the wind.
Those clouds are actually snow being carried by the wind.
More snow being whipped into a cloud frenzy by the famous Wyoming winds.
More snow being whipped into a cloud frenzy by the famous Wyoming winds.
Driving through Big Horn National Park, and Chaz is in his favorite (warm-up) spot. Sun is bright, but don't let that fool you, it's cold out there.
Driving through Big Horn National Park, and Chaz is in his favorite (warm-up) spot. Sun is bright, but don’t let that fool you, it’s cold out there.

We also walked Clear Creek path for a bit.

I enjoyed the opportunity afforded by cold cloudy day to get out and walk a bit. Clear Creek runs through the town of Buffalo, and is filled with picturesque scenery. The locals call out a friendly hello as you pass one another on the path. While the Big Horn Mountains seem to suddenly appear out of nothing in the distance.  It is easy to see how in the spring and summer this path would be a tranquil walk, filled with areas to stop and take a moment to enjoy the scenery and quiet the creek provides.

Crossing the creek afforded an amazing view of the semi-frozen creek.
Crossing the creek afforded an amazing view of the semi-frozen creek.
A view often seen near Longmire's home in the Television series.
A view often seen near Longmire’s home in the Television series.
Chaz enjoying walking where there wasn't snow.
Chaz enjoying walking where there wasn’t snow.
A path leading to the Big Horn mountain range.
A path leading to the Big Horn mountain range.

We left our home in Colorado hoping to find an allergy friendly locale where I could relax and enjoy my time away from home, and we hit gold with Buffalo, Wyoming.

A cold, often overcast, place where hippy restaurants abounded so I could eat my meals without fear of reaction. To place icing on this already fabulous cake, it was also affordable. Something I had on good authority was not the case in the summer months.

If you are looking for an affordable winter get-a-way, think of heading west. Just keep in mind that winters in Wyoming are harsh. Which puts into perspective just what it took for settlers of this glorious state to survive each winter, let alone their first winter here.

 

 

5 Things I Do Before Trying A New Restaurant

When you have food allergies, no matter how severe, there is one thing that strikes fear in your heart like none other…eating at a new restaurant.

Here are a few steps I take before trying a new restaurant.  They aren’t fool proof, and it doesn’t mean that you will be able to eat anything you want on the menu, but they should save you a few uncomfortable evenings after diner.

1. Look them up on line especially pay attention to their menu. If they have instructions at the bottom…* eating undercooked…yada, yada, and it also says to “alert your server if you have food allergies”… then in my experience you should be in luck.

2. Call them, but not at a peak time.  If you google the restaurant during their peak times should be listed.  When you call them ask, specifically, to speak to a chef or the kitchen manager. Do not just talk to whomever answers the phone, if they aren’t aware of food allergy severity or if they aren’t a part of the ordering process they will not be able to thoroughly answer your questions.

3. Get a name for when you go into the restaurant. This way you can give your server the name of who you need to talk to concerning your allergy.  I always call, then double check when I get there.  You can never be too careful.

4.  Get a card listing your allergies, your allerigst should be able to help here. If not there are companies who will make them for you.  This makes it easier for your server. They can take the card back to the kitchen so the chef can come out and quickly lay out your options.

I’ve been asked several times if I had a card, which I don’t because of the nature of my allergies, it’s hard to list out what I’m allergic to.  Often people assume that since I’m allergic to soy, so long as there is not soy sauce I should be fine.  But that isn’t the case. I have make sure there’s no mayo, or that the restaurant only uses real butter as opposed to a margarin butter blend. And the list goes on and on.  Never be afraid to repeat yourself.

5.  Keep your expectations in check. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gone to a new restaurant and had one of two things happen.

I either found I could only have one thing on the menu, or that the chef would have to make something not on the menu for me. Which I have to tell you isn’t such a bad thing.

OR

I can have anything on the menu, that isn’t asian inspired, and I’m so overwhelmed I can’t decide.

Conclusion

While I’ve come to appreciate the chef who is willing to go off book, I typically get food that is so good I’m willing to eat the same thing every night for a week.  It’s not always that easy.

Once when on a trip we went to a seafood restaurant in Las Vegas.  I had called a head and talked to the chef, so they were prepping an area in which to make my food and we had settled on what would be made for me.

We were on a field and track trip so there was a rather large group of us going.  When we got there, I spoke with the chef again confirming that I could eat what was being offered.  While I was doing this the server came and took everyone else’s order.

Once my order was confirmed: pan fried trout (a personal favorite), steamed asparagus, potatoes and brussel sprouts, and an olive tapenade.  I sat back and enjoyed the conversations going on around me.  As everyone’s orders began coming out, seafood platters, crab cakes, a bunch of deep fried goodness I sat there calmly waiting for my food.

The chef brought it out himself.  After confirming everything looked ok, the chef returned to the kitchen and I looked up to many pairs of eyes staring at my plate.  One of my friends raised his hand, while looking at my plate and proclaimed, “I think I have food allergies”.  HA!

I must admit it was one of the best meals I had had up until that point in my food allergy journey.

On the opposite side of the coin, we recently had a new restaurant open here and I made the mistake of calling during their opening night.  I checked for peak times and none were listed, I quickly realized why none were listed.  Anyway,  I talked to someone in the kitchen who was very frazzled, and she asked that I email, but also said that she would get some answers and call me back.

I emailed them asking about their menu, and never heard a thing back.  It’s rather disheartening, but I will not eat there. Hubby has asked a couple of times about it, but since I do not have answers I will not be eating there.  It’s that simple.

What are some steps you take to ensure you don’t take a hit when eating out?

The Helpful Little Lighthouse

Shop Amazon – Receive a $200 credit with a select camera purchase this article has been published! http://www.travelpostmonthly.com/2017/07/helpful-little-lighthouse/ 

Skyline and bug light
Skyline and bug light
For centuries lighthouses have stood guard over the rocky shores the world over. Providing safe passage to mariners and their ships traveling far and wide for industry and commerce. Portland Maine’s Breakwater “Bug” Light is no exception. For 141 years Bug light has been a small, yet mighty, protector for Portland’s rocky coast. Surrounded by a park filled with picnic tables it is a literal breath of fresh sea air. You can easily walk to Bug light and walk around it to see Casco Bay and all the islands off the coast. Not to mention a full skyline of Portland, Maine’s largest city.

Bug light, and part of the Portland sky line
Bug light, and part of the Portland sky line
Being a desert rat from the southern most parts of New Mexico, where the air is as dry as the sand, the sight of the Atlantic and surrounding battlements of old, not to mention the small but mighty Bug light took my breath away.

Picnic area at Bug Light
Picnic area at Bug Light
The sun was high, the grass a color of green I had only ever seen in a crayon box, and the water so blue and inviting I had a hard time keeping my shoes on my feet and my body out of the water (just wanting to make sure it was real since mirages look deceptively real where I’m from).

I kept reminding myself that I wasn’t 10 and throwing my shoes off and running like a maniac, who had never seen water before, into the bay was not lady-like for someone of my – not so advanced – age.  But it was so tempting.  Decorum won out in the end, after all it is a must when strangers are around.

(My husband is rolling his eyes and snorting as he reads this.)

So pretty, and what a view to enjoy your lunch.
So pretty, and what a view to enjoy your lunch.
However, if I would have had a kite on hand I just might have thrown caution to the wind and made the delicate fabric and stick ensemble fly with its ribbon tail dancing in its wake. The winds were perfect for it. (I’m sorry if “Let’s Go Fly A Kite” is now stuck in your head. It’s still stuck in mine.)

Breakwater "Bug" Lighthouse
Breakwater “Bug” Lighthouse
The walk to Bug Light is an easy stroll from the parking area, though the walkway to the lighthouse is made of granite boulders as is much of the area bordering the sea, they were easily traversed.

Closeup of Buglight and it's steps. See the door to the right of the screen? That's the helpful door.
Closeup of Buglight and it’s steps. See the door to the right of the screen? That’s the helpful door.
Walking up to the lighthouse I was taken a back by the ornate architecture of the light house.  As a minor collector of lighthouse figurines, I was expecting something…larger…and more basic.  A cylindrical post with a light and mirrors atop with a charming keepers cottaged attached. (Don’t you worry Maine’s got those too.)  Bug light is none of those, but still incredibly helpful.

closeup of architecture of Bug light
closeup of architecture of Bug light
It’s ornate columns decorated at the top with Grecian style leaves, and molding all done in cast iron make it an oxymoron in the world – as I know it – of lighthouses.

As I walked around Bug light I had to laugh out loud at just how helpful this little lighthouse really was for the tourists.  As you walk around the lighthouse, admiring it’s architecture, the sea and land surrounding it, you come to a door which tells you in bold black letters against the bright white of the body of the lighthouse, “You Are Here”.

Bug light is so helpful, this is on the door of the lighthouse.
Bug light is so helpful, this is on the door of the lighthouse.
I was so glad to see that note of help.  Living in Colorado, where you figure out your North from your South based on your proximity to the mountains, it was nice to know where I was there out on the coast of Maine. “Here”.

From the shore if you look right, while facing the sea, you’ll see Spring Point Ledge Lighthouse.

Water and skyline, so pretty and restful.
Water and skyline, so pretty and restful.
To the left you see Portland’s skyline.  Church steeples dot the sky, as the ferries bob along the horizon.  Old and new architecture meld together for a quiet and serene view, perfect for picnics and kite flying.  Benches dedicated to people who loved their time in the park dot the coastline, as people sit enjoying the quiet while eating their lunch, or chatting with acquaintances who walked past.  The entire area is so friendly and welcoming, yet understanding when you want time to yourself.  People would call out a hello, ask if I needed help finding something, and then let me be.

Bridge, and skyline of Portland Maine.
Bridge, and skyline of Portland Maine.
As I stood there admiring the ‘new of the area, and witnessing the ’old’ world contraptions still in use – granted updated with solar panels and powerful light bulbs instead of wicks and mirrors – I couldn’t help but wonder about the area’s history. The lives saved or lost. The ships the lighthouses were not able to save. History, the vessel we use to ensure we survive and have better lives than our ancestors. Oh what stories that little lighthouse could tell.