The Complicated Traveler

Travel for me means planning for all of life’s unknown

Category: Travel (page 2 of 2)

This is why I’m here, to talk about how I manage to travel in spite of my health issues and other complications.

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.

Inspiration To Travel

I recently read an article by annaeverwhere about traveling with chronic diseases and other medical issues. It really put into perspective my allergy issues.  While mine do not physically show, thankfully, they can be the cause for some very public displays of panic. However, since she isn’t letting it slow her down it has given me a little more spit and vinegar where my adventures are concerned.

We have had our home on the market for the last month or so, and each time we show the house I have to take the dog with me…after a whirlwind clean up of the house so it is show room ready, and I head for the nearest store that allows animals, or I head to the Air Force Academy so I can walk Chaz .

Today I have a showing and I’m thinking, if I cover up properly with sun clothes, and heading out to be a sightseer to areas I typically avoid because of the sun. Hopefully there will be new photos to take and no need for allergy meds.

It is just nice knowing that there are others out there, traveling and leading full lives in spite of their medical conditions.

While I do not travel on the same scale as Anna, for me just going out of the house is huge feat most days.

 

(This post was written a few days ago, go HERE to read about our adventures in Garden of the Gods.)

The Science of Coffee

This is an article I had published a few months back. Check it out!

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