Holden Arboretum - wander with melissa

Two weeks in Cleveland

Holden Arboretum - wander with melissa

 

I’ve been in Cleveland for just over two weeks now.

And now I’ve stared at that sentence for about half an hour with no thought of a follow-up. I always imagined I would run into a time where something like post-vacation depression would set in, but thought I had enough of a plan to avoid it. I haven’t gotten a job yet, but most of the containers are planted, seeds are started for the garden, small projects on the house underway, and I’ve taken Lucy to a couple parks to explore. I didn’t really count on being so exhausted that I don’t want to do anything but sit around and read. I could easily have the entire interior of the house painted and a good start on remodeling our upstairs bathroom in the time I’ve lounged around but maybe next week… I haven’t even put all my clothes away yet.

seedlings - wander with melissa

 

I find that driving in traffic is still enough to make me tired. It’ll be a while before I’m completely used to so many lanes and so many cars. And so many losers hogging the fast lane. When I go to my parents’ house, I take all the small one- and two-lane roads instead of the highways; it adds an extra 40 minutes but the scenery is nicer and I’m not stressed out when I arrive.

In coping with post-Hawaii syndrome (which, when Googled, brings up a lot of info on rat lungworm disease), I bought a membership to Holden Arboretum and Lucy and I spent the morning there yesterday. Spring is just beginning to explode there so I will go back in two weeks to stroll through the Rhododendron and Azalea gardens when they are blooming. Our highlight was the baby geese – tiny, fluffy, fuzzy yellow balls with beaks swimming in between mom and dad in the ponds. Mama Goose did not love Lucy staring at her, even across the water. It’s hard to be a wildlife photographer while walking a hunting dog.

Baby geese - wander with melissa

 

The real reason I went to the arboretum was to visit Mark’s tree; a Quaking Aspen was planted 25 years ago in his memory, but when a new path was constructed around the lake his tree was in the way. It’s probably more trouble than it’s worth to transplant a common tree after 20 years, so his tree is young again and quite beautiful.

Mark Braun's tree - wander with melissa

 

For the most part, the weather has been rainy and cold in Cleveland. I asked my mother today when the rain usually stops and she told me this is the worst she’s seen in years. Figures. In the meantime, I’ve got two bird feeders strategically placed outside the windows of my office to keep me entertained; birds don’t mind cold rain as much as I do. I’m learning my bird names and will possibly join a bird-watching group if I can find one that is not entirely comprised of really old people. We have black-capped chickadees on the suet feeder (poor planning on my part, nobody wants suet when spring happens – I’m learning), while the seed feeder has attracted sparrows, robins, nuthatches and a cardinal. Peregrine falcons hunt the woods behind our house (and I have been throwing our food scraps a good distance away in hopes of attracting mice to attract more falcons), and I see the occasional woodpecker. Both black and brown squirrels have tried (and failed) to get the bird seed, and I see a random chipmunk. Deer are usually in the far woods, but my trail of yummy food leading to a salt lick has yet to entice them close to our house. A nuthatch family has moved into our birdhouse on the front lanai, and this afternoon a hummingbird buzzed my head – the first I’ve seen this year. I ran inside to stare through the window at the hummingbird feeder but she hasn’t found it yet.

Black capped chickadee - wander with melissa

 

This seems like a ton of bird activity, and I love watching it, but I can’t help thinking about how much I miss my fish. Some mornings I wake up and think I’m late to meet Mei at the pier for a swim before I realize where I am. I suppose in time I will adapt to land, like the earliest fishes with feet. I did apply for a job at the only scuba shop around yesterday – I plan on taking a dry-suit course before I stick even a single toe into the water here.

Perhaps the next time I post I will be meaningfully employed. Or perhaps the rain will stop and I’ll start building a tree house in the woods instead.

Say hello to the fishies for me.

M

 

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Eeyore under Cloud - wander with melissa

My personal cloud

Eeyore under Cloud - wander with melissa

 

This is basically what I’m down to, now: a giant cloud following me across the mainland. No matter where I go, up pops an “unprecedented spring snow storm.”

I was stuck in Minnesota for three days (see blog post here) although being at Colleen’s house made it quite pleasant. I checked the weather, saw that it was all clear until I reached Cleveland, and off I went. Somehow I woke up to another blizzard this morning. And just to make certain I wasn’t again being too dramatic with my accounts of how bad the weather is, I looked up the definition of blizzard: “A blizzard is a storm with “considerable falling or blowing snow” and winds in excess of 35 mph and visibilities of less than 1/4 mile for at least 3 hours.”

Blizzard. Check.

I believe it is now safe to say that I have my very own cloud (and if you’re a fan of Whinnie the Pooh, please hum “I’m just a little black rain cloud” as you read this).

I didn’t leave Colleen’s house for any significant amount of time during the storm, and finally we decided I should see some little bit of Minnesota before I left. What’s indoors and fun to do? Mall of America! Mini Golf. Aquarium. Roller coaster. Movies. Video games. Shopping. The largest mall in the United States, with over 96 acres of things to do. And some crazy man chose that day to pick up a child he didn’t know and throw him over the third-floor balcony. We followed the news from home instead of going; they had apprehended the man and reopened most of the areas that were closed, but as the mother of a same-age child, 5 years, Colleen was pretty rattled and didn’t want to bring her children there. I can’t blame her, I would be freaked out as well, wondering if it could happen again. The news doesn’t have much on the condition of the boy except to say that he is alive with life-threatening injuries. I sincerely hope he recovers and can somehow get back to a normal life.

goose in snow - wander with melissa

 

So what else is there to do in the evening after a blizzard that doesn’t require me to freeze to death? How about a meat raffle? The corner bar has a weekly event where for $1 you have a chance to win a chunk of uncooked meat – deer, cow, it doesn’t really matter. This is a big deal in winter in Minnesota, where nearly every bar has at least one raffle each week; in 2014, it is estimated that Minnesotans spent nearly $32 million vying for their chance to win meat, with part of the proceeds going to charity. Hopefully, some of it went to the American Heart Association.

We missed that evening’s meat raffle, so headed to Punch Pizza (amazing), and the grocery store for more eggs to color for Easter, then a rousing game of Disney Codenames before bed. This may sound fairly dull to the average person, but not having my own children, I was quite happy to chase Colleen’s through a store, half-heartedly telling them they didn’t need all the sugary, wonderful items they wanted her to buy (because I wanted them, too). It was almost like my evening of alternate reality – if I were a mother I think I’d be very much like Colleen, except only half as fun. We settled on cheese curds and donuts, two very Minnesota things. Both worth it, although I left my souvenir cheese curds in her refrigerator and am missing them very much right now.

Punch Pizza - wander with melissa

 

With another weather check, I decided that Lucy and I were clear to get traveling again; even though snow was still piled up the roads were dry. Two legs of the trip remained – Minneapolis to Peoria, Peoria to Cleveland, with the only storms in sight over Cleveland, but I could deal with that upon arrival. As I stated before, I had a beautiful start through the mainland – Washington, Oregon and Idaho were scenic and the weather was mostly lovely. Montana gave me nice weather until it was time to leave, then cold rain. And ever since then it has been junk. With all the places I really wanted to drive snowed under, I am ready to just get to my new home. I passed up the chance to see ‘Iowa’s largest frying pan’ (9 feet wide by 14 feet long and can fry 88 pounds of bacon at once) and the world’s largest truck stop (although I couldn’t help but see that one from the road with parking for 900 trucks) trying to hurry to the final stop.

About two hours south of Minneapolis the sun came out, and by the time I reached Peoria eight hours later the temperature was nearing 60 degrees. I stopped at the first exit to get a hotel room, ready to stretch out and perhaps read a book. No rooms available. I had been nearly the only person in Idaho and Montana at the hotels I was in, so this was unexpected. I asked the woman at the desk to call a few other places, no rooms. A big conference was in town, I was told, and the entire city was sold out. Lucy and I got back in the truck and stopped at the next town. No rooms anywhere. Exhausted and dismayed, I stopped at a gas station thinking I might have to bust out the remaining 8 hours of my trip that night, and asked about the next town east. Bloomington, the man said, and they have plenty hotels. I pulled in half an hour later, went to the first one I saw – Days Inn – and got a room for the night.

I have vague memories of Days Inn from long ago, maybe childhood trips, and remember it being a fairly nice motel. Perhaps they haven’t done any repairs to the rooms since then. On the positive side, it performed very well on the sniff test, so rundown or not, it’s pretty clean. Lucy and I took our evening walk and passed another hotel, and from our vantage point, that one is where the local farmers bring their prostitutes on Saturday night. I’m quite happy at the Days Inn.

Still thinking the weather was good for the remainder of our trip, Lucy and I settled in and started to pick our route. I’ve gotten into the habit of cross-checking radar with each town we will be passing through, and around 10:30 last night I found a major storm coming up, passing over Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, and Ohio – all my possible routes, unless I want to drive an additional 5 days instead of one. The phrase ‘out of the frying pan (Minnesota) and into the fire’ (Ohio) came to mind, but that would imply it was warm. Nothing to do but see what happens overnight.

storm - wander with melissa

 

Lucy and I got up at 5 a.m. to go outside for an update and were greeted with hail and high winds. Lucy is smart and refused to leave the doorway. I am not, and was rewarded with hail hitting my eyeball for the second time this trip. I don’t know why I need to look up to confirm it is hailing. We went back to bed and at 8:30 a.m. two inches of snow had accumulated on the ground, with continued high winds. I booked a second night. Lucy and I each have our own bed (although I woke up smooshed into the tiniest corner possible without falling off as usual), and the weather looks good for tomorrow – over 50 degrees again all the way to Cleveland, where it will be snowing.

Lucy in her bed - wander with melissa

 

I looked up some things to do in Bloomington and decided to dig the souvenir bottle of booze from Montana out of my truck. Perhaps later I’ll wander across the parking lot to The Cracker Barrel for dinner.

I’m trying to decide what life is telling me with these storms. They’ve blocked my route, ruined all my sightseeing, and are preventing me from getting to my destination. They’ve cancelled my plans to visit friends in snow-covered mountain states, but unexpectedly allowed me to spend time with Colleen. Over the past few years I’ve paid attention to the universe, at first crying and begging and throwing tantrums like a child to get what I want (and still not getting it), then later giving up and just going with what comes. I left Kauai when I truly didn’t want to, and Big Island welcomed me with a job and a house within days of my arrival. A year later, Big Island let me know it was time to go and a house and job appeared in Cleveland. But being stuck in limbo (an appropriate metaphor for Bloomington) is not something I understand. Perhaps it’ll make sense next week.

Here’s a little humor to end this post – my first horrible review for a book. He could have titled it “Alcoholic Slut,” and said I’ve ruined women’s travel books for him. I should be upset but I think it’s kind of funny. Having sex once in the book (or twice?) over nine months is fairly low on the slut scale, in my opinion, although I did drink a decent amount to cope with being lost and lonely in strange countries. Either way, a review is a review and they all help in their own way. Funny thing, the day after that posted I had a little boost in online sales. Go figure. I hope no one was disappointed at the lack of porn.

Aloha from Illinois,

M

 

 

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Surfer, Sailor, Smuggler – adventure/ocean fiction based on true stories

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Lucy in the snow - wander with melissa

Of duct tape and thunder snow

After a few great days at the start of my trip, Lucy and I have come to a snowy, skidding halt. Minnesota in a blizzard is the last place I would have imagined our travels would take us. How did we get here?

From Whitefish, Montana, Lucy and I headed to Great Falls to visit Kari, Keith and Kiara for Kari’s birthday. Along the way we picked up Colleen and Alakea at the airport as her birthday surprise. The next day, with the Horton/Kester clan plus Gaga, we travelled to Kathy’s parents’ house on Seeley Lake for the real party – a Polihale-style barbecue by the lake. It was cold but beautiful, and light snow held off until the next day. As a group we went to Kathy’s grandmother’s retirement home the next morning in Missoula for her 100th birthday party. It was also Kathy’s mother’s 75th birthday, which is why Kathy was visiting from New York. It was great to have so many of the girls back together again after a few years away from Kauai together.

Seeley Lake Montana - wander with melissa

 

Minor note – if you’re in Montana, buy anything with Huckleberries except the Huckleberry coffee. That was a mistake.

All was looking good as we continued the party back in Great Falls, and I set my date for heading to South Dakota to visit the Badlands and Bear Country, the only things I had planned for this trip and was set on doing. Mt. Rushmore has been on my to-see list for so many years and I finally had the time to explore the area.

We sat down for a final evening and looked at the weather, and what should appear but a monster spring storm, completely unprecedented and unwelcome. It seemed to be centered on the exact area I was headed – South Dakota; 18″ of snow predicted for the next day, with gusting winds up to 60 mph. My backup plan was Colorado – 12″ predicted. South: snow. West: snow. East: snow. North: maybe an escape. I decided to make a run north and see if I could get back to the Badlands after a couple of days – I wasn’t prepared to see snow for at least another 8 months!

The roads out of Great Falls weren’t bad, snow wasn’t expected until the following day and the rain was only a heavy drizzle. It was still an intimidating drive, but the quality of the roads were impressive. One aspect of this country I have greatly missed while living in Hawaii is the amazing system of highways through the mainland. I stuck to smaller roads to go north but they were smooth and well kept, and I could find a nice road to take me to any small town I wanted to go. I’ve had similar thoughts ever since I picked up my truck in Seattle – our highway system could be one of the great wonders of the world, as long as you don’t look at the local, potholed lanes in cities. In 1956, Eisenhower signed the Federal-Aid Highway Act and that made possible the trucking industry, transporting goods across the nation, and allowing wanderers relative ease to find interesting places to visit. I have been stuck in a pretty negative place lately when I think of our country and the direction it’s heading, but looking upon an act of greatness (even if it’s from the past) has been a welcome change.

I set my sights on Sidney, Montana, and took a lonely route where I didn’t see another car for nearly half an hour at a time. Without phone reception this was a little scary but the roads were perfect and the rain had stopped. I hadn’t quite gotten used to passing cars yet, still a bit intimidating, but every once in a while a slow truck was in my way and I was trying to outrun the coming blizzard. It’s not easy seeing around some of the monster semis hauling giant pieces of farm equipment, and I finally worked up the courage on a fairly straight piece of road with only some minor hills. I hadn’t seen another car pass in the other direction for a while, so chances were good that nothing would come out of nowhere but I’m sure you can guess what happened: a car the exact beige color of the road appeared as I was halfway past the truck. Nothing to do but a pedal-to-the-metal, butt-clenching burst of speed (thank you, Nissan) and cut-in the moment I had clearance. I silently apologized to the passing motorists for scaring them, but it was probably more dramatic in my head than in real life. It’ll be a long time before I attempt to pass another truck.

Montana deer - wander with melissa

 

I picked the Holiday Inn in Sidney, Montana to stop for the night and plan my next route, which I do not recommend if you happen to find yourself there for a cattle auction; people pounding on doors after midnight (don’t tell my mom, but I finally had to open my door to tell the man outside to shut the hell up and go away), and someone else’s food left in my refrigerator. Gross. On the positive side, it rated ‘pretty good’ on the hound dog sniff test (see previous posts for Lucy’s potential job calling).

So Lucy and I are planning our route by means of Google maps, NOAA weather, and phone calls. Mark had previously sent me his address in Colorado but made sure to tell me that his area was expecting a foot of snow and I should stay away. I saw phrases like ‘snow bomb’ and ‘thunder snow’ in the forecasts everywhere around me. I researched a route up into Canada and down through Michigan, and tried to find a way south but the storm was too big. I finally called Colleen (whom I had picked up in Great Falls for the party) and we calculated that I could make it to her house in Minneapolis just as the blizzard was predicted to hit. The drive was 10 hours, I just had to wake up super early and move. Thanks, angry man pounding on doors – I didn’t need to sleep anyway.

Lucy and I managed to wake up at 5 a.m. and fly across North Dakota. I didn’t stop at any of the scenic overlooks (yes, ND has some beautiful spots) or ‘the world’s largest buffalo’, or take pictures of the clouds of birds flying in mesmerizing formations over the fields. It was a full-on sprint across the state while listening to tips on how to keep your herd safe in the unexpected spring storm. The winds began picking up and driving with both hands white-knuckling the steering wheel, especially while passing a semi coming from the opposite direction, became essential. With only a few feet between me and the giant trucks, every time one went by accompanied by a wind gust, it was like someone threw a flashbang at me. I reduced my fluid intake as a precaution, and I don’t understand how Lucy slept through those, scared as she is.

Trying to maximize my gas tank capacity and make fewer stops led me to a bit of difficulty somewhere between Bismarck and Fargo, literally in the middle of nowhere. I was forced to take side roads in search of a gas station and lost about half an hour, but found the most pleasant people I’ve met so far on this trip. Lucy always pokes her head up when we stop, and the man at the ag center came outside three times in the 30-degree cold and blowing wind to see if she was okay. He told me I could let her out to wander around off-leash if I wanted (which would have added another two hours to lost time by the time I collected her), or she could wander around inside his store for some exercise. We took a nice, if cold, walk instead.

I’ve often exaggerated how I’m freezing to death, like when I’m getting into the ocean in the morning or the evening, or waking up in 50 degree weather in Hawaii, or outside in the Pacific Northwest in the 40s. But for once, in North Dakota, it was real. I couldn’t find my socks in the truck and hadn’t thoroughly thought out my wardrobe choices; I was thankful that I found a winter coat on sale in Washington.

When I left Portland, I had packed a few things into the bed of my truck that wouldn’t fit inside (since I had packed far too many sets of useless clothing – why did I think I needed 8 sundresses for this trip?). One large item I picked up from Clare was a set of my (deceased) grandmother’s dainty, light-weight end tables. I had wanted them when she died, and I never thought I’d be in Hawaii for so many years, so she kept them in storage for me. I nested them inside one another, wrapped them in bubble wrap and put them in a large plastic bag to keep them watertight, then taped the single package shut; tie-downs kept them in place. As the wind picked up I could see bits of the bubble wrap poking through as the gusts began to rip the bag open, already weakened by the severe cold. The packing tape froze and slowly stopped sticking. With holes in the bag, the tables caught the wind and forced the straps to loosen, and somewhere near the Minnesota border I began to worry that the whole mess would take flight, land on someone’s windshield, and cause a 20-car pileup. Again, my imagination amazes me, but I couldn’t stop thinking about it and pulled off right before downtown Fargo to assess the situation. My plan was to tighten the straps, add another, and buy some duct tape to close the holes in the bag; I would get new plastic bags when I got to Colleen’s house and redo the entire setup for the final stretch home. I found some duct tape and covered the holes while my truck gassed up, but it wasn’t sticking like I thought it should. Damn cold. I though duct tape fixed everything. I got back on the road, conscious of the time since Colleen had texted that it had started snowing in Minneapolis and I was still about three hours out. As I came off the entrance ramp into downtown Fargo traffic, the first piece of duct tape took flight in the wind, apparently unhappy with being asked to work in the extreme temperature. Two other long strips began to flap over my tailgate but were putting forth a better effort at sticking. I pulled into traffic and headed for the fast lane, trying to make up for lost time. Moments later I passed two state patrol trucks in the median, one of which pulled out right behind me, and don’t you know that’s when the second strip of tape let loose, caught the wind, and landed smack on the trooper’s windshield before sliding across and flopping to the ground. I prepared to get pulled over by sliding in front of a semi in the middle lane, but hopeful that there was too much traffic for him to stop me and give me a ticket for littering. The trooper came up next to me, flashed on his lights, and pulled over the car in front of me! I sincerely hope he was doing something bad that I didn’t notice and didn’t get my ticket. As the last length of duct tape gave up life about half a mile later, I noticed the Adopt-A-Highway sign of the Fargo Jaycees; I’m going to send them a donation when I get home for picking up my trash. I just wanted to get out of there.

Also while in Portland I noticed Lucy’s fear of walking under bridges; I thought it was the noise the cars make while driving on the steel grate material they use on some of them. Turns out she’s afraid of all bridges. Minnesota has a lot of overpasses, and since we had been in the truck for nine hours, Lucy was wide awake. With every approaching bridge, Lucy stared until we drove under, then made a mad dash to duck by trying to jump off the seat to the floor (which was full of random bits of travel stuff). Get back on the seat, stare at the bridge, jump to the floor. Over and over. It was funny until it started furiously blowing snow.

snowy Minnesota - wander with melissa

 

We had managed to beat the snow until about an hour outside Colleen’s house, but it came on like a true blizzard. Almost immediately I was on the phone with her trying to figure out where to go or what to do. If I could just make it a bit closer, she could grab a friend and pick us up but I was still too far away. I was considering stopping at a hotel, so close to my destination, because the wind was causing an almost total whiteout, even though the roads were still fairly clear. I thought driving through downtown Portland highways in the dark, in rain, during rush hour was the worst I could encounter on this trip, but a blizzard in Minneapolis during rush hour beat that hands down. I was shaking, since it’s been about 20 years since I’ve driven in snow, and Lucy diving under bridges wasn’t helping. As I was about to quit and pull off the highway I saw blinking orange lights ahead of me – a wide-load truck hauling a backhoe, going 55 mph as opposed to the 70+ of the veteran winter drivers around me. I snuggled in behind it and followed those flashing lights, sometimes the only thing I could see, for the remaining 29 miles of highway to Colleen and her family. After a few miles of slow, suburban driving (in 4×4 of course), I crawled down the final street to see Colleen and her children building a snowman and waving me down. After 11 hours of driving, little food or water, cramps from holding the steering wheel against the wind gusts, seeing them outside looking for me became my new definition of happiness.

ukulele - wander with melissa

 

After a beautiful snow day, watching TV with Alakea and Kala, listening to Haku play ukulele, and cocktails with Colleen (Huckleberry liqueur is a million times better than Huckleberry coffee), I’m preparing to leave tomorrow to make a dash south. It’s still snowing here but I have a job interview to get to (and I really really want the job), and the snow lets up about an hour away (although now I see a massive storm over Ohio). This has been a lovely break, especially since Lucy and Makoa have been playing so nicely, but it’s time to get to the end. South Dakota will have to wait for the next trip.

Aloha from freezing Minnesota,

M

 

 

Help support the journey – Buy a book!

Wandering – non-fiction travel/adventure/humor

Sylvie Writes a Romance – romantic comedy

Sylvie Falls in Love – romantic comedy part 2

Surfer, Sailor, Smuggler – adventure/ocean fiction based on true stories

Stock photos on Adobe Stock

Sign up for this blog on the homepage to get updates on the trip, and watch Hawaii Ocean Photography for extra photos!

Lucy in Idaho - wander with melissa

Whitefish, I’m in love.

Today I find myself in Whitefish, Montana. I could live here.

I did some hiking and sightseeing in Coeur d’Alene (which I haven’t yet successfully spelled correctly without Googling), and it is a beautiful town. I was going to dedicate this post to CDA (easier to spell), but then I got to Whitefish and now think it’s a dump in comparison. Whitefish is easier to type, too.

Lucy and I drove around Lake CDA, which is quite a distance, and really is breathtaking. Long, long lake surrounded by evergreen forest and snowcapped mountains, with a windy road along one side. That about sums it up. I was looking for a picturesque spot for sunset photos and severely underestimated how long it would take to drive around so most of it was seen in partial darkness. We had our first wildlife scare on the way – deer running across the one-lane road. Fortunately, I was driving at annoying-tourist speed.

Lucy in Coeur d'Alene - wander with melissa

 

We packed up the next morning and drove the steep mountain roads into Montana, and I have to admit I was somewhat terrified at times. Signs posted every few miles told me to watch for ice, or that the bridges are icy, or the shady spots are icy, and since I haven’t driven in snow in years I immediately assumed the entire roadway was a giant sheet of ice. I spent hours barely going the speed limit, sometimes under and hoping my Hawaii license plates would allow people to forgive me, while imagining my truck sliding off the mountain, tumbling several times, and ending in a fiery crash at the bottom in a fluffy pile of snow. Realistically, though, it was only drizzling, most of the snow was melted and not a drop on the road, and I am accustomed to my imagination running off in random, horrible directions. The temperature was in the low-40s and I didn’t see any evidence of other people hurtling to their deaths. The scariest part was at one of the peaks before the curving 6% downgrade, raining and foggy with snow cover all around in the forest, and I was at least happy I couldn’t see enough through the fog to the bottom of the valley. Needless to say, we lived, although I really could have used those CBD gummies I bought in Portland – just for this occasion – which were buried somewhere in the back of my truck.

After surviving the first few miles of Montana, we turned up toward Whitefish on mostly one-lane roads; these were pretty clear and the driving was much less stressful. All in all, though, my journey thus far from Portland has had me poking Lucy to wake her up every few minutes to tell her how beautiful it is. Or that she’s missing a herd of cows.

I had randomly selected The Pine Lodge in Whitefish and made a reservation that morning (since it is now even colder and rainier and I will not be camping), and it was a good choice. This is a great place to stay, right along the Whitefish river but just outside town. Lucy sniffed the carpet, but only a fraction as long as in CDA, so it is definitely a clean place. I thought that might be a niche job for my dog – hotel cleanliness inspector. You would be rated according to how many seconds it takes Lucy to cover the room.

Lucy and I were both super stressed from the drive so the first thing we did was find a dog park for her to run. Whitefish seems to be a very dog-friendly town, as evidenced by the 200 dog grooming, boarding, and pet stores we passed. We found a 5-acre dog park, mostly mud at this time of year, and she ran her brains out with another dog she met. And since she was already long-overdue for a bath, we went to a do-it-yourself dog wash store (omg who knew these existed??) and now she smells like strawberries. She hated every moment of it, and I ended up spending 10 minutes wiping down the walls and floors of the room since she somehow sprayed water several feet into the pet food area.

Lucy Whitefish dogpark - wander with melissa

 

Many of the roads in Glacier National Park are still closed so Lucy and I found a trail to hike that didn’t require driving through the snow up to the mountains this morning. I do want to hike Glacier sometime, but I’ll have to plan that better. We went to Swift Creek trailhead (I had chosen a different one but somehow couldn’t find it). Grizzly bear season is starting and warning signs were posted everywhere. I’ve wanted to see a bear for as long as I can remember, so we started down the trail with high hopes.

I imagined that my first bear sighting would be something like the first time I went scuba diving to look for Laverne, the famous Kona tiger shark. Totally excited at first, ready to observe and photograph one of nature’s most fearsome creatures; but when I finally saw her I hid behind a lump of coral, hyperventilating and peeing my wetsuit. And forgot to take a picture. (For the record, I was much braver each successive time I saw her).

Lucy and I started down the trail, camera in hand (new, crappy camera – my good Nikon died in Portland and the camera shop couldn’t fix it. I had to mail it to Nikon and I’m hoping to catch up with it further into Montana. I had to buy the best Nikon that Best Buy had to offer, which after my D750 is almost archaic. Still, better than my iPhone). The forest was completely silent, and the smell was something I had completely forgotten – glorious wet evergreen forest smell. The trail was icy in places and the going was slow. Lucy learned that if she dug a little hole in the snow she could stick her nose in and smell wonderful decaying things. She also learned that she loves deer poop.

Whitefish forest - wander with melissa

 

And while I’m thinking of poop – the trail was wonderfully clean, in terms of trash, except for… yes, dog poop bags! Really. It’s nice that owners are conscientious enough to pick up after their pets, but you have to take the plastic bag with you and put it in the trash! Poop bags of all the colors of the rainbow were along the trail. Idiots.

It took some time to walk the Swift Creek loop due to the ice, and we stopped off at the Creek overlook hoping to see one of the bears hunting fish (although I have no idea if bears do that everywhere, or if the bears here are like Yogi and just look for unprotected picnic baskets). I wanted to go to the lake to look for bears but it was two more miles of icy trail along a steep ridge and I had no desire to slide off the edge, so Lucy and I started back. I was trying to imagine what it would be like to run into a bear; I had no bear spray, and my hunting knife was last used to cut lemons and was currently residing in a bag with my kitchen supplies (but really I’d get mauled before I got close enough to use my knife – it’s more a morale knife than a hunting knife). I wondered what Lucy would do. As a Plott hound, her breed was originally bred to hunt bear – but my dog, who is frightened of bridges and rustling plastic bags and the squeak that doors make – who knows. In my head she is ferociously protecting me, barking and driving the hungry bear away, but in reality I could see her trying to hide behind my legs, tangling me in her leash and causing me to fall on the ice, then we’d both get eaten. 

Swift creek - wander with melissa

 

Enjoying the quiet and the relaxing smells of forest as we neared the end of the trail, dreaming of what to have for lunch, we were completely startled by a massive, shaggy brown thing running across our trail. A grizzly bear! Oh My God A Grizzly Bear! 

Much like in the ocean, I hid behind the nearest tree and peeked out, but thankfully I did not pee myself (much more obvious on land). Lucy was absolutely silent, standing rigid, staring ahead. I didn’t know what to do. I looked around and saw I was near the entrance to the loop so going back wasn’t an option; in fact looking a bit closer I could see my truck in the parking lot. I wondered what they would say if I called 911 and told them a bear was in the forest. So we waited, all the while peering out from behind a tree. It was totally quiet. Not even a chirping bird. 

And then I looked down at my feet. I thought I was standing on a stick, but it was a severed deer leg. The hoof, plus about 10 inches of bone with some fur. Lucy didn’t even notice it, she was still in guard mode. Time to move.

I hadn’t seen the bear for a few minutes, so we left the trail and crept quietly to the far side of the parking lot and reached my truck. After my heart started beating again I was upset I didn’t have a picture, so I left my driver’s side door open and Lucy and I cautiously headed back toward where we saw the bear. If we only went a little way in we could run and jump into the truck if we had a little head start. Supposing, of course, I didn’t panic and slip on the ice and become this bear’s first spring meal.

Whitefish deer - wander with melissa

 

We stayed out another half hour but never saw her again. More deer, squirrels and birds, but nothing else. It was a great day. And like with Laverne, I will be a little braver next time I see a bear. But I probably won’t be any braver driving. Wish me clear roads and blue skies for my next big drive tomorrow.

Aloha from Montana!

M

 

 

 

Help support the journey – Buy a book!

Wandering – non-fiction travel/adventure/humor

Sylvie Writes a Romance – romantic comedy

Sylvie Falls in Love – romantic comedy part 2

Surfer, Sailor, Smuggler – adventure/ocean fiction based on true stories

Stock photos on Adobe Stock

Sign up for this blog on the homepage to get updates on the trip, and watch Hawaii Ocean Photography for extra photos!

Surfer, Sailor, Smuggler - Melissa Burovac

Kindle release for Surfer, Sailor, Smuggler: Tales of Living

I’m excited to announce the Kindle release for

Surfer, Sailor, Smuggler: Tales of Living!

 

I was too impatient to wait for the paperback proof to release both versions at the same time, but cross fingers the paperback will be available next week. You might understand my impatience if you knew how much blood, sweat, tears and vodka has gone into this book over the past two years.

The journey began on Mark’s boat, talking story and sipping cocktails. It progressed to taped interviews on Mark’s boat with cocktails (it’s hard to do anything on Mark’s boat without cocktails – just don’t let him be the bartender if you have any respect for your liver). Finally, after over a year of writing, rewriting, throwing it all out and starting again, rewriting some more, and several rounds of edits, a fictionalized tale – based on true stories – of surfers, sailors and smugglers is ready.

 

Surfer, Sailor, Smuggler - Melissa Burovac

 

Two boys growing up together in a small California town are the best of friends. One conforms to his parents’ wishes and follows a preset path to a career; the other creates his own path, sailing the world, surfing and smuggling drugs to Hawaii. Watch their lives diverge and reconnect through the years with tales of action and adventure, brushes with the law, Mexican cartels, and lost families and friends. Do they regret their lifestyles and the consequences of their choices as they approach old age?
Based on the true stories of surfers, sailors and pirates on Kauai.

 

I hope you love it as much as I do. And if you’ve managed to read all the way through to here, then I have a gift for you. For the first few days, Surfer, Sailor, Smuggler is free on Amazon for Kindle. This is my Thank You for sticking with me through these crazy writing years. Download it now before it goes up to normal price! If you don’t use a Kindle, I’ll have other electronic formats available soon, as well as the paperback. I will also be on Kauai and the mainland with copies – stay tuned for the dates!

As always, a review on Amazon is appreciated, as well as a recommendation to friends.

Thank you for reading, and have a great day!

Melissa

 

 

About Melissa:
Melissa is a writer and photographer on the Big Island of Hawaii. An avid outdoorswoman, Burovac enjoys outrigger paddling—both one-man and six-man—SUP, running, surfing, sailing, and scuba diving, as well as yoga. She is always up for adventure and loves doing things that scare her a little.
Books:
Surfer, Sailor, Smuggler: Tales of Living
Sylvie Writes a Romance – Book 1 of Sylvie’s Romance
Sylvie Falls in Love – Book 2 of Sylvie’s Romance
Wandering
Leave a review on Amazon and I’ll love you forever!
Recent articles:
From Travel to Romcon and Beyond
BookDaily.com
Travel Writing on JenniferSAlderson.com
Recent reviews:
Indie Reader Review for Sylvie Writes a Romance
Kirkus Indie Review for Sylvie Writes a Romance
Follow me on Facebook
Follow me on Twitter
For fine art photography prints from the islands, check out the Hawaii Ocean Photography  website and Like the Facebook page
Melissa Burovac

Words and Wine at Kona Stories book store – Tuesday July 3rd

Kona Stories

 

Tomorrow’s the big day! Join me, along with fellow author Eila Algood and artist Cheri Mandaquit for Words and Wine, a monthly gathering of readers and authors. Enjoy pupus and wine as we discuss our projects, and meet other book lovers.

 

I’ll be talking about the Sylvie’s Romance series, and how I found myself writing in a genre I never imagined I’d write in – romantic comedy.

 

We’ll have books and art for sale after the presentations. Stop by! It’ll be a fun evening. 6-8 pm at Kona Stories book store.

 

Sylvie's Romance - Melissa Burovac

 

 

About Melissa:
Melissa is a writer and photographer on the Big Island of Hawaii. An avid outdoorswoman, Burovac enjoys outrigger paddling—both one-man and six-man—SUP, running, surfing, sailing, and scuba diving, as well as yoga. She is always up for adventure and loves doing things that scare her a little.
Books:
Sylvie Writes a Romance – Book 1 of Sylvie’s Romance
Sylvie Falls in Love – Book 2 of Sylvie’s Romance
Wandering
Leave a review on Amazon and I’ll love you forever!
Recent articles:
From Travel to Romcon and Beyond
BookDaily.com
Travel Writing on JenniferSAlderson.com
Recent reviews:
Indie Reader Review for Sylvie Writes a Romance
Kirkus Indie Review for Sylvie Writes a Romance
Follow me on Facebook
Follow me on Twitter
For fine art photography prints from the islands, check out the Hawaii Ocean Photography  website and Like the Facebook page
Sylvie's Romance - Melissa Burovac

Sylvie’s Romance Kindle sale

Sylvie Writes a Romance - Melissa BurovacSylvie Falls in Love - Melissa Burovac

 

 

Beginning June 4th, both Kindle books in the Sylvie’s Romance series are on sale!

Sylvie Writes a Romance, the first in the series, is free for 5 days to get you caught up on your reading, and Sylvie Falls in Love is discounted until June 11th. Get both books for less than the price of one!

 

If you have Kindle Unlimited, you can read both books for free at any time.

 

Thank you for reading, and if you have a moment, leave a review on Amazon or Goodreads.

 

 

About Melissa:
Books:
Sylvie Writes a Romance – Book 1 of Sylvie’s Romance
Sylvie Falls in Love – Book 2 of Sylvie’s Romance
Wandering
Leave a review on Amazon and I’ll love you forever!
Sylvie Writes a Romance on Smashwords – for Nook, Kobo, etc
Sylvie Falls in Love on Smashwords
Recent articles:
From Travel to Romcon and Beyond
BookDaily.com
Travel Writing on JenniferSAlderson.com
Recent reviews:
Indie Reader Review for Sylvie Writes a Romance
Kirkus Indie Review for Sylvie Writes a Romance
Follow me on Facebook
Follow me on Twitter
For fine art photography prints from the islands, check out the Hawaii Ocean Photography  website and Like the Facebook page
Sylvie's Romance - Melissa Burovac

Sylvie’s Romance series ebook sale on Smashwords

Sylvie's Romance - Melissa Burovac

 

Sylvie’s Romance series on sale at Smashwords

25% off Sylvie Writes a Romance and Sylvie Falls in Love at Smashwords

 

Get both books in the Sylvie’s Romance series for the price of your morning cup of coffee. Download them easily onto your iPad, Kindle or other eReader and enjoy them anywhere you go.

Sylvie has finally finished writing her romance novel – can she find the same happy ending for her own life? 
Continue with Sylvie’s adventures as she explores the good and bad of love in the real world.

 

Early 5-star reviews on Amazon for Sylvie Falls in Love:

 

“This book was amazing. I was a fan of Melissa’s previous two books, and this is no different. Great read with a cup of tea!”
“Burovac does a phenomenal job of transporting you into the world of Sylvie, Colleen, and the other characters. I found myself stepping into their shoes over and over again, whether it be high heels or flip-flops. Perfect beach read, but also perfect for a snowy day in April when you are angry with Mother Nature and want to hibernate.”

 

Sylvie Falls in Love - Melissa Burovac

 

 

Paperback copies are available on Amazon, and signed copies can be purchased through the Shop at Hawaii Ocean Photography.

Don’t forget to catch up in the series with the first book, Sylvie Writes a Romance.

Sylvie aspires to write a romance novel, but gives up after several tries because she knows nothing of romance. With the help of her best friend, she signs up for a popular dating site to find a man to seduce her and teach her about passion – certain this will help her write her book. While Sylvie dreams of the steamy scenes she thinks are necessary for a good romance novel, her ​unintentionally comical ​dates fall far short of her expectations.

“A feel-good romantic comedy with a resilient heroine” – Kirkus Indie Review
“Sylvie Writes a Romance is absolutely hilarious!” – Amazon review

 

Thank you for reading, and I look forward to hearing what you think of the new book!

Melissa

 

 

About Melissa:
Books:
Sylvie Writes a Romance – Book 1 of Sylvie’s Romance
Sylvie Falls in Love – Book 2 of Sylvie’s Romance
Wandering
Leave a review on Amazon and I’ll love you forever!
Sylvie Writes a Romance on Smashwords – for Nook, Kobo, etc
Sylvie Falls in Love on Smashwords
Recent articles:
From Travel to Romcon and Beyond
BookDaily.com
Travel Writing on JenniferSAlderson.com
Recent reviews:
Indie Reader Review for Sylvie Writes a Romance
Kirkus Indie Review for Sylvie Writes a Romance
Follow me on Facebook
Follow me on Twitter
For fine art photography prints from the islands, check out the Hawaii Ocean Photography  website and Like the Facebook page
Sylvie Falls in Love (Sylvie's Romance #2) - Melissa Burovac

Sylvie Falls in Love (Sylvie’s Romance #2) eBook release today!

I’m very happy to announce the ebook release of Sylvie Falls in Love (Sylvie’s Romance #2)!

 

 

Sylvie Falls in Love (Sylvie's Romance #2) - Melissa Burovac

 

Sylvie has finally finished writing her romance novel – can she find the same happy ending for her own life? 
Continue with Sylvie’s adventures as she explores the good and bad of love in the real world.

 

The paperback will be along in about a week, and at that time I’ll set up giveaways and parties and events. One book reading is already scheduled at Kona Stories Book Store for July 3rd, so if you’re coming to Big Island for the 4th of July just come a day early! Future dates on Kauai and the mainland will be announced shortly.

For now, though, you can find Sylvie Falls in Love on Amazon and Smashwords. Use the Amazon link for Kindle readers, and the Smashwords link for iBooks; more formats coming soon. If you haven’t read Sylvie Writes a Romance yet, read it first!

 

I hope you continue with Sylvie’s adventures, and love them as much as I’ve loved writing them.

Thank you for reading!

Melissa

 

 

 

 

About Melissa:
Books:
Sylvie Writes a Romance – Book 1 of Sylvie’s Romance
Sylvie Falls in Love – Book 2 of Sylvie’s Romance
Wandering
Leave a review on Amazon and I’ll love you forever!
Sylvie Writes a Romance on Smashwords – for Nook, Kobo, etc
Sylvie Falls in Love on Smashwords
Recent articles:
From Travel to Romcon and Beyond
BookDaily.com
Travel Writing on JenniferSAlderson.com
Recent reviews:
Indie Reader Review for Sylvie Writes a Romance
Kirkus Indie Review for Sylvie Writes a Romance
Follow me on Facebook
Follow me on Twitter
For fine art photography prints from the islands, check out the Hawaii Ocean Photography  website and Like the Facebook page
Lifeguard Lucy

Where has the time gone?

Lifeguard Lucy

 

As I sat down to write today, I looked back through this blog and realized nearly 3 months have passed without any updates. Where has the time gone?

Quite a bit has happened since my last post. I finally shed my indecision and made a move to forward my photography career on the Big Island of Hawaii; I love Kauai, and still consider it home, but to up my underwater game I needed to live somewhere with more wildlife, better visibility, and more people to learn from.

In some ways, the transition has been heartbreaking. After building friendships for 12 years on Kauai and learning the island, I left it all to go somewhere I didn’t know anyone save a woman I haven’t seen since high school and a couple moving away soon, and being completely lost wherever I go (thank god for gps). I left without having a home or a job, just my puppy Lucy and what would fit in the back of my truck when it shipped across the ocean.

Lucy and I spent a couple homeless weeks in a hotel and a vacation rental, the first week with my sister Mary who was amazing at helping us get our feet and paws on the ground with much less stress than anticipated. During the second week I started a job on a boat as crew for manta ray night snorkel trips out of Keauhou Bay, and moved into a tiny house 1500 feet above Kona town. If I thought I was tired, stressed, and confused, poor Lucy had no idea what had happened to the happy life she led on Kauai. Her best-puppy-friends were nowhere to be found; between the hotel, vacation rental, and new house she didn’t recognize any of the smells; her daily beach walks and normal routines were gone. At 6 months old, she was scared and angry at these major changes to her life, and was quite upset with me. When my truck finally arrived and she could ride in her customary passenger seat she settled down a little, and when I unpacked a few boxes and found her stash of well-chewed dog toys she relaxed a bit more. In the two weeks since we moved into our house we’ve found a dog park and made new puppy friends, and a couple beaches where she can splash in the ocean again. Lucy can’t come to work with me anymore, but quickly got used to spending her evenings in her crate and patiently waiting for me to come home.

I’m not sure I’ve adapted quite as quickly as Lucy, though. After packing up my house and giving away or selling most of my possessions, travel, stress about finding a place to live and work (even if it’s a short-term job), finding my way around, unpacking boxes, financial worries, and having to work nights (and – gasp – having to be somewhere at a specific time!) after a couple years of keeping my own schedule, I had to spend all my free time sleeping off the stress. I’m not sure I’ve recovered even now, and am just over a nasty cold – inevitable after the major changes in my life, I guess. My body went into survival mode, and all unnecessary functions shut down. I finally found the energy to take my camera into the ocean a couple days ago to begin building my business on this island, and sat down to work on my next book. I was blessed with a friendly pod of dolphins on my first day back in the water, and managed to write a couple pages of the book before I had to take a nap.

 

Hawaii dolphin pod

 

I’ve been on the Big Island for a month now, and see plenty of hard work ahead. I have a list of goals to achieve, and am finally ready to begin. All-in-all, though, I’m quite proud of myself for the progress I’ve made in such a short time. As each day passes I have a little more energy to put into things that aren’t merely surviving or making sure Lucy is cared for. It’s time for writing and photography, and having some fun. It’s time to explore this giant island and learn new things. It’s time to really begin to live here , and I’m excited about a whole new life with all the undreamed-of possibilities waiting just outside my door.

But first, maybe a quick nap…

 

 

About Melissa:
Books:
Sylvie Writes a Romance – Book 1 of Sylvie’s Romance
Sylvie Falls in Love – Book 2 of Sylvie’s Romance
Wandering
Leave a review on Amazon and I’ll love you forever!
Sylvie Writes a Romance on Smashwords – for Nook, Kobo, etc
Sylvie Falls in Love on Smashwords
Recent articles:
From Travel to Romcon and Beyond
BookDaily.com
Travel Writing on JenniferSAlderson.com
Recent reviews:
Indie Reader Review for Sylvie Writes a Romance
Kirkus Indie Review for Sylvie Writes a Romance
Follow me on Facebook
Follow me on Twitter
For fine art photography prints from the islands, check out the Hawaii Ocean Photography  website and Like the Facebook page
Melissa Burovac, author

My author interview, by Lucia N. Davis

Aloha!

I was honored to be interviewed by fellow author Lucia N Davis. You can find the interview on Lucia’s blog.

So far, Lucia has written two eBooks, available on Amazon. Both are (paranormal) mysteries, with a hint of romance, set in the Pacific Northwest. Give them a read, you won’t be disappointed.

Read my interview of Lucia.

The Indie author community is a talented, supportive group and I’m proud to be a part of it. If you’d like to have a guest post on my blog just send me a message at m3lissab33@gmail.com. Examples of interviews, along with links to blogs and where to purchase books can be found on my website.

 

 

 

Melissa Burovac, author

 

 

 

About Melissa:

Sylvie Writes a Romance

Wandering

Leave a review on Amazon and I’ll love you forever!

Sylvie Writes a Romance on Smashwords – for Nook, Kobo, etc

Recent articles:

From Travel to Romcon and Beyond

BookDaily.com

Travel Writing on JenniferSAlderson.com

Recent reviews:

Indie Reader Review for Sylvie Writes a Romance

Kirkus Indie Review for Sylvie Writes a Romance

Follow me on Facebook

Follow me on Twitter

For fine art photography prints from the islands, check out Hawaii Ocean Photography

Introducing author Nikki Landis

Aloha readers!

I’ve recently had the pleasure of meeting author Nikki Landis, and if you aren’t familiar with her work I’d like to share it with you.

Nikki Landis is the award winning author of over a dozen novels, mostly in the romance genre. Her recent novel Refugee Road is the Gold Medal winner of the 2017 IPPY award for Best Romance/Erotica. Nikki grew up sneaking her mother’s romance novels – intrigued with the characters, the stories, and the historical settings from authors that have greatly influenced her writing, like Johanna Lindsey, Kathleen E. Woodiwiss, and Bertrice Small. 

She is also a fan of the classics and adores Jane Austen. Books like The Chronicles of Narnia, The Lord of the Rings, and The Hobbit have shaped and molded her vision of fantasy and inspired it, contributing to her popular series The Fight for Light novels.

Nikki holds two degrees, in Dietetics and Nutrition, and her Bachelor of Science in Health Promotion and Wellness. She’s a wife and mother, spending her free time reading, writing, and enjoying the outdoors. The mother of a new Marine, she’s also a patriot.


Here is a peak at her novel The Guardian A Fight for Light Book 1

“Fate has a way of stepping in when you least expect it.”

*** New Cover, Expanded & Revised Edition May 2017 ***

Rhiannon has been hidden most of her life and protected from the terrible tragedy that stole her parent’s lives when she was only a child. Raised in a normal human society, she thinks her life will never change. And then strange things start happening, and someone or something seems to be watching her every move…

Fate has a way of intervening when she is confronted by true evil, her existence threatened by an entirely new and foreign entity, one that is as mysterious as the man who suddenly enters her life. A stranger that makes her question her reality and an unimaginable fate she is destined to follow, Kellen’s motives are as strange as his appearance.

Now Rhiannon must seek the truth as a dark and deadly enemy pursues hunting her, but the only protection she has is….The Guardian. Can she trust in Kellen when her life is on the line?

Is the Light strong enough to defeat the Darkness, even if it seeks your soul?

 

Reviews:
What an amazing book! Following Rhiannon throughout the story was fun, exhilarating, and there was a twist at every chapter. The writing was detailed, vivid, and well-written.” – H. Reuter, Amazon

 

The Guardian draws you in very quickly, it almost gives you that laser focus as you drone in to each character. For me Nikki is a really intense author who is full of “The WOW Factor.” She leaves you on the edge of your seat drooling for more.” – Willcape, Amazon

 

Plenty of twists and turns to keep you engaged throughout the entire book. Get to the end and she leaves you STARVING for more!!! Extremely well written, I highly recommend this read!” – Amazon Customer

 

You can follow Nikki on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads, and sign up for her newsletter (and get a free copy of her book!).

Enjoy!

Melissa

 

Find my books on Amazon:

Sylvie Writes a Romance

Wandering

Leave a review on Amazon and I’ll love you forever!

Sylvie Writes a Romance on Smashwords – for Nook, Kobo, etc

Recent articles:

From Travel to Romcon and Beyond

BookDaily.com

Travel Writing on JenniferSAlderson.com

Recent reviews:

Indie Reader Review for Sylvie Writes a Romance

Kirkus Indie Review for Sylvie Writes a Romance

Follow me on Facebook