Let’s see…where did I leave off? Right. Kate’s house. Yeah, so K made it home from class around noon, and we headed off to explore Omaha a little. As I discovered, the Big O isn’t actually all that big-bigger than Hartford, but more spread out-but isn’t a bad place by any means. There has been an increase in crime in recent years, but it also won an award for something like the “best value place to live” or something like that. At any rate, after catching up over lunch at a great little burger joint, we headed out to the Omaha botanical gardens. It was great to stretch my legs a bit and get some fresh air as we walked around the relatively young, but very pretty and growing gardens. Once we decided we’d had enough of the heat, we got back in K’s little yellow VW bug to drive around the old market area of Omaha (a neat historic downtown area with shops and restaurants and things), then headed back to relax in the air conditioning at K’s. While K went to her evening class I was able to take a much needed shower and catch up on a few planning things, which was definitely a good thing. The rest of the evening was just really chill-K made a delicious pasta, basil, and goat cheese dish for dinner, which we ate while vegging out watching 30 Rock on Netflix. Eventually it was time to say our goodbyes, and I boarded the bus for my adventure to Laramie. Overall, a great day full of much-needed relaxation-it was so good to see K and catch up a bit…and plus I got to meet the famous Libby!!! =P
The bus ride from Omaha to Denver, CO, where I transferred, was actually pretty good-I got two seats to myself, so I could actually get relatively comfortable and sleep some, I watched a beautiful sunrise over the very, very flat prairie and corn fields of Iowa/Colorado, and then watched the towering Rockies rise up out of the flat flat land.
Alright, picking back up now that I have a little time to sit down and write. It’s been a while, so things might be a little less detailed, but I’ve been jotting some things down as I go along, so I think I can piece things together pretty well. Plus I have lots and lots of pictures and memories!
Anyway, where was I? Right-the bus from Omaha to Laramie. I had a pretty long layover in the Denver bus station, which wasn’t particularly enjoyable, but I made do. This station did have the kind of luggage lockers I’ve been on the lookout for that I could’ve left my stuff in if I’d wanted to go walk around, but the machines only took $1 bills, which I had none of, so I decided to save my money and just sit around. Ultimately this was a fine decision, but it did lead to some interesting, more or less unwanted, interactions. I was sitting around, reading through a magazine I had with me, when a woman came up to me, obviously upset, and launched into a story about how she’d been stuck in Denver for 3 days and just needed $14 more to buy a ticket home and the police had told her to go to a shelter but it was full of drug addicts and drunkards and she was terrified and she was the only blonde person there and so she ran and now she was back and she didn’t know what to do and could I help her? Of course I’m always suspicious of people asking for money, but it was hard to ignore how visibly upset she was, so I did what I don’t usually do and gave her a little money. Not enough-all I had was a $20 bill, which I needed, and some change-but I gave her some quarters just to help out. Yes, it could have been all an act, but I figured that hopefully she wasn’t lying, and even if she didn’t use the money for a ticket to Albuquerque she looked like she could use it for something.
Of course, then she decided we were buddies and asked if she could sit with me for a while because she was scared, but it was okay. If she was telling the truth, I would have been scared in her shoes, too.
The ride from Denver to Laramie wasn’t too bad-comparatively short, really beautiful, and I ended up sitting near a German girl who was also traveling around and couchsurfing along the way. She was pretty cool, and there were interesting conversations about perspectives on distance and cultural differences surrounding humor. Mostly I just really enjoy talking to Europeans.
Eventually we made it to the fairly small town of Laramie, where I got off to meet up with my first couchsurfing host, Sandra. I had been pretty nervous about that- I mean, here was this completely random stranger I was meeting up with who I really knew very little about and whose couch I was all of a sudden supposed to crash on for the night. I had no idea what to expect, or what she expected of me, or what we would talk about, or really anything. And again, as with lots of things on this trip, this really isn’t the kind of thing I do often-I’m generally just not that outgoing, always-bubbly person!
But, regardless, there I was, making the phone call to meet up with S despite my worries and the many hotels I could have escaped to had I chickened out (and wanted to spend a lot more money). It turned out she was a pretty cool person, after all. She grew up in New Jersey, went to college for geology at Oberlin in Ohio, then moved to Wyoming to do conservation work and is now in grad school at the University of Wyoming in Laramie, studying counseling.
After we met up at the bus stop, S and I walked back to her apartment where I dropped off my stuff before heading downtown to grab coffee. S brought me to her favorite coffeeshop-a little, Northampton-esque place called the Coal Creek Coffee Company that went by the slogan “Home of the edgy cup of coffee.” Basically, it was a pretty cool place, and sitting there at a table on the sidewalk outside I decided Laramie seemed like an interesting town. The people walking and bike-riding by all seemed like interesting types of people who I might like, and S seemed to know practically every other person that went into the coffee shop.
After coffee we headed back to the apartment to relax a bit before driving a short way up into the hills and low mountains for a short hike (me) and trail run (S). This was absolutely perfect. Exactly what I needed and wanted to do. It was so, so breathtakingly beautiful, there were wildflowers blooming all over, it was a perfect temperature with a light breeze, I got to take lots of pictures…pretty much I was in love. Mountains really do make my heart sing.
Once we’d worked up an appetite through our exercise, we biked back downtown to a fantastic little vegetarian restaurant for some delicious food and drinks. Over dinner S and I chatted a little about Laramie and the surrounding area. I’d been particularly interested in what it’s like to live there; it seems like it would be a pretty conservative-type place, but the vibe I had been getting so far was that it was a lot more sort of “edgy” and “alternative” than I had expected. As it turns out, I was pretty much right in my expectations, but that there is this cool sort of counter-culture type section of the town, which is where Sandra tends to hang out and had been showing me.
Overall my first day of couchsurfing went really well-S was really nice and showed me around, I got some exercise in a lovely place, we ate delicious delicious food…all good things. The whole thing definitely wasn’t 100% comfortable and easy, though. As awesome as S was, we didn’t automatically click and weren’t able to just talk really easily, and given the very small size of her apartment, there really wasn’t much in the way of any sort of privacy. At the end of the day, I was really glad just to crash-poor quality sleep on the bus two nights in a row, a full day of exploring Laramie, and, most importantly, the stress of being constantly “on” in a new situation definitely wore me out.
Okay, that’s all I’ve got at the moment. More real soon, I promise. For real this time!!!