Getting Lost in Wyoming

A few weeks after graduating college, in the summer of 2003, I was chosen to travel around the Midwest with two complete strangers to teach peace, justice, and environmental issues to youth campers.  We were called the Youth Peace Travel Team, and those two strangers became two of my dearest friends.  Mandy, Laura, and I shared and created so many fond memories together, that I could probably write a book on that summer.  I’ve been wanting to blog about my adventures as a Peace Team member for a while now, but I’ve always struggled with how to do it.  Each week was a new adventure in itself, and some of the funniest moments were just that: moments.  Not enough to be stretched out into a blog entry.
The experience is too great not to write about, so I’m going to start with a few days we spent in Wyoming.  I know, I know.  I said we traveled the Midwest, and that’s mostly true, but there was a 2-week stretch where we set out from Elgin, Illinois to spend a week in Boise, Idaho, and then drove back to Milford, Indiana.  So anyway, back to Wyoming.
Driving from Illinois to Idaho, we made a few stops with families who volunteered to host us with dinners and a place to sleep.  This was before the days of GPS or smart phones, so our only guidance between addresses was a print out of MapQuest directions and an atlas of the states.  We were unable to find our Wyoming destination due to major road construction and detours, and we weren’t able to get in touch with the host family for help.  We decided to follow the highway towards Boise and just find a motel, but the road was lacking in human settlement and dusk was quickly approaching.  We finally came across what looked to be an abandoned inn, so we decided to check it out in the hopes that someone was there. 
We were in luck.  Down the hill behind the closed up inn was the home of Dirk and Tammy, along with their kid Stephen and their two dogs.  Dirk explained to us that he owned the building and was fixing it up to use as a business someday.  He invited us to use his vast amount of land behind the inn to rest for the night, and seeing as he had a whole family, it felt safe, and we decided to stay.  A stream ran through the back of his property, and near the stream, was a campfire pit, a picnic table, and our very own port-a-potty.  We thanked him, and drove our little Toyota Echo down to the area where we would sleep under the stars.
Stephen stayed down by our campsite with his dogs milking as much attention as we would give him while his dad helped arrange our area.  I imagine the boy yearned for companionship since he was living on a piece of land in the middle of nowhere.  The poor kid looked like a mangy mountain boy, but he was sweet, if not weird, and we accepted his company. 
Before it got dark, Dirk wanted to get us a fire going to keep us warm through the night.  Instead of kindling, he doused the wood with practically a whole bottle of lighter fluid.  As we spent the next 20 minutes watching the ten foot tall fireball burn down, all us girls could think about was how the environmentally aware Peace Team just contributed a massive amount of pollution to our air.
Regardless of how the fire got started, it did keep us warm as we stayed up talking through the night.  Or maybe our warmth was mostly contributed to the alcoholic lemonade we consumed.  All I know is that we fell fast asleep warm and cozy in our sleeping bags surrounding the fire, and woke up at the butt crack of dawn freezing our asses off!  When my attempts of holding in warmth by remaining in the fetal position began to fail me, and I couldn’t force myself to sleep through the cold any longer, I peeked my head outside of my sleeping bag to discover a fine layer of frost covering our sleeping bags and pillows. 
With numb fingers, we scribbled a thank you note, haphazardly threw our damp, frozen belongings into the car and drove off with the heater on full force.  Miles down the road, and still shivering, we saw this posh looking hotel ahead of us.  We decided we would pull in and beg them to let us have a cup of coffee to warm up.  The receptionist heard our story, and let us in to the dining area free of charge and without hesitation. 
We filled our cups with steaming hot coffee, thanked the receptionist, and continued on our drive.  As we rounded the mountain away from the hotel, we could see the Grand Tetons ahead of us, with the first rays of sun shining just right upon them.  It was one of the most beautiful sights I’ve ever seen, and one I will never forget.  If not for getting lost and sleeping on some random piece of land in the mountains of Wyoming, we never would have been able to experience that exact moment. 
Gotta love how life works out sometimes. 
From the back of Dirk’s property looking up at his inn that sits off the highway.

Mandy and me playing with Stephen and the dogs.

Laura-warm and naive to the cold that will attack her later.

This picture (taken by a disposable camera) will never do the sight justice, but it gives you an idea of what we saw      
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Anyone can whistle, that's what they say–easy

I had fun at my voice lesson today.  Those are words I never thought I would say. 
For those of you who don’t know, I’m taking a beginner’s voice class at my local community college in order to satisfy my last requirement to earn my Music Supplement to my teaching credential.  Learning, and trying to master my singing voice never held a shred of interest to me.  The thought of taking a voice class seemed absolutely terrifying, so when I discovered that there was no way to get my supplement without it, I made Kevin take it with me.
I left each of the first three class sessions knowing in my heart that I would never come back.  I even thanked Kevin for trying with me, but told him I would understand if he wanted out.  I just could not see myself actually singing to my classmates at the front of the classroom, not to mention singing solo in the concert hall for three recitals.  Nope, there was no way I would do it.  That is, until I heard others sing.
Most of the students in my class could hold a decent tone; but no one was amazing.  Some people sang soft or pitchy, and others were just flat out bad.  If anything, I knew I wouldn’t be the worst singer in the class. 
A friend I met during my Peace Team adventure back in ‘03 nicknamed me “Horse Whisperer” because while goofing off and singing out of a hymnal book we’d found, she noticed that although I was whispering out my songs, I was actually singing pretty well.  I never took her compliment to heart until I entered this class.  I started thinking that maybe her words were more than just a friendly opinion, since I knew I could sing better than a handful of the kids in my class.
The first day that I bit the bullet and sang in front of my peers, I was shaking so much I thought for sure everyone could hear it in my voice.  However, I was told that I sounded good, I got some decent feedback from my teacher, and most importantly, once I was done, I felt relieved because I knew without a doubt that I would be able to handle the rest of the semester.
The class sessions have since become enjoyable for me, and I’m learning more about my voice and pushing it to places that I never thought it could go.  I’m also finding it easier and easier to sing in front of my class.  While the nerves will never dissipate completely, I don’t let them fill me with terror like they used to.  I’ve already sung successfully in one recital, and my second recital will be on Monday.  After today’s individual voice lesson, I’m feeling confident, prepared, and actually eager to sing.  Who would’ve thought?