The Blonde Runs

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…Limbo in Minnesota


Since returning to the States, Nick and I have spent the last couple of months in Minnesota with his family.  It’s been a transition time for us in order to get our bearings, sort out some life things, make some adult decisions, and generally to just be in a state of limbo before moving back to Colorado (as we didn’t really need to rush back). You can scroll to the bottom for a bit more insight into how we feel about being back.  This should be a proper post at some point.

In the time that we’ve spent here, we’ve done everything and nothing.

We reconnected with our beloved dog, Chase.



I ran some 5k’s and placed 2nd female in both, albeit no PR (I was WAY off on that!).



We saw beautiful sunsets.




We spent time on the lake(s) via boat, jetski, and SUP.







We made plenty of bonfires.


I turned 34.


We celebrated our 1st anniversary in Chicago.

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IMG_1697We celebrated our freedom in one of the most patriotic places in the US that I know.



And we bought one of the most stereotypical Colorado vehicles that we possibly could.


But between all of those photo opportunities, we have been overwhelmed with transitioning back to the States.  In a word, it’s been hard.  We mourn for the simple life we had in Australia.  We desperately refuse to fall back into the same patterns, the same routines, because we have changed, in some ways.  And we are holding on tightly to the epiphanies we had while away, the dreams that came into focus, our hopes that have renewed life. We’ve been stressed with the decisions we’ve had to make thus far, and pray that those we’ve made are right for us in this moment.  And now we are nervous for yet another transition as we return to Colorado this weekend.  I know it will go better and more smoothly than I have conjured up in my head; afterall, we’ll finally be amongst the mountains again.  And through all of our transitions (past, present, and future) I can be confident that “home” is really wherever Nick is, and he’s the most important thing to me.


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Going back in time a bit to share our exit strategy out of Australia.

When Nick and I knew we would be returning to the States after one year, we wanted to make the most of our departure from Down Under. We still had a few places that we were anxious to visit, and while we had considered axing one or the other with the intention of a return trip at some point, we weren’t quite ready to completely bypass either in the event we were never able to plan that return trip. Therefore, we planned another multi-week holiday, taking the long way home:

Canberra > Melbourne > Tasmania > South Island, New Zealand > North Island, New Zealand > Los Angeles

Nick had some work to do in Melbourne, so we really just played around a bit over the course of a few days. I was dying to see the fairy penguins come into the pier in St. Kilda, and one night, around dusk, we watched and waited. And waited. And waited until the point of saying, “should we just go now?”



Finally, they started to arrive. Sporadically. One by one. A quiet bark. Making shore. Nesting in the rocks. And then they came in packs. Louder. Making themselves known, only as the dark was closing in on the spectators, vying for a good view and poor quality of photos. The volunteers at the pier will gladly shine a red light on the little ones, but no flash photography or lighting is allowed. It was pretty amazing to be a part of their nightly ritual. They didn’t seem to be too nervous around all of the humans, and some even came quite close as they burrowed in the rocks. Forgive the final photo.




From Melbourne, we flew into Hobart, got our rental, and started to make our way around the island (a lot easier than you might think). It was rainy, windy, and cold, so I didn’t get quite the views or ambiance I was hoping for along the east coast in Freycinet Peninsula and Wineglass Bay. In general, the east coast reminded us of the mainlands east coast: beaches, bays, coastal towns, etc.



Due to the weather, we didn’t spend as much time as we anticipated on the east coast, and the area we had intended to be, so we headed inland toward the mountains on the west coast.

Primarily farmlands with rolling hills, Tasmania’s inland was quite beautiful, if even a little raw and untouched.



Toward the west coast, we stayed at a resort in the Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park. A mix of rugged landscape, mountains, grassland, rainforest, and glacial lakes, this area is a true mixed-bag for the senses. Here, you can take a multi-day trek on the Overland Track, but we opted for the shorter 1/2 day Dove Lake Circuit.



And once completed, I insisted on a visit to the local Tasmanian Devil sanctuary. They are endangered, so a sanctuary is really the only option for viewing. I’ll just come right out and say that they are disgusting. And they smell. But when in Tasmania…




We continued farther toward the west coast and stayed in quaint little Strahan, where we took a river cruise through Macquarie Harbour, along the Gordon River, and disembarked for a history lesson on Sarah Island; all part of the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area.

Hell’s Gates – the narrowest entrance into the harbour from the Southern Ocean, marked by a single lighthouse

Along the harbour and the Gordon River – the “cleanest air on earth” due to the easterly flow of undisturbed air that comes from the Southern Ocean.


Sarah Island – dreaded British penal colony and largest boat building site for the British colonies


On the drive down to Hobart, we saw some beautiful waterfalls.


Once in Hobart, we got up high at Mount Wellington, and took some cloudy shots of the town, harbour, and bays.


We also saw some of the massive research ships that leave port for Antarctica.


We were pretty happy about Hobart (despite the awful restaurant service, everywhere) and our time in Tasmania. Glad we didn’t pass up the opportunity for “maybe we’ll see it on another trip.”



Our final night in Tasmania happened to be the night of a lunar eclipse, so we stayed up late for some photos, but clouds came in so we opted to practice night shots instead.


Here is a look at our loop:
Screen shot 2015-06-03 at 1.11.36 PM



…around the sun again!

34Yesterday, I said “goodbye” to what has been my favorite year yet!  I raised the bar fairly high for 33!  While I know this next year may not include the same experiences, whatever adventures come my way will be accepted with gratitude and hopefully a little bit of grace.



…One journey’s end


Coming home is a tricky thing.

We are sorting through a lot of feelings and emotions as we leave behind our life in Australia and transition to creating a new normal in the US.

I’m having a hard time properly describing this past AMAZING year in another country; equally struggling to articulate what it feels like to be back “home.”

Being patient as I work through all of this. Knowing it will get easier. Knowing I will never be the same person.


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Aussie East Coast Road Trip: 12 Apostles and Melbourne Loop


After sitting around Canberra for a day, Nick and I decided to take advantage of our last fleeting moments of holiday and get out of town. Again.

It seemed only reasonable to head for the south coast, drive the Great Ocean Road, and see the 12 Apostles. We made our way to Melbourne (about 7 hours), enjoyed the deliciousness of Mamasita‘s (the only halfway decent Mexican food I’ve had in Australia), and enjoyed a bit of the downtown area.

We had a travel-heavy day planned on the 16th, so we woke early for the 3 hour drive to the 12 Apostles. We took the most direct route, as our plan was to drive the Great Ocean Road back to Geelong, outside of Melbourne.

The 12 Apostles (though not really 12 limestones stacks), is such a magnificent sight. There are a few different viewing locations, including an area where you can walk down a decently steep staircase to the shore. It was incredibly windy, and I’m thinking this is expected for the south shore, as the surfing in several towns along the Great Ocean Road are fairly popular.





The drive back to Melbourne takes a bit longer on the Great Ocean Road, due to the winding around and the driving through the small coastal towns. They majority of the road hugs the coast and it’s just gorgeous.


By the time we got around to the east side of Melbourne, it was late afternoon and I still wanted to make one stop. Mornington Peninsula (“su” pronounced like “shoe”). I had been dying to see the colourful bathing boxes that run along the coastline. (See what I did there with the “ou” in colourful?) So, with much confusion as to where exactly they were (no website actually spells it out for you, like “go to _____ beach to see the bathing boxes”), and only a little frustration on my part, we found some. Finally. And I loved them. And maybe wanted to live in one. It’s the perfect tiny house.




We hadn’t yet decided where we wanted to stay that night. We wanted to head into Wilson’s Promontory National Park, the farthest southern point on Australia’s mainland. So, we kept driving east. And just when we thought we found a little city so stay in, we just kept driving. Finally, we stopped just outside of Wilson’s, pulled into an overnight caravan park, and set up for some makeshift car camping. Luckily we had brought pillows and blankets in the event we did just that. And while it wasn’t the most comfortable nights sleep, we could lay the seats down and “mostly” lie down flat. Before sleeping, we made some decent attempts at taking night shots of the stars with our camera. It was a bit tricky for us amateurs, but with a few turns of the dials, a click click here, and a click click there, we took a few that we were somewhat happy with. So happy, I’m pretty sure I deleted them. We are on a quest to learn, so that we can take some glorious photos on our next holiday (coming soon, now).

Early the next morning, because we were car camping, and you can’t really sleep-in all that well, we drove into the park as far as we could. There are trails aplenty that will take you to the proper most southerly point of Australia’s mainland, but we figure we got pretty darn close.


And Nick was pretty giddy. Probably, because at this point, we were so tired of being in the car driving. Or me, passengering.


We had considered driving all the way around the southeast coast and back up, but like I said, we were tired of being in the car at that point, after nearly 4 weeks of on-and-off traveling. Plus, we have done most of that coastline, so we cut up to Canberra in Cann River and finally wrapped up our holiday.

15 January to 17 January
This Stretch- ~2168km/1347m
Total- ~7712km/4792m

Screen shot 2015-03-10 at 11.37.08 AM

When you consider the overall route we took (granted, the mileage below is inaccurate since it doesn’t include the back and forth we drove the Brisbane and Sydney), it’s impressive to see how big Australia really is. Australia, at 7.62 million square miles, and the US, at 9.16 million square miles. It’s still a bit hard to fathom unless you are actually spending time in the country and driving around. I certainly knew it was big, but couldn’t put it into my own terms until I was here. On a map, it seems everything is just a hop-skip-and-a-jump away from each other.

Screen shot 2015-03-24 at 11.20.57 AM

And then, when you compare the overall mileage (4792m) we put in for this Aussie east coast trip, to something we are more familiar with in the States, you might come up with something like this (though I wouldn’t recommend this route as it seems there is a lot of construction going on):

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We are so happy that we were able to take the time to see so much of Australia. And although we were exhausted at the end of the 4 weeks, we wouldn’t have traded this experience for anything. A lot of pictures. A lot of memories.


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Aussie East Coast Road Trip: Canberra & Sydney


We didn’t have too many plans around Canberra. It’s not a lively coastal town with beaches a-plenty and heaps of water activities in which to partake. It’s small. It’s government. It’s all business. Or mostly. There are museums and theatres and markets and such. Even Australians aren’t excited about Canberra. But, we took them to Parliament House so they could read all about Commonwealth countries. We took them to Red Hill, with a sweeping view of Canberra. Also good for many of my roo photos, if you happen to follow me on IG. We took them to some local eateries. We took them to Target (which has no affiliation to the Target in the US, by the way), so they could see that they really are completely different. But we mainly just relaxed for those two days.

Parliament House

So, on the 12th, we drove back up to Sydney and gave them a little tour. But I made sure we stopped at a Big Thing about an hour from Canberra. I had not forgotten about them!

The Big Merino (you should see his back side)

And once finally in Sydney, we started on the north side with a drive though Manly and the Sydney Harbour National Park so they could see views on the opposite side.

Opera House

Sydney Harbour Bridge

The City

Some kookaburra’s joined us in the park.

We happen to be in town during the Australian Open and saw some famous people.

These folks are always out bustering with their didgeridoo’s and selling boomerangs.

And for the night shots. I have definitely fallen in love with Sydney…

The Opera House

The Sydney Harbour Bridge

The City

In Hyde Park, an ANZAC memorial with reflection pool.

We also paid a visit to the Sydney Olympic Park, hoping to see the rings, as you can in some of the other Olympic parks we’ve visited. No go. They are rusting away in a metal yard somewhere. Seriously.



A lovely way to end our two weeks with Tia and Jason. They departed late afternoon on the 13th and Nick and I headed back to Canberra for a sleep or two.


Nick and I still weren’t certain if we would stay in Canberra for the remainder of our holiday or not. Would we regret sitting around the rest of the week when we could be going somewhere new? What was reasonable to do in just a few days? How far would/should we go?

11 January to 14 January

This Stretch- ~606km/376m
Total- ~5544km/3444m

Screen shot 2015-03-10 at 11.29.20 AM


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Aussie East Coast Road Trip: Sunshine, Gold, and Byron


We woke up on the 7th and leisurely made our way to breakky (breakfast) into the little area of the Sunshine Coast we had stayed in, Maroochydore (just an hour and a half north of Brisbane). After a busy two days of driving and day tour, we were ready to slow down a bit, settle in for a couple of days somewhere, and just take our time doing…whatever.

While we had to do a few “technical” things while driving through Brisbane, like return the rental, coordinate getting our car back from some friends’ parents who let us leave it at their house for safe keeping, we did do a few touristy things.

The friend’s sister (of the parents whom we left our car with) has a bar in Brisbane down an alley. It’s not that weird here, I promise.


We also took them by the colorful Brisbane sign, near the ferris wheel, and on the quick ferry up the river.


We ended that day another hour and a half south, in Ocean Shores, near the Gold Coast and just about 20 minutes north of Byron Bay. Remember how once upon a time I said that Byron Bay was super busy and like the Vail of surf towns? And remember how I said that “we” didn’t want to overplan anything, but just see where we ended up each day or two? Yeah, that’s why we stayed 20 minutes away. And it actually wasn’t that bad!

When we had checked into our budget hotel, I did some scouring of surf lessons in Byron Bay, for Tia and Jason, the next day, and booked them in for a half day lesson. Nick and I have already surfed, so while we would have loved to have another go, we didn’t feel the strongest need take part. We had some brekky and decided to follow them and just take photos.





We think they had a lot of fun and are hoping it was one of their favorite days!

That afternoon we spent the day wandering around Byron Bay. Although it’s extremely touristy, there is a lot to see and do there, with plenty of shops, restaurants, cafes, and bars. We even met up with some friends we know from Canberra who happened to be driving a very similar route to us. They had started a few days prior, in December, and we always seemed to be a few days behind them.

On the 9th, we drove nearly 5 hours to Cresent Head for lunch and relaxing on the beach.



Another hour south, and we were back in Port Macquarie for a quick dinner and sleep.

It was here that we had to make a decision about where to do next. We could either head down to Canberra (7 hours), spend a day or two, and show Tia and Jason where we live, then head up to Sydney a day before their departure so they could take in that city; OR we could stop in Sydney and remain there until the departure flight on the 13th. Nick and I didn’t mind one way or the other, but they wanted to see where we lived, so we spent all of the 10th in the car driving to Canberra. We made it home in time to stop by the markets for some dinner ingredients.

7 January to 10 January
This Stretch- ~1516km/942m-I am including all of the back and forth between Ocean Shores, Byron Bay, and Lennox Head, as it is significant enough.
Total- ~4938km/3068m

Screen shot 2015-03-10 at 11.18.53 AM


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Aussie East Coast Road Trip: The Long Trek and Fraser Island


The rain was sufficiently upon us, and not planning to let up. That, and the fact that all the locals kept telling us there wasn’t much to see between here and Rainbow Beach anyway (a huge stretch). It all led us in making the big decision to call this day a wash. Not much to do when it’s raining, so we may as well take one full day to drive as far as we can toward the next destination. With one little sidetrip…

We left early on the 5th and drove half a day down the coast. Everyone was right. There wasn’t much to see. The main road we were on, the A1, veers inland anyway, so there wasn’t even a coastline to ogle over.

Around midday (noon), we stopped at Cooberrie Park Wildlife Sanctuary. We wanted Tia and Jason to have the chance to get up close and personal with kangaroo and the like.

Don’t mind all the kangaroo photos. I freaking love kangaroo.



Busted. Photo of me taking a photo of a baby kangaroo.



Baby Wallaby


Emu (and tons of other birds that I won’t bore you with)

A big reptile


After I had my Tia and Jason had their kangaroo fix, we were set to continue our long haul down the coast. Thankfully, we were halfway there. But exhausted by the time we arrived late to Rainbow Beach. Why driving/riding in a car all day makes you worn out, I’ll never know, but we went to bed “straight away” (right away); at least as best we could in that noisy hostel. 🙂

On the morning of the 6th, Nick and I had a full day toured planned for Fraser Island, the largest sand island in the world. We had been working on booking that the previous day, as we were on the road for 15+ hours (with stops). Nick had been to Fraser Island about 13 years ago (along with many of the other places we had been traveling) and this was on his list of places to go this time around.

The first photo below was our tour bus for the day. High profile and 4WD to manage any waves, sand, etc., along the way. The island is 4WD specific and permits are mandatory for all drivers. After a few pickups, we headed off the mainland via the Inskip Peninsula (with the “su” pronounced like “shoe” here in Oz). Clearly, based on the 2nd photo, this is seemingly informal without much pomp and circumstance boarding the ferry to Fraser.



There is presumably a large shark population in the water between the mainland and Fraser Island. Though the waves are sure to lure many a surfer, our tour driver said his brother-in-law refuses to surf there after an experience with a shark; and I can’t say I saw anyone attempting, so perhaps everyone knows better than to even bother.

Once there, we started traveling the main beach, 75 Mile Beach, which due to high tide proved to be a bit tricky so we went inland, and drove through the rainforest. Along the beach, we were keeping a sharp lookout for dingo, as there is a huge population of the wild dogs on this island. Sadly, we didn’t see any on our tour.

It is such a contrast to see the lush, dense forest environment on a sand island. At one point, we stopped for a rainforest walk along the Wanggoolba Creek and found some decent sized trees and various other flora.




And the Wanggoolba creek itself makes you take a second glance. It appears to be murky, but it is actually crystal clear with a sand bottom. The water is also so pure, you are allowed to drink from it, and fill water bottles.



Lake MacKenzie. A freshwater lake, and one of the cleanest in the world. The beach sand is nearly pure silica.


The Maheno Shipwreck. Sold to Japan for scrap in 1935, a storm came up, snapped the tow chain, and the Maheno drifted off the Fraser, later to be used for target practice by ANZAC’s. Now, mostly buried under the sand, but quite a sight, nonetheless.


75 Mile Beach. This is the “highway” on Fraser that can be quite busy at low tide. Probably my awesome dance moves here. The top pic of the post is also 75 Mile Beach.


After the tour, we met back up with Tia and Jason, and rounded out the day with another hour drive south to the Sunshine Coast.

5 January to 6 January
This Stretch – ~1193km/741m
Total – ~3422km/2126m

Screen shot 2015-03-10 at 9.07.26 AM



Aussie East Coast Road Trip: The Whitsundays


It had rained through the night in Townsville, and was still carrying on a bit when we left for Airlie Beach. With only about 3 hours until our destination, we took our time, hoping the rain would continue to taper. Nick and I had done our research, and were following the forecast, knowing full well we’d be in for some showers off and on throughout this trip…it is the summer in the Queensland rainforest. And thanks, Humidity, for joining us as well!

Once we arrived in Airlie Beach, we found our accommodation, where we’d be bunking for 2 nights, (hostel) and walked the town. The rain had stopped and we could enjoy some overcast skies that created some striking green/blue hues in the water.



Airlie Beach is considered the Gateway to the Whitsundays, a stunning 74 island archipelago, boasting secluded and unspoiled beaches, but also resorts and mini-towns, if you go to the right island.

On our walk in town that first day, we booked in for a full day tour of the Whitsundays. We’d first visit the world famous Whitehaven Beach and then move along to Langford Reef for snorkeling. I was so excited for this tour and it was one of the few things that I insisted we do while on holiday. As much as I am a Colorado/mountain girl, I simply love traversing between islands on a boat or ferry. Always stunning and magnificent.


After an hour or two and some some morning tea, we anchored near one of the world’s most famous beaches: Whitehaven Beach
(also the top photo)


This is also considered “stinger season”, and if you intend to go into the water, a full, albeit thin, body suit is strongly recommended to protect against Box Jellies and Irukandji Jellies. Both can be deadly, so it’s either the stinger suit, or staying in the netted area, if the beach has one. Whitehaven is too pretty to have a netted area.

Whitehaven is also too pretty to have any activities. So, visiting the beach consists of walking/relaxing on the pristine white silica sand that stretches 7km one way, taking a bush walk, and swatting the march flies, which seem to be constantly swarming. You can also beach camp here, if you go through the appropriate channels. But, the combination of white sand and clear, turquoise water make this setting truly beautiful, even if only soaking it all in for a short time.


Just a couple of hours is all that’s really needed on Whitehaven. The tour took us around and between some other smaller islands and brought us to Langford Reef, a sand and coral spit, still considered to be in the Great Barrier Reef. The water was a bit choppy, but we snorkeled and saw even more amazing underwater wildlife. This was certainly a tour I was anxious to take, as seeing Whitehaven and the Whitsundays had been on my dream list since arriving in Australia. I’d say the day was well spent.


That evening we relaxed, reminisced about the day, and plotted our next stretch of highway, as another storm was rolling into the beach town.

2 January to 5 January
This Stretch- ~275km/170m
Total- ~2229km/1385m

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