Iceland, Brutal and Beautiful

Part 1: SOUTH ICELAND

Day 1 – Mon., Oct. 1

Arrival

Iceland is a COLD place. It’s as far north as Alaska! Who knew? It is also full of unpronounceable places, most of which start with the letter “S,” and many of which are waterfalls and glaciers.
On Arrival Day, we stepped off the Icelandair jet at 6:20 AM into a brutal monsoon – pouring rain, 50 mph wind, and cold! Why did no one warn us that Iceland is so effing cold? After the extreme discomfort of getting to the shuttle and getting our rental car – fortunately a lovely Forrester with much-needed heated seats — we drove through wild weather for 2 ½ hours to get to our lodging, a sheep farm called Skálatjörn Guesthouse. There, we hunkered down and napped for three hours.
Then, somewhat refreshed, Lexie relaxed while Bob and I went to Selfoss, 18 km away, for a few groceries, and to soak in a thermal pool.

The weather the WHOLE day

Day 2 – Tue., Oct. 2

The Ring Road


The day dawned still cold, but thankfully sunny. We let Lexie sleep late (she is a teenager, after all) and set off around 11 AM for a south coast expedition on Rte. 1, the Ring Road, to the town of Vik. We stopped at several waterfalls along the way. If we were going to do it again, we would definitely bring hiking boots. But thankfully, we had parkas, hats and gloves, because the temperatures were in the 30s all day, and the occasional bursts of wind cut through your bones.
Here are the waterfalls we visited:

Urridafoss Waterfall – This low, wide waterfall was ten minutes from our guesthouse. No one was there and it had a Niagara Falls feel. The hike was short and the view was spectacular.

Urridafoss Waterfall
Seljalandsfoss Waterfall – You can actually walk on a path behind this incredibly high (65 meters tall), loud, dramatic waterfall. Bob did. Check out the pics he got! (He was soaked afterward) 


Seljalandsfoss Waterfall

View from the belly of the beast, by Bob

Soaked afterward

Gliufradbui, the hidden waterfall, was a quarter-mile hike away. Unfortunately, the cave you used to be able to use to access it was now closed for safety reasons. 
Look deep to see the hidden waterfall

Skogafoss Waterfall had a rainbow to its left that seems to be its permanent partner. It also has a challenging trail you can hike to the mountaintop to get views of the falls from above. Also, lots of sheep neighbors!
Skogafoss Waterfall 

View from above

 Finally, we discovered the Dryholaey Nature Reserve, with its iconic rock formations in the ocean (The Needles), famous arch and end-of-the-world feel. 



Dryholaey Nature Reserve
  

We stayed up late and saw a subtle display of the Northen Lights before going to bed. A very satisfying day!

Next stop … The Golden Circle. Watch for updates!

Ellie Smoit, the Adventure Cat, Part 7: Aunt Julie’s House

and the Monster

ELLIE SMOIT
Our humans put us back in the cages again today, and back in the big gray box on wheels. We weren’t happy. Kaylee was just getting comfortable at Grandma’s house, and Noxy had started hanging out with Grandma on the couch!
I explored while they put all the food and all the cat toys and all the litter and litter boxes in a couple of boxes and a bag. And before I knew it, we had been shoved into our cages and were back in the car.
Mine seemed a little softer now – I feel like there might be something new and soft in here – but I complained a lot anyway. The road was very windy, and Noxy threw up bigtime. (Now we’ve had the trifecta in the car: Poop, pee and throw-up. And Mommy’s purple quilt and the seat cover have protected the car seat every time.)
We weren’t in the car very long this time, thank goodness. Suddenly we were out, and in a very loud, crowded kitchen full of people.

 Mow Mow. OK, she was cute. But she pulled my tail! Kaylee found a good hiding corner upstairs, so I stole it from her.

All us cats and the stuff that came with us to Aunt Julie and Uncle Mark’s

At Aunt Julie’s there was a baby! The little terrorist was chasing me around and flailing her arms and saying

When they took the baby off for a nap at her house across the street, I came out to explore. I like it! I inspected Uncle Mark’s office and deemed it acceptable. I like the couch, too. There’s also a tall box that say’s “Audrey’s House” with a doorway in it. I might take it over and hide in there
Aunt Julie and Uncle Mark are nice and quiet. I think I’ll try to sleep with her; she looks like she might be allergic to cats. My favorite kind of human. He grew up with cats, so I think I’ll ignore him.
We were greeted by a cute little terrorist.
Her name was Audrey.
Noxy refused to come out of his cage, and when Grammy (Lisa) lured him out with wet food, he scarfed it up and the bolted into the deepest corner of the closet under the stairs, where I think he might stay for the next two days. 
Kaylee came out after the baby left, too, but then she went back upstairs.
Then Mommy and Daddy and Grandma left! Cousin Catherine promised she would send Lexie a picture every day. I hope she shows me pictures of Mommy, too. I have the feeling it will be a long time before I see her again.

Ellie Smoit, the Adventure Cat, is chronicling her journey from her house in Colorado across the United States and to Mexico, with a little help from her owner, Lexie Greenawalt.


Noxy was even starting to like Grandma before we suddenly left.
But Daddy Bob says we’ll see her again in November

I found a basket I really liked.

Even Kaylee found a favorite step,
after she spent two days hiding under the sofabed

Kaylee liked exploring Aunt Julie’s house at first … until the terrorist
This is her. Audrey. She’s safe in this picture because
she’s in her own house across the street.
Noxy went into hiding

I hugged my mommy
Kaylee went to the top of the stairs

The European Trip

BOB
(Sept. 30)
After spending a few days with my mother in Mechanicsburg, PA, and then visiting family in Northern Virginia, we’re set to fly out to Iceland tonight.

(One interesting thing about our visit in Mechanicsburg is that we woke up one morning and there were two other cars with Colorado license plates parked next to ours. Quite the coincidence.)

Anyway, we’re about set to fly out and we still do not have several intra-European flights reserved yet or lodging in Rome. At this point, we’ll probably do that once we get to Hamburg next week.
What Will We Do in Iceland?
We also don’t have a list of things we want to see and do in Iceland, where we land tomorrow morning, We’ve just been so busy getting out of our house, driving across the country and settling the cats that we haven’t had time to even focus on that. Like most Iceland tourists, we wanted to go to the Blue Lagoon, but there weren’t any tickets available when I attempted to make reservations several days ago. Therefore, we’re going to visit a smaller and cheaper, geothermal pool, the Secret Lagoon, as a substitute.

We did decide to focus on South Iceland because it’s the most accessible part of the country when you only have a couple days to explore. It’s also supposed to have better weather this time of year than the north. It also features the famous Golden Circle, a popular tourist driving destination.

South Iceland

We’re hoping to see these guys in Vik

This morning I’ve identified several things we want to see in south Iceland and along the Ring Road, so I think we’re good for the first few days. They include a drive along a southern road to the fishing village of Vik, which has a famous black sand beach with some amazing rock formations out in the water, as well as puffins and other seabirds.  Also several waterfalls with unpronounceable names that begin with the letter “s”.

Reykjavik
After that, we’re going to spend a few days in Reykjavik. The Reykjavik International Film Festival is going on while we’re there, so we will definitely see several films with Lexie, who plans to study Film at Champlain College next year. That should be interesting. I’m going to attempt to get Lexie to make some selections and get tickets before our flight.

It finally feels like our adventure is beginning. I’m looking forward to it!

Driving Cross Country (Day 3)

Driving cross country from Lakewood, CO, to Mechanicsburg, PA


DAY 3 – Monday, Sept. 24

Effingham, IL to Mechanicsburg, PA

One word described the day: Hard rain.

We were lashed by Hurricane Florence and it wasn’t pretty. And the winding highways, with no breakdown lanes and often concrete barriers on both sides (or construction) seemed to be covered with trucks. Huge trucks. But we only had to travel 10 hours and had no kitty accidents. Fortunately, despite the challenging weather, we ran into minimal delays and made it to Grandma’s in Mechanicsburg, PA (outside Harrisburg) by 10:45 PM.

Welcome to Ohio
Columbus

Welcome to West Virginia
Wheeling, W. Va.
Lunch at Panera
Welcome to Pennsylvania
Dark and rainy
More dark and rainy

Almost there! Treating ourselves at Ruby Tuesdays with Lexie’s favorite maple glazed salmon. She is such an awesome traveler!

1,660 miles. We are here!

Homeless now

We are now officially homeless, and calling Grandma’s house home for the next three months as we make our forays to Europe and then Vermont. The cats will be calling Rebersburg home for the first five weeks as they are cared for by Lisa’s sister Julie and niece Catherine, while bro-in-law Mark enjoys the furry companionship.

Ellie Smoit, the Adventure Cat, Part 6: Driving Cross-Country, Episode 2

Driving Cross-Country (Episode 2)

ELLIE SMOIT

(Later that day)

Maybe I spoke too soon. And maybe I shouldn’t have mocked Noxy about having an accident in his cage.
Because hours and hours and hours later, I just couldn’t hold it anymore. And with a long, pitiful, humiliated groan, I let loose.

O-o-o-o-h.

There’s nothing worse than sitting in your own pee. For more than an HOUR.

Because the first gas station bathroom we visited to clean me up had a broken bathroom door. And the second one wouldn’t let cats in. And the first pet-friendly hotel was too disgusting to check in to. And the second was an hour and a half away.

She dried me off ni the litter box

And once we got there, I had to endure the worst experience in life: a BATH. As soon as I could, I leaped from the bathtub, soaking wet, right into the litter box, where I proceeded to cover myself with cat litter that stuck to my wet fur. Then I shook it all off, spraying Mommy and Grammy with a sweet combination of water, wet litter and pee. I showed them!

Then Mommy took a shower.
And Grammy and PopPop (Lisa and Bob) had to go wash every blanket in the car (which were under the cage) AND the seat cover. Because my pee dripped down onto my brother’s cage underneath me – PopPop had us stacked double-decker and strapped into the car. But PopPop said that seat cover was amazing. It did a great job of protecting the actual seat of our new truck.
So I was half wet and miserable, but my mommy was there, and I cuddled her. And I head-butted her a lot. And I slept next to her.
And I made sure I used the litter box before I got into the car the next morning.

Ellie Smoit, the Adventure Cat, is chronicling her journey from her house in Colorado across the United States and to Mexico, with a little help from her owner, Lexie Greenawalt.


I can clean MYSELF, thank you very much


Driving Cross Country (Day 2)

Driving cross country from Lakewood, CO, to Mechanicsburg, PA

DAY 2 – Sunday, Sept. 23

Burlington, CO – to Effingham, IL

Sun in our eyes

Blogging on the road

Awesome moon shot
Cleaning Ellie after her accident

Driving Cross Country (Day 1)


Our drive across the country, in pictures

The journey: 1,666 miles, from Lakewood, Colorado to our first stop, Grandma’s house in Mechanicsburg, PA
The cast: Bob, Lisa, Lexie and three adored cats: Ellie, Equinox (Noxy) and Kaylee
The goal: Finish in two days and a few hours.

DAY 1 – Saturday, Sept. 22
Lakewood, CO – Burlington, CO

Filling the cab

Shoving the stuff in
It fit!
Driving across the plains … 

…  through Colorado

Lots of wind
First Night: Western Motor Inn in Burlington, CO. Pet-friendly, $46 a night plus $10 a cat.
Kenji, the resident cat at the Western Motor Inn

Watch out, Kenzi’s a mean one!

Ellie Smoit, the Adventure Cat, Part 5: Driving Cross-Country (Episode 1)

Driving Cross-Country, Episode 1

ELLIE SMOIT

Last night I cried for 2 ½ hours.

Yesterday was my first day on the road. I don’t like my cage. I detest it. Then they put me in that big gray box with wheels. I think they call it a truck. And it started moving.
I don’t feel good. I cried and I  cried and I cried. They couldn’t see me panting so I cried louder. Whenever they weren’t paying attention to me, I screamed so they would keep paying attention to me.
I think I really upset my dad.
Then Noxy had diarrhea. Fortunately, it didn’t happen until we arrived at the hotel.
That’s me on top. Noxy is underneath.

I didn’t have to stay in the same room as Noxy and Kaylee, because I would have taken my anger out on the kitten.

But I had my own room with Mommy and I cuddled her a lot and head-butted her in the middle of the night. She brought her own quilt and I slept on it.
I know Grandma, in the other room, had to clean out Noxy’s cage and give him a bath. I hate baths.
Now it’s morning and we’re back on the road again. Noxy is in the cage under me. He doesn’t smell too bad. Oops, now he does.
I’m still panting, but I can see the outside and it’s pretty. And flat. And there are a lot of cows. And wind turbines. And fields. And sky. And that’s about it.
So I’m crying less. But I’ll probably cry later.

Ellie Smoit, the Adventure Cat, is chronicling her journey from her house in Colorado across the United States and to Mexico, with a little help from her owner, Lexie Greenawalt.



Kaylee had the best view

Noxy was on the bottom

I was the dominant cat on top

Kaylee staked her claim to backpacks and suitcases



Will It Fit?

BOB

My biggest worries were whether our household goods would fit into our 10 x 20-foot storage facility, and whether everything we put aside to take to Mexico would actually fit in the truck.

The Storage Facility
For months I worried whether we could purge and pare down enough to be able to fit our household into a storage facility. Because obviously the larger the unit, the more it would cost. And if we don’t go back there for 10  years, that’s a lot of money. So I wanted to minimize the size of the storage facility space.

But we wouldn’t know the answer to that question until the movers came.

My mounting anxiety climbed higher than the boxes stacking up around the house. 

Filling up the moving truck

I had rented a 10×20 foot storage unit. The day before the movers came,  I went to the storage facility and asked if they happened to have larger units available, and what the process would be for getting one at the last minute if needed. They told me they had larger units available, and the additional cost wouldn’t be exorbitant.

So when the movers came the next day, that was the first thing I discussed with them: Would what we have fit into a 10×20 foot storage space?

The expert, after looking at all of our stuff, said, “If it fits in our truck, it will fit into a 10×20. But it looks really close.”

As they loaded everything into the moving van, I kept looking at how much was left in the house and how much space was left in the truck.

We were getting close to the end and the truck was almost full. Our one saving grace, though, was that our space was 11 feet high, and their truck was only 8 feet high, so I knew we had some additional space.

Still, in the end, I made a determination that we had just a little too much to fit into that space. So I went to the storage facility and got us a bigger unit. This one was cavernous: 30 feet long with 14-foot ceilings. And as an added bonus, our new storage unit was directly across from the elevator.

So in the end, it may not have fit but we went with the flow and go the stuff into storage.



Next: Part 2: The Truck


My anxiety mounted with the boxes

Everything we own in the world

Ellie Smoit, the Adventure Cat, Part 4: Empty House

Empty House

ELLIE SMOIT
Mommy finally let us out of the bathroom. We’ve been in here all day snarling at each other. Well, once I was locked out on the catio.
But now we’re out.
Wait, what? Everything is gone. The mountains of boxes are gone. The big bed is gone. All the pillows are gone.
I wander to the laundry room, and the laundry baskets are still there for me to sleep in. Thank goodness! And a few cat toys here and there.
My mommy Lexie is still here. But her bed is gone.
And why do they keep feeding us in the cat carriers? It’s suspish. I don’t think I like this.

I think I’ll go nap in the clean laundry.

Ellie Smoit, the Adventure Cat, is chronicling her journey from her house in Colorado across the United States and to Mexico, with a little help from her owner, Lexie Greenawalt.


Lexie is still here but her bed is gone

I can still go on the windowsills

All the pillows in the alcove are gone

There are still bags to play in

And cabinets to explore