New Blog!

I'm switching blogs.

I never seem to stick with a blog for a long time.  I'll start one for myself, and later quit posting.  Then I'll start one my friends can read.  Then quit.  Then start one to keep relatives updated.  Then one to share about my van living.  Etc.

A few months ago I decided to commit to one blog and bought a domain name.  To keep it simple.  I used my name.

You can now find my updates at www.mollyvolz.com.

I have been working on moving most of my posts from a few of my more recent blogs over to that address, and from here on out will be posting there.

Please don't stalk me down and murder me now that you know my name.

I'll eventually delete this blog, since I've moved all the posts there.

Please subscribe!  Add your email to the little "Email" box on the right, and get updates when they come right to your in-box!

I hope to see you over there.



Two Down, One to Go


Great news!  I’ve officially paid off my second loan this year!  In March 2012 I paid off my smallest loan, a measly $3300-ish, and starting working hard towards the worst of my college loans. 

loan done

I set a goal of paying at least $1200 in loan payments per month ($200 minimum payments, plus $1000 extra).  I have succeeded every month in 2012 so far, except May.  I didn’t work at all in April, and I traveled across the country twice during the month, so with no paychecks coming in in May, I think I only paid about $400-500 extra (I did get a tax refund to help out).

Some months I managed to pay more.  For example, $2500 in February (thank-you filthy rich Aspenites with children), and $1600 in August (I wanted it gone!) I think I’ve done a great job.

loan done

It looks like two loans, they were dispersed at different dates, but I paid them together, without the option of paying one and not the other.  I also paid $0.26 extra accidentally.  How do I go about getting them to pay that back to me?

Now that my high-interest loans are gone, I have a mere $7,700 at 1.75% interest left to go. I could easily complete this in six to seven months going at my rate, but I’ve chosen not to.

What!?!?!  I know, I know, but read on.  It is actually a much better choice.  I’ve been researching a lot about retirement lately.  Up until now I have done squat with retirement.   I need to get my Roth IRA started. Tomorrow.  I could wait 6 months to do it, and pay the loan off, but then I’d miss out on 2012.  With the Roth IRA, you can only put in $5000 a year, and there is no making up for it if you miss a year.  I’ve already missed 12 years!  I’ve been making over $5000/year for over 12 years now, and could’ve already been rich!  I read that I have until April 2013 to get the $5000 in for 2012. 

So that’s where my next $5000 will be going.   When the time comes, I’ll have to consider whether to then pay my loan or continue with the $5000 for 2013. 

If I keep going like I am, I could have the first $5000 paid by end of December.  However, come November I don’t know if I’ll have a job.  I kind of want to spend the holidays with my friends in Ohio for once, and might not be able to make the payments for November and December.  I think having it in there by the end of March is a good enough goal though.

I was so excited about all this that I spent the afternoon searching for a part-time job to work on my three days off.  I did not have success.  I’ll have to make sure I do something while in Ohio though.  Even if it is a minimum wage burger flipper.


Jackson Rodeo

The town of Jackson has a rodeo every Saturday night. I had never been to a rodeo before, so I knew that is one thing I definitely wanted to do before leaving here. Ideally I would like to attend a rodeo up in Cody, WY. I hear that they are so much better up there, and a lot less touristy. But for tonight, Jackson will have to do. My roommate, Elaine, was going and invited me along.
Being a 'local,' it only ended up costing $9, which isn't a bad deal. We sat in uncovered, non-reserved seats in the end zones.
So, this being my first rodeo ever, I didn't know quite what to expect. I was pretty excited to watch some guys riding bulls though.
The first shoot opened, and out came a bull, with a cowboy on his back of course. He jumped around for one second, and then he stopped. The bull just dead stopped, right there about 5 feet out from the gate and stared out at the crowd. Not quite what I was expecting, and supposedly, according to the ladies I went with, this never happens. I don't know if I believe them since it is the first time I ever seen bull riding.
The rest of the bulls seemed to understand what their job duties include.  After that there was some cattle roping. I'm still amazed at how they get the little guys' back feet roped together. Then some girly barrel riding. Boring. Then they brought out the miniature children and sent them flying across the arena clinging onto a sheep's neck. That part was probably my favorite, and when I have a 6 year old, I want them to do it too.
I only took two pictures, and then decided that nothing was showing up on my iPod, so I quit. When I put them on my computer they turned out better than I thought, so here they are. Just a couple of cattle roping shots.


What to do this winter?

It is about that time of year. Time to land a winter job. I have a little over 3 months left here still, but that's about how early I always start looking.
I've already called the folks down in the Everglades to inquire about open positions. The director there seemed pretty interested in me, and told me they have a few opening to fill in the winter. I just sent him my resume today, so hopefully I hear back from him soon.
The Everglades folks also run Dry Tortugas National Park, which I think would be my absolute ideal place to work and live, but there is a very very .00001% chance of that. They only have one worker there, if any. Looking at the website, it seems like they would have one, in addition to the rangers. Dry Tortugas is a set of seven islands 70 miles west of Key West. You can only access them by sea plane, ferry or private boat. The ferry costs $160 round trip, so hopefully they let the workers out there ride it for free. Of all seven islands, not one has any type of supplies. No water, toilet, electricity, phone or internet service. Nothing. I would love it.
Everglades, on the other hand, does have water and electricity. The guy I talked to mentioned putting me down in Flamingo, which is the southern most tip of Florida, right on the bay. He said there is no cell phone or internet service down there, and it is either 30 or 60 miles from town, I forget which. They also have mosquitoes at the Everglades. Where the front of every brochure here in Grand Teton NP warns of bears, the front of their brochures seem to warn of mosquitoes. I was expecting it to be alligators, but maybe I just didn't read the right brochure, or they don't have many alligators down in Flamingo?
Either way, I would love a job anywhere down there in Florida, but if that doesn't work out, there are a million more options for me. Including bumming around Ohio visiting with friends and family for the holiday season, which wouldn't be bad, but also wouldn't help me save for next summers' journey!



One of my three flatmates is Elaine. She is older then the rest of us, in her 40's, but it doesn't really seem like it. She is a very young 45, I think she is much younger than my mom was when I was a teenager. I may or may not have mentioned it before, but one of my goals this summer was to learn to kayak and get some practice at it. Well, it turn out that in her home state of Maine, Elaine is a Ocean Kayak Guide during most summers.
The other day I was lucky enough to go out kayaking with her. Seven miles north of where we live is Jenny Lake. That is one of the main lakes in the park, and where my other two flatmates work. Just North of Jenny are String and then Leigh Lakes. Since Elaine is a ranger here, she has been trying to get to know the park, and I believe she was planning to include information on kayaking these two lakes in one of her future ranger programs. She decided to go check them out one evening and invited me along.
We parked at the South end of String Lake and dumped her kayak in the water. While she kayaked North up the lake, I hiked along the shore on a foot path. When we reached the top, we had the option of portaging to Leigh Lake or turning the kayak back. Since it was getting late, probably about 8:30, we decided to just walk over to Leigh Lake, she wanted to fish a few minutes, but not bother to explore via kayak.
Parked Kayak
Of course, right when I was taking off my shoes and socks to wade around in Leigh, she caught her fishing hook on a rock. I offered to wade over and free it after she was unsuccessful in doing it herself. It was farther out than I expected. When I couldn't roll my pants up any more I went back to shore and swapped them for a pair of shorts. Turns out my legs are just too short, and ended up saving the hook, but thoroughly soaking my underwear.
Saved it!
What an uncomfortable feeling. So upon returning to shore I retreated to the woods to swap my shorts and undies for my dry pants, and we headed back to the kayak.
For the return trip Elaine walked to shoreline trail, and I got to kayak! She gave me a basic 2 minute instruction and sent me on my way. Actually, the 2 minutes might have been too long. I've canoed many times, its basically the same thing, just with a different type of paddle.
Me kayaking
me kayaking 2
The water was very clear. This meant that you could see the boulders and logs sunken underwater very well. This creeped me out. I was startled every time I came upon a submerged boulder. I do much better when I cannot see underwater. I guess it'll just take some more kayaking to get used to the fact that the rocks are not going to jump out and eat me.
There were a couple paddle boarders out there on the lake. I had never seen or heard of this before. The first one I saw I just figured they were being resourceful, and a surf board happened to be what they owned, so they were making it work on the lake. After I saw a few more I asked Elaine what the deal was with all the people paddling around on surf boards. She told me about stand up paddleboards or SUPs. They are apparently the new cool thing, and if you live near water and haven't paddled around on one yet, you’ll find yourself on one soon.
I have shared with many people, but I don't think I've mentioned it online, my long term goal is to kayak from Lake Erie to The Gulf of Mexico. I plan to complete this within 5 years, hopefully next summer though! This is the reason that I wanted to start kayaking this summer, and it is looking like I might be getting lots of practice this winter too.



The sunsets here are beautiful. It doesn't happen every night, and it doesn't last very long, but if you happen to catch a sunset over Grand Teton, you're in for a treat. Unfortunately, as with most of my pictures this summer, all the goods ones are on my iPod, which actually means that they are not 'the good ones.’ An iPod does not do justice to the brilliant colors of a sky at dusk.
I do have a much better view living in Beaver Creek, than I did when I lived up in Colter Bay. In CB I was always trying to rush down to the beach on my bicycle around 9pm to get the view. This first photo is the view from my front porch, followed by a few others taken down the road.


My Newest Home

“In the end we will conserve only what we love.  We will love only what we understand.  We will understand only what we are taught.”  Baba Dioum

Well, I'm sorry to announce, I have moved out of my van. An opportunity came available that I just had to take.

Living in my van, I was living in Colter Bay, 33 miles from work. It took me between 45 and 60 minutes to get to and from work everyday. I was spending up to $200 in gas a month, and wasting a lot of time.

Around mid-June, a room became available to me in employee housing. It would only cost me $200 a month, which is what I had been paying in gas, and it is only 5 miles to work. I could bike to work if I was a motivated person. I now live in Beaver Creek, an employee only area inside Grand Teton National Park.

I decided to move in for many reasons, the top three being:

  • I wouldn't really be paying much more money on expenses.
  • I would have a refrigerator to store food!!
  • I would have an extra 1.5 to 2 hours free each evening after work

It seemed like a pretty good deal, and it turns out that it has been. I live with three people, one is a roommate. (2 bedrooms, 4 women) They are all super nice. This is the first time I haven't had a really annoying roommate that everyone hates, or lots of general roommate problems. I'm sure I just jinxed myself and they'll all start tomorrow. It is amazing though, because I was convinced that being in such a small space (I've never shared a room before) it would be worse.

I think it is just the type of people you get for the type of job. All three are park rangers. Rangers are people who enjoy the outdoors, the environment, animals, and nature. They typically are not very vain and high maintenance. They are able to get dirty. They're just good people, who care about the planet and all the things that encompass it. That type of person is a good person to have as a roommate.

I share my room with Monica. She is a 25 year old from Wisconsin (lives 2 hours south in Wyoming for 2 years now). She is a teacher-ranger-teacher (TRT). She teaches elementary music during the school year. In the other room is Elaine. She is 45 and from Maine. We were all weary of a 45-year-old moving in, but it has turned out great! She is also a TRT. She teaches high school..umm...I don't know what subject...during the school year, and usually is a Ocean Kayak Guide most summers up in Maine. The last roommate is Erica. She is a 23 year old from California. She grew up near the Red Wood trees, and is a geologist ranger who loves dinosaurs.

The TRTs both have short seasons. I think just 10 weeks. Their last day is August 6th already, and they were the last to come! Erica is here through the end of September, and then it is just me until the end of October.

I’m sure you’ll hear more about them from me over the rest of the season.



Colter Bay

I spent my first month and a half of the summer (following my week of being homeless) in Colter Bay, Moran, WY. My brother works in the park, and with his dog, they don't allow him to have park housing. So he had an RV site, and told me I could park there.


Before actually moving to Wyoming, I thought since he lived in the park, and I worked in the park, it would be a short commute. I was not expecting to drive 45-60 minutes one way every day. This is the main reason I eventually moved, but I had a great time during the month of May!

The best part was that most of the touristy things (grocery store, restaurants, campground, visitor center, etc.) didn't open until after May 23rd. I had almost an entire month without tourists! On my days off, my favorite thing to do was spend time down on the beach. I laid on the beach for hours and hours, reading, ogling the rocks, staring at the mountains, or napping. I never saw a single other person. It was amazing. I became more tan during May than I have been since my high school tanning bed phase.


The beach was just a short bike ride, probably about 1/2 mile, down the road.



My brother and I had opposite days off work. So when I was home, I had to entertain the dog, Spruce


I let him out to wander the site on his long leash, and occasionally was nice enough to take him on a walk. I didn't appreciate when he pooped in other peoples' yards though, and I had to clean it up, so I mostly left him in our site to poop and leave it for my brother. Spruce, oddly enough, is the first dog I've ever walked (as far as I can remember) It seems like such a common thing, but I (and my parents) don't like inside dogs. Growing up, our dogs lived in the garage and the yard. Unless I'm volunteering at a shelter, I plan to never walk a dog again.


I made a lot of firewood during this month.


My brother had a small hand saw, and I wanted campfires! There was some wood around our site and left by the campfire ring, but that didn't last very long. I made a campfire 3 nights a week (the three nights that I didn't have to work the next day-Saturday, Sunday, Monday). I had to start searching for downed and dead wood. I had to drag trees from all around the campground back to our site to cut up. Sometimes I took the saw with me to cut the tree in half first.

some trees


I ended up with lots of wood, and when I left in June, I left my brother with a lot of it.


I loved cooking in the campfire. Potatoes and green beans is what I cooked almost every fire. Yummy.


My favorite part of the fire is when it is dying, and there are just super hot coals left, after a couple hours of burning. I can just stare at them for an hour, before finally freezing and retreating to the warmth of my van.



I never had a refrigerator the whole time I lived there. The one in my brother's RV was broken, and I don't have a break room at work. I really missed refrigerated food. I was able to keep a few things in a cooler for most of May though. Thanks to the snow pile that was hanging out next to my van.


It eventually melted at the end of May or beginning of June. I tried taking ice home from work with me, but it was too hot by then, and melted way too quickly. Refrigeration was the 2nd main reason I moved in June.

We got a lot of snow up in Colter Bay. My brother failed to warn me of that. I had my parents mail me my mittens from Ohio to keep warm. Luckily I packed a winter hat, and bought myself a new super fuzzy sweat shirt to make it from my van to work in the mornings.



On the days it didn't snow, it started to rain a lot towards the second half of May. My brother raked up all the pine needles to keep them off his dog, so our entire site turned into a huge mud pit when it rained. My van was parked in the lowest part of it, and I could barely get into and out of it. So when my brother brought home some free pallets from the lumber yard, I turned one of them into a porch. I re-nailed all the boards on the top to make it solid, and bought a $12 rug from K-Mart to cover it.



I started collecting rocks to fill in around it where it is all mud. I ended up moving before I collected much more than this though. It would have been awesome to have a stoned site. Different from gravel, because these are the gorgeous round rocks from the beach.



I parked my van on the side of the site that was closets to the back of a cabin next door. Some old lady moved in. There are a few words the average person would call her, but I'm going to skip those. The short of it..she wanted to sleep in until noon, and didn't like the fact that I had to leave for work at 5am. She complained that my van door was waking her up when I went to work in the mornings. She's probably never seen a sunrise in her life. I was not on my brother's housing contract, which only listed one person living there. I didn't want the old lady's complaints to get him in trouble, so that's another reason I chose to leave.



Here are a few more photos of my time in Colter Bay







Quick Update

I have been in Wyoming a little over two months now.  I have been jotting notes for some blog posts and writing some in my "Notes" app on my iPod touch, by have not been getting around to posting them, especially because the first few have pictures that I took on my real camera as opposed to right here on my iPod.  I guess I should go ahead and start posting them and adding the photos later on.


Window Coverings

One of my favorite renovations to my van is the addition of window coverings.  I just cut large pieces of cardboard to size (or close enough) and spray painted the outsides black.

I taped and cut newspaper to the inside of my windows and then traced it into the cardboard.  It is not perfect at all.  If I were to park somewhere dark and have any sort of light on inside, you would easily be able to spot me from light coming out cracks all around the edge of every window.      Spending the nights in parking lots is okay though because there are so many lights that reflect on the windows, you'd never be able to tell some are coming from inside.  My windows were already pretty tinted, the cardboard is mostly to deter those that walk up and cup their hands around their face and press their nose to the window.  I don't know how I'd handle it if I woke up and saw someone doing that.  

Also, I have to wake up at 4 or 4:30am for my job, so at 8 or 8:30pm it is still really bright outside, and the cardboard does a great job at keeping it dark inside.

I also started to decorate the insides of the cardboard, and decided to just leave them up all the time.  I have a poster taped to one and a map of the park to another.  I plan to make them better/prettier.  And even eventually make ones that fit perfectly (maybe...)


Road Trip

I originally planned to spend a week or so driving and sight seeing from Ohio to Wyoming.  However, I was enjoying time with my friends and family in Ohio and decided to drive straight through.

I left Ohio on Thursday at 2pm and stopped in Iowa and spent the night at the worlds largest truck stop in the parking lot.  I drove to Kearney, NE on Friday and stayed in a Holiday Inn parking lot. On to Rock Springs, WY on Saturday in celebration of my birthday.  I stayed in a Flying J lot that night. I drove the last three hours on Sunday, arriving in Teton Village, WY by 11am Sunday.

So leaving 2pm the first day and arriving before 11am the last day makes it 3 days of driving Thursday to Sunday.

I spent my first few nights in Wyoming at The Hostel in Teton Village because I started my new job Monday, the day after arriving, and I wanted to shower for work.  I stayed there Sunday, Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday nights.  I showered at the rec center and spent the night in a parking lot in Jackson on Thursday and on Friday I finally was able to move into my new home camp site in Moran, WY, where I'll be living for probably 4 months, and then looking for another place to live the last two months of my contract (September and October) because my campground shuts down in the beginning of September.
We'll worry about that closer to August.

First night campsite

Second night campsite

Love the 75mph speedlimit!

My bike hanging on in my rearview mirror


Dressers for my Clothes

I picked out these plastic drawers at Wal-mart.  They sell each drawer separately, they're really sturdy, and I like them a lot better than those three-drawer plastic dressers I always see and have owned in the past.  These are very square, seem to utilize all the space they can.  They're pretty expensive though, the big ones at $17ish and small at $13ish.  All 4 with tax were around $65ish.  I thought I would use them enough to make it worth it.  I even planned the height of my bed to them.

Literally during the drive home from finally buying them,  I passed two of them 3-drawer units out by someone's trashcan.  I couldn't resist.  I turned around and picked them up.  Brought them home, found that they come apart easily, so I can just take one drawer out to fit under my bed.  So i took them all apart and hosed them down and scrubbed them a little and decided to take the others back to Wal-mart.  My new ones are not nearly as nice, but to save $65, they are definitely worth it.  They are shorter, so there is a gap  between them and the bed, but it has turned out nice. It is perfect storage for my laptop at the end next to my chair and I stuff seldom used clothes on top the other and utilize some of the space up behind the edge board on my bed, but below the plywood.

The new expensive Wal-Mart Shelves
The view from the back of my van.  Tons of space still to stuff things behind them.
The free roadside shelves.  So easy to make shorter!

Cleaning them upon deciding to keep them.
Free things are always the most appreciated by me.