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USA Travel Journal Part 2

Hi readers of The Mustard Seed! I thought I would share some snippets from my travel journal when I went to the USA in 2010 – a year before I started this blog! I have some fond memories and would love you to join me on the journey! I was 18 when I jotted this all down, it was my first time away from home and I was travelling on my own for 4 months. It’s painfully honest and captures the struggles of being a teenager. Some of the battles are still challenging today – especially my lack of confidence. The penmanship may seem a bit ‘young’, and emotional – be warned. There are also lots of photos…

It is important for me to share this with you as this was the first time I really realised that I was fully dependent on the Lord. My journey across America was a real eye-opener and stepping stone on my walk with Jesus. His grace was enough. I had to trust Him every second of every day. Some times were harder than others. However, in each moment I was held in His loving arms. 

I will continue to write other blog posts, but if I write a post from the USA, it will be titled ‘USA Travel Journal’. I may have changed some names, just in case people do not want to be recognised… Happy reading!

18th March 2010

A day off today. Got up early so I could be the first in the shower. We had our first ‘cleaning party’ today. I cleaned and tidied the fridge freezer. Co-op skills came in handy to check the dates on the food…

Did some laundry and the launderette and had some help from a guy who owned it. He helped me get it sorted. Went to Mary’s (coffee shop) and had a peach and buttermilk muffin and some orange juice. Really need to be drinking more, thinking of it. 

I’m off to Saguaro National Park next Wednesday. It’s in southern Arizona and there are so many cacti there. It’s going to be so hot. Not entirely sure what I will be doing there however. It’s great that I get to work in a national park though. 

Went to Downtown Diner briefly tonight to discuss a planned road trip to Vegas. So far there are 14 of us going. MENTAL! Getting it all sorted tomorrow hopefully. Having another early night. Want to socialise but just feel so tired! Goodnight again! 

Downtown Diner - Flagstaff
Downtown Diner – Flagstaff

20th March 2010

Went to Downtown Diner again yesterday and we booked 2 nights in Vegas at the Sahara on The Strip. We have 3 cars to go down to Vegas. I pray we will all have a safe trip and the drivers become confident on the roads.

Me and JM walked to Target yesterday and I bought some headphones so I can listen to music at the library. We then walked to Wendy’s (a food place – which I thought was a diner but it wasn’t), so we decided to have lunch at Taco Bell’s. We then walked to the library and  eventually came back home. 

Later, I decided to go to Ross (a clothes store) to buy a nice outfit. Felt really tired but a load of us tried out American football/rugby. Let’s just say I suck at it! I preferred trying to tackle people as I couldn’t throw or catch. Football (soccer) is more my game! We came back and I had a chat with Amelia  upstairs before going downstairs with my snuggie (a blanket with sleeves). Started watching I Heart Huckabees (which made no sense to me) and I began drifting off to sleep. 

Today is mum’s birthday. She seemed like she had a really nice day. Going to pick up the cars for Vegas shortly. 

21st March 2010

Well, made it to Vegas! The journey yesterday was long and we missed the exit so went life half an hour in the wrong direction; the sign said St Beagl’s Las Vegas, so the American signs confused us. We stopped off at the Hoover Dam for some pictures. We almost got lost around Vegas as well because the signs did not give us enough time to take exits etc (e.g. crossing 3 lanes in the nick of time). 

At the Hoover Dam.
At the Hoover Dam.

We went out in Vegas and walked the Strip at night for absolutely ages. My new shoes have absolutely killed my feet – I have blisters on the bottom. My feet were so sore by the end of the night that I had to take a taxi home for $14.50 – yikes! That’s how bad it was – I couldn’t physically walk. 

Vegas lights are surreal. Really beautiful. It is true what they say though – babes, alcohol, gambling all for when you are over 21. Saw babe cards scattered all over the pavement and pole dancers in casinos as I was walking outside.

The Infamous Vegas Sign.

Today we woke up early and had breakfast at IHOP (International House Of Pancakes) and it was lush. We decided to catch the monorail to the MGM and explore some of the strip in daylight. We walked past some famous hotels, and an M &M store with a 3-D movie. We also made it to the Vegas sign and had our pictures taken. 

So many...
So many…

Tonight we went back to the MGM and ate at an expensive, awesome restaurant called Rainforest Cafe. It had moving, robotic animals, waterfalls and a fake thunderstorm throughout the meal, so it went slightly dark.

Going to bed shortly – long day tomorrow!

23rd March 2010

Well today has been relatively slow. Spent most of the day alone. Went to the library and emailed mum about something someone said which hurt and I have felt like I haven’t really fitted in and that kind of pushed me a bit :(. Emily and Nicola seem quite close. I have no immediate close friends I click with here. Really don’t have much to say tonight. Off to Saguaro tomorrow – hooray!

24th March 2010

Woke up at 5.15am to get ready for project. Had everything ready but haven’t found my bandanna. Also ran back to the house after walking to ACE office because I left my coat at home. Good start. We were a bit lat starting off but we got to our destination before 1pm. 

Saguaro National Park is full of cacti of different varieties – it is rich in vegetation. There are many ecosystems due to the elevational gradient in the park. There are species high up on steeper slopes as well as on lower ground. I have information on the park as we are working with the National Park Service. It looks really good what we are doing. A new project! On Sunday and Monday we will be re-planting species and getting rid of invasives, but I’m not too sure at the moment. We will be digging, using herbicides and doing other stuff which I will write when I know more about it.

My tent is not set up properly but it will do. Have to ask the leader back in Flagstaff for a new tent. Hope nothing will disturb my sleep. There are meant to be African bees, rattlesnakes, spiders, Gila monsters (venomous lizard), mountain lions about etc. so I’m a little uneasy. We have quite a trek from our bathroom to our tents. Hopefully wont need to pee in the night.

It’s quite quiet with just the 1 crew, but nice all the same. I’m camping closer to everyone this time.

It will be good to work with the National Park Service finally. Really looking forward to it.

25th March 2010

Our first day on project at Saguaro National Park. We drove to a place to learn about how to use the sprayer which was filled with herbicide. We had a safety circle and orientation about what we would be doing. There is an invasive species known as Malta Starthistle (Centaurea melitesis) which was introduced in California in the 1700s from the southern Europeans for medicinal purposes. It has been in southern Arizona since 1901. As it is an invasive species it doesn’t give native plants a chance. This is one of the more harmful. We recognise it by its deeply lobed leaves, elongating outer leaves and dense, hairy, fuzzy leaves. We have to apply diluted herbicide (with blue dye) over the species. We can’t spray it near water because it is harmful to aquatic life. I have more info on it later – this is the general gist!

Ready to fight the enemy.
Ready to fight the enemy.

There are so many different types of vegetation. Prickly pear cacti, Saguaro cacti, other cacti haha. I don’t know all the species yet, but have been prodded and poked by enough! We learnt about the different ecosystems as the elevational gradient increased, such as the appearance of ponderous pine trees higher up. There are different mammals and creatures up there in comparison with the desert floor. The temperature is also colder as the altitude increases. There are bears, peregrine falcons and all sorts higher up! It’s like 2 different national parks!

Height difference.
Height difference.

It has been a busy day, but much slower and not as much energy required. It’s very hot when the sun is on you all day and you tend to sweat. We go up and down looking for this thistle and sometimes can find nothing, which sucks for us – boredom!

We went to the Visitor Centre and I bought a small book with a discount on Saguaro National Park. Also watched a short film about it. Had Subway for tea which saved us cooking – it was a really refreshing break!

I don’t know if I can manage another slow roasting day in the sun with a herbicide sprayer backpack on my shoulders. Really slippery terrain also as we are in a wash. The rocks and climbing scares me a little!

God will give me the grace to get through this week so I have no worries 🙂


27th March 2010

Just writing this in the morning to catch up. Yesterday we still searched for the Malta Starthistle, but had a slightly different change of scenery and much more to spray. My shoulders felt the strain yesterday though – constantly looking down ad carrying the sprayer.

Thinking of stories to match the scenery at camp. There are some abandoned wooden, boarded up sheds and open, wooden shelters. Fascinating to me as it once used to be an active area. Very creepy at night though. I had to go to the bathroom at night and absolutely hated it! Noises, silhouettes against the moonlight of prickly pairs and daunting saguaros is enough to scare anyone. I think it’s psychological as I needed the toilet here and not at Lake Mohave. At least I’m cleaner here than there though.

Potential inspiration for a story...
Potential inspiration for a story…

Last night our stove wasn’t heating so I suggested making a fire and it worked. We had chicken in no time (well it took some time).


Ok, so today we were still looking for Malta Starthistle, but in a slightly different spot. I found more today than yesterday which made the job more exciting! My hands feel dry but we are doing something different for the next 2 days, possibly re-vegetation. I learnt about Mica (a mineral) found in the desert. It’s very shiny. My supervisor said pioneers used to use it to make windows as it was thin enough to see through – you can peel the layers. It’s very beautiful! I also learnt about cryptobiotic soil – more of a lichen – that acts as a soil and takes thousands of years to form so it is very fragile, so you shouldn’t stand on it.


28th March 2010

We re-vegetated 5 native plants today. We used a pick and a shovel to dig a deep hole and plant the vegetation. We watered it, put wire around it and mulch (bits of wood and dead cactus). We also replanted cactus in the soil. Did it all day. Made a nice change from spraying.


It was a windy night and it blew my tent about. 4 hours sleep. Needed the toilet AGAIN.

31st March 2010

Made it to the end of the month – its flown by. I had a good time at Saguaro (sa-wah-row) National Park all in all. My hands have turned blue because of the herbicide dye and they are all rough and cracked due to sweating in the gloves and then drying in the heat. It was really hot. So hot that my ear blistered really bad. Dayna from the park service gave me her bandanna (can’t find mine at the moment) and it went down.

Starting to feel like I fit in a bit more now. When we got home we had to clean the van, food boxes and it was so cold in Flagstaff.

The campsite was pleasant as you could watch the sunrise over the mountains, hear the river gushing over the rocks in the background (a place where I went to pray) and it was surrounded by cacti. The only thing was the portaloos  were downhill and quite a way from our tents. It took the breath out of me walking up – still super unfit. My tent was awful and I am going to get it replaced tomorrow. The poles stretch the tent out too much, the rain cover is awful and it’s all a mismatch.It was even harder to put away this time in comparison to Lake Mohave. Weird.

I have seen enough Malta Starthistle to last me a lifetime. My first real experience of a desert environment. Although, Lake Mohave is also a desert, it didn’t feel like it to me as much. Don’t think I could work in Arizona in the summer.

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