Off the Grid and Back Again

We’ve had a bit of a disappearing act. I was going along nicely, posting something every day as we travelled across the country and them BAM! no posts. Don’t you hate it when someone uses punctuation in the middle of a sentence. Anyway….

We arrived in Oregon a few days ago, picked up our new trailer the next day, outfitted it and learned how to use it as best we could in one day, then headed out on a dry camping adventure in Central Oregon. Woods, lake, stream, tubing said stream multiple times, and some much needed relaxation. We slowed down. We looked at the water. We stopped moving. We stopped using electronic devices. It was wonderful!

I highly recommend it. Slowing down I mean. It’s amazing.

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Into the Evergreen State

Today’s drive actually seemed shorter than our drive yesterday. Maybe it had something to do with the scenery or maybe it was the people we met along the way.

The scenery. What can we say, we finally arrived at the place of the Ponderosa Pine, big lakes, mountains, and green. The smell is familiar and brings back thoughts and feelings of home. We’re nearly there.

The people. We were fortunate today to meet not one but two couples, at the same gas station none the less, who had Rpods. Amazing, and fun. We all talked, they answered our myriad of questions, they each gave us tours of their respective Pods, and we all exchanged information. Really nice people out on their own adventures. We can’t wait to start ours!

Tomorrow we will finally, after six days on the road, arrive in Oregon. The dogs will be happy to get to the farm. So will we!

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Across the Continental Divide

Today, day four of our Illinois to Oregon adventure, found us staying in Montana. It’s an enormous, and enormously beautiful, state.

We crossed the continental divide, which always feels great as we are now officially flowing west.

As we passed through Butte we looked up to see the Our Lady of the Rockies statue that overlooks the town and sits on the Continental Divide.  A pretty amazing feat to get it up there.  You can read more about her, and see some photos, here.  We took photos with the bigger camera and you’ll see one later, when I do our “we finally made it” post.

We also drove through downtown Bozeman, something I’ve never done in my many times through Montana. It’s very cool. Little funky restaurants and shops. Pretty hip looking, but all with a laid back non-hipster vibe.

Animals spotted today…. More antelope, a possible bald eagle, cows, horses, a couple of blue heron, and prairie dogs.

We are back into the lands of rivers and streams and evergreens. So much water near the highway. We passed over the Blackfoot and the Yellowstone rivers and past many smaller streams. Made me long for my fly rod.

Tomorrow we head out of Montana, through Northern Idaho, and into Washington State. We’re getting close!

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Passing Through Big Sky Country

We’re tired. We were on the road for 8 1/2 hours today. To long with two dogs who can handle being in the car for about 6 hours. But, we did it and we’re here. Yeah.

Today we passed through the Black Hills of South Dakota, Weston somehow got hold of what looked like an old boca burger and nearly choked on it (damn tall grass near strange little coffee shops!), we sang many songs, went into and out of Wyoming, outran what looked like a nasty storm, passed where Custer had his last stand, and managed to rock out the miles.

We won’t get out of Montana tomorrow. It’s big place with a big sky.

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On the Road In South Dakota

Today’s sites included the National Hobo Museum, hundreds of bikers in their cuts on the road with their MCs, more windmills, more corn, a cool sculpture park along the highway, many more hills, songs sung loudly by each other, many signs for Wall Drug, a far off coffee place that appeared much closer on the GPS, and a gorgeous river walk.

We drove another 7 hours through three states (Iowa, Minnesota, South Dakota) and we’re a third of the way through our journey west.

What we didn’t see… The Corn Palace in Mitchell, SD, hobos near the hobo museum, anything that looks like a normal salad at a deli counter in a grocery store, or anything organically grown.

Tomorrow we head to Montana. More sites, more sounds, more of the unexpected.

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The Way to Oregon – 2014 Edition

And they’re off…..

Woo Hoo!

Seems as though we’ve planned for this a long time.  The minute we decided to buy the trailer and put the down-payment on it we started planning.  That was a few months ago.  And now, here we are.  Time always always goes so much faster than you think it will.

Today we loaded up the Jeep just right so the pups had a really comfy area, grabbed our travel cups filled with coffee, fired up the Oregon 2014 playlist, and off we went.   First stop, Peoria, Illinois for a refill, of course.

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Our first day’s adventures found us entering Iowa, where it rained and rained.  It was nice.  I’m not kidding.  Much better with a little rain than 100 degree temps and high humidity.  Early summer in the Midwest is unpredictable.

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After we arrived in Mason City, Iowa, our first night’s stop, we went for a nice little walk along a river to stretch our legs, and the pups legs.  It’s our pattern; drive for 6 or 7 hours, get checked in to our room, find a place to walk, find food, sleep, repeat.

The sights today included deer in a field, corn fields, rolling hills, corn fields, windmills, corn fields, huge legos, and deer on the path we walked after we got here.  Very cool.

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Tomorrow we make our way to Chamberlain, South Dakota.  There will be more music, more singing at the top of our lungs into our thumbs, more laughing, more picture-taking, more fun, and more miles checked off on this crazy journey.

I can’t wait…

 

 

10 Things That Will Improve Any Road Trip

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We are, once again, ready to embark on another cross-country road trip.  Our trip this year has several legs, the first taking us 2233 miles, through 8 states, in six days.  We tend to not go more than 6 or 7 hours a day when we have the pups, which we will on this trip.  The second leg will take us over 642 miles down the coast of Oregon, through the Redwoods in California, and finally to San José, California.  And lastly, we will travel from San José back home, covering 2798 miles with possible visits to Austin, TX and New Castle, OK.  The last leg hasn’t been fully formed, or planned, but at this point we’re thinking about it.  If that’s the case, by the end of our big road trip this year, we will have traveled well over 5000 miles and covered 14 states.  It’s a big one.  Our summer road trips usually are.

Since we moved from Oregon in 2011 we’ve made some version of this trip every year since.  We always try to vary our routes there and back, see new things, and we’ve always, every time, enjoyed the hell out of ourselves.  We love each other’s company, love seeing the country, love listening to music while we do it,  love the photos we take, and love the experiences we have along the way.  Small towns to big cities, vast areas of gorgeous countryside, conversations with locals in coffee shops, traveling on the road is a fantastic thing.  It’s a wonderful adventure.

As we get ready for the trip this year I was making lists of stuff to pack, trying to remember all the things we need to do before we go.  It seems like there are always a million little things, and then ultimately there’s really only making sure we have us, the dogs and their supplies, and something to wear as we hit the road.  It initially always seems complicated, but at the core it never really is.

Thinking about our trip, planning out and preparing, I wondered if some of what we’ve learned doing these road trips might be helpful, or at least amusing, to other people.  So I did what bloggers have been known to do in situations like this, I created a list.

Tips to help make a road trip successful, in random order…

1.  Make digital playlists or mix tapes or mix CDs or whatever it is you mix.  Make them long and fill them with stuff you like, but also stuff that’s slightly unfamiliar.  Make them funky.  Include music from your childhood, from different times in your life, use different genres.  It’s cool to be driving along and suddenly a song comes on that I used to love as a teen.  Next thing you know we’re singing at the top of our lungs, pounding on the steering wheel, seat dancing, and grooving like it’s 1999.  Variety is key.  The music will become the soundtrack of the trip.  And something cool will happen, you will hear a song from the playlist later, after you’re back home, and you’ll think of something that happened during the trip when that song was playing.

2.  Bring water, lots of it.  For some reason a person gets parched driving across, around,  and through the country.  I don’t know if it’s the air in the summer and the heat in the winter or it’s just all the talking and singing you do while you’re sitting there, but a person definitely gets thirsty.  Having water handily available is something you’ll want, trust me.

3. Use a camera, a lot.  It doesn’t matter which kind — high-end, point and shoot, phone.  Just use one.  Remember not to just take photos of the stuff you’re seeing, take photos of yourselves as well.  Take strange and funny photos.  Be silly.  Make yourselves laugh while you’re taking them.  You’ll laugh later when you look at them.  Try to think about using photos to “describe” your journey.  What would that journey look like.  Tell that story.  Use those photos as your travelogue.  K and I play this game with the camera.  Whoever is in the passenger seat takes photos out the window as we’re driving.  The rule is we can’t stop for a photo-op (OK, yes, sometimes we actually do stop if it’s something really amazing, but in general, no).  Some of the stuff we’ve taken has ended up being amazing.  You have to be quick, you fly by the seat of your pants, and you don’t know, half the time, if you get what you’re trying to shoot.  But later, when we look at those photos, we remember parts of the trip we wouldn’t have otherwise.  We’re reminded of the smaller things along the way.  Like that huge wine glass and bottle on the side of that hill made of wire or something.  Strange, and cool, and luckily for us, captured.

4.  Plan ahead without planning ahead too much.  When we travel we pretty much know our route, though we do detour sometimes, on a day-to-day basis.  We usually have somewhere we know we’re going to stay that night.  We’ve done the fly by the seat of our pants thing, but when we had to drive for 16 hours once because we couldn’t find a room — let’s just say it taught us a tiny lesson about preparedness.  However, being ready is one thing, spontaneity is another.  You can have your route planned, but don’t be so stuck on it and your timeline that you don’t allow yourself to stop and see something wonderful.  It’s possible to stop spontaneously and still make your room that night.  We once decided to leave the interstate (we do this often actually as we prefer smaller two lane highways so we can really see the country) and ended up finding the Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve.  It’s an amazing place, and we’d highly recommend it.  It wasn’t on the day’s itinerary, but it was totally worth getting to our room a couple of hours later than we’d planned.  Surprises are good, and make the trip, you just have to let yourself be open to them.

5.  Bring snacks and try to be healthy-ish with them.  It will help to stop the fast food urge.  If you’re starving by the time you stop it’s easy to look at the closest burger place and give in.   If  you have snacks, it will help you to make more considered choices.  I only mention this because if you find yourself eating greasy fast food, or heavier food, while you’re on the road you won’t feel as good during the trip.  Feeling good allows you to have a better time.  We know this, from experience.

6.  Stop at roadside attractions to marvel at greatness, and strangeness, and silliness.  I use a site called Roadtrippers to help plan our trips.  It’s great because it allows you to look for different things along the route you might find interesting, like natural national monuments or the largest fork in the world.  The site has great filters and lets you really narrow down things specific to what you like.  There are the times, as well, that you just happen to come across these things as you drive.  Stop.  Check them out.  The adventure of a road trip is enhanced 10 fold by these little side trips.  We saw the fork, by the way, and it was awesome.

7.  Talk to locals when getting coffee or ordering food or just walking about.  I’ve found they are pretty friendly and willing to talk about their town and the area that surrounds it.  And locals will know the difference between which places are honestly good and which places are good only in guidebooks.  Those can be two different things.  Talking to locals will also give you the flavor of a place.  It’s what helps you realize that really, we are all the same.  It’s the part of the trip that broadens your view and expands your horizons.  It has expanded ours.  It helps if you get off the main road and go into a place, not just through it.  We try to find a funky local coffee shop every morning during our trips.  We’ve had some great brew, and more importantly, seen some places we wouldn’t have seen and talked to people we wouldn’t have talked to.  You get better coffee and better interaction at an actual coffee place than you do a truck stop.  Oh, and go in, don’t just use the drive thru.

8.  This one is a tad crude, but crucial.  Pee when you can.  There are surprisingly large stretches of road with nowhere to go.  Literally.  So when you stop for gas or snacks or to walk the dogs at a park, if there are facilities, and you feel even the slightest inkling, use them.  I can’t tell you how many times we’ve not learned this lesson.   Leave in the morning after grabbing coffee from a local place, pass by some little part of civilization where accommodations can be found thinking surely there will be something up ahead only to find ourselves in total pain by the time we reach somewhere we can go.  If you can avoid the bushes along the road, that’s my recommendation.  If not, the bushes, or that small twig, might have to do.  It doesn’t hurt to have a roll of toilet paper in the car.  Just sayin’.

9.  Make the dogs, if you have them, as comfortable as possible.  We do this whole layered thing in the back of the Jeep so they can lay down, but still see out.  Additionally we give them a couple of toys and a couple of bully sticks to chew.  We also figured out a way to have a little bowl of water for them in the back.  They use it.  We’ve found that by doing all this we make them more calm, and the trip is easier for them, and consequently it’s easier for us.  It’s tough, just by their nature, traveling with pets.  Our boy dog gets car sick, but we’ve found an herbal remedy for it that makes him much more comfortable.  And as I said, when they are more comfortable, we are.

10.  Stop often enough.  Get off the main drag.  Sometimes it’s tempting to put the pedal to the metal and keep it on the road, hour after hour.  After all, you want to get there, to that next place.  But driving endlessly without stopping is exhausting, and it can become this monotonous thing.  Have you ever been on the road, driving straight through to somewhere, and once you get there you don’t really remember anything from the trip.  Small details about gas stations and drive thru windows pop into your mind, but nothing about the places you actually drove through.  Stopping every two or three hours allows you to recharge, regroup, take a breath, look around, stretch.  It makes the trip, as whole, seem more relaxed, easier somehow.  Stopping allows you to appreciate what’s there, where you are, the places you’re traveling through.  It’s so worth it.  After all, it’s about the journey, not the destination, right?  The saying is corny, but it’s true none the less.

Now get out there, and see something.

Sit Back, Relax, or Sit Up and Be Tense

I’ve been on my share of flights with funny flight attendants. I can tell you, there’s nothing like a little humor to relax nervous fliers. Plus, it’s nice that they don’t always take themselves so seriously. If I had to repeat the same spiel multiple times a week, I’d try to mix it up too.

Here’s a great example of what it means to fly the friendly skies.

Airports

It’s travel time, once again.

I’m currently sitting in the Central Illinois Regional Airport which is located in Bloomington/Normal, Illinois.  Here in Illinois we seem to like our twin cities.  There are shirts for sale here that say, “Leaving Normal”.  I like them.

I got here way too early.  I’m not used to these small airports.  When I checked my bag I had to ring a bell for service.  There was no one behind the counter and the guys at the TSA screening station looked half asleep and hopeful I might actually be bringing them a bag, and consequently a little something to do.  Both of them helped me when I walked over.  Two guys, one small bag.  Funny.  I got to security and same thing.  No one in line.  Not a single person.  There were three TSA people there to tell me I had pre-screened and so didn’t have to remove my shoes or my jacket.  Sweet.  I did, however, still have to take out my laptop and bottle of nose spray.  No biggie.  I didn’t mind.  I never mind actually, it’s security after all.  I’d rather be safe.  But, back to the lack of patronage at this airport at this time of day.  I got through security in less than two minutes.  Slick.  Next, a sandwich and a bottle of water.  There was, again, no one in line at the counter so I had a nice little chat with the gent who told me there was a less expensive bottle of water around the corner, if that mattered to me.  It did.  I don’t care what kind of bottled water I get, as long as I get something to drink.  The short line didn’t mean the bill was cheap though.  Airports are still airports after all.  Nearly 20 dollars later, with only a sandwich, small bag of chips, a bottled water, and a package of peanut m&m’s for later, I was robbed, but not going to be hungry.  I looked around for somewhere to sit and, I saw three people at the four gates that were up near the snack bar/restaurant.  It’s been an hour and there are still only three of us.

I guess people who fly out of this airport regularly know the secret.  This whole idea of getting to the airport two hours e arly is bunk when you come here.  I could’ve strolled in with 30 minutes to go and been OK.  That would be cutting it close for my timely sensibility, but an hour instead of two, now we’re talking.  Next time I won’t make the same mistake.

This airport is great though.  Good amenities.  Free WiFi, plenty of comfortable seating, areas to charge your electronics, and a nice guy at the snack bar who will give you a money saving tip.  Plus, there are sculptures of horses and nice art, and loads of windows for light.

I fly from here to Dallas.  It’s everything this airport is, and isn’t.  It’s huge, so big it has it’s own train, and it’s usually crowded.  I don’t have to brave security there, as I’m just flying through, but I’ve spent some time there.  Big.  Big with all the things big brings with it.  Lines, hurried people with tired attitudes, rush.  From there I’ll fly to Vegas.  Same thing.  Lots of people, rushing,

Oh, wow, there are now two more people sitting in my area.  Oh, make that four.  The crowd, as it is, is forming.  Hold your hats people.  It’s starting to feel like an actual airport in here.

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Jumping In

Some of you may have noticed a decreased number of posts in the last couple of weeks.  Or, to be clear, basically no posts in the last couple of weeks.  I finally remedied that today, with a 10 Word Review, but otherwise… nada, zip, zilch, zero.  I love Z words.  I have a great explanation and I’ll make it short, I was otherwise occupied.

It’s been cold in East Central Illinois.  Really cold.  We’ve had our share of snow this year, not to mention the whole polar vortex thing, which basically trapped us in our own home for three days.  We love our house, but being forced to stay home, not fun.  Neither of us like being told what to do, even by Mother Nature.  To remedy this situation we’d planned, to be honest it was long before our version of the Day After Tomorrow happened, a family vacation to the much more balmy Florida Keys.  Can we get a hallelujah?  I thick we can.

So ladies and gentlemen, without further ado…

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… this is where I’ve been, and what I was doing while I wasn’t posting on the blog.  Everyone needs a vacation now and then and this was what mine looked like.

Sometimes you just have to let go, and jump in.

Thankful Everyday – Day Twenty-Nine

29.  I’m thankful for travel.  I’m lucky enough to have been a few places.  K and I love to experience a new place; the people, the smells, the tastes, the culture, a window into the way people live their lives.  We love this.  I’ve loved it since I was young and our family headed out on one road trip after another.  I loved it when I went to Europe for the first time when I was 16.  I love it when K and I go on a car trip that can last a day or a couple of weeks.  I love it when we pack and bag and fly off to who knows where or jump on a cruise ship or take a train ride.  Traveling brings a sense of how large the world is, and yet it also brings a feeling of sameness and smallness.  People are people, everywhere.  Loving, searching, laughing, angry, happy, striving, living — the same.  Travel gives you a window to that.  It also gives a sense of wonder about the world. There are amazing things to see and wonderful people to meet.  This world of ours is a fantastic place.  However we travel, being out on the road with a backpack, a camera, and my honey is about the best place to be.

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Thankful Everyday – The Twenty-Sixth

26.  I am thankful for beautiful architecture.  I’m fascinated by building.  Not the building I have done, which is none, or might do, which is also probably none, but by the amazing structures all around me.  Capturing form, light, and harnessing the marriage between use and beauty, I am constantly in awe of form, everywhere.  From amazing mid-century modern homes to the Natural History Museum in London, Tower Bridge to La Sagrada Familia in Spain, I’ve been lucky to see some wonderfully gorgeous buildings and structures.  The minds of humans are fantastic and astounding.

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Thankful Everyday – The Twentieth

20.  I’m thankful for this beautiful place we live.  We’ve traveled a lot and especially love road trips here in the states.  We’ve seen a lot of the country and we’re always amazed by it.  It seems no matter where we go it’s beautiful and unique and pretty fantastic.  We’re lucky to live in the U.S. and we know it.

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Full of Hot Air

Several years ago K and I drove from Portland down to Las Vegas.  You can do that drive in a day, a long one, which I’ve done before (Linda, remember the time we drove into that camp ground in the middle of the night, in the middle of nowhere, looking for a bathroom?), but it’s much nicer to stop for a night along the way.  The most obvious place to stop is Reno, which makes a nice midway point.

K and I pulled into Reno, after driving 10 hours or whatever it was, found a cheap hotel, found some cheap dinner, put our usual $20 into a slot, and were ready to hit the mattress and get a good night’s sleep before our 10 hour or so drive the next day.  Until….

In our hotel room, looking out at the city, we saw a sign for The Great Reno Balloon Race, starting the next morning at like 5:00.  By this point it was one in the morning and we were tired, but as we’re both always up for spontaneous adventure we decided to forgo sleep and see what we could see at the balloon fest the next morning.  We are so glad we did.  It was one of the most amazing things I’ve ever seen and experienced in my life.  We got up at 4:30, got directions from the front desk person, and headed over.  There was a “glow” at 5:00 which was amazing in an of itself.  Several balloons lit up in the dark, anchored, taking turns burning.  Cool.  Later, when the sun just started to come up 75 or so balloons took flight.  It was beautiful, and hilarious, and strangely emotional.  Some of the balloons were different shapes which made it fun spotting them and pointing them out to each other.  We both absolutely loved it.

Since that day we’ve wanted to go to another festival, though we’ve decided it must be a big festival or we’d be sort of disappointed.  The sight of five balloons taking off compared to 75 would be slightly – inadequate.  Then, today, I saw a thing come across my Facebook feed from Roadtrippers.  It’s a road trip website I love.  They have great info about places to see, history, cool stuff wherever you happen to be driving.  I use it sometimes when we travel.  They have an app.

So I was perusing my feed and there it was, a time-lapse video of the recently held International Albuquerque Balloon Festival.  It’s the largest in the world.  500 balloons.  That’s all kinds of awesome if you ask me.  I had to show it to K.  We just, on the spot, decided we must go next year.  I’m excited.

Here’s the video.  I dare you not want to head to Albuquerque for the festival after you see it.  Maybe you shouldn’t watch, it might be too tempting.

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We love car trips.  Load up the dogs, their supplies, the camera gear, the clothes, and make sure the iPod is filled with good tunes to travel by.  We choose to road trip sometimes when flying might be easier, or faster, or even cheaper.  We like the experience of it.  So much better climbing behind the wheel, music on, countryside slipping by.  We’ve seen some amazing things.

It seems no matter which route we take, its the right one.  If you have a spirit of adventure, even those small county highways can be interesting.  Strange, or cute, or decrepit, or gorgeous little hovels with one gas station, a strange restaurant the locals really appreciate, and sometimes even a hotel or even two.  Towns have a feel about them.  Some say welcome, we’re so glad you’re here.  Some say get the hell out.  You can instantly feel which kind of town you’re in.  We like that.

We like old signs and big piles of hay and wrecked cars in lots and shiny new tractors and pretty parks and statues for local heroes and strange historical markers.  We like finding coffee shops in these places and hearing the group of older dudes in the corner talking about farming or the factory or the latest business venture.  Those guys are in every town.  We like friendly people who love dogs and want to pet ours and we even like the people who might not understand or like the gay, but come around to at least liking and feeling comfortable around us.  We like gas stations for bathrooms and bad coffee and the occasional snack.  We like cuddling with the pups at hour 5 when they are sick of laying on their beds and need a little attention.  We like singing along to songs we know and making up words to songs we don’t.  We like telling stories to each other about things we see, making up details to describe things we don’t really know anything about.  We like playing the maybe game.

The maybe game — it goes like this — we see a personalized license plate with the numbers 173 on it and the game is on.  Maybe they have 173 grandchildren.  Maybe this is their 173rd car.  Maybe they’ve had 173 girlfriends.  Maybe it’s their address, their locker combo, the address of their favorite hotel, the number of hickeys they’ve had, the number of Izod shirts they own, etc., etc. ,etc.  We get outlandish.  We make each other laugh.

We love stopping at strange off beat things, like the world’s largest fork, or an enormous statue of a rabbit.  We wonder about these things and marvel at them and appreciate that they are there for us to experience.  We love finding funky coffee shops and taking our photo outside of each one to document our coffee journey.  We love beautiful countryside.

This country is beautiful. Spectacularly so.  It never ceases to amaze us.  I don’t know how many times we’ve said something like wow, look at this, it’s gorgeous.  It happens all the time. To tell you the truth we haven’t really ever been anywhere that wasn’t pretty in its own way.  You have to see it like that, but still, we find places pretty.  Our favorite thing is to take smaller roads and highways, off the interstate, so we actually drive through small towns and interesting topography.  It takes us a tad longer, but we don’t care.  The experience is worth every extra mile and hour spent on the road.

Small day trips or longer trips that take several days, both are good.  Two days ago we decided to head out on what we like to refer to as sightseeing Sunday.  Pick a spot we can drive to and back from in a day and head out.  This time we picked a state park not really that far from us.  A stop for coffee, tunes turned up, pups and cameras in the car, and off we went.  It was amazing.  That park, unexpected — beautiful.  Trees changing color, ponds and lakes, people canoeing and fishing, a big flock of birds making big noise, swans, reflections of gorgeous color in the water, picnic places, music playing, a nearby wind farm, a stop for burgers and shakes, a bit of hiking, and loads of photos.  It was a great little adventure.  So much fun.  We even took a back road to get home and ended up going through some countryside we’d not seen before.  Bonus.

The point is that for us there’s adventure all around.  Everywhere.  Close by in neighborhoods in our own town we haven’t yet explored, and far off, in small burgs and large cities we haven’t yet been to.  All that fun and “new” is as close as jumping in the car and heading out.  It’s all there for the seeing and experiencing.  We can’t get enough of it.  Can’t get enough of experiencing the “new”, together.  We’re already planning our next adventure.  I’m excited.  I bet it’s going to be a good one.

One Month – 6475 Miles

We’ve been home now for a few days.  Getting home after being away for a month is a process.  Check the house, clean up the yard, re-set your air and take the long hose off the de-humidifier in the basement, spend significant time with the kids and the grand boys, do laundry, and settle back into our life.  All of which we’ve done, including re-organizing our garage and buying our second car, a scooter.

Life is beautiful.

The trip was fantastic this time.  We both kept commenting on how relaxed we were.  No house in Oregon to deal with, other than visiting the rentals, no running around like crazy people.  We made the conscious decision to spend most of our time at Mom’s place helping out on the farm and just being there, hanging out with her.  It was lovely.  Dinners on the patio, sleeping in the tent trailer she’d so nicely set up to be “our space” while we were there, helping her do some projects at the house, going to the movies with her and my bro, playing chuck-it with the pups under the walnut trees, and generally just being mellow.  We spent 13 days driving, in total, there and back which was also fun this time.  And we spent a few days at the beach with the kids and the grand boys who’d flown out so Mary could be in a wedding.  The time at the beach was also wonderful.  Sebastian’s first time seeing the ocean and walking on the beach.  Pure magic.  Every little thing a new and exciting adventure for him, and in turn for us, watching it through his experience.  We got to see some of our friends, and help one celebrate turning the big 5-0.  Some even came to visit us at the farm.  I got to spend time with the other six.  So great to see them all.  It’s not often all seven siblings get together.  I love them.

We didn’t see everyone we would’ve liked to, and we didn’t hit all of our favorite restaurants, but what we managed we loved.  Every single minute.  Somehow the time flies by and though a month was a long time to be away from here, it seems as though it’s never enough time there.  It’s amazing how a person can be ready to go home, but not want to leave all at the same time.

Without rambling on and on too much more I’m going to do what I did the last time we took a major road trip… I’m going to list the highlights.  Fun for me, and hopefully fun to read.  Here goes…

  • 6475 miles put on the rental car.  It had 7900 when we picked it up.  We almost doubled what it had.  Nice.
  • Animals spied… Big Horn Sheep, Coyote, Cows, Antelope, Sheep, Cranes, White Pelican, Turkey Vultures, Horses, Buffalo, and your regular dogs and cats.
  • The Boardman Plantation… 24,000 acres of Pacific Albus… wow.
  • Watching Sebastian collect rocks at the beach.
  • Music played on the road… sometimes loud with us singing along.
  • How gorgeous this country is, most particularly Colorado and Western Wyoming… wow.
  • The decision to take the roads less traveled and see places we wouldn’t normally see.  Hwy 20/26 is worth the drive people.  So is Colorado highway 114.  Just gorgeous.
  • Best coffee… Mud House in Springfield, MO and the Coffee Trader in Montrose, CO.
  • The surprising beauty of Northern Nebraska.
  • World’s Largest Fork, Springfield, MO.
  • Huge legs in Amarillo… nowhere to be found.  We looked, but apparently we looked in the wrong place.
  • Walking the fishing docks in old town Newport and hitting the aquarium with the kids, grand boys, and Thomas.  K spending time with both of her kids was a joy to behold.  Amazing what can happen when they both, the kids I mean, are finally living back in the U.S.
  • Cadillac Ranch, Amarillo, TX…. as expected, and not.  Used up spray cans everywhere, people spray painting them as we walked around the big dirt field they were in, big crowds, iconic, cool, strange, a tad zany, and worth it for the photographs.
  • Seeing friends and spending some time.
  • A fun and fine 5oth birthday party.
  • Cake.
  • Sleeping in the tent trailer while it rained.
  • Craters of the Moon National Monument.  Strange and beautiful and other worldly.
  • Signs on old bars, restaurants, gas stations, etc. on small highways = awesome.
  • Air conditioning in a car and hotel room when it’s hot as hell outside.
  • How great the dogs were during this trip.  They traveled so well.  The water bowl we were able to have for them in the car helped a lot, as did their comfy beds.
  • Realizing we both like motor lodges better than fancy hotels when traveling across country.  Fancy/expensive definitely isn’t always better.
  • Trailer shopping with Mom and Kev.  We ended up finding the Hood River model of the R-Pod Trailer  we will be purchasing next year.   Whoop!
  • Finally getting to visit Santa Fe, NM.
  • Being able to check off two more to-visit U.S. states on this trip….  New Mexico and Texas.  Had been to airports in Texas before, but I can’t count that as an actual visit to a state.  Leaving only Alaska, Connecticut, Maryland, Delaware, West Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Mississippi, Alabama, and Louisiana.  Next road trip through the southern states perhaps?
  • Selling Dent, the Toyota Tacoma truck I’d had for 15 years.  Sad, but I was ready.  The sale afforded me the ability to buy a scooter here in Illinois.  Moving forward is a good thing.
  • Yelp.  I use it all the time when we travel to find funky coffee shops and restaurants for dinner.  It rocks.  I recommend it.
  • Spending the day with my siblings.  The seven of us rarely get together and it was wonderful hanging out with them for a drizzly day at the beach.  I’m lucky to have them and to be part of such a great group of peeps.
  • Deciding to not stop and sit in the saddle of one of the World’s Largest Jackalopes in Douglas, Wyoming.  We should have gone back and done it.  We did see it however.  It was big.
  • Deciding not to stop at Hell’s Half Acre because the road construction made it slightly difficult and we were only 40 miles from our destination for the night.  Next time.
  • Time spent alone with my honey.  We love being together, all the time.  It was wonderful getting to have yet another adventure with her.  Nothing like traveling with my best friend and the love of my life.
  • Laughing until we cried several times as we both attempted to take photographs from the car going 65 miles an hour.  Sometimes we got what we were after, many times we didn’t.  Either way we had fun.  Getting it was victory and celebrated, not getting it became a recurring joke.  We find fun in the smallest of things.
  • How many times two people can say, “this is beautiful, wow, look at that” in a one month period.
  • Wandering the Portland Saturday Market with our friend Vicki.  It was raining slightly on and off, but it was also loads of fun.  Plus, we bought soap.
  • Ruby Jewel Scoops Ah Joy sundae.  It is the best ice cream sundae I’ve ever had and whenever I’m in Portland it’s a must have.
  • Pasta and dinner with Thomas at Piazza Italia in Portland.  My honey dreams of their lasagna.  It’s perfectly wonderful.  Plus the company of Thomas was so very cool.  What a great kid (sure, he’s 27, but you know… a kid is a kid) he is.  International Patent Law here he comes.
  • Sunshine and no humidity.  The weather was pretty much perfect while we were traveling.  Only too hot and humid a couple of days on our way back to the Midwest.
  • Being so relaxed.  It was awesome.
  • Love of friends and family we got to see, missing the family and friends we didn’t get to see.

It was a wonderful trip this year.  Stupendous.  Terrific.  Really great.  So good we’re already planning our trip out next year.

Oregon Odyssey – Day Seven & Eight

Ah road trips, how I love them.  The sights, the experience, the music played along the way.  They are glorious things.

When I was a kid our family did road trips all the time.  It was sort of our thing.  We mostly stayed in Oregon for these, though we did venture out to Arizona once, exploring different parts of the state.  We always stayed in Mom and Pop motels, which don’t exist as much today.  I loved those.  One time we stayed in a motel with a pool shaped like an airplane.  Very cool.  There were always things to see, places to stop along the way, new adventures to be had.  I grew up taking road trips and they got into my blood.

Luckily I met someone who loves to road trip as much as I do.  When K was young her family hit the road every year from California to Oklahoma.  During our drive out this past week she called her parents to confirm that their main route was route 66.  There wasn’t an interstate the majority of the time her family was doing these trips so route 66 was the main route between Los Angeles and Oklahoma.  Awesome.  As we drove out this last week we basically followed what was the old route 66 highway.  Now not even commissioned as a highway, there are still signs along the way indicting where route 66 was and there are long stretches of road you can still drive.  Those stretches take you past, as we saw, old gas stations and motels and diners that have fallen into disrepair long ago, though there are still some establishments up and running today.  It’s a bygone era, but along that route the feel is still there in some places.  It’s pretty cool.

I digress though and will get back to it by saying that we both love a good road trip.  It’s why we’ve decided on this trip every year.  It serves two purposes… we get to drive back out to Oregon and see everyone we love who lives there and who we miss, and we get to have the experience of traveling different routes out with the pups.  It’s tiring, but oh so much fun.

We finally arrived, day seven, after starting in Burns and driving highway 20 through Bend and Sisters, then highway 22 to Salem and the farm.  It was nice to get here.  Another great thing about road trips is the getting to your destination and getting up the next morning not having to drive anywhere.  It’s a good feeling.

We spent yesterday, our first non-driving day, doing some chores like taking our Toyota Tacoma in for servicing so we can put it up for sale, and helping Mom work on the garage at the farm.  She’s wanted to clean it out, reorganize, and paint for some time so we cleared that puppy out yesterday and went in and got the paint for it.  Today, we paint.

The pups adore Mom and my brother, Kevin.  They were very happy to see them and they also love the farm.  What dog wouldn’t.  They’ve been here many times and they basically get to roam pretty free while they’re here.  They were exhausted last night when we went to bed.  It’s nice for them.

It’s so good to be here and we’re looking forward to seeing friends and family while we’re here.  We love this place and the people in it, and we loved the getting here as well.

Pretty soon we’re going to have to start planning our trip back out to Illinois… wonder which route we’ll decide to take this time?

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Oregon Odyssey – Day Six

Our sixth day on the road took us from Burley, Idaho to Burns, Oregon.  Nearly three hours less time in the car today than yesterday, which was great.  We even took some time to stop for our second cup of coffee at the Flying M Coffeehouse in Boise.  We’d stopped there before and loved the place.  With a more relaxed driving schedule today we even took some time to walk the pups at the Julia Davis Park.  Awesome park in downtown Boise.  A place we’d also been before.  Sometimes it helps to know your way around a little bit.

We ended up in Burns.  It’s a little town in eastern Oregon.  Not much here, but we have a nice room, three channels of HBO, and the air is working.  What more could you ask for?

Today’s drive was pretty uneventful.  My honey took loads of great photos from the passenger seat as the scenery whipped by.  Here are a couple of the shots.

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Oregon Odyssey – Day Five

Today’s word… drive.  Drive and then drive and continue to drive for hours.  It was tiring, but it was also gorgeous.  Colorado and southern Utah are so beautiful.  If you haven’t experienced this part of the country, you should.  Seriously.  Plan your trip immediately.  It will be worth it.

Besides the beautiful landscape there were cows, horses, sheep, some asses, and an antelope.  And there were gas stations, rest stops, one really good coffee shop (Coffee Trader in Montrose, Colorado), one funky but not so good coffee place, a mini hike up a semi-steep hill to give the pups a walk and also to see what was on the other side.  On the other side was an antelope running down the middle of a road and a beautiful view of the nearby colorful striated hillside.  It was worth the little jaunt.  It was also nice to stretch the legs.

Tonight we are languishing in Burley, Idaho on the Snake River.  Tomorrow… Oregon.  Not quite all the way home, but we’re getting there.

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Oregon Odyssey – Day Four

Today we moved from Santa Fe, New Mexico to Montrose, Colorado.  It wasn’t a bad day of driving really, about 6 and a half hours on the road after we checked out and then drove to not one, not two, but three coffee spots in Santa Fe before getting a cup.  Our first choice ended up being downtown, where a huge art festival had streets closed.  We would’ve loved checking it out actually, from what we could see as we drove past a closed off street the art was pretty awesome, but we had places to be and two dogs who don’t love crowds.  We might have braved the crowds with the pups, but time was not on our side.  So, on to the stop two.  We went for the next place on the list, which ended up not being in the downtown area, but was apparently so popular the entire parking lot was full.  On to spot three, which ended up being great.  If we lived in Santa Fe, and after visiting we kinda wish we did, we would go to the Santa Fe Baking Company often for both the coffee and the breakfasts.  The coffee was great and the breakfasts looked amazing as we passed tables of people with spectacular looking plates.  We did manage to get a couple of pastries to go along with the coffees.  Both were wonderful.

We decided we love both New Mexico and Southern Colorado.  We recommend Colorado highway 114 if you ever get the chance to drive it.  It’s not big, and it doesn’t really connect any bigs towns, but it’s worth it for the scenery.  It was amazing.  The photos we took don’t even do it justice.  Just some gorgeous landscape.

Another highlight was the second spot for coffee today, the Milagros Coffeehouse in Alamosa, Colorado.  A spur of the moment second cup craving led us to this cool local spot.  Yes, they had a Starbucks in town, but if you haven’t guessed by now, we prefer to go local and funky if we can.  Milagros was both.  Another place we would totally hang out if we spent any time at all in that town.  The brew from there was the best of the day.  Smooth, strong, and oh so tasty.

The pups are doing so well on this trip.  What great little travelers they are.  Weston gets his herbal car sick meds in the morning before we leave and they pretty much hang out in their area right behind us, what we like to call the pup lounge, while we’re on the road.  They have been rockstars so far.  Right now, after getting to play in the huge lawn at this motel (we brought the chuck it and played catch and chase with them for awhile), they are both crashed out in their little beds.  They’ve had dinner and their leashes are hanging on leash hooks by the door.

Tomorrow is a long one, probably eight hours on the road.  Eight hours with the dogs pushes it, and us, to the limit.  It will be tiring, but it will also be beautiful.  Colorado is a beautiful place.

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Oregon Odyssey – Day Three

Hippie coffee from 806 in Amarillo, no large legs, planted Cadillacs, a decently short drive, wild horses, prairie dogs, southwest food Guatemalan style at the Tune-Up Cafe, head of hope, abandoned route 66, a walk with the dogs along the non-existent Santa Fe River and past two cathedrals, the oldest church in the U.S., and a very hidden Roundhouse State Capital building in Santa Fe.  Pictures were taken of most of it.  It was a great day of traveling, save for the fact that we didn’t get a good second cup of joe today.  Coffee from a quick stop definitely does not count as good coffee.

Our only impressions from the day are these… it’s gorgeous in the part of New Mexico and we love Santa Fe.  The vibe here is awesome.  Mellow, relaxed, artistic, free.  At least that’s what it felt like to us today during our brief visit.

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Oregon Odyssey – Day Two

Today was a long day on the road.  By choice we went an extra bit today so we could have a short day tomorrow.  More time in Santa Fe when we get there.  Because today was so long we didn’t do much stopping.  Gas, food, rest stops, and just two extra little stops.  One at the World’s Largest Fork in Springfield, MO and the other to photograph the Coleman Theater in Miami, OK where Don Hale used to go as a young gent.

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Impressions from the day:

Great coffee this morning from Mudhouse Coffee in Springfield, MO.  I regret not buying a t-shirt.  There was great art on the walls… many black and white photographs of people in white who had mud on them.  Loved it.  Also a great dinner tonight from Tyler’s Barbeque in Amarillo, TX.  The barbecue was Texas sized.  Sadly I think we threw away nearly as much as we ate.  Our room still smells of barbecue.  I think it was the best barbecue I’ve ever had.  All in all a very successful food and beverage day.

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Today was a scorcher … the thermostat in the rig topped out at 106.  It was so hot that when we stopped for our second cup of coffee in Oklahoma City the little girlie started hyperventilating and had to be carried back to the car.  She is a tad bit of a drama queen, but it was also hot hot hot.  A dry heat.

We are now fugitives in Oklahoma.  A tip for anyone driving on the Oklahoma Turnpike… there are not always attendants at the toll plazas meaning you have to have exact change.  We made it all the way to our last booth and then only had a $20.  There was a change machine, but it only took $1 and $5.  We looked at each other, saw the cars behind us lining up, looked at the red light which told us we couldn’t go unless we threw in the change we didn’t have, and we went on through anyway.  As we did the alarms went off at the booth.  I’m sure, if they took our photo as this happened, the people reviewing it will be cracking up.  Our facial expressions were a combo of amusement, consternation, shock, horror, and guilt.  Very funny.  I think we were both gesturing…. arms up in the air as if to say… what are we supposed to do in this situation?

In two days we’ve seen two enormous crosses.  One in Effingham, Illinois, and the other in some un-named little Texas town we passed.  They were pretty much equal in size.

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It rained on us today for awhile.  It was nice and decently cool while it was raining.  Then it got hot (see above).

We waved at Mangum, OK and Pryor, OK as we passed the exits with those names and then chatted about K’s childhood a bit.  She spent a lot of time in Oklahoma as a kid and it’s always fun talking about that.   Someday we need to do more than just drive through.  I’d love to see where she was born and some of the places she’s told me stories about.

We started this morning at 10:00… after getting coffee and photographing the fork, which I know sounds late, and got to Amarillo at 7:30.  Nine and a half hours on the road.  Tomorrow we have a short day, only four hours of driving.  Who knows what adventure we’ll find.  I love road trips.