Oregon 2016

Rest stop
Rest stop

I just realized I never published this post.  I’m going to, even after the fact.  More a record for us than a post for the masses, but fun stuff either way.

Facts From Trip 2016

Movies watched in trailer: Suspect, Clear and Present Danger, Reservoir Dogs, Paycheck, Fifth Element, Red Planet

Woodchucks in Miller Riverview campground, Iowa

Severe weather first night with lightning, thunder, heavy rain that took a big tree down in our campground.

Pelicans, woodpeckers, chipmunk, golden eagle in MT, buffalo, cows, horses, bunnies, cranes in ND lakes, rubber boa that Riley stepped on at fisherman’s bend, Osprey carrying fish at Minto-brown park

Thunderstorms in ND

Stressful events:  thunderstorm in Iowa, Weston nearly fainting from heat, realize running with propane on could cause fire when entering gas station: no longer running on propane, tam burns fingers on bbq lid in ND, tam drives trailer over curb in ND, biting flies in Makoshika State  Park MT, Karen dropping 10 pound weight on foot and Tam trying to get ice pack from Walmart ending up buying another whole first aid kit, Tam hurt back helping disabled man getting bike out of his van and got terrible sciatica, Karen tripped over some lids and fell down in Mom’s dining room, bees and dust at Allen Springs though it was nothing eating inside the trailer couldn’t solve, Weston getting a hold of the stick at Fishermen’s bend we thought might have hooks and such on it though we finally got it away from him, using the bite gloves and pulling up on his head so he had to drop it to find the stick had a huge piece of sausage on it.

Playlist with 1194 songs means never having to hear the same song twice on the 8 day trek out, or for most of the entire trip.

Saw worlds largest Sandhill crane in Steele, ND

Saw Salem Sue, worlds largest Holstein, in New Salem, ND

Saw Golden Eagle fly right over our heads in Beavertail Hill State Park, Montana

4 Barn Owls at Mom’s place

Killdeer bird nest on ground at Mom’s

Visits with: Kyra, Syd, Susie, Joan,  Coni, Kris, Stan and Connie, Stacia, Liz, Josh, Linda, Parker siblings, Kate & Terri, Vicki & Kathleen, Sandy, Heather, Kristen & Nechelle, Maggie, Steph & Phil, and of course Mom and Kev.

Rode MAX into Portland and went to Little Big Burger and Ruby Jewel and Saturday Market.

Went down the rapids at Fishermens Bend a couple of times and rafted with Karen, Kev tipped over, but made it down safely.

Explored some great hiking trails at Fishermen’s Bend with Mom and the dogs.  What a great walking/hiking park that is.

Spent time building a rock wall in the Santiam River at Fishermen’s Bend with Phil and Steph, their kids, Mom and Karen.  Just because.  We were working on putting together a new swimming area.  Fun was had by all even though we weren’t able to completely finish it.  Maybe someone else will and by the time we go back next summer it will be a great spot to spend the day floating around and swimming.

Used our new hammock and loved it.

Floyd and Opal, camp hosts at Fishermen’s Bend, were awesome.

Went to  see an outdoor documentary movie about Lewis and Clark at the Fishermen’s Bend Campground one night with the gang.  It was totally enjoyable.  Even when we were totally freaked out as some animal loudly knocked into a metal garbage can very near to us.

Tubed, rafted, with the POD at the Metolius.  So so cold.  Everyone frozen (except Karen and I who were in a raft) by the end.  The Metolius, though fun, is our rafting/floating nemesis.

Camped with the POD at Allen Springs.  No better group of people out there to spend time with.  We love those ladies.

Fly fished on the Metolius for the first time in years.  A total joy, even though I didn’t catch anything, other than maybe the bug to fly fish more often.

Put up directional signs made on paper plates, which none of them saw, along the road to Allen Springs Campground for the POD because we had no phone service at the campground.

The many laughs and hugs and smiles we got as we spent time with so many people we love.

A very fast 6 day trip back to Illinois, driving faster, all the way up to 65, than we ever had pulling the trailer so we could make it back for the Sweet Corn Festival with the kids.

We’re already starting to do tentative planning for next year’s adventure.  Life is very very good.

 

 

Oregon My Oregon

28541762696_1576f04cea_nWe’ve taken our usual sojourn some 2300 miles from Illinois to Oregon this summer.  We do this every year, as you probably know if you’ve been following the blog for some time.

This year our schedule has let us be more relaxed, more able to just enjoy hanging out at the farm and spending time with my mom and my bro.

I’ve seen friends and other family, and hope to see more before we go.  We have some things planned, not many, and are looking forward to doing those thing, to seeing those people.

All that aside, the weather this summer in Oregon has been fantastic.  It’s been everything we always hope it will be.  Most times it doesn’t disappoint, though last year it ended up being hotter here for much of the time we were here than it was in Illinois during that same time.  Go figure.  We leave to get away from the heat and humidity (OK, also to spend time with friends and family) and it didn’t deliver last year.  This year though, it’s been spectacular.  Pretty much the best weather we could hope for.

The journey so far hasn’t been without incident.  A couple of stressful moments with Weston (he does tend to get himself into trouble now and then) and a bit of a back issue for me, but seriously, it’s been splendid so far.

Oregon my Oregon, I do love you so.

10 Word Review – Mile… Mile & a Half

MV5BMTQ1ODYzMjA1MF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwMjMxMDY2OQ@@._V1_UX182_CR0,0,182,268_AL_Documentary. Muir. Hiking. Photography. Beautiful. Sound. Fun. Scenery. People. Yes.

Live… 

Live, travel, adventure, bless, and don’t be sorry.     –Jack Kerouac



A Trip to Oregon… and Back Again

Our 2014 trip to Oregon, we’ve now done it for three summers running, was a big one. Gone nearly two full months, we left in the Jeep and returned with the Jeep and an R-pod trailer. There were many highlights from our two months away, these are just some of them. Adventures listed, of course, in totally random order.

And, by the way, looking at the photos from our trip recently I was struck by how wonderful an experience like this is.  We love being together, love seeing new places, love the strange and random and cool and gorgeous and amazing sights along the way, love seeing the world and meeting new people.  We have the same adventurous and fun and silly spirit, my honey and I. This was an incredible adventure and a gift we were lucky to share with each other.  Life, ours, is stunningly beautiful.  Both the adventures on the road and also the adventures we have on a daily basis at home.  It’s all a miracle to me.  Deep and full and filled with so much light, beauty, and love.

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OK, OK… enough of me waxing on about life, etc.  Here are the details of the trip, as I said, in no particular order.

We love our jeep! Not one problem with it and it pulled like a champion! Man… what a great ride. What a beast. It averaged 30 miles per gallon going out and after we got the trailer we averaged somewhere between 14 or 15. Amazing.

Love LilyPod! It’s what we named the trailer. It has a picture of a frog lounging on a lily pad on the side of it so it seemed fitting to name her LilyPod. Lily for short. She’s an amazing rig and we couldn’t be happier with her.

7190 Miles travelled… whew… that’s a lot of miles.

13 States visited, a couple of them more than once, in order – Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, South Dakota, Wyoming, Montana, Idaho, Washington, Oregon, California, Nevada, Utah, Wyoming, Nebraska, Iowa, Illinois

Drive to Oregon done over seven days. Six nights of hotels with dogs, lugging in luggage, and ice chests, and electronic equipment and cameras.  It was also filled with interesting sights and lovely countryside.

Not long after we got to Oregon, and after our camping trip to Davis where I did use a big camera, I decided I wasn’t going to use the big cameras anymore during the trip. I decided to use only my iPhone, try to be more in the moment and not behind the lens. It was a nice break, and I was still able to capture some pretty cool pics with the iPhone camera.

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We met people with Rpods at gas station near Kennewick, on our way to Oregon, who let us look inside their trailers and gave us some tips, including sway bar (which we are so glad we got!). We all talked to each other for a good half and hour or 45 minutes and we exchanged info with them.  Very nice people and a great experience.

K’s work computer bag fell out of the back of the Jeep at a gas station after we left Kennewick and we didn’t know it. Some good samaratin saw it happen and turned it in to the gas station attendant who searched the bag, found her number, and called her, thank goodness!

1 night spent at Mom’s before we got the trailer.

We had an 11:00 AM appointment to pick up the trailer the day after we arrived in Oregon. They gave us a tour, quickly showed us the mechanicals, helped to set the brake controller, and took me for a little test drive around the block with Jeep towing trailer before they unleashed us, rookies, on the world. We had a day and a half to get it all outfitted and ready for camping before we left for Davis Lake.  In retrospect it was all a bit rush rush, but it worked out OK.

Dry camped for three nights at Davis Lake. It was hot, but cold at night, and we loved every minute of it. The dogs adjusted to the trailer right away. We loved Lily immediately.

Davis Lake was a lot of fun, camping with my bro and Vicki and Mom and all the Hale kids and their families.  Once we were there and set up, we got to stop and be mellow and relax for the first time since leaving home.  Plus, as a bonus, it’s beautiful there.  Central Oregon is amazing.  And to me, it smells like vanilla.  Always this undertone of it in the air.

Inner tubing at Davis.  We bought float tubes and took them to Davis.  I went down the creek with K and Vicki and also with Mom.  We did it a couple of times.  Once K and V and I floated all the way down the creek and out into the Lake.  We had to paddle a lot there at the end and then walk back quite a ways, but it was a kick in the butt.  Fun times.

No fouling! Meaning, avert your gaze if you don’t want to hear this, we don’t poo in the trailer. It’s a steadfast rule. In England there are signs all around to remind people to clean up after their dogs. These signs have a dog and a pile of poo with a red circle crossed out and they say no fouling. This has always cracked me up, so we incorporated the saying for the trailer. No fouling. Period. It makes us laugh. And, as the person who hooks, unhooks, and is responsible for making sure all the waste, black and gray, gets cleaned out, I appreciate this rule.

Countless high fives. K and I love to high five. Who knows why. She kind of started it, and I once gave her a bad time about it, while chuckling of course, but we do it all the time. Any time any little thing goes well, or is fun, or is cool, we high five. I can’t even count the number of high fives we did during the trip. And that, my friends, deserves a ::: high five :::

Stopping at rest stops for lunch every day.  On the drive down the Pacific Coast and then east we would stop at rest stops or truck stops or pull outs on the side of the road, and make sandwiches for lunch every day.  It was very relaxing. We didn’t eat restaurant food at all, during travel days, except when we were in the wind delay in Wyoming and then for dinner the last two nights (we were just plain ready to be home, though we still made sandwiches in the trailer for lunch those days).  Being able to just pull over, make sandwiches, and relax for lunch was a fantastic bonus that having the trailer gave us.

My honey drove the trailer in Nebraska and did small 1 or 2 hour stints every day from there to home… So proud of her for driving! Driving the trailer, for novices, is/was intimidating. It’s a whole new ballgame to pull something that’s big, bulky, and weighs 3300 pounds. The whole driving experience is different, and it’s at tad scary. My honey was nervous about it so for the most part I drove. By the time we got home, having driven all those miles, I was feeling pretty darn comfortable, though still cautious, about pulling it.  But, after our stormy night at the Walmart in Laramie we decided were going to cut a day off our plans and try to make it home early.  Longer days driving meant I needed a break. I could do six or even seven hours by myself, with a break for lunch, but driving 8 or 9 hours a day… tiring. Thank goodness for her. She came through in a big way and despite being nervous about it, she drove like a champion.

Antennae television in LilyPod.  There are actual cable/satellite hookups on Lily you can use if you have hookups at the parks you stay at.  We actually had cable at a couple of RV parks, though we only really watched TV one night.  Something that’s totally funny though, kind of like finding strange radio stations when you travel, was turning on the antennae, when we didn’t have cable available at all, and seeing what we could get for channels.  Some places, nothing.  Others, strange off channels broadcasting weird stuff.  Kind of cool.  I actually found an episode of Wonder Woman once.  Caught the last half of it, then turned it off.  We didn’t really watch much TV this trip.  It’s more fun to just hang out, make dinner, be together, walk the pups, and read.  Which is what we did most nights.  But the antennae tv, kind of quirky, and cool.

Speaking of reading.  I did lots of it.  Loved it.  The Kindle, for traveling, is awesome.

Convoyed with Mom, the PodMother,  and her Rpod, to Davis lake and the beach.  It was so much fun communicating with walkie talkies back and forth.  PodMother, come in.  Yes, LilyPod?  We’re going to stop up ahead, does that work for you?  Yes, LilyPod, works for me.  We had so much fun with it.  And had so much fun camping with Mom both at Davis Lake and at the beach for a week.  She in her Rpod, figuring it out, us in ours doing the same.  It was great to have that shared experience with her.

Salem, OR for 21 days.  Between Davis and Seal Rock we were in Salem for just about three weeks.  During that time we mostly worked on getting stuff moved out of our big storage unit in Scappoose.  We rented a big ol’ truck, loaded it, took it to Mom’s and unloaded, sorted as we went, sold some stuff on Craigslist, re-boxed some of it, got the rest ready to sell in the big yard sale my Mom was going to have, took what we wanted to keep to a new storage unit we found in Salem, helped set up the sale and run the sale, and then helped load up and take what didn’t sell to the Goodwill.  Crazy.  It took us what seemed like days and days to get all of that done.  It was a lot of work, but worth it.  We really pared down what we have there.  It was cleansing.  And we’re now spending less than half of what we were before on storage.  Some day maybe we’ll get all of that here to Illinois.  I’d like that since a lot of it is books and records, stuff I just can’t get rid of.

Weenie roast with most of the sibs and aunts.  After the big yard sale at Mom’s place we had a weenie roast/s’more making session to celebrate a great sale (all proceeds going to the scholarship fund set up in my grandparents names by Mom and her siblings) and the fact that K and I are now legally married.  We keep saying, third times a charm and maybe this time it will take.  It was a long day, lots of sales, lots of moving stuff and such, but it was a great one.  It was fun, and the celebration at the end capped the day off nicely.  Also great to see the aunts (we missed you Barb!)

Lunch with Thomas.  We got to have lunch with K’s son while we were in Oregon.  He lived and worked in Japan for five years and then was in Portland the last year working at a law firm.  We haven’t been able to see him much, given all the distance, but getting to spend at least a little time with him was awesome. He was just about to leave for Austin, where he’s entering law school, so it was great we got to get together with him before he took off.  Austin isn’t really that far from where we are in Illinois, in the grand scheme, so we’re hoping we get to see him a bit more after he settles into law school.  His words to us were that first year law students don’t have time to do much other than go to school, study, and go to school.  We’ll see how it goes.  We’re just excited for him, this is a cool phase he’s entering.

Visit from Ann.  One of our friends from Illinois came for a visit.  K worked a lot of the time we were in Oregon so I got to be Ann’s Portland tour guide, with some help from our friend Vicki.  It was awesome showing her Portland and hanging out with her for a few days.  Good food, fun Portland sights, great laughs.  Fun times had by all.

Dinner with Maggie at her place and getting to meet her new woman, Colleen.  So great getting to spend time with them.  It was the one day our paths crossed with Maggie as she was in Sweden, visiting family and friends, all the rest of the time we were in the valley (that would be what locals call the Willamette Valley).  She’d just flown in the day before and was jet-lagged, but we managed to have a great meal and some wonderful conversation.   We so enjoyed the evening.

RV Service – Refrigerator fix.  You buy a new trailer, you have a few issues with it.  We were told everyone has something, ours had a refrigerator problem.  It started beeping and wouldn’t stop, as if the door was open, but it wasn’t.  We realized there was a lot of condensation inside.  We ended up driving it back to Salem from the beach so it could be repaired.  The issue… at the factory they hadn’t attached the drip line to the receptacle it was supposed to drain to which created all sorts of water inside and all kinds of condensation.  The condensation messed with the latch making it think it wasn’t fully engaged when it was, hence the beeping.  Easy fix and off we went.

Seal Rock RV Cove for 9 nights.  We had so much fun there, so much so we reserved two spots next summer for two weeks.  It was awesome.  Walks on the beach, great dinners made in concert with Mom, visits from Vicki, who stayed a few days, and from Maggie & Colleen who came over to see us for a day because one visit with them hadn’t been enough, whale watching, and some great relaxation time.  K worked from there (yeah, it’s cool she can work from our trailer at the beach) so there were early mornings (she worked Central Time) and early evenings to bed, but it was all pretty low key.  That part of the Oregon Coast, the central coast, is so mellow and not crowded at all.

Animals spotted at some point during the trip…  Whales, seals, sea lions, heron, bald eagles, pelicans, sea gulls, sea life (anemone, muscles, star fish, jelly fish, giant kelp), antelope, deer, turtle, cows, horses, llama, bison, prairie dogs.

Heceta Head Lighthouse.  The lighthouse wasn’t all that far from where we were staying so we went there and did the hike up to the lighthouse.  Great little walk and a fantastic view once we were up there.  The Oregon Coast is spectacular.

Cooking over fire, lots of s’mores.  We did a lot of cooking on this trip.  Grilling, yes, but also a crock pot meal while camping, awesome by the way, and numerous other things.  Here’s a little list… Crock pot chili, skewers, stir fry, hobo meals, skirt steak, steamed veggies, rice, corn on the cob, hamburgers, hot dogs, chili dogs, salad, edamame salad, cheesy potatoes, spaghetti, eggs and toast, and more.  We ate well.  It was great, and oh so tasty.  Oh, and my honey, every time we made s’mores, roasted a mallow or two after the s’more eating and called them her closers.  I loved that.

Harris Beach State Park – Brookings, OR (2 nights).  This place was great.  Beautiful.  The beach was amazing, the rock formations phenomenal, the campground totally great, and the weather was wonderful.  This state park actually has an ice cream truck that comes around nightly.  We didn’t partake, but how cool is that?  There were also good showers there, which is important when you’re basically living in your trailer for weeks at a time.  We liked it, and would recommend it highly.  There were also some really cool tent sites.  The night before we left we were sitting out by our fire and low and behold another Rpod comes driving by and they end up next to us.  We went out to walk the dogs and when we got back we discovered the people in the Rpod had left us a note asking us to come over and have a beer with them.  We didn’t, as it was late, but did do a lot of hey, hello, and waving to them on our way out in the morning.  We didn’t see a lot of Rpods on the trip and having one pull in and set up right next to us was a novelty.

Richardson Grove State Park, Redwoods, CA (1night).  What an amazing part of the coast.  This place was gorgeous and right in the midst of the Redwoods.  Dry camping, meaning no hookups, and totally cool.  We had a huge big daddy redwood right in our campsite.  It was an amazing place, all shadows and bits of filtered light.

Mountain of death – Cloverdale road, no trailers advised ( narrow, one Lane, steep up and down, bad road, scary!). Peed on the side of the road in Redwoods.  Yes, it’s all true.  We, for reasons unknown to us about the GPS and it not knowing we were pulling a trailer, went on a road we never should’ve been on.  It was one lane most of the way, very hilly, very steep grades (like 18%), very windy, blind corners, steep cliffs on the sides occasionally.  We started out on this road, which at that time was two lane with a large paved shoulder, and thought, this is not bad at all.  A bit windy, and bit hilly, but we can handle it.  Then we saw the sign, trailers not recommended.  We thought, well, there’s not really anywhere to turn around now, we are already on it, and this isn’t that bad.  What a mistake.  We were scared out of our wits for 50 miles.  Who knew.  It’s called Scaggs Springs Rd, and takes you from Cloverdale, CA, which is on 101, over the mountain (literally) to Stewart’s Point on Hwy 1.  The GPS said it was the fastest route.  Maybe if you’re on a motorcycle and like really hilly windy roads.  The only thing that saved us was that there was hardly any traffic on it.  No wonder, but still, it saved us.  We laughed (a bit hysterically) and helped each other through it.  Seriously folks, don’t try this at home.  And if you ever find yourselves there, don’t go on that road, even in a car.  A woman told us, after we got to our campground (Salt Point on Hwy 1), she was the ranger there, that she doesn’t even drive that road in her Prius.  ha ha ha! It was insane.  But, we survived to tell the tale.

Salt Point State Park, near the Ocean Cove General Store, Hwy 1, CA (1 night).  Great place as well.  No real beach, but we had a nice hike down to the cliffs overlooking the ocean.  Really cool topography, similar to Harris Beach (though that was a tad cooler), and pretty empty.  We showed up and found there were actually two campgrounds within the State Park.  It was a Monday so they told us to just drive around and find the one we wanted and take it.  We did.  Bit flat spot, the trailer was naturally leveled on it so we didn’t have to level it and stayed hooked up to the Jeep, no hookups so we just filled up the handy bucket my brother had made for us (It’s a food grade five gallon bucket with a hose spicket on it we can fill up at a campground water station.  Fill up, carry to our trailer, screw on a piece of cut off hose we have, put the cut off end into the clean water tank receptacle on the trailer, turn on the spicket, and empty the bucket full of water into the tank) so we could flush during the night.  A very nice, quiet, place.  Someone did end up coming to to the site next to us.  K talked to them… a little family, Mom Dad and two girls, camping in their Westfalia, and traveling up the coast.  They were out of work drama teachers.  Very cool people.

Speaking of the bucket… we bought paraphernalia for the trailer.  All sorts of doodads and gadgets and thing to make living it in, and working in it for K, more comfy.  It’s now pretty well outfitted and awesome.  From silicon muffin tins to sewage hookup equipment to hooks on the walls to the storage hammock to a menagerie of other “stuff”, Lily is now very well equipped and we are set to go.

Weston got stung by a bee on his foot in a parking lot at a Target in California.  We were on our way from Salt Point to San Jose to see K’s parents for few days.  We stopped at a Target right off the Interstate to use the restroom, make a sandwich, and let the dogs walk around for a few minutes.  I went in to use the facilities, came out, and there was K sitting on a curb with Riley right next to her and Weston half in her lap.  She was looking at me with a funny expression and waving me over.  I was sauntering, not really thinking much about it, when her waving me over got more frantic.  I got over there and she told me Weston had been stung by a bee on his foot and wouldn’t let her touch it or look at it.  He was in pain, not putting and weight on it so I picked him up and carried him to the trailer where he laid down next to me.  It subsided and he recovered, but it wasn’t fun at all there for a little while.  Especially for him, poor fella.

San Jose, CA (3 nights in the house).  We actually parked the trailer on the street in front of K’s sister’s place, covered the top of it with a tarp (it was under a tree that was dropping seed pods), and stayed inside K’s parent’s house.  We did laundry, got lots of great visiting in, relaxed for a couple of days not having to drive anywhere.  It was awesome.  It was a lovely time and the pups, who had never been there before, were champs and didn’t cause too much of a ruckus.

RV Service – Brake check & brake controller adjustment.  While we were in San Jose we took the trailer in again, to a place we’d found there, to have the brakes and brake controller checked.  Since the harrowing mountain of death we’d noticed the trailer brakes seemed to be grabbing a bit.  We were worried we’d done them in coming down that mountain, even though I was downshifting like a maniac on those hills, so we thought we’d best get them looked at.  The guy there, Dan was his name, was such a sweetie.  We wished, after we’d left there, that the place was here in Illinois, we’d definitely go there for service.  He was so nice to us, answering all of our novice questions, allaying our fears, and he took me for a test drive and reset the brake controller, which was set a tad too high.  That did the trick actually and we were well on our way again.  He gave us his card and said we could call him and they didn’t charge us anything since the brakes were still great on the trailer and there were no issues he really had to fix.  If you are ever in San Jose, California and need trailer service, go to Leale’s and ask for Dan.

RENO, NV, River’s Edge RV Park (1 night) The place is actually in Sparks, which is like a twin city to Reno.  The best thing about it was that it was on a river and there was an awesome walking path all along the river way.  We were able to take the pups out for a long time, which they needed after being in the car all day.  We set up our camp table and cooked on our camp stoves (which we actually did all the time we were away… we only used the stove top in the trailer to make coffee a couple of mornings).

ELKO, NV, Iron Horse RV Resort (1 night) – It’s supposed to be one of those upscale parks.  Pool, full hookups, laundry facilities, a club house room, etc., etc.  We used none of the amenities and really I think this was our least favorite park over all. It had no trees.  The spaces were wide, but open, there were picnic tables at each space, but again, all open.  We used the picnic table to set up our camp stoves to cook dinner, but that was about it.  Plus a couple across the way from us, in the residential area of the park, had a huge fight and was screaming a lot of the night.  It sounded like bad reality TV.  It was the most expensive and not what we’d hoped.

EVANSTON, WY, Phillips RV Trailer Park (1 night) – This place was a tad muddy, but the facilities were decent and the spaces were wide with a lot of mature trees.  We didn’t have people on either side of us initially and it was quiet there.  The shower facilities were also not bad so we took advantage of those.  It was cold there, in Wyoming.  Very cold.  Made for nice cool sleeping in the trailer.  We had to put on the heavier comforter, but that was OK with us.

Wind delay for four hours at the Flying J. Hung out in the Rpod, listened to the weather updates on the radio, ended up getting a late to go lunch at the Denny’s that we ate in the trailer, watched the big winds whip around outside and felt them rock the trailer, petted the pups.  It was actually kind of fun, and a great part of the adventure.

LARAMIE, WY, Walmart Super Center (1 night)  We had to do it.  We knew Walmart let trailers stay there for free so we had to try it at least once.  We actually liked it.  The weather sucked that night, it was stormy, but we bought water and put some in our fresh water tank to use overnight, and hunkered down.  It was really windy, rocking the trailer all night, and rainy, which was incredibly loud, but very cool.  In the morning we went in, bought cups of coffee and danish, picked up a couple of items we needed for the trailer, and then hit the road quickly, having never unhooked.

Weston sprained his leg jumping into or out of the bed or the dinette.  Poor guy.  He couldn’t get comfortable and wouldn’t put much pressure on the leg.  He’s sprained his leg before (he has long legs for a little dude which sometimes causes him problems) so we knew what was up.  It took him a couple of days, once of which we spoiled him and let him sit in our laps all day.  Whoever was the passenger held him so he could at least be a tad more comfortable.  He was miserable for a time, and is still recovering from it a bit.  It’s much better, as he can jump up on the bed or couch or chairs by himself, but you can tell he’s still hesitant.

As of Laramie the weather turned on us.  Every day there were predictions of severe weather, 60 mph winds, heavy rain, lightening, etc.  We didn’t want to mess with it and were tiring of it pretty quickly so we decided at that point to head home more faster than we’d planned by cutting a day out of our plans, which meant a lot more driving every day.  That combined with Weston’s injury that morning in Laramie and our travel tiredness, we did the unthinkable and stayed in hotels the last two nights.  Crazy, but true.  Our tiredness and the storms won out.  So in Kearney, NE (Microtel) and Coralville, IA (Best Western) we parked in the lots, locked up Lily, got to-go food from restaurants, and stayed in hotels.  Two months on the road, sleeping 43 nights out of the 52 we were gone (which includes the six nights driving out to Oregon before we had the trailer and a night at Mom’s before we picked it up) isn’t bad.  We enjoyed the hell out of it and though we were ready to be home we weren’t tired of Lily, not one bit.

All in all it was so great to see Kev, Mom, all the Hale kids, the K’s sister’s family, K’s parents, most of that set of sibs (no Con or Ken… and I’m making the sad face now), some of the aunts, some of the POD, and Thomas. Sad we didn’t get to see my ex work peeps, who feel more like family than ex-work peeps, the rest of the POD, and more family.  Our storage adventures consumed us this time around, but now that it’s done we won’t have to do it again, thank goodness!  Next year we hope to just enjoy our time, not work as hard, and see everyone we’d like to see.  After all, more hugs are always good.

One thing is always certain… we will be back!

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.

Facing the Book of My Life

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I was sitting outside this morning, enjoying a bit of time before the heat and humidity forced me back inside.  I had a cup of coffee and was chatting with K about our trip to Oregon this year, going over some of the little details of the trip out, discussing some of the things we will do while we’re there.  During the discussion I started thinking about all of our people out there, which I often do.  I wondered if we would get to see most of them, I hoped we would.

Thinking about the people you miss sometimes leads to thinking about the life you’ve had.  Mine has been amazing so far.  Amazing, mostly, because of the people who have been in my life, either for a short time or for most of it.  It’s the people, you see, who make a life what it is.  It’s the experiences you have with those people who make the memories you hold on to, that make this journey we are all on worth the ride.

In that short time sitting outside I ran the gamut of my life, thinking about antics on playgrounds, singing silly songs in high school hallways, riding around in my Plymouth Scamp, playing frisbee in dark parks, skipping class to go to the coast, bridesmaids dresses, card games, talks in coffee shops, bike rides, racquetball, drive-in movies, travel to far away places, crying together, music shared, and laughter.  So much laughter.  So many smiles.  I have what seems like an endless litany of shared experiences.

My thoughts then turned to Facebook, which really isn’t that strange of a leap to make.  I realized, during this short accounting of my life, that I am friends on Facebook with people from all phases of my life.  I have managed to gather them there, these parts of my life, parts of myself.  I can look at my friends list and see people I knew in grade school, people I spent time with in high school, people I met in college, and people from my work life afterward. And I realized something else… I love them all.  I love them like I love those versions of myself.  The versions of me I was when I knew them.  I hold those parts of myself close, trying to remember who I’ve been, how far I’ve traveled in life, and who these wonderful people have become themselves.  Who we are all becoming, every day as we move forward in life.

It’s a deep thought, not easily articulated.  I guess I will say this.  I love Facebook.  Not for the games or the re-posting or the political stuff I seem to be inundated with every day, but for the connection.  I love it for the window into people’s lives.  For the thoughts and photos and snippets of things that are important to them.  People I’ve loved, people I still love for who they were to me,  who they are to me now.  People who have made my life what it is, who have made me who I am.  I’m grateful for this connection, for this window.  I’m blessed to have been able to renew those ties to my former self, my younger self, and to stay connected to family and friends in far away places.

Before Facebook these parts of my life were like vapor.  Diffused.  Slightly transparent.  Now, though still removed and in far off places, they are re-connected to me.  And I am, miraculously, reconnected to myself, to my past, to this life I’ve lived and am living, and to the people that have made this life.  I’m grateful for that.

 

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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Chicago

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Thankful Everyday – The Ninth

Day Nine….

9.  I’m thankful for the visual world.  I am made breathless every day by something I see.  It seems everywhere I look there’s beauty and magnificence. It constantly amazes, enlightens, and nourishes my soul.  Leaves blowing from trees, blue sky, rain drops falling just so, structures made by man, light in all it’s forms.  Everything has history and a story to tell.  All of it inspires awe and is magical.

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Tripping

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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.

The world’s best cities are …

I’ve been to 5 of the top 25 cities in the world and all but one of the top 5 U.S. cities on this list. Looks like I need to put my travel pants on!

The world’s best cities are … – CNN.com.

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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 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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