Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Day 10: A Beautiful, Amazing Country

Every day on this trip I've been reminded that we live in a truly awesome country. America is so diverse. We drive a few hours and it seems like we're in a totally different country.

The weather continues to be just perfect. We did have rain for a couple of hours on the Washington Coast this morning - I think that's the norm for that area. We drove along the coastline for a few hours. The Pacific coast is so different from our North Carolina beaches.

We stopped to take pictures and heard seals singing. I've seen seals but never such a large group. I couldn't believe how loud they were. They must have been having a party. We watched for quite a while.

We spent some time in Lewis and Clark National Park this morning. I didn't know pine trees could grow so big. It felt like we were in a huge terrarium. People who work in our National Parks are almost always exceptionally nice and helpful.

We went to Evergreen Aviation and Space Museum in McMinnville, Oregon. It really is amazing - especially the Spruce Goose - the wood plane built by Howard Hughes. The wingspan is over 350 feet - which is hard to imagine. Lots and lots of planes of all kinds. Really nice place. They have a wine shop selling wine from the Spruce Goose Vineyard, a gift shop and restaurant.

Our last stop was Crater Lake National Park. It is really unusual and amazing. The lake was created by a volcano and it is the deepest lake in the USA. The water is so still that it looks opaque. It has no source of fresh water - it comes from snow and rain. Pictures really can't capture the beauty of it.
We had another late day. We keep forgetting how isolated everything is here. We were enjoying Crater Lake at about 6:00 PM when we decided to call it a day. It took until 8:30 to find a place to stay. We are spending the night in Medford. Oregon. You really have to plan ahead out here so you don't run out of gas or end up with late nights with no place to stay.
A really good day.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Day 9 - Whidbey Island

It's hard to explain that we really don't get tired of riding in the car all day. I think it's because we don't have a destination in mind - we're just enjoying the day and all the new places we're seeing. Every day brings new things to experience and new people to meet.

We left Marysville about 8:00 this morning headed for Whidbey Island. There are so few roads in some areas in the northwest that it can be frustrating trying to get from place to place. Ferries are a way of life here.

Whidbey Island is much larger than I thought it was. There is an Air Force Base there. We discovered by accident a very interesting place - Fort Casey. I wanted to take a picture of the Lighthouse and on the way we saw bunkers and huge weapons and military barracks. Neither of us had ever heard of Fort Casey. It was built in the early nineteen hundreds to protect our coast from supposed thread from Spain and France! Isn't that interesting. It took fifteen men to load the bullet and fire it. When it was fired, the gun lowered back down into the bunker. Fort Casey has not been used in many years. Really interesting.

Whidbey Island reminds me of the Outer Banks of North Carolina. Little towns, residential areas and some wide open spaces. We had to take a ferry from Whidbey Island to Port Townsend, Washington. It was a huge ferry - a nice 30 minute ride. We made reservations online last night. Evidently the ferry is really busy.

Port Townsend is unusual - at least it is to me. The coastline is really steep. The houses are really high off the coast.

Many places here close after Labor Day. We gave up on going to Victoria, BC because there is only one ferry each day. I think Lester was glad we decided not to cross the border. He was afraid they might confiscate his Elk antlers!

We drove on to Mount St. Helens. The lava beds look like riverbeds running through the valleys. It is hard to imagine what it was like in 1980 when it erupted. We saw what we think was Mount Rainier - the clouds were so heavy we couldn't be sure. I think this area has rain and clouds most of the time. We drove in rain for about three hours.

We are staying in Longview, Washington tonight - got here about 7:00 PM. A really good day. I'm looking forward to driving along the coastline of Oregon tomorrow.

Happy Birthday Josh!

Monday, September 27, 2010

Day 8 - Sunday - On to the Pacific

We decided we need a little slower pace today - didn't get on the road until 8:30.

Our GPS - "Missy" told us to turn right out of the hotel parking lot - Lester thought we should go right, but he listened to Missy. We turn right, then another right, right into a mess of road construction. Missy was trying to make a block so we would have ended up exactly where we would have been if we had turned right. I think Lester changed her name to something I won't
mention! We shut her up for a while.

As we were putting our luggage in the car, we me a man from New Bern, NC. Small world.

We stopped in Bonner's Ferry, Idaho. Beautiful little western town. Browsed around in a couple of interesting shops.

Next stop - Sandpoint, Idaho - home of the infamous Mark
Furman - of O.J. Simpson case fame. Sandpoint seems to be a very exclusive, upscale community on Lake Pend Orielle. Beautiful
town. Did some shopping. They have a wonderful yarn shop in a converted train car. I could have stayed all day.Lester finally found his Elk anters. YES, we loaded them in the SUV. Discussed tying them on the hood or the roof, but decided someone might steal them. I vetoed the hood or roof idea, anyway. Getting a little crowded in the Tiguan!

Coeur d'alene, Idaho - The marina
is one of the most beautiful in the world. Seaplanes taking off and landing on the lake. The most beautiful geraniums I've ever seen. We met a nice couple from Spokane while we were walking on the floating dock. We had a nice lunch there.

Our day was going so well. Until...Seattle! Unbelievable traffic. We
thought Sunday afternoon/evening would be the perfect time to be in Seattle - Wrong! Interstate 5 must be the only road in the city
because everyone seemed to be on it at the same time. What a headache. And of course, it was raining - does it rain all the time in Seattle? We didn't even want to stop to see anything. Just seemed to be another big city. We saw the Space needle - had no desire to fight the traffic to get any closer to it.

We are spending the night in Marysville, Washington. After looking at the map and realizing what a hassle it is to get from Victoria, BC to anywhere in the US, we have mutually agreed that Canada is not worth the effort. We have both been to Canada, so I think we'll mark that off the list. We are going to Whidbey Island tomorrow.

Day 7: The Day Things Went Wrong!!

Saturday, September 25 - We're so very grateful to have survived today - what a day.

We left Idaho Falls this morning - beautiful weather. The Black Hills are really black - I've never seen such black dirt. Roads seem to go into infinity - we can see forever in all four directions.
Idaho also has "Open Range" - cows all over the road - and I do mean the highway. Two lane road with speed limit of 70 mph with cows grazing on the right of way and crossing the road whenever it pleases them. To make it really interesting - they are solid black - night driving is a real test of your survival skills. Signs warn you to watch for cattle in highway, deer crossing the road, rock slides, pedestrians and bicyclists! Both of us were on high alert. I know we saw at least 40 black cows beside or on the road.

We drove through Helena, Montana. Beautiful capitol building. All was calm there - no cows in town.

We got behind two mobile homes being pulled down a narrow road - no way to pass - so we followed them slowly for about 20 miles. Lester does not do slowly very well. Tried his patience. We were sitting in the road while they were attempting to make a left turn onto a very narrow road. A lady got out of her car behind us and walked up to my window and asked me if we were lost. I told her I didn't think so, that we were on our way to Glacier National Park. She said she didn't think we could make it around that narrow, curvy road. She thought we were with the mobile homes! Guess she thought we had followed them all the way from North Carolina.

Next, we passes through Blackfeet Indian Reservation - a pretty desolate place.

Finally, we get to Glacier National Park - we intentionally drove to the west entrance so we could cross the "Road to the Sun" going east since that would be on our way to Canada. Guess what? The road into the park was closed halfway and that half only had forest. Sooo...backtrack around the park about 90-100 miles to the East Gate so we could see the beautiful part of the park. We rushed to get there before the sun went down - made it. The park is awesome - pictures just don't do justice to the beauty of the mountains and lake. I've never seen such huge mountains. The Aspen trees are so pretty. We really enjoyed that half of the park.

From Glacier we head to the Canadian Border planning to see Waterton and Fernie, BC. A curvy two lane road about 45-50 miles. Really enjoyable until we got to the Canadian Border about 7:15 PM. We were tired and looking foward to spending the night right across the border. The border was closed!! Not a sign anywhere until you get there. They close at 6:00 PM. We just sat there a few minutes not believing our eyes.

Turn around, back down the curvy, two lane road with a speed limit of 70 and cows everywhere. At one point we literally drove in the center of the road with black cows on both sides. The car begins to "Beep" - warning that we were low on gas! In the middle of nowhere. On down the road praying we would make it to St. Mary's, Montana where we had passed a gas station a few hours ago. The gas was so high, we planned to get gas on up the road...Ha, Ha! It was closed, but the gas pumps were open, so we got gas. Right next door was this beautiful Resort Hotel...yes, in the absolute middle of nowhere. It is 9:00 PM by now and we're so tired. I go in to ask if they have rooms. They do have rooms - you really wouldn't believe the price. I'm ready to pay just about any price for a nice, soft bed. But not my brother - he's saving his money to buy some Elk antlers to hang on the wall! So, back on the road. As unbelievable as it may sound, we had to drive back around Glacier National Park (for the third time today). Drove all the way to Kalispell, Montana to finally find a room. Got in the room at 10:30. Too tired to even think. Fifteen hours is way too long to be on the road - even with some nice stops.

I did forget to mention that we saw a bear - not in Yellowstone or Glacier - but of course, along the two lane road with all the cows. Slammed on the brakes and got out the camera. Lester tried to talk me into getting out of the car to get a close up, but I vetoed that idea. We did get several pictures.

A day to remember!

Friday, September 24, 2010

Day 6 - Yellowstone, Grand Tetons, Idaho Falls

It is hard to comprehend seeing Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons in one day. It's almost more than we can take in. We spent the morning in Yellowstone, then drove through the Grand Tetons - so very beautiful. Perfect weather - high 60's with blue skies - snow on the mountain tops. Yellowstone has changed a lot since Ken and I were here nine years ago. Lester says it has changed even more since he was here thirty one years ago! The picture is Yellowstone Lake.

We stopped in Jackson Hole for a couple of hours. Beautiful town. I love the town square with the antler arches on each corner. It has a lot of little shops and pricey places - doesn't cost to look. We happened upon a church thrift store and found some really neat things. There is a huge church right in the middle of town.
Our kind of shopping.

After leaving Jackson Hole we
drove on to Idaho Falls where Lester has friends from his army days. I am so excited - we actually got into our room about 4:30! After all those long days, it really feels good to have some down time to relax. Lester went to have dinner with his friends - I chose to just stay here, work on my pictures, read a little and be lazy.

A lady in the Yellowstone Gift Shop asked if I had been in a car accident. She kept saying, "Oh my, I know that hurts so much." She asked a lot of questions about how it happened - I think she was wondering whether or not I might need to be rescued. I assured her it was much better and I was fine.

If more people could see more of our country I think there would be a resurgence of pride and patriotism. There is so much good. We continue to meet such nice people.

We talked to Oldest Brother and his wife last night. They are in Colorado and plan to head home Sunday. Sounds like they're having a great trip.

Tomorrow: on to Glacier National Park - about 450 miles from here. We're looking forward to that since neither of us has been there.

Day 5 - Thursday, September 23, 2010

A long and busy day. We left Buffalo, WY about 7:15 this morning.
Drove through Badlands National Park - beautiful mountains and stone formations. A little fog and light rain - but only for about an hour. We saw many herds of deer grazing along the highway.

We spent a few hours in Cody, WY - did some shopping. Lester
found this "antique" store - more like a junk shop, but of course
he found a great buy. He always does.

Yellowstone National Park - We came in the East Gate and we were shocked at all the dead trees. We had heard about trees dying, but were shocked to see whole mountains of dead trees. Some kind of beetles are killing the trees. Some areas are completely devastated. Both of us have been to Yellowstone before but it is still amazing to see the earth steaming and boiling. The smell of sulphur almost takes your breath at some of the areas. They look like a witch's cauldron! I'll bet the buffalo love the steam in the winter. We saw hundreds of buffalo. Several times traffic had to stop for buffalo in the road. Herds along the highway caused traffic jams when people completely stopped to see them. We saw several Elk and a few mountain goats. The waterfalls are beautiful. We drove out the North Gate into Gardiner, MT. It is a neat little town that still feels like an old west town. No fast food - just lots of bars, cafes and shops. We spend a few hours there and had a good dinner. We spent some more time in Yellowstone and we're planning to spend part of tomorrow in there. Must see Old Faithful!

We came out the West Gate into the town of West Yellowstone. Beautiful little tourist town - crowded little town! We had a hard time finding a place to stay - they were all full. Don't know if there is something special going on or it's just this busy all the time. Finally got in a room about 8:30 and you won't believe power in the room. After a couple of calls to the desk, they moved us to a larger, nicer room, but it's not much fun to be dragging all your stuff around at 9:00 when you're tired. Finally settled in.

A good day. Busy day. I feel so fortunate to be able to see this beautiful country.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Day 4 - Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Our first stop today was Wall Drug in Wall, SD. It started as a small family owned drug store and now covers several blocks in the small town of Wall. Fun place to spend some time - they have everything.
Badlands National Park - nature at its best. Perfect weather to enjoy the scenery.
Mount Rushmore - I'm sure everyone has seen pictures of this monument but you just can't imagine how awesome it is or the
hugeness of it. We watched a twenty
minute film about how it was created. Seems impossible.
Crazy Horse Monument - Another awesome sight. This monument is not funded with public money - completely by private donations and support. When finished it will show Crazy Horse on his horse - only the head is completed now. It will be larger than Mount Rushmore when completed. The museum is really great - a tribute to Native American Indians.
Hill City, SD - Main attraction is the dinosaur museum. I skipped this one and looked at a couple of antique stores and ate an ice cream cone. They only took cash and I only had $3.00 so the lady took my ice cream out of the waffle cone and put it in a sugar cone! Can you believe it. And of course Lester gets a huge waffle cone when he went in later!
Deadwood, SD - used to be a "cowboy town" but it is now mostly a new city made up of casinos. Gambling was legalized in 1989 so they made so much money they rebuilt the town. What a shame. It is now just another city. Nothing special at all.
Devil's Tower, SD - a unique monument - nature made, not man made. It is a huge tower which was created from a volcano many, many years ago. Unusual and interesting.
Does this sound like a full day. Believe me, it was. We enjoyed all of it and the weather continues to be beautiful.
My eye is better but is still black and blue. It doesn't hurt as much so sometimes I forget about it until people give me these strange looks.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Day 3 - Very Busy, Very Long

We drove 700 miles today - not by choice. We ended up in North Dakota and South Dakota in the middle of nowhere. We drove for hours with no traffic, nothing. Great roads with speed limit of 75, but nowhere to stop - not even for gas or food.

Runestone Museum in Alexandria, MN. Really interesting. If you don't know about it, you might want to read about it online. The History Channel had a great program about it a few months ago.

Fergus Falls, MN - you really need to see the largest Otter in the world - he's cute. Some fun things in Fergus Falls!

Jamestown, ND - World's largest buffalo- cement of course. A little "Old West" town - even a quilt shop. I had to check it out. Quilters are always nice.

Bismarck - we made a special effort to see the capitol building -
described as "Art Deco". Looks just like any big office building.
The unusual thing is that it is 19 stories high in a city that has no
other buildings over about 4 stories. It does tend to stand out - and is very easy to find.

Salem Sue - if you're driving on I94 you can't miss Salem Sue, the world's largest cow - cement of course. She really is rather pretty and really, really big.

Enchanted Highway - you have to see it to believe it. Thirty
two miles highway through beautiful countryside with huge metal
sculptures. They have all been created by one man who wants to do something to get people to come to North Dakota.

The Enchanted Highway is why we drove so far today. When we got to the end of the Enchanted Highway, we were literally in the middle of nowhere.

We are very tired tonight. It was a good day. We are staying in a nice, quiet, clean, peaceful place in Rapid City, South Dakota.

Our country is truly a magnificent place. We have driven through such beautiful places - so much wide open space. We drove for hours seeing nothing but beautiful scenery, cows and crops. Sunflower fields as far as the eye can see. It is good to see the wonders of America. We have met so many really nice people. I know it's hard to believe, but they seem to know that we're from the South! They think we have a Southern accent, but I really don't think so.

My eye looks even worse today - I've gotten a lot of sympathetic looks. They probably think I've been beaten up pretty badly.

Tomorrow - Badlands, Mt. Rushmore and much more to see.

Monday, September 20, 2010

ROAD TRIP 2010 - Days 1 and 2

Finally! We left yesterday (Sunday) at 7:00 AM. Wonderful day -weather is perfect - lows in the high 50's with highs in the 70's. We drove to Chicago with some stops to stretch our legs, get gas and eat. Chicago is really a beautiful city. Navy Pier and Millennium Park are beautiful. The skyline is awesome - Willis Tower - formerly the Sears Tower. People walking and riding bikes. Doesn't really feel likeyou're in the middleof a huge city. Sunday afternoon was the perfect time to tour downtown Chicago - traffic was not bad all all.
I wish I had more memories of the few months we lived in downtown Chicago when I was six years old! I actually started first grade in Chicago.

We went to Oak Park, Illinois - Frank Lloyd Wright's home and studio is there and Oak Park has the highest concentration of his houses anywhere in the world. These are the Prairie Style houses he was famous for in the
early 1900's. Beautiful houses - hard to believe they were build 100 years ago.
I was so intent on looking at the houses and taking pictures that I managed to trip over a raised section of the sidewalk and fall headfirst really hard. I had a knot the size
of an egg above my right eye. Scrapes and bruises - look like I've been beat. It looks even worse today - a really black eye. I bent my glasses all out of shape. Could have been a lot worse!

We spent last night in Elgin, Illinois. After driving 820 miles, it felt good to eat supper and relax.

We ate breakfast at the hotel this morning and were on the road about 7:30. We drove to Taliesin in Spring Green Wisconsin. We both enjoyed a 3 hour tour of Taliesin and Hillside which Frank Lloyd Wright built for
his two aunts to use as a private school. Taliesin was his home as well as his school of architecture. He was an amazing architect - he lived quite an interesting life. I've read his autobiography and have lots of books on the houses, churches and commercial buildings hebuilt. We met a lot of people who are really interested in FLW. Really enjoyable.

Our next stop was Mall of America in Bloomington, MN. Unbelievable! All kinds of rides, movie theaters, restaurants, and about hundreds of stores. A nice lady at LensCrafters repaired my glasses. We ate at a Chinese restaurant - really good. A dancing donkey (stuffed animal) just insisted on coming home with me so he could meet Little J.

Driving through Wisconsin was so nice - beautiful rolling hills with large dairy farms and thousands of acres
of corn fields. Wisc
onsin is really
beautiful. We did stop to buy some Wisconsin cheese - mm good.

We're spending the night in St. Cloud, Minnesota. A really good day.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

A Good Day

A really good day. Time at home. Beautiful weather - not as hot as usual.
Family time - ate on the patio - just good home cooking - more okra from the garden.

Son Number One and his new Girl, Son Number Two and Wife and all three grandsons.

Leaving on our Road Trip in two weeks. Brother Three and I tried to shorten the mileage a little - ended up adding more than we deleted! Planning and anticipating is almost as good as the actual trip.

A really good day.