Home again, home again . . .
Winding up over Snoqualmie Pass we left the wide open spaces behind and entered the land of green. It was a good welcome to decend into into the spring green of western Washingon through the misty rain and fog.
Seattle was clear, the sun was low and the ferry ride a relaxed and friendly end to our trip.
We left spring like weather and wandered back and forth between late winter to spring several times as we crossed the country and changed altitudes. We returned to full blown spring weather. My yard is "full", the only word I can think of to discribe the overflowing, high growing gardens. My ferns and hostas are fully open, columbine, poppies and rhodies blooming and blooming clematis stretched across various structures and trees.
It feels good to be home but I will miss the uncomplicated travel pattern we established with no time restraints, no obligations, no complications. The only requirement each day was to make sure Abby had an opportunity to do her business.
Wednesday, May 27, 2009
Home again, home again . . .
Tuesday, May 26, 2009
Waking up on the Lochsa River with a bright blue sky and perfect temperatures was both relaxing and tempting to stay another day. If rafting trips were offered today, perhaps we would have lingered but we continued down the river, through the Nez Perce Reservation stopping in Kamiah, Idaho for a late breakfast at the Hearthstone Bakery & Tea House.
We have run across references to Lewis and Clark both coming and going on our trip. Partly because following the 200th anniversary of the expedition a couple years ago the path is well marked with sign posts and interpretive markers and because our trip overlapped parts of both their coming and going journeys.
Today we were following their path for a long way and we stopped for several of the markers. At one point we realized we were retracing, in reverse, a trip we took several years ago.
Entering Washington it is hard not to hit the highway and head for home. I know that would be Jim's preference but we are continueing on our backroads journey taking HWY 12 across the state. We plan to cut north through Mount Rainier National Park and then home over the Tacoma Narrows Bridge.
It is looking like we will be home late tonight, assuming we don't run into any distractions or get tired and decide to stop . . .
Change of plans: Short discussion and we are heading for I-90 and home. The pull just gets too stong when everything starts to look familiar. The timing and weather aren't prime for photos at Rainier and we can easily return a little later in the season.
Mountain Sheep - see the baby?
Landmark where Lewis and Clark, lead by Sacajewea (sp?) met her tribe and got horses to continue their trip.
Pelicans - a surprise to me
We are headed west but have to go north and south around a variety of mountain ranges to work our way west so may not make many miles in a westerly direction.
We stopped at the Big Hole National Battlefield near Wisdom, Montana. It has changed very little since the battles between the US Calvary and bands of the Nez Perce tribe. It was easy to picture the events as they unfolded so many years ago. A sad part of our history and important to remember.
Heading up the Bitterroot Valley Jim remembers many of his stops in his short career with Colt, mostly gun stores and bars. As we get to Lolo Jim talks about when Steve Ford spent time on a ranch in the area. His father was president at the time so Steve had full Secret Service protection and Jim spent some time out here. He wasn’t sure he could remember where the ranch was but as we turned on HWY 12 and drove a few miles things became more and more familiar. Just as Jim recognized the ranch we came to the large sign at the entrance “Lolo Trail Ranch”. We found it . . . and drove on.
At 3PM we are starting across Idaho on US 12 with very little ahead of us until Lewiston. The Ranger tells us about a couple small resorts on the river but their literature shows “no dogs”. We head out on the winding road and Jim jokes when he sees a sign warning of extreme curves for the next 60 miles. He thinks he must have misread and it has to be 6.0 miles. No, I told him, it is 60 miles – I have the map. The river is very high and every several miles another river joins the flow. There are kayakers and river rafters along the way but not much traffic. The 23 miles of road work is suspended for the long weekend so we cruise as if in sync with the river flowing downhill.
We have gotten used to not having specific plans for the evening so we don’t worry about the few lodging options not allowing dogs, we can always keep driving, and we’ll just let it work out.
We see the signs for Lowell, the small area with two lodging options. We slow when passing the first one and then see the cabins on the other side of the river. There has to be a bridge so we keep driving and find the bridge just down the road. We head for the office and ask for a room; yes, the weekend crowd has checked out and we have our choice of cabins. Food in the area? Yes, back across the bridge at the café. Dogs? Sure. We’re in! Jim fixes us drinks and we sit on our deck watching the river. Abby is exploring and trying to figure out how to get into the pool area to play with the kids and take a swim. It is actually hot here – the first time I have felt hot on this trip.
We could stay here for a while, but then we have said that about so many places.
Sunday, May 24, 2009
I didn't last long at Sierra Trading; just 15 minutes at the most; too much stuff and just not what I see as a vacation activity.
From Cody to the East entrance of Yellowstone National Park is another scenic byway. This one was a surprise. I've been on the route before but didn't remember it being so dramatic and beautiful.
We entered the park with Jim's free senior pass and within 20 minutes both Jim and I were ready to "escape". It didn't take too long for us to verbalize our thoughts and make a descision. Route change . . .
Yellowstone is wonderful but we have both been there several times. Even early in the season there are too many people there and speaking of early in the season there is still ice on the high lakes, snow in many areas now dirty as it melts and an overall brown look; pre spring. Entering the park we went through an area recently burnt and later we were traveling through the area of the big 1988 fire.
We have seen some spectacular country and the trip has gone amazingly well. The most important thing is to have a good time and not get pressured so . . . we made the shortest trip through the park to West Yellowstone, cut out the Tetons and Sawtooths and rerouted our trip staying on the back roads.
Tonight we find ourselves in Ennis, Montana in a really cute two bedroom cabin with a kitchen and wifi - what more could we ask for. Ennis is a cute town with a cowboy, sportsman kind of feel with bars, restaurants, antique shops, and more. The resort owner has given us directions to what promises to be a wonderful dinner in a restaurant that just opened for the season and features local food; elk, fish, foul.
Later: Great dinner at the Continental Divide. Jim had elk and I had pork. Everything was as good as it gets. A happy birthday dinner.
Thanks for the birthday call Mom, sorry Jim's phone died!
Cody, Wyoming, Yellowstone National Park and the Tetons; what great places to spend my birthday today!
Happy Bithday to me, happy birthday to me, happy birthday dear me, happy birthday to me! Whoopee!
OK, still killing a bit of time waiting for Sierra Trading to open. I would have moved on but Jim decided I really wanted to visit. When we pulled into our motel across the street I got excited about Sierra Trading because Bethany does so much shopping online with them. Somehow that translated to I wanted to visit the store, which, in a way, I do, so here I am counting the minutes until they open.
Good time to mention something else we have discovered on this trip. Touchless Car Washes. I'm not sure if these are the latest and greatest and just haven't made it to our area or if there is some environment reason that they have been banned from our area or what BUT they are cleaper, nothing solid touches the car and they work MUCH better. We have been over some dusty and dirty roads so have tried these touchless washers in three different states and without exception the car comes out clean in all the little nooks and crannies that machines usually miss. And it shines!
Store is open - gotta go and check out this Memorial Day Sale and then hit the road!
An absolute must see - The Buffalo Bill Historical Center is six entities under one roof:
- Buffalo Bill Museum
- Whitney Gallery of Western Art
- Plains Indian Museum
- Cody Firearms Museum
- Draper Museum of Natural History
- McCracken Reasearch Library
The museum is open all year and from May through September it is open seven days a week from 8am to 6pm. They understand tourism - they don't give you an excuse leave town the morning without visiting. Next they sell you a two day pass, no option for a one day pass. It would take two days to do it justice and I am sure many return to take advance of the second day.
The Center has a cafeteria so you can eat, refresh and spend more time. The museum store is extensive and ranges from high end art to items for children; educational to decorative.
Beyond the part where they truly "get" tourism and tourists, this is an exceptional museums for visitors of all ages. Large collections, hands on displays, digital archives available, movies and life size displays. They touch on all the senses in telling the various stories.
Now we're sitting in the car, in the rain, in the parking lot of the Sierra Trading Outlet store which opens momentarily.
This is the first rain we've had during a travel day but the sky is light and I can see the hills nearby so I am hoping for some clearing. We'll be heading into Yellowstone National Park and depending on the weather will decide our route through the park and how much time we spend there.
We left Gillette and headed toward the Bighorn Mountains Scenic Byway. I made this crossing with my family when I was in my teens and I have been in love with the Bighorns ever since. We stopped in Gillette because we thought there was little chance of finding any lodging within a reasonable driving distance. As we headed out the next town was Spotted Horse and as you can see it didn’t have a lot to offer travelers. Staying in Gillette was a good call.
I don’t remember ever seeing so many Pronghorn Antelopes. They were a constant along the road heading toward the Bighorns. Individuals and groups up to twelve or more were seen at every turn.
Horses on the road are one reason we are taking back roads. We stopped at a tiny town with a Post Office to mail Kyle’s postcards and the Postmistress said that a herd of horses had passed through about an hour and a half earlier. We continued and watched for the horse herd and soon found them in front of us taking up the entire road and shoulders. I started taking pictures and the head wrangler created a path for us through the herd. Once through I asked Jim to pull to the side of the road and I jumped out and took pictures as the herd passed us. We then had to make our way back through the herd. I could have traveled with them for hours taking pictures.
We passed at least two ranches where it was branding day. All the calves were separated out and going through the process of being claimed by the appropriate rancher and branded appropriately.
These are things you just don’t encounter on the interstate! I kept telling Jim I was getting my open space “fix”.
At the higher elevations we found lots of snow and the lake still mostly covered with snow.
I have never taken a drive with so many facets and each so spectacular. I got my open space “fix” and got a total high just soaking in the views, air and reliving childhood memories bigger and better than the original.
Now heading toward Cody across wide open plains with nothing but openness surrounding us, we saw a sign for “Dinosaur track way”. I would have continued on but Jim got excited. I didn’t understand that this is one of less than ten such sites in the world and as it turns out this was just discovered in the last ‘90’s on BLM land. We made a U-turn and headed out on the 5 mile dirt road to the site.
This adds a new meaning to “off the beaten path” but after traveling the 5 miles we found a nicely developed, fairly new visitor area with parking, restrooms, picnic areas and a boardwalk out to the area where you can see the Dinosaur tracks. At the end of the boardwalk you can walk down onto the area and actually touch the tracks that were made 167 million years ago by a meat eating dinosaur that eventually evolved into birds.
Continuing to Cody we found a nice classic motel and Jim found a wonderful Italian Restaurant. We are right across the street from the Sierra Trading Outlet store with a huge Memorial Day Sale sign in the window. We’ll check that out along with the Cody museum in the morning, but that is for another posting.
Friday, May 22, 2009
Jim loves Chinese food. Kitsap lacks in it's Chinese offerings so Jim is constantly craving Chinese food.
I am OK with GOOD Chinese but it is not my first choice so we have not had Chinese on this trip . . . until tonight.
On our way into town we spotted a Chinese restaurant and we immediately decided that was where we would have dinner. I wasn't all that hungry and at least this would get it out of the way.
Jim ordered a Pina Colada and I ordered a Vodka Tonic.
From Wikipedia: "The piña colada (Spanish, strained
pineapple: piña, pineapple + colada, strained) is a sweet, rum-based cocktail made with hard rum, coconut cream, and pineapple juice, usually served either blended or shaken with ice. It may be garnished with a pineapple wedge or a maraschino cherry. The piña colada is known as the official beverage of Puerto Rico.
The waiter soon returned to the table and asked if Jim wanted that made with Brandy. "No, with Rum". Another waitperson came and asked if he wanted it blended. "Yes"
I was feeling a bit smug ordering a normal, simple drink. The drinks came and I took a sip, and gagged. I retuned it saying I didn't think it was tonic. "No, no tonic". I don't know what they used as a mixer but I switched to wine.
Jim's drink; with rum, blended, with coconut and nothing else we could identify came and he nicely consumed it.
Let's think: A Pina Colada, in Gilette, Wyoming at a Chinese restaurant - maybe not the best idea.
The food? Good, but the dinner for two could have easily fed six. We were full after the Pupu plate and the only constructive thing to do was to laugh and eat what we could and take some home in a box.
Jim will have Chinese for breakfast.
First business, the Harley Store in Hill City. It opens at 10:00 so Jim slept in a bit and Abby and I went in search of coffee and internet access. We found the coffee and scoped out the shops which were opening as we walked the streets. I really like this little town; surely a tourist town but in a quiet western way and some very nice galleries. With Jim joining us we made our Harley stop and visited a couple of the galleries. One in particular, the Swallow Gallery on Main Street was special. The owner is Native American and all items she sells are from enrolled Native artists. Today her husband was manning the shop and we looked for a long time finding something we both liked; a Northern Cheyenne Pipe bag make of elk with beading.
On to Deadwood agreeing that Hill City was a very good stop; lodging, dining and shopping all fell into place.
I’ve visited Deadwood several times; pre gaming on a family camping trip, early gaming days with 5 cent limits and now with gaming in every nook and cranny and the 5 cent limit lifted. I don’t know if this is true but I remember hearing that gaming was originally allowed when the town was in financial trouble and wanted to raise enough taxes to pay for sidewalks and street lights. They now have both as well as some nice looking buildings and a general feeling of prosperity mingled with historic and some remaining pockets of not so prosperous looking buildings. The main “old town” street is now free of parking and a large parking garage is easy to find although out of site. Trolleys offer transportation around town and walking is the primary mode of movement. Just about every shop along the way has slot machines and saloons abound. Historic points of interest such at the place where Wild Bill Hitchcock was shot are well marked and there are plaques on the street with this history of Deadwood. We were lured into one saloon by a crooning cowboy and had a quick lunch in one of the more touristy places but the live music was worth it, plus he was really good; I almost bought one of the CDs.
Overcast was great for crossing Nebraska where we went from farmland to ranchland and back. The towns spread out and most didn’t even have reduced speed limits. We often went for 10 or 15 minutes without seeing another car. The hills rose gently and our elevation climbed steadily. It was beautiful, relaxing and we saw some wildlife and lots of cattle.
The young docent at the museum recommended a restaurant in town for lunch. We took the suggestion and went to the Heritage Grill which turned out to have exceptional food and good company. We met a couple; he is a corporate dropout now ranching in her home town. They live 127 miles from their county seat and were in town for groceries for the crew coming in for the calf branding coming up. Chadron is their closest town with a good grocery store.
Have you ever planned a trip that includes return visits to places you went as a child? I know this doesn’t always work and doesn’t always impress the second time around but today has been totally the opposite. I have seen areas of the Black Hills that I saw years ago and they still enchant me. The new areas we visited were stunning and surprised me. This is a beautiful, magical area. If you go to the Black Hills try and ignore the billboards as you approach. The area would be so much better off without them but once you enter the hills and the parks the billboards go away and the magic captures your attention.
We are mostly touring for the scenery, geology and history but this place has got so much to do; from horseback riding, shopping, theme parks, water parks, shopping, museums, a gold mine, history, nature, shopping, camping and more. And Roger there is a Harley shop here so we’ll get your t-shirt if they open in time. Size?
Wednesday, May 20, 2009
Dinner at the Blarney Stone Restaurant was better than expected; white linen table clothes over maroon, excellent food at excellent prices and overly generous drinks.
We had a very nice young waitress who grew up here in O'Neill, just graduated from High School and is heading to college in the Fall. We compensated for the very reasonable meal prices by contributing to her college fund with the gratuity.
The skies are amazing; not sure if we are in for thunder and lightning or tornados as predicted earlier but it makes for weather magic.
We're back in the room watching the finals of American Idol. A great day, a great trip.
And they call the wind Mariah . . .
We have had amazing winds all day. So strong at lunch that we had to walk backwards to the car from our picnic spot along the Missouri River. Driving was interesting but it did keep us awake!
Part of the day was along a scenic byway through the Loess Hills in western Iowa. Beautiful and totally different than the area just to the west along the Missouri. We did a short stint on Interstate 29 and I really did not like it at all - too fast, straight and I didn't like it - did I say that?. At least it confirmed that we will avoid interstates for the rest of the trip.
The Loess Hills Scenic Byway weaves through the rugged landscape of windblown silt deposits along the Missouri River Valley. This unique American treasure possesses natural features found only in one other place in the world: the Yellow River Valley of China. Accordingly, the landscape supports many rare plants and animals.
Crossing Northern Nebraska we found several little towns with the small, independent, classic motels we have been looking for. Most towns only have one restaurant, if that. We were approaching O'Neill, knowing it is a little bigger than most, discussing if we wanted to stop this early - 4:30 at the time.
As we entered town we saw a large sign proclaiming O'Neill the "Irish Capital of Nebraska". Next we passed a motel offering "free internet, laundry and pets welcome". Next we saw a restaurant called The Blarney Stone offering steaks. Jim has been looking forward to a Nebraska steak. That did it, we cruised through the rest of town and returned to the motel and checked in.
O'Neill does have an Irish history:
The City of O'Neill was founded by John O'Neill in 1880 and offers a unique blend of old world charm and 21st century technology. We invite you to take a break from the hustle-bustle of city life and see for yourself all that we have to offer. General John O'Neill, for whom the town of O'Neill is named, was born
in Ireland, he fought for the Union during the Civil War. After having been briefly imprisoned for his participation in the so-called Fenian invasion of Canada, General O'Neill began his trek to what we know today as O'Neill, Nebraska.
It's 94 degrees outside but we plan to head out and explore town and find a shady spot to park the car for Abby. She has had a couple good runs today and took a nice swim in a lake in the Loess Hills. Abby is an excellent traveler and makes herself right at home no matter where we stay.
Tuesday, May 19, 2009
Leaving the Gary, Indiana area we had a full day to get to Peru, Indiana so detoured east into Amish country. It was a bit dissapointing; more commercial than I expected but Abby found the horse drawn carriages worth some serious barking. Overall she has toned it down, you can only bark at so many cows when they have practically lined our route but the horses on the road, that was something new.
Jim's first cousin Mimi. Their mothers were sisters.
We arrived at Jim's cousin Mimi's home late in the afternoon and within minutes Abby was in the pool. Weather was perfect for sitting on the patio, drinking wine and eating tasty munchies while Jim and Mimi compared notes and caught up. Mimi's husband Jim arrived home and their son and daughter-in-law joined us for a wonderful dinner along with more conversation. The conversation continued past when I went to bed. Sound familiar?
Abby never did join us in the bedroom but we assumed she had settled on the leather couch in the family room. In the morning we found she had claimed the white sofa in the more formal living room. Once again the princess; Abby charmed her hosts and the house cat was delegated to the basement, outside when Abby was in, or locked in a bedroom.
This morning when we were ready to leave Abby seriously hesitated as if thinking that if we are on a search for a place to stay; this was the best we had found. She really saw no reason to move on. I think it was the pool.
Today we crossed Indiana, Illinois and Iowa farmlands. Jim was going along with my "off the beaten path" itinerary until today. When we crossed the country going east the towns in Montana, North Dakota and Minnesota were fairly far apart and the roads were mostly good. Across Indiana and Illinois the small farm towns were as close at 10 miles apart and speed limits would go from 55 to 45, 35 then 25 through town then return to 55 and then start again. We also ran into road construction; a result of the time of year and perhaps Obama's stimulus efforts. Roads narrowed to a single lane and we often had to stop to wait our turn. At one point we ran into a road closed sign; no detour, nothing. We had to ask for directions to get past the closed road and ended up on narrow dirt roads; a bit more off the beaten path than Jim expected for our primary driving route.
Fortunately in Iowa the towns seemed to spread out a bit more, the country became more rolling and Jim calmed down so we will continue on the backroads.
A few farily worthless observations:
- There seems to be a movement among modest roadside motels to install the bowed shower curtain rods to get more elbow room in the shower. Just about every hotel has the newer shower rods with the old screw holes still evident from the old shower curtains.
- Home of the "Cougars", the "Pirates", the "Bears", etc is the welcoming sign to just about every town as we crossed the northern states. Not so much with this return trip.
- Babies, babies everywhere, but that is a given in the spring. We have seen calves dotted across the landscape in every state we're passed through.
- Branding efforts across the country are hit and miss at best. I should have taken pictures of the signs and banners in each town with a slogan/tag line or other branding effort.
- Scenic, historic, circle routes and byways are far overdone. We seem to be on one or the other almost all the time. I did plan the trip around some of the scenic byways but at times we have been on up to four "signed" routes at one time. If it is not truly a very special scenic or historic route; well signed and easy to follow; forget it.
We're in Osceola, Iowa tonight and will hit the Missouri River tomorrow and take the scenic byway north along the river for a good part of the day. Beyond that, not sure.
We have completed Phase Two of our trip: Friends and Family. Thank you so much to our wonderful friends and family who so graciously hosted us along the way. We would have loved to spend more time with each of you and we have wonderful, warm memories. Each visit was priceless. Our invitation to stay in our guest house is always open and we hope to see you out our way one of these days.
Phase Three has begun: Homeward bound as we wander along scenic byways visiting favorite places and looking for new favorites while avoiding the Interstates.
Monday, May 18, 2009
The reunion wound down with a picnic at the house of two of the classmates. An absolutely beautiful day just perfect for sitting on the deck and enjoying a series of local goodies meant to bring back the memories of 1959.
Dinner at an Italian restaurant with one of Jim's best friends and his wife. The friendship goes back to early Secret Service days and much of the dinner conversation revolved around some of their "adventures". Those of you who know Jim; take that times two and you know the conversation was lively. The people at the neighboring table were both interested and shocked in turn. Marsha and I just enjoyed the "boys" having a good time and mostly carried on our own conversation - we've heard it before - the element of shock is gone.
Tonight we will end up in Peru, Indiana to visit with Jim's first cousin Mimi and her family. Jim hasn't seen Mimi since he was 17 so it should be a fun time catching up.
Sunday, May 17, 2009
Group picture of William A. Wirt High School, Class of 1959, 50th HS Reunion. 35 of the 120 class members.
Last night was the banquet, dance, games and remembering the year 1959.
Sorry my photo is not straight on. The paid photographer took that position and did not make it easy to get a clear shot. He was selling his photos so I understand.
Today, a picnic at the house of one of the couples that have been a couple since high school and then dinner with a friend of Jim's from USSS days who lives in the area.
Saturday, May 16, 2009
Jim at Lake Street Beach / Below Kite surfers with Chicago in the background.
The 50th Reunion festivities began last night with a reception that lasted well past its designated time. Everyone was having a great time refreshing memories and comparing life stories.
There were the expected photos of children, grand children and great grand children being passed around, name guessing as some people traded name tags and general conversation.
Abby returning from showing all the windsurfers and kitesurfers her stick. Steel mills in the background.
Friday, May 15, 2009
I'm sitting in my brother and sister-in-law's living room, curled up on the couch with Abby on the opposite couch . . . much like home. I'd have "Good Morning America" on but I don't know how to turn on the TV. Abby and I have had our morning walk and we're just relaxing and waiting for the house to awake.
Sorry to family who, I am sure, would love some photos here but I didn't take any. I thought about it but it just seemed like it would stop the flow of the evening and be an invasion into what was a relaxed and comfortable environment.
It's been two days of wonderful family experiences; staying first with a cousin in Buelah, meeting more cousins and learning about my Grandfather's family tree. A wonderful dinner and Jim's favorite breakfast of the trip! Thank you Ardith. Many childhood memories as I listened to the stories and the next day as we drove through through the small towns we visited as children.
Sleeping Bear where we ran up and down the sand dunes, Lake Michigan beaches, Torch Lake, places we went with my grandmother during summer visits, town names I remember but never really placed before.
Yesterday we arrived in, and got the tour of, Holland and Zeeland, Michigan with cousin Dan and Earleen.
I was most impressed with the variety and size of industry in that small area; not recession proof, but certainly a good balance and hedge against recession. The tulips were in full bloom in Holland, known for their tulips, much like LaConner but with a longer history and a stronger Dutch heritage. We had lunch downtown and walked the streets, which have heated sidewalks and stay clear of snow in the winter. Nothing we need in the Puget Sound area, but I really liked the idea of heated sidewalks for some reason.
"Feel the Zeal!" I think that was the branding for Zeeland, on banners throughout town. I threw that in for a few who I know are working on, or have worked on, branding campaigns. This one is controversial as well.
We all toured together in Dan's truck, which for a few, would bring up the question of Abby, right? She was right there, sitting between Jim and me, in the back seat of the truck, loving the ride.
Following the tour we had time to just sit and talk and enjoy Dan and Earleen's home; it felt good to be there and nice to relax. There is comfort with family even when the visits are so far apart; perhaps the shared history.
Late afternoon; Dan and Jim in one vehicle, Earleen and I in the other, we drove an hour on the backroads to Kalamazoo for dinner with my brother and sister-in-law.
Earleen and I talked about family and Jim said he got a great education about what was growing in the various fields. Touring with an expert on any subject changes the way you look at an area and Jim enjoyed the education. Cousin Jim was already there as well as Maudie's mother Shirley.
The "guys" gravitated to the ultra private and welcoming deck and talked while Maudie finished up dinner. Earleen knitted and chatted with Shirley and Abby and I floated between conversations. The talkative dinner was followed by conversation in the living room. Dan, Earleen and Jim, with drives to get home, eventually left and the conversation continued. I eventually went to bed and left David, Maudie and Jim talking well past my bedtime.
I love this house and its woodland setting. I find it interesting that the three of us; my sister, brother and I, with the influence of very different spouses, have all ended up in fairly small and unique houses. I feel at home in all three. We grew up in an area of large homes but I have never felt comfortable in a big house or had the desire for lots of rooms.
If any thing could go better it would be that Abby would have a little more respect for the dogs that live in the houses we visit. Both, so far, have been small dogs and ultimately they get pushed into another room and Abby makes herself at home and wanders around exploring every nook and cranny. If the camera was within reach right now I'd document her total comfort on Maudie's couch.
Today we will continue with Phase Two of the trip but move into Jim's friends and family portion. Tonight the welcoming reception of Jim's 50th High School Reunion for Wirt High School.
Wednesday, May 13, 2009
We stopped and talk to the Dredgers who have been here since March dredging out the marina area.
All of the old steele piers have been removed and new floating piers are going to be installed as soon as they can dredge to a consistent 9 feet deep in the marina area.
Rock and sand are being moved, via large flexible pipes, down the beach a bit to fill in an area where more beach is desired.
There is also considerable construction going on on the waterfront and all seems to be aimed at the opening of the "season" coming up soon.
The top photo is across from our room; the historic Fish Town section of town and the lower photo of the same area from above the falls with Fish Town on the right and our hotel on the left.
We're off in search of more Lake Perch, all a bonus at this point so the pressure is off. We have a short distance to go so will wander and explore this beautiful area before landing on the doorstep of relatives in Buelah, Michigan.
Visiting Mary Jane yesterday was the transition in our trip from Phase One; following HWY 2 across the western part of the country, to Phase Two; dropping down through Michigan into Indiana visiting friends and family and attending Jim's 50th High School reunion.
Tuesday, May 12, 2009
There is risk in not having lodging reservations.
Jim wanted Lake Perch and it didn't much matter how far he had to drive, he was going to have Lake Perch. Lake Perch is only available in this part of the country and today is the day Jim decided we needed to find Lake Perch.
I thought getting a room and then finding a restaurant would be a good idea. When we found places to stay and there weren't any restaurants with potential for Lake Perch we drove on.
We wanted to be on the water so when we found restaurants but no appropriate lodging, we drove on. It was getting late and we were getting closer to our stop at relatives for tomorrow night. We caught a visitor center volunteer closing up and he gave us a list of lodging options but also told us about his favorite place to get Lake Perch, just down the road.
I decided we would make sure we took care of the Lake Perch requirement so we drove 4 miles and had a wonderful dinner of Lake Perch at the Happy Hour Tavern. We had already called some of the local lodging options and none had rooms or didn't allow dogs. Following dinner, now relaxed and happy with the Lake Perch requirement met, we headed on down the road to a small community on the water and saw a potential place to stay. I went into the office. Their power was off but they "thought" it would come back on soon. They had a room. Then, the final question, "Do you allow dogs?" Answer "no".
I sighed. The manager asked "how big?" I said "big, but well behaved and we never leave her alone", then smiled.
We got the room, right in downtown Leland. Abby and I took a beach walk and the power came back on. This is a perfect place for tonight.
This morning when we first started out we stopped for coffee and a visit with a family friend from Winnetka days. Mary Jane Schultz was my brother's grade school teacher and stayed friends, and traveled with my mother over the years.
It was great fun to see her at her home in Hermasville, Michigan and meet her sister and her dog.
It was a short visit but the perfect start to the day.
Last night we stayed in a nice roadside motel in Iron Mountain, Michigan with a very good restaurant within walking distance and a piece of local history next door; an early attempt to process low grade iron ore from the area. All that remains are large chunks of concrete and an historic plaque.
Driving through Northern Wisconsin and Upper Michigan has been beautiful; lots of lakes, trees and a nice highway. So many tempting side roads to explore.
The problem with a road trip like this is that you need to keep moving. What you see is what you get and there is very little time for more than brief side trips and exploring. Each area we have passed through is deserving of an extended stay.
It is a different kind of trip but has it's own magic with the scenery, elevation, weather and all surroundings changing quickly. The size, beauty and diversity of this country are seen daily.
There are areas where I truly wonder why someone would choose to live there; no beauty in the eye of this beholder; obviously poor economy and other areas with so much more to offer. But usually we drive down the road a bit further and see a lake or community or somehow get a sense of the area and see how, if this is home, this has it's own beauty and connections for those who do choose to live there.
Other communities tug at us. We could live here! As we enter the Great Lakes area of the Midwest Jim feels more and more at home. He loves the small freshwater lakes with the fish he caught as a boy. The calm waters with no tides where strategy is more a part of fishing than in our open saltwater front yard. He has always said he would like to live on a lake with a dock and a small boat.
Each day I look forward to the adventure, the changes, the memories and the discoveries. Time to start today's journey.
Monday, May 11, 2009
Michigan relatives and others. We are looking for a cabin on the water for tomorrow night that allows dogs. What towns or specific places do you suggest?
Sunday, May 10, 2009
Our cabin on a lake - Lake Bemidji, Bemindji, Minnesota. (Sorry for the poor picture - perhaps a better one with morning light).
As we crossed the North Dakota/Minnesota border we stopped at a visitor center in Grand Forks (amazing visitor center and materials!). We asked for the best place to stop in the next 2 - 3 hours and Bemidji was recommended.
As we drove I used their beautiful visitor guide and went through the resorts looking for those that allow dogs. Then I compared all the features and we ended up at Ruttger's Birchmont Lodge in their one room cabin on the water - right on the water with sandy beaches, a beautiful blue sky and perfect Spring weather. Abby is a happy dog!
Jim is settling in and I think he could stay here with a boat and fishing for Walleye, Northern Pike and Small Mouth Bass - the fish he grew up fishing and loves to eat. He'll have to settle for dinner at Cattails tonight where we hear they serve great local fresh fish.
North Dakota, along HWY 2, was a pleasant surprise. Maybe not quite a surprise but very enjoyable and we were impressed with the roads, the small towns and the people. Reading through their materials I would return and spend more time exploring more of the state.
Tomorrow we should spend the night in Upper Michigan. We will slow a bit now and do a little more exploring along the way.
So far, this has been a wonderful idea; work fades away, I know my house and garden are in good hands, and we are settling into a relaxed routine.
Did I mention the front of the cabin is all louvered windows with screens? Right now they are wide open with a cool breeze flowing through the cabin. Jim in napping, Abby is laying by the door watching her current world go by and I'm, well where else, I'm on the computer.
Just returned from dinner at the Cattails. Wonderful food, terrific waitress, and good company. I really may loose Jim here - he had his Walleye both deep fried and broiled and it was a good as his memories. I keep reminding him how cold the winters are here. The ice just left the lake recently, the trees do not have leaves yet and they have mosquitos in the summer.
Saturday, May 09, 2009
Friday, May 08, 2009
Today was a nice early start and we zigged and zagged our way north and south around mountains and part of the Selkirk International Loop.
I noticed a variety of scenic and historic byways; some well marked, some not so well marked, overlapping and very confusing. We were on the Great Northern Route and also found ourselves on the Panhandle Scenic Byway, the Wild Horse Scenic Byway and the Historic River Road at times.
Again a lot of wildlife; deer, eagles and many Osprey nests including the one above.
Below: Abby and Montana River Rock. I see it at the garden shops and rock places but it always looks a little fake. We stopped to give Abby a run and ended up on the banks of this river with colored Montana River Rock as far as we could see. I kept picking up some to take home and then realizing how far we would have to carry it. I ended up with one large rock that will go in my new garden area.
Look at the colors!
We're in Shelby, Montana tonight at a Comfort Inn. Not exciting but they allow dogs, have wifi and it is close to places for dinner and a grocery store for tomorrow.
We took the North Cascades Highway across the northern part of Washington and although a beautiful drive, it was cloudy enough that we didn’t see the spectacular peaks I have seen before. Perhaps this was best since with blue skies and sunshine I would have tested Jim’s patience asking to stop and photograph each waterfall and overview. Jim shared stories about each small town; the stakeouts and arrests he made when it was part of his district for Secret Service, and the small restaurants that had the best meals.
We played the song track of “Stand by Me,” a reminder of another road trip I took to Colorado about twenty years ago with my son Brian and his best friend Drew. The boys played that single song track every time we didn’t have radio reception. Needless to say, I know the words to all the songs.
The second scenic byway for the day was Sherman Pass; beautiful with many tempting side roads to lakes and out of the way hikes. Very remote with no towns.
I found it interesting to see what each town is doing to capture tourists. Having just taken a seminar about our own “Highway 101 Scenic Byway,” and spending time brainstorming ways to improve the experience, I noticed the variety of signage trying to entice people off the main road to the downtown areas and shops. The best signage was in Ferry County and I assume it was county signage for the various stops and areas. It was large, attractive and consistent. Other areas were less consistent or there was no signage at all. This part of Washington is more rustic, a sense of being away from things. The perfect start to a road trip; definitely got the feeling we are away from home.
We passed several places that looked like fun evening stops but kept thinking it was too early to stop. Eventually we found ourselves following my GPS program onto a dirt road. On the map it looked like a good shortcut. In reality, in early Spring, I think not. I am sure the road would have gone were we wanted to go, but I am not sure we would have gotten there. After a short drive we ran into a snowdrift and seeing the road rising even higher we thought it best to reroute. Back on pavement it now appeared we had a long drive to the next small community, it was getting dusky and we were both tired, even a bit testy with each other over my mapping abilities. Suddenly before us was a sign; “resort area ahead”. A small lodge appeared; we pulled over and now, after a very satisfying dinner, we are nestled in our cozy cabin at Beaver Lodge Resort on Lake Gillette; the deluxe cabin with a bathroom. The owners are new; just started in March so this is the first season and we definitely felt welcome. We both commented that it is just the sort of place we hoped to find during the unplanned parts of our trip.
May 8, 2009: I was up at 5:30; took Abby for a walk where she found way too many good smells - something definitely lives under our cabin, I’m just not sure what. I’ve updated this blog on WORD since there is no internet and I will post it later along with the pictures. It’s now 6:30 and I am thinking I should wake Jim . . .
He’s up, in the shower and I’m reviewing the plans for the day. We’ll cover the bottom part of the International Selkirk Loop Scenic Byway and then hook up with Highway 2.
Highway 2 in “Road Trip USA; Cross-Country Adventures on America’s Two-Lane Highways” is called the “Great Northern”. Once on the Great Northern we’ll follow it to the eastern terminus of the western segment in St. Ignace, Michigan. Unlike this first day, I won’t have much navigating to do once on Highway 2; just sit back, read about the areas we pass through and decide on where to stop and explore and spend each evening.