Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Back in The Emerald City

Here we are, four days home and the unpacking is mostly done, the car is washed and vacuumed, the mail sorted and routines for exercise and meals are in place. Oh how glad I am to not need to pack and unpack the car's trunk daily. Fixing meals in my own kitchen is a joyful novelty after 47 days on the road. Making as much coffee as I want and making it DARK and drinking it out of a ceramic mug; those are renewed delights! 

Before it all slips from my memories, here are some pictures and thoughts from our last day on the road which was the stretch from Spokane to Seattle on I-90. We both knew that would be minimal stopping as we drove the last 279 miles of our journey. We were eager to get home. It was a lovely still day as we left the Lilac City. I only hope that next weekend's runners in the Bloomsday Race get weather like this. 

See how still the water is? There were hundreds of water fowl on this lake, enjoying a placid swim.

One last day to make the most out of cruise control!

This is a viewpoint that convinced us to stop. I know we have been this way before but I think this was our first stop. That's the mighty Columbia River. This viewpoint is on West I 90 near Vantage, WA

It was 53 degrees and nary a wisp of wind. It was unusual to pass windmills in this area and not a blade was turning.

Up and over Snoqualmie Pass and not a flake of snow in the air and very little on the ground. Trees kept looking greener and greener.

The day was overcast but allowed us this glimpse of our familiar friend, Mount Rainier.

Home at last and the best sight of the day was our daughter, sitting at our dining room table, law books and papers spread out. She stayed and we chatted but not for long, her laundry was done and she needed to resume studying at the library. I guess her dad and I are just too distracting!

Unpacking is a chore. Here are some travel treasures from our trip; some to keep, some to share.

Souvenir pens will remind me of the different hotel rooms where we slept.  It used to be I would grab a book of matches (even though we don't smoke), but now days you don't see matchbooks much, which is a good thing. Pens are so much more useful to us.

In numbers our trip looks like this:
8264 miles
34 miles to the gallon
$576.73 spent on gas
19 states
47 days
$100.74 per night in hotels (averaged)
27 different beds
On the map it looks like this:

I'm ready to stick around home!

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Lost and Found

No, we didn't get lost. Here are Chris' words explaining our road trip adventure for today: 
"When we got to Bozeman MT for breakfast I realized 

I left my iPad in Livingston MT. So I drove back and got it.

I drove the mountain pass between the 2 towns 4 times this

morning. In a snowstorm. "

Yes, it was a grueling drive for him but it was so pretty too!

It looks something like a country Christmas card picture, don't you think?

Here is a strange detail that we noticed on the second 'drive around'. Those are snowflakes in that squiggle on the telephone pole.

We scored in a totally different way from yesterday when we stopped for a bathroom break at the Wheat Mountain Bakery and Deli at the intersection of I 90 and US 287. While I did see the words 'gluten free' on a couple of items, this is NOT the place you want to go unless you are ready to be indulgent in some not so very healthy eating choices. The cinnamon rolls are as big as dinner plates. I bought a cherry and Greek yogurt croissant. I shared it with Chris. OH! it was yummy! Wheat Mountain also has other Montana gifts like mug, water bottles, jams, granola, t-shirts and soap as well as 50# bags of oats and flour, straight from their Montana farm. The place was packed with people and not just tourists either. I really was tempted to take a picture of the two cowboys in their muddy boots and sweat stained and wind battered hats but I let them enjoy their coffee in peace.

There was a sign for a "Trophy Rock" near Butte and I missed that picture but this formation is very similar. I think it is part of the Boulder Batholith .   There are articles that say the rocks of this area have special minerals that attract bear and deer, that is why it is called 'trophy'. 

Below you see a huge open pit mine in Butte. Many people made their fortune mining copper in mines such as this.

Another bathroom break brought us very close to the border with Idaho, in Superior, MT. It is a pleasant wayside with a national campground adjacent to it. Dozens of ground squirrels scampered around on the grass. They are smaller than regular squirrels and they zip here and there with great fervor. They were almost as entertaining as the Prairie Dogs in SD!

Then we started going up again and the snow began again.  The sign says Saltese which is at 3366 FT.

Incredibly, there were construction crews working on the interstate in this ugly weather and traffic was reduced to one lane for about a half mile.

No pictures of beautiful Coeur d'Alene and the many rivers and creeks that we passed before we crossed into Washington.  It is a very pretty place. I took the last, and easiest leg of driving into Spokane.  The Fairbridge Inn is our last hotel stay (needs serious updating) Home is only a day away!

Friday, April 24, 2015

Mountains Here, Mountains There

Mountains, mountains, everywhere! We are not IN the mountains yet but snow covered peaks, beginning with the Bighorn Mountains in Wyoming became visible within our first hour of leaving Gillette. I will not begin to tell you which ones are which. Much of the drive is a it's not the wine, just the miles covered.  First of all I want to say that pronghorns DO outnumber people in Wyoming. They were everywhere on the hillsides in Wyoming, sometimes grazing alongside cattle, which were mostly black angus. Since I was driving the first 2 hours I don't have the mountain pictures I would like. I think I nearly gave Chris a heart attack a couple times when I tried to take pictures as I was driving!

Then around Sheridan,  Wyoming I needed a bathroom break and there was a sign that indicated a Visitor Center at the next exit. We took the exit but the Visitor Center was not opened until May 1 AND there was no entrance back onto I 90 W. This was one of those unfortunate - fortunate incidents because we drove about ten miles, first we saw this fabulous HUGE Tom turkey in the middle of the road (Chris captured those pictures and I will add them later) then through the teeny tiny town of Story (maybe a population of 50) which has BEAUTIFUL homes (probably for vacation) and then there was this little viewpoint just before we returned to I90 and I followed the call of nature.

And took this picture:
There are mountains off to the right if you look closely.

Then we started to notice the little things that you don't see from the car. Like this bubbling spring:

And the bones of these decaying pronghorn antelope:

And springtime flowers starting to bloom:

Later in the drive it was Chris' turn to clamor for a restroom and this time, in Montana now, it was a bona fide rest stop and we had a great view of the Crazy Mountains.

We arrived in our destination Livingston, MT at about 2:00. I think yesterday's time change put us ahead by at least an hour in leaving this morning. We were on the road before 8:00! Livingston is such a well preserved old west town and it is all surrounded by mountains.

We had a great dinner at The Sport. I ordered prime rib and it was so juicy and delicious. I am not usually a red meat eater but I figured with all the angus cattle around, this should be the place to order beef.

This is where we are staying tonight. Our first choice was a Quality Inn that is behind this Motel, but it was full. There is a wrestling tournament in town tonight and they took most of the Q Inn rooms. The manager at the Q Inn actually recommended this place and it is a real 'FIND'. It is all western and knotty pine and wildlife decor. 

Tonight it is raining and about 55 degrees outside. It's feeling more like Seattle each mile west.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Another State, Another Time Zone

Before leaving Chamberlain SD this morning we went to the Akta Lakota Museum and Cultural Center. I think it is probably the only museum in the country that opens at 8:00am which was perfect for us since we wanted to get on the highway by 9:30 as usual.  Akta Lakota means "to honor the people" and this museum certainly does that. It is the kind of place I would like to revisit to learn more. The museum displays artwork of contemporary Native American artists alongside the historic displays. It has some interactive videos and hands on areas that kids would like. There is also a 20 minute video but we did not take time for that. The museum is an outreach of St. Joseph's Indian School which is also on the grounds. In fact, the museum was originally the elementary school. A museum curator told us that the museum began because of donations given to the school by many of the grateful families of the students. She explained that most of the families who send their children to the school do not have much money so to show their appreciation they give family artifacts to the school. All of these historic pieces were accumulating in the school basement and the museum really started out of necessity; the school administrators wanted to honor the givers of the artifacts by displaying them. I was especially drawn to the bead work displays.

Spring time is arriving on the great plains!

Then "Westward ho!" off we went on I-90 towards our next stop which would be Wall Drugstore for lunch. The skies were blue and the temperature rose up and up, beyond 60 and close to 70 by the end of the afternoon.

A view through the sky window of our Hyundai:

I did not need encouragement to heed this sign at a wayside!

What a treat to visit the Badlands during the off season; no crowds and 63 degrees when we arrived! Somewhere around this area we passed the 7000 mile mark on our road trip and we entered the mountain time zone.

Everywhere we looked there were breath taking views.

Due to the unseasonably warm weather and shorter winter bugs are hatching at rapid speed. The windshield and front bumper of the car were covered with bug remains.

The prairie dog towns alongside the road were HUGE. I mean these little guys were popping up and chattering away everywhere! Their sound is really adorable. Aside from the sound of prairie dogs and birds the Badlands is incredibly quiet. I suppose especially so since there were fewer cars and people than in summer.

Just before exiting the park we saw about a half dozen of these and we think they are young bighorn. Further down the road we had to stop the car to let an antelope cross the road. No picture of that big boy!

Lunch time in Wall...but not at the drug store. We ate across the street. 

Then into Wyoming and we see more evergreens and snow barrier fences. We also see LONG trains of coal and oil cars and pass by one open pit coal mine.

Tonight we are at a Comfort Inn in Gillette WYO, home of the Pronghorns. My husband just informed me that there are more pronghorns than people in Wyoming.