Friday, December 27, 2013

Look who's walking

Madeline has been cruising for months.  For our non-baby savvy friends, this cruising does not refer to driving around slowly in a car or traveling by boat, but means she walks but only while holding on to things.  When we got to Minnesota she started taking a couple of steps at a time unaided, usually from one piece of furniture to the next.  She could walk, but wasn't willing to admit it or show off to anyone regardless of our encouragement.  We got to Maine and it was the same story, a couple steps here and there but nothing more.  Then one morning she let go of the fridge and took a couple of steps towards me, and as I slowly backed down the hallway she followed me all the way.  She has not looked back (and sometimes doesn't look ahead all that well either).

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

New England

When we left Albany we headed north.  As I mentioned in an earlier post I do not enjoy city driving so avoiding Boston was a big plus for this route.  It also gave us the chance to spend extra time in Vermont and New Hampshire and avoid the interstates for a while.  We started out heading for Burlington Vermont.  I have heard a lot of good things about Burlington but have never visited so we thought it would be a good addition to our continuing search for the next great place for us to live.
Free Ice Cream
Turned out our luck finally gave out weather wise with worsening snow and wind as we entered Vermont, so we headed into Rutland Vermont to find a motel for the night.  The motel was in the middle of a remodel, going from dump to newly painted dump, but we got a couple of good meals in town and a nice visit to the local library.  The next day the weather cleared so we continued to Burlington, had a good look around town, then continued east.  Anyone that knows me and the area around Burlington knows what comes next.  It would be ridiculous to visit this area without a stop at the Ben and Jerry's factory for a tour.  An ice cream factory tour, ice cream memorabilia, ice cream souvenirs, and free ice cream make for an experience that even Disney can't compete with.
Fun in the motel
By the time we were done the bad weather had caught up with us so we drove into Montpelier for the night and found a motel, this one much nicer than the night before.  The next morning it was snowing lightly when we left, but we decided to push on with the idea that we could stop if necessary and wait out the weather.  Our idea was to stay on highway 2 through Vermont, New Hampshire, and into Maine, again avoiding the interstates.  By the time we got into New Hampshire the weather worsened with more snow and wind but after checking the maps we didn't see any better routes so kept on towards Maine.  Soon after lunch the snow stopped and it was a relatively easy drive the rest of the day.  We stopped for a fun visit with Nicole's sister Cathy and her husband Cory who conveniently enough live right on route 2.  The next day we continued on to Auburn Maine where Nicole's parent live, and where we would be staying for the next couple weeks to celebrate Xmas and visit with her family.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Near Misses

Fun at the service plaza
We left Minnesota with a bit of trepidation.  I have made the drive from MN to Maine quit a few times, some of them just boring, some involved law enforcement personnel, and one involved several breakdowns culminating in abandoning my vehicle, but none of them were overly enjoyable.
I have never liked driving in big cities, and living in Sitka just reinforced this, so heading towards Chicago and then Boston was not a pleasant idea.  We toyed with the idea of going up to Duluth, across northern Wisconsin and the upper peninsula of Michigan, and then heading down and around the remaining great lakes just to avoid Chicago.  The weather forecast didn't look great for this area so we chose the more normal interstate route, and it was lucky we did.  The day after we left the Twin Cities they received 30+ inches of snow in and around Duluth.  We did not get out unscathed, as there was some residual weather further south and we ended up driving through snow and ice in central Wisconsin.  In a very un-Minnesotan move, as the driving conditions deteriorated I took the exit for Wisconsin Dells and found a motel.
This was going to be a big change in our travels for this portion of the trip.  Because we had to  drain the tanks and winterize the van in MN, we no longer had running water for washing, cooking or the toilet.  Up until now we had cooked most of our meals in the van and spent most of our nights in rest areas and truck stops to keep our travel expenses down.  We could still sleep in the van but cooking was problematic and the lack of a toilet was a real issue, so we would try to stay in the van when possible but planned on more nights in motels.
Breakfast in bed
The next morning we left Wisconsin Dells in heavy fog, which later turned to rain and then a rain and snow mix.  One of the headlights in the van burned out and the left turn signal stopped working as we pulled away from the motel, reminding me there were still some gremlins wandering the electrical system in the van.  After driving a bit the turn signal started working again, but later in the day as it started getting dark the fuse blew for all the lights and forced the issue of a stop for some repairs.  There is nothing quite like the fun of driving the interstate through Gary Indiana during rush hour in the pouring rain with no lights inside or out on the van.  Luckily I had fuses and the gas station we stopped at had the right replacement bulb for the headlight.
Just before this happened we were skirting Chicago and smack in the middle of one of my biggest pet-peeves of this drive: toll roads.  The fact that they call these interstates which should mean that they are maintained with my tax dollars, and then charge me to use them annoys me quite a bit.  Add to that the fact that they are some of the worst maintained roads in the country, or that they have stupid regulations like the fact that I pay more than a car in NY because my van is over seven feet high(?) and I go beyond annoyed and head towards being pissed.
Anyway, we made it through Chicago, and stopped for dinner at a truck stop in Indiana, where we decided to stay for the night.  The next day saw us on the Indiana toll road, eventually crossing over to the Ohio toll road.  For once, I wasn't quite as disappointed that we were on a toll road, because Ohio has something the others don't.  Like other toll roads, the Ohio turnpike has service plazas where you can get food and fuel without the hassle of exiting and reentering through the toll gates.  What Ohio also has are designated parking areas for RV's in some of their service plazas, complete with electrical hook-ups and tank dump stations.  This meant we could use the facilities in the van, so we picked one at the end of our driving day and settled in for the night.
At this point winter storm Cleon was rapidly catching up with us and we kept an extra eye on the weather reports at the service plaza.  Somehow the snow and ice missed us again that night, but the next morning it was expected to pass through Pennsylvania, right across our route on I-80.  We changed our plans and headed north when I-90 split off heading towards New York, stopping for the night at a motel in Rochester.  We lucked out here as well with Buffalo NY getting a foot of snow just after we passed through.
Snappy dressers
The next day saw us arriving in Albany, where we planned to stop for a few days and visit friends.  We proceeded to take advantage of being in a larger city by going out for Thai food, ordering delivery pizza, visiting a chocolate festival at the museum, and stopping at the local Costco-esque warehouse shopping place.  The stop was especially fun because Matt and Beth have a daughter, Cassidy, that is just a few months younger than Madeline, so she again had someone to play with during our stay.  Our second night in Albany had snow in the forecast, but when we awoke there was only a dusting, another near miss, so we decided to move while we could.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Feeling Minnesota

It seems like we have been driving for a long time.  Our travel days are relatively short, but there have been a lot of them since we left Seattle, with a few breaks when we stopped to visit friends.  Our plan for when we got to MN was to stop for a couple weeks, giving us a chance to visit with family and friends, celebrate Thanksgiving, and hopefully relax a bit.  We also had to take some time to winterize the van.  We had lucked out up to this point with below-freezing temperatures some nights but relatively mild days.  With a forecast for highs in the single digits we knew we had to drain the water tanks in the van and prep it for winter conditions.  We lucked out again for winterizing, my mom happened to have a full bottle of cheap vodka that we used for the water tank so we wouldn't have to deal with the taste of RV antifreeze when we start using the tanks again later in the trip.
We spent the majority of our Minnesota time at my mom's in Stillwater.  It was nice to have a bunch of room after being limited to the van for the past several weeks.  The space was a blessing for Madeline as she is just starting to walk, although she won't admit it and refuses to show off any time we ask.  Madeline also had her pick of about a thousand toys to play with, a bunch of new ones my mother bought for her along with most of the toys my brother and I had growing up.  Because she became enamored with horses during several of our stops earlier in the trip, we had to dig out the bouncy-horse for her to ride during our stay.  This horse was used by my aunt and uncle, then my brother and myself, and family friends after that, so it's over fifty years old with a LOT of miles on it, but again provided fun for a little one.  There was also an overwhelming assortment of Fisher-Price and Playskool stuff both new and old to choose from.
Madeline has a real love for books, and many of her books feature either farm animals or jungle animals, so we have been teaching her animal sounds and she's getting pretty good.  So far she has mastered the horse, dog, sheep, elephant, owl, fox, our favorite the bear, and her favorite the donkey.  We decided we would try to introduce her to the real thing so we took an afternoon and headed off to the zoo.  The local zoo doesn't have elephants, and the bears were hiding while we were there, but she knew what the foxes were, got the woof woof for the wolves, and I wasn't about to correct her for the donkey sounds when we saw the zebra.  Without the stripes we probably wouldn't know the difference either.
Uncle Jim, Aunt Pat and Madeline
For Thanksgiving we had dinner with my brother, my mom, and two of her siblings, Brett and Elizabeth.  It was a delicious, traditional meal with turkey and all the fixings, with Madeline sampling and rejecting pretty much everything.  She has become a bit of a picky eater with her tastes changing daily.  The day after Thanksgiving we headed south to Montgomery, MN to visit my dad's brother Jim and his wife Pat, along with several of their kids (more cousins) where we had a second Thanksgiving dinner.  While we were in Montgomery we also stopped by for another quick visit with Brett and Elizabeth, and got a chance to visit with my great-uncle and aunt, Paul and Nancy Vollmar.  Paul and Nancy ran a fishing resort in Ontario, Canada and our family would visit once or more each summer from when I was only a few years old all the way into high school.  Those trips probably had a lot to do with me developing a love of the water.
Along with family visits, we also got a chance to visit with friends and share a meal at Big 10.  Big 10 is a sub shop and pub on the U of MN campus that I pretty much lived at while I went to school there.  We had tried to go back for a visit last year at Xmas but they were closed, so it was nice to go get my fix while we were in the area.  We also made some time to get together with some of my mom's friends so she could show off her grand-daughter.  Unfortunately, this trip is teaching us that it is a lot harder to arrange socializing when you have a little one.  Trying to work around nap times, meal times and a bed time that occurs a bit too close to happy hour meant that we didn't get to see some of the folks we wanted to during our stay.  Hopefully for our next visit we will have figured out better ways to work around her schedule so we can see some of the people we missed.
On our scheduled day of departure there was the forecast for some wintery weather, and we decided to stay a day and deal with the snow there before getting on the road, but with more snow and very cold temps. forecast for later in the week we took our chances and headed out.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Czech List

Bohemian Samsonite

Most of my ancestors on both sides of my family came from Czechoslovakia.  My grandmother's generation thought it was a bad thing to claim you descended from gypsies, but anyone that knows me can verify that it would be a pretty safe bet in my case.  These days it's pretty hip to be "bohemian", but our family really never had a choice.  It's been the subject of many inside jokes, one of my favorites of which is our choice of luggage.  Packing for many of our weekend trips consisted of tossing a bunch of stuff in several paper grocery bags, and eventually we dubbed this "Bohemian Samsonite".  For our stay in Minnesota we continued on this theme for our check list of baby-proofing of my mom's house.
Bohemian Child Gate
Madeline is starting to walk, and kept making her way to the stairs to the second floor.  She navigates stairs fine, but we worried she might miss a step and tumble, so we wanted to at least slow her down so we could limit her ascents to times when we were within reach.  Our solution was anything but elegant, but it served its purpose for the short time we were visiting.   The same can be said for our cabinet locks.
Bohemian Cabinet Lock
If/when we ever get a house of our own we can do things right with some slightly more permanent solutions, but for now a (very) small bit of ingenuity kept things to a moderately safe level.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Eastward, sort of

Nicole had never seen the mountains of Colorado, so we decided on leaving Moab that we would head east on I-70 right through the heart of the Rockies.  I-70 is a pretty impressive stretch of highway through western Colorado.  The engineering marvel of an interstate through Glenwood Canyon is worth the drive alone.  From there the road continues to climb until you reach about 10,700 feet just outside of Vail.  It was at Vail that we began to see light snow, which is common through fall, winter and spring, and thankfully that is as bad as our road conditions got.  From Vail Pass the road twists and turns among the mountains eventually climbing again to just over 11,000 feet before disappearing into the Eisenhower Tunnel.  Without the tunnel, you would have to climb an additional 1,000 feet to get over the continental divide, but instead you drive just over a mile and a half through the mountain and come out the other side.  From the tunnel it's a long, brake-burner slope down into Denver.  We chose to get off the interstate before Denver and head north, having arranged with friends Adam and Ellen to visit them at their home in Boulder.
We spent several enjoyable days in Boulder hiking, seeing the sights, and the obligatory visit to the nearby brew-pub.  Adam and Ellen also had a good stock of booze at their house, so we decided it would be good to continue our taste-testing of small batch local gins.  On our intended day of departure high wind warnings were issued for our travel area into Wyoming, so we spent one more day in Boulder and then bid farewell to our good friends.
From Boulder we wandered north to Casper, Wyoming to visit a co-worker of Nicole's from when she worked at the University of Washington.  Michelle and Henry live with their two daughters Zoe and Liz, three dogs, two cats, five horses, and several aquariums of fish.  Needless to say, this was a fun stop for Madeline.  She rekindled her love of horses and dogs while staying in a house stuffed with cool toys and kids books.  She had a lot of fun playing with the other two girls while Nicole and I had a nice visit with Michelle and Henry.  We did a driving tour of town, went for a hike, and generally just kicked back and enjoyed the relaxed atmosphere.  I don't remember visiting Casper in the past except maybe to drive through, but Nicole and I both felt it was a nice town with a friendly feel.  We started seeing deer and antelope around Casper, both of which have been conspicuously absent in our travels so far.
We left Casper heading towards the Black Hills in South Dakota.  The most direct route takes you across miles of open grassland, as well as past the largest open pit coal mine in the country.  Not exactly a tourist attraction but it is impressive.  We approached the Black Hills just as it was getting dark, and the number of deer we saw along and on the highway made it an easy decision to stop in Custer for the night.  In Custer there was snow on the ground and the temperature was forecast to drop into the teens, so I wanted to get some water in our almost empty tank to keep it from freezing.  This turned out to be hard to do with most of the outside taps in town turned off for the winter, so we settled on staying in a campground in town where we could get water as well as plug the van in to use an electric space heater.
From Custer we took the scenic route through the Black Hills, revisiting many of the spots I used to go to rock climb.  We went by Mount Rushmore just to get a glimpse, but as with progress everywhere it was now ridiculously expensive just to pull into the parking lot, so we did our viewing from the roadside.  From Rushmore we drove through Keystone, but the only thing that looked open in the entire town was one bar, so we didn't even stop.  After a quick stop for fuel outside Rapid City we were off towards the Badlands, our planned stop for the night.
A visit to the Badlands seemed like a good idea.  Free camping, cool scenery, good wildlife viewing, and all from the comfy seat of the van, no trudging through the cold required.  The sign on the outskirts of the park should have been taken more seriously.
We drove in the back way taking Highway 44 out of Rapid City and then turned off on a dirt road to get to the Sage Creek Campground.  As we turned in to the campground we saw our first buffalo.  Don't bother trying to lecture me on the whole bison/buffalo thing, I'm not listening.  To me Pluto is still and always will be a planet, Denali is the highest mountain in North America…..  you get my point.  Anyway, buffalo in the campground, and lots of prairie dogs, an empty camper with it's generator running (thanks for the courtesy), and not much else.  We parked the van far enough away so we couldn't hear the generator and settled in.  We were serenaded to sleep that night by a large group of coyotes.

The next morning, Nicole was not well.  Being violently ill is never fun, but doing it in a cramped van parked in a campground in the middle of nowhere is probably bordering on hell.  After breakfast things were not much better, and we decided to head in to Wall before continuing our tour of the park.  I made some "better than adequate husband" points by suggesting we find a cheap motel room for the night and get out of the van.  Turned out to be a great idea, because by late afternoon I was quickly overtaking Nicole in the "sick as a dog" competition, and having a big comfortable bed with a toilet close by and cable TV made life almost bearable.
The next day there was only one of us well enough to continue driving, but it's a pretty tight fit behind the steering wheel to try to strap in the car seat, and her feet can't reach the pedals so we decided to just stay put.  I pointed out to Nicole that I could probably get the van up to highway speed, hit the cruise control, and then hand the wheel over to Madeline.  It's not like there were any turns or obstacles for the next six hours of drive time across the state, but she thought it best to hold off another day.
The next morning we were all feeling better, and made the long drive to Minnesota.  We stopped for the night right on the border, and by late the next afternoon we were parked in my mom's driveway in Stillwater.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013


Moab, Utah holds a special place in our hearts.  I've been visiting the area for more than twenty years, and introduced Nicole soon after we started seeing each other.  In 2007 Nicole and I were married there, and we made a return trip the next April for our first anniversary.  Since that visit we've concentrated our travels to sailing trips and haven't made it back to Moab.  Now it's 2013 and we are driving aimlessly around the country, a good reason to go spend some time in one of our favorite places.
A stay in Moab wouldn't be the same if we didn't spend time at the Virginian Motel, so we splurged for a room thinking it would also be a more convenient location for trick or treating.  We were planning on spending a few days in the area with our friends Adam and Ellen from Colorado, so once they got into town we made a plan to meet up with them the next day and then went out to find a candy-rich environment.  After a quick bit of trick or treating we headed to the Moab Brewery for dinner, where once again Madeline got lots of compliments on her costume.
The next morning started with the mandatory stop at the Moab Diner for breakfast, after which we checked out of the motel and headed south to Indian Creek and the Needles area in Canyonlands.  Adam and Ellen were rock climbing in Indian Creek so we tracked them down and spent a nice afternoon together.  Later in the afternoon we headed back to the campground they were using, which turned out to be a bit of an adventure getting to with a rough, high clearance vehicle entrance road.  I'm used to driving a variety of very capable 4x4 vehicles when I'm in Utah so I had to actually remember some off road driving skills to get the Roadtrek to the campsite without losing too many pieces.
The next day we all piled in the van to head into Canyonlands for a day of hiking.  We checked out several areas we had not explored in past visits and Madeline got some time in her pack for an enjoyable hike.  On our way out of the park we stopped by the Needles Outpost, a small store/gas station/campground and had a surreal meeting with the very odd woman working there in order to get some ice cream.  After another exciting trip on the road to the same campsite, we shared a bottle of mystery wine we had been hauling around for years.  One of the years Nicole and I did our Valentines Day wine tasting we got an unmarked bottle of wine as a gift from one of the wine makers.  He told us what it was at the time, but if you've heard the stories of our wine tasting you would understand why we couldn't seem to remember what the stuff was.  I thought it was suppose to be a cream sherry and after all of us sampled it we agreed that was as good a description as any.  Regardless it was very good and quite strong, so we each had a couple small glasses and called it a night.
Adam climbing "Supercrack"
Our last day in the area we were back at Indian Creek for another day of rock climbing.  The great weather continued to hold although the wind was a bit cold until the sun got up a bit.  We all had fun climbing and hanging out in the stunning surroundings.  Unfortunately Ellen hurt her leg on the last climb of the day, but thankfully it seems to be relatively minor and healing up well.
The same patch of rock
 where we stood to get married
At the end of the day Adam and Ellen headed back to Boulder and we went back up to Moab for a couple more days of enjoying the area.  We made the drive out to the Red Cliffs Lodge where we had our wedding reception, where the same woman was still running the tasting room at the adjoining winery.  We felt it necessary to stop in and sample their wines to make sure the quality had not suffered in our absence, and to pick up a replacement glass for one of the wine glasses we got for a wedding gift and had since dropped.  We also visited the site where we had our wedding ceremony near Gemini Bridges.  The whole area around the natural bridges has changed since 2007, with fencing to keep vehicles out of the area and touristy signs for visitors.  Thankfully the natural bridges are still there and stunning as ever, and the views are as magnificent as always.
After one last trip through town for groceries and gas, another stop at the library, and one last stop at the Moab Diner we were off and heading for Colorado.

Friday, November 15, 2013


Anybody out there?

We keep hearing from folks that there are a bunch of lurkers on our site, looking but never commenting.  I know there are issues with leaving a message on the blog for some people, and some of you are probably typing with one or two fingers like I do so it is a slow process, but it would make our day to hear from friends once in a while.  If you don't want to post on the blog, send us an email.  We have had very limited contact with others since we left Sitka in June and it is always delightful to get a message by whatever means.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

More Madeline

I've been trying to add at least one picture of Madeline to each of our travel posts, but I know that's not enough for folks like my mom, so here is a little sample.

Friday, November 8, 2013


I inherited a love of Halloween from my dad.  He used to love carving pumpkins, decorating the house and yard, helping figure out incredible costumes, pretty much everything about the holiday.  Our lifestyle over the past few years has not been very conducive to proper Halloween celebration, so I promised that this year I would find a way to make things right.
This actually started months ago back in Sitka when we found the perfect costume for Madeline in a second hand store.  My mom was visiting at the time and agreed it would be great, so we bought it and stored it away.  We've been dragging that costume around for months now, first on our boat trip south this summer, and lately in the van as we cross the country.
When we were visiting my cousin Karen in Walla Walla, we took a trip to their local pumpkin patch, and Madeline had a blast playing in the pumpkins, sliding down a huge hay bale stack slide, and of course sampling the ice cream available in the gift shop.
We were not sure where we would be at the end of October, but it turned out that we got into Moab just in time.  Not only did Madeline get to wear her ladybug costume, but we went out and hit some houses trick or treating as well.  Nicole and I felt a little guilty, Madeline doesn't get candy yet  so we knew anything we got would be ours, but she had a blast seeing the other kids in costumes and basically just charming anyone that opened the door to her smiling face.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Black Dragon Canyon

One of our favorite places in Utah is a spot called Black Dragon Canyon. It's north and west of Moab, just off the interstate, but because the entry is not marked and a bit intimidating once you do find it, not many people visit.  There is an un-official camping site nearby, some interesting hiking in the surrounding canyons, an impressive pictograph panel in the canyon proper, and some fun rock hunting in the area.
We were not too sure how feasible it would be to get in to the area with our camper van, but it turned out to be no problem.  The road in was in decent shape and the camping area was deserted.  We spent a couple nights camped, did a few hikes, watched a scary storm pass nearby but not over us, visited the rock art site, and found a couple nice geodes.  We plopped Madeline down in the rocks and dirt and let her play, which turned out to be so much fun she was not happy about coming in for dinner.  She does tend to taste test a lot of the rocks so we have to keep a close eye on her, but she is certainly not afraid to get dirty.
Besides the passing storm our good weather has continued to hold on the trip.  Nighttime temps. are below freezing but the heater in the van seems to be keeping up, and the cold has triggered the beautiful yellow colors of the cottonwoods to make the stunning scenery even better.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Nine Mile Canyon

When we lived in Washington we took quite a few trips to Utah, almost always taking the same route.  Each time we passed through Salt Lake City, got off the interstate in Spanish Fork, and headed over the mountains on highway 6.  After passing through Price, Utah there is a turn off for Nine Mile Canyon, and each time we passed we thought "maybe next time" for a visit.  This trip we have the time, so we made the turn and went for a visit.
All we really knew is that the area was known for rock art, so we picked up a brochure to give us a little background, and headed for the only campground in the area.  Nine Mile Ranch Campground is a working cattle ranch, and this turned out to be a great perk for us.  After weeks of reading books to Madeline that featured farm animals, we were able to introduce her to the real thing, up close and personal.  The ranch has horses, cows, chickens, rabbits, a dog, and at least one cat.  While we were there they were doing a cattle round-up, so she also got to see real cowboys (and a cowgirl).  One of the cowboys was nice enough to stop for her and she got to pet the horse.
Once we left the ranch we spent the day exploring the rock art in the canyon.  There are probably hundreds of panels in the area, and we ended up seeing quite a few.  The brochure we picked up gives directions to find several of the more popular, but we found that driving slowly we spotted a lot of panels that were unmarked, some of them large with unusual figures.  There were several places to park and walk to see some of the panels, so we took the opportunity to pull out the kid carrier again and got some exercise as well.
Because the canyon is fairly remote, we decided to take our time and spent the whole day sight-seeing, and stayed a second night at the ranch.  The great weather that we have been experiencing on this trip held and we enjoyed two more days of sunshine and clear skies.

Thursday, October 31, 2013


Winchester Lake

On leaving Eastern Washington we headed east  on highway 12 into Idaho, stopping in Lewiston for a couple hours to hang out in their library and give Madeline a chance to stretch her legs.  Our idea for travel was to drive during nap time, with Madeline still on a two nap a day schedule we figured we could go for a couple hours each nap and average about four hours of travel per day.  The afternoon hours could be spent at libraries or parks so we all have a chance to get out of the van.  So far the concept has worked out, although many days we don't quite get four hours of driving.  I really don't mind the short travel times but with ten thousand miles to go this is turning into a very long trip.
City of Rocks
From Lewiston we turned south on highway 95 and made a short hop down to Winchester Lake State Park for the night.  This turned out to be a very nice stop, but the overnight temps. dropped into the twenties so we are being reminded that winter is slowly sneaking up on us, especially in the mountains.  The next day we continued on highway 95 following the rivers south.  We stopped at a rest area for the night, then drove highway 95 again until we reached the interstate.
Kid Carrier Hiking
As long as we were not in a hurry, we continued to avoid the interstate and took highway 30 east, referred to in one of our travel books as the thousand springs scenic byway.  It was a good choice, the springs were interesting and there was a nice rest area for some exercise and bird watching.  We stopped at a local park in Twin Falls for lunch, then took off again in the afternoon, ending our day in Oakley, Idaho.  We thought we could get showers at the campground in town, but all the water had already been shut off for the winter so we just spent the night and left early the next day.
Mini Hippy Chick
From there we went up into City of Rocks, one of our favorite rock climbing areas, and camped there.  The little town of Almo on the other side of the park did have showers available, so we got that chore out of the way as well.  We didn't bring climbing gear with us on this trip, but we did have climbing shoes so we spent some time bouldering in the area, as well as trying out our new kid carrier with a bit of hiking in the beautiful surroundings.  We decided if we were going to initiate Madeline into the world of rock climbing we needed to have her look the part, so out came the bandanas for an authentic outfit.  From City of Rocks we took back roads out of the park but finally broke down and hit the interstate to get us into Utah and on to the next state in out list.

Monday, October 21, 2013


Karen, Lowell, and Margaret

Our road trip is finally underway, and our first stop was Eastern Washington to visit family.  My dad's family is spread out across the country, so visiting them will be an on-going thing throughout our trip, but there are quite a few folks in Washington so we tried to see a decent percentage of them on our first pass through.  Hopefully we will have a chance to visit more as we come back this way.
Madeline and Charlie
Cousin Karen is located in Walla Walla (near the prison, but not in it, yet) which seemed pretty central to others in the area so we planned to camp there and make short hops to visit others.  Turns out when you have an adorable baby people come to you, so we didn't have to do as much driving as we thought and still got to visit a lot of folks while there.  Karen has a great black lab named Charlie, and Madeline loves dogs so she got to spend a bunch of time hanging out with her new doggie friend.  She hasn't quite got the word doggie down but saying "diddle-diddle" and pointing to the dog every time she saw Charlie was easy enough for even us to figure out.
Kurt and Deb with Madeline
Karen's dad, my uncle Lowell supposedly lives nearby in Dayton, but travels so much he is rarely home and we got lucky and had a chance to visit him our first night in Walla Walla before he was off to Seattle.  Who would have guessed it would be so hard to track down an 87 year old, but it seems we are not the only wanderers in the family.  Cousin Margaret also lives in Walla Walla and she joined us for dinner as well.
Aunt Mary Ann with Madeline
Karen's brother Kurt and his wife Deb live in Walla Walla as well, but Kurt drives truck so we thought we would miss seeing him, even though Deb did get a chance to come over for a visit one morning.  Turned out we got lucky and Kurt made it back in time for a quick visit on Saturday before we headed out.
Pat and Madeline at lunch
Next we headed over to Pomeroy for lunch with Aunt Mary Ann (confusingly also called Aunt Molly by about half the family).  Joining us for lunch was cousin Pat who also lives in Pomeroy and has taken over the family wheat farm nearby.  After a very enjoyable afternoon visiting, we raced back to Walla Walla for dinner with Karen, cousin Teresa and her daughter Molly, and Margaret.
Teresa, Madeline, and Molly
(with Douglas the sheep)
If you are confused at this point about our family tree, you are not alone.  Karen's mom Aggie and Mary Ann are sisters, my dad was their brother.  So the aunt/uncle thing is pretty clear, although there are more siblings that we will hopefully see later in this trip.  Karen, Margaret, Kurt, Pat, and Teresa, among many others, are my cousins.  Teresa's daughter Molly, or Karen's daughter Courtney make it a bit more confusing involving second cousins or cousins once removed, depending on if it is in relation to myself or my daughter Madeline.
I decided to give up and consider anyone below aunt/uncle to be a cousin.  Probably a good thing since Karen's daughter Courtney also has a daughter named Madeleine.