Sunday, July 31, 2011

Day Thirty-Seven: The Rose City

Today has been, so far, one of our more-successful days. We were able to sleep pretty well, without too much trouble from the train. After our hearty breakfast of coffee, pancakes and sausage, we decided to go into Portland for the day. We were able to get into the city, but once we got there, we got confused and I almost threw the GPS out the window. The first stop we were going to make was to the International Rose Test Garden, which is in the middle of Washington Park. It is a huge park, with a bunch of other parks, and the zoo, inside its boundaries. Apparently everyone else had the same idea as us. It seems to be working out that way for a lot of our stops here. There weren't any parking spots, so we drove around some more, and decided to fill up with gas, since we figured we'd have a lot more driving around to do. Once we did that, we continued to drive around some more, and found a parking spot at the Garden. We spent an hour or so there. Luckily, we came at the right time of year, because the roses were in bloom, although some of them looked a little dried out. It was really neat because from the road you could see Mt. Hood, the city skyline, and then all of the flowers. Although in the pictures, you can't really see the mountain.
After that, we decided to take a detour and look for the house from Twilight. We found it, alright, and drove up the drive-way before realizing that it was not a road. I don't know how they ended up filming there, because it didn't look like there was much room around, but it is an AWESOME house! We were able to get a picture of the deck...then we realized we shouldn't be there and left very quickly. (The house is on Quimby Street, which for Simpsons fans out there, is the street that Mayor Quimby is named after. There is also a NE Flanders St. and a Lovejoy St. Matt Groening is from Portland and named his characters after the streets. There is also a Burnside St. which we are thinking may be where Mr. Burns came from...)
After that, we headed to Voodoo Doughnuts, which is a doughnut place (obviously) out here that has its own cult following. They make a whole bunch of different, random doughnuts, and apparently that's where you should go when you're in the city (the lady from Canada, who made fun of us for making coffee in the morning, told us, too). So, we found it alright, but the line was literally out the door, down the street, and around the corner. Again, same idea as us. So, we decided to forgo that, and kept driving. Maybe we'll try again on our way out...
Our last excursion was to Roloff Farm, for mom. Before that, though, we took a small detour to Beaverton. Nike's World Headquarters are located here. There was a gate, so we couldn't go down it. From there, is was out to the farm. It is on the outskirts of the city, maybe about 10 miles away. From the street, all you could see is the house, and not the rest of the farm. It's closed until pumpkin season, so we could only do a drive-by. We got the pictures, so that's good. Maybe during pumpkin season, we can come back for a $300.00 family-member-led tour. There's not much in the town either. It's in the "agriculture area", so there are a bunch of farms around.
After we found our way out of Portland (rather easy, which was surprising), we headed back to the campground. Since it is Sunday, there is a whole new group of campers here. Our neighbor is one of them, and he is mighty interesting, to say the least. The first thing he pulled out of his car? A pair of antlers. He proceeded to put them into one of his tents after he set it up. I'm not even kidding. He also had two inflatable kayaks. Those didn't go in the tent. They just book-end it. Then he asked us if we knew how the weather was supposed to be. Wouldn't you check before going camping?! He is one of those people who walks around barefoot. I guess when it's really dusty, it doesn't matter anyway. But, he was nice enough to offer us a spare lantern. (He probably has three more in his van.) I don't know where he went, though, he kind of just disappeared...
From what we saw today, Portland is now high on our list of favorite cities. But, now it's off to bed, and Mt. Hood in the morning!

(I know we haven't put any pictures up in a while- We're trying our best! The internet connection at the campground isn't the best, and it's taking a while to get them all up!
Life Is A Highway- here are a few pictures, hopefully!!)

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Day Thirty-Six: Bridge Over Untroubled Water

Last night, we got a recommendation for breakfast at a place in Damascus called the Carver Cafe, so we headed out that way, after a night where the train didn't wake us up! Well, you can figure out why they recommend it, just by looking at all of the cars in the parking lot. And I guess since it was Saturday morning, it was probably even busier than usual. Well, we were hungry and didn't really feel like waiting for a table, so we ended up at our usual go-to, Starbucks. Not as exciting. Oh well. Maybe another time. On the way back, we passed a sign for a town named 'Boring'. Don't think I'd want to grow up living there...
After that, it was to Route 30 and the Oregon Historic Scenic Byway which is the Lewis and Clark Trail. A lot of people had the same idea as us. Again, probably because it's Saturday and the weather is gorgeous today. We stopped at Vista House. This was a building up on the cliffs, overlooking the Columbia River. There were a lot of people, there, too. (Mom, we did see a truck that said 'Roloff Construction'.) It was a look-out point. Along Highway 30, there are a bunch (5 or 6) different waterfalls along the way. The biggest one is Multnomah. (They actually filmed the falls in a few scenes from Twilight...) They are the second tallest all-year falls in the country. They are 620 feet high, which doesn't seem very tall, but they definitely are. There was a trail to the top, so we decided to take it. Man, that was a steep trail. They stretched it out over 1.5 miles, but parts of the trail were wicked steep. It was kind of funny watching the other people going up who decided, "Ehh... that's far enough," half way up. When we got to the end of the trail, there was a fork in the road, but the trail markers don't tell you where the two trails end up. So we decided to take the one that had more people (they couldn't all be wrong, could they?) and it was the right one. It led to a viewing deck, where you could look down onto the falls. You couldn't really see much of the falls, since the trees had grown over the water, but the view looking out and down were awesome. You could see Washington over the river. The way down was a lot easier than the way up. At the bottom, there where all kinds of gift shops and a small cafe. We went to the gift shop to get some postcards (which none of you are getting. :) and then we headed back to the car. There was another trail called the "Return Trail", hoping that it would take us back to the parking lot. Luckily, it did, and it was much better than walking on the road, which is what we did going there. It led us back to Wahkeena Falls, which was a smaller waterfall. There are quite a few in this area.
After we left the area, we decided to head back to camp for the night. We are trying out a few more grilling recipes, so hopefully we'll be successful! We are going to spend the evening updating, etc. We have tons of pictures that we are going to try to put up in the next few days. It might take us a while!

Friday, July 29, 2011

Day Thirty-Five: Oregon- Pacific Wonderland!

Last night was probably the best sleep we've had the entire trip. The kids next door were quiet (the moms threatened to take today's trip away from them) and it was actually warm out, so it was quite comfortable! We slept through our alarm, which turned out to not be a bad thing. We packed up and headed to our next stop, which was Cascade Locks. We got a little turned around, like usual (probably tired of reading about that and think, "What's the point of the GPS if you don't follow the directions?" We do. Or at least, try to...) So, after taking an hour or so longer, we got to Portland, Oregon. First impressions: it doesn't seem that there is as much 'city' as 'outside sprawl'. We did learn, though, that Oregon gas stations are not self-serve. The lady was kind of rude about it. Even though she clearly saw we were from out-of-state, as she grilled our license plate, and then came to help. Also, we are getting back to where it is warm. It was around 80 at 4:00 this afternoon. We have to re-acclimate!! Anyway, we kept driving out to our campground and in the distance, you can see Mt. Hood, which is Oregon's highest point. We are staying about 30 minutes from Portland, along the Columbia River. I sure hope the girls next to us invite us over for some drinks! They have an entire bar out there. But I hope that whoever is lucky enough to have the hammock doesn't roll out tonight. That would hurt. Since we got here pretty early, we were able to set up (in record time, probably) and make dinner. Tonight was Baja Citrus shrimp. It was delicious! We're getting good with the grill. And dessert, too- grilled pineapple. So, now we are going to plan the next few days out in Portland and the surrounding areas. (And Sarah, Oregon is up there, too, on our list of places, not just Washington! ;0) ) And, of course, this campground is also next to a railroad track. They have so many out here, I guess it has to be near something. And the bats. I hope they don't get me tonight. Robyn is being a jerk about them. Someone may end up in the car tonight...And then there go the dogs...

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Day Thirty-Four: Darn Elusive Troll

Today started off pretty early because we had a few out-of-the-way stops planned. We made breakfast and packed up (probably the best yet). The lady in the bathroom made fun of us for making coffee. She can go back to Canada. After two hours, we were ready to go. Our first stop was the Fremont Troll on the way back through Seattle towards Mt. St. Helens. We had that troll's address in our GPS and were ready to find it. We must be the only ones who can't find it. We looked up, we looked down, we looked all around. Who knew it would be so hard to find a 13,000 pound, 18 foot high concrete sculpture? Turns out, it is for us. We ended up driving above it on the Aurora Street Bridge. Arg. Maybe one day we will find that elusive troll...
After that fail, it was off to Mt. St. Helens. It was about 2 hours away from Seattle. The drive there was pretty uneventful. We were getting bored and played I-Spy. It isn't easy when things fly by you and by the time the other one is ready to guess, it's long gone. We got through that and made it to the monument. It's part of the larger Gifford Pinchot National Forest. We kept thinking we were "there" but it was about 8 miles from the first "Welcome to" sign to the observatory and visitors' center. Once we got to the top, or bottom, since you had to go up, and then way down again, it was so cool! You could see where the top of the mountain blew off in the 1980 eruption. And another cool thing is that it has a glacier right in the middle of that crater. We also saw, with the help of a friendly volunteer, a herd of elk in the distance. There really is nothing in the immediate area of the volcano except for a lone tree and rocks. Lots of rocks. Farther out, you can see some of the trees that are still left from before the eruption. They are basically stumps, but they look really neat. They have all sorts of jagged edges where the rocks and debris hit. Since there are all kinds of ridges around, on some of them, one side is empty and the other is filled with trees. Some of the areas have been replanted since with different fir trees. Hopefully there won't be another eruption so they can harvest all of those trees.
We decided earlier that we wanted to take the scenic way to Oregon, which includes the 4.1 mile bridge over the mouth of the Columbia River between Astoria, Oregon and Point Ellice, Washington. It was the final link in creating the Mexico-to-Canada Highway, or the Pacific Coast Highway. In order to get there, we had a small 2 hour detour through Washington. (The other way would have had us cross into Oregon earlier and drive through to the campground.) The views from the bridge were awesome! The sun was trying to peek through the clouds onto the water. All you could see on either side was water. Pretty neat. We finally got to the campground around 7:30 and set up. Of all of the places in this huge campground, we would of course be next to the loudest kids. And the dog park. Hopefully they'll go to sleep early tonight...

States Visited: Connecticut, Idaho,Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, New York, Oregon, South Dakota, Washington, Wisconsin, Wyoming (14/50)

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Day Thirty-Three: If A Tree Falls in the Forest...

... and it lands on someone, will they hear you yelling?
We decided to take a day trip out to North Cascades National Park today. After a very full day yesterday, we took our time getting ready this morning. We made some eggs and toast for breakfast, so the delay was definitely worth it. After leaving around 10, the GPS said that it was 50 miles away, but would take 2 hours. Well, the 2 hour part was right, not the 50 miles. It was about 100 miles away, but well worth the time. There wasn't much to see on the way out to the park, but once we got there, the sights were awesome. This state keeps getting better and better! The Cascades are named for all of the waterfalls that the park has. And the waterfalls come from the melting glaciers. The park has the largest number of glaciers in the United States, outside of Alaska. I guess after our slightly disappointing trip to Glacier National Park, we have been able to see more than our fair share of glaciers. The lakes were crystal clear and reflected the mountains above it. We have a book that is all about different road trips to take, and one mentions the park. We decided to follow the suggestion and take a hike on one of the trails. We followed the directions that the book gave, along with the map of the park, and came to a trailhead. We figured that the two sources were talking about the same trail (since the book didn't actually have a name to go by). Still not sure if they are. But the one we took led us through a curvy climb up to the top. The view at the top was magnificent. It was absolutely breathtaking. We took tons of pictures, but I'm pretty sure they won't do it justice. There was an area where all you heard were the trees creaking (hence, the title) and were leaning against each other. We were afraid that with one good gust, one was going to come down. Luckily, it didn't. We also saw a woodpecker, working at a tree. We were able to watch it for a few minutes, but then he flew away. It was surprisingly loud as it flew by. This is another place that has to be seen first-hand to be appreciated. They all kind of start looking the same, but each park is distinct in its own way.
After that, we decided to stop at Walmart to pick up some things. There were more Canadians there than Americans. That's one thing we have on them. We read a statistic that a pound of butter costs us $3.00 but it costs them $5.00. I'm sure they didn't have a problem crossing back. It wouldn't bother me so much, except the ladies behind us started to complain about something trivial. If you don't like it, go back home. Don't get me wrong, I'm not against foreigners, obviously, but go with the flow and try to fit in.
As I'm writing this, the family playing beach ball volleyball is quite comical. The older brother is getting frustrated, very frustrated, at the little sister. Sounds familiar!)
So, now that it is getting late, it's time to start dinner. Tonight's dinner is spicy Southwestern nachos and turtle s'mores for dessert!! Yum!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Day Thirty-Two: Random, My Tush!!

Today started out on a good note. We made blueberry French toast on the grill. It was delish! I was a little taken aback when I was making my coffee in the bathroom and some lady goes, "Oh, I love advanced camping." We're the only ones in a tent in the entire campground. Let's talk about advanced...At around 9:00, we left to go to Vancouver. This is where the fun begins!! We get to the Border Crossing, and give the girl at the desk our Passports. Now, remind you, we have only been out of the country one other time, and that was at the beginning of this trip, on the other side of the country. So, the girl looks at the Passports, looks at us, and then starts asking questions. She asks us how long we'll be in Canada, where we are staying, what we are doing, why are we visiting, etc. So, we answer honestly, because we know we'll crack under pressure. Then, she asks us again where we are staying, and we tell her that we're camping in Washington. Her reply, "Camping? With suitcases?" "Yes, we are on a cross-country trip." She gives us this skeptial look. "Ok, um, park your car and take this with your Id's into the office." Excellent. So, we go in, and since it's chillier up here, we were shaking, and with nerves (won't lie). I don't really want to be stuck in Canada. So, we head in and the guy tells us, "We randomly select people to do background checks." Random, I'm sure. That's why you chose us and the old couple that was in there before. I get that our plans may not make sense, but we're innocent, I swear! So, another guy asks us what we do for a living and we reply that we are teachers. And if we've lived in any state otehr than Connecticut. We haven't lived in any town other than Monroe... Long story short, they are skeptical of us, but see that our background check is clear and they let us go. At least we had our Passports with us, unlike Annie and Tyler on their trip!!
So, it's a good start to a country we're already not-very-fond of. We head off to Vancouver. There's not much between here and there. You first head into West Vancouver, and it is kind of a lead-in into the city. We drove around for a little bit, saw their stadiums and stores, and then went to Stanley Park. It is a huge park with everything in it. There is a 5.5 mile seawall, which is just a path for walkers, runners, and bike riders. We walked along it, which took about 3 hours. A lot of it travels along the water, which is really nice to see, but the beaches are pretty rocky and have driftwood all over the place. We also saw "Legends of the Moon", which is an area with about 10 totem poles. They advertise it like it's a big deal, and don't get me wrong, they are amazing to see, but none of them were originals. It was a little disappointing. The plaques all said "recreation" or "replica". There are also a ton of blue herrons there. The park has a blue herron sanctuary, so they pretty much get free reign there. We also saw real Canadian geese, not the Canadian geese in Stanley Park in New Britain. They pretty much all look the same. You can see the boats coming in and out of the harbor and there was a Disney cruise ship docked. They also have a rhodedenran garden, lawn bowling, and golfing there, too. They have a lot there, but you also have to be part f the Yacht Club to do a lot of it, I think.
After that, it was still pretty early, so we decided to head to Whistler, to see what was there. We were planning on doing that tomorrow, but since they gave us such a hard time today, we decided to just get it all done in one day. On the way, we decided to stop at the Capilsano Suspension Bridge. It was ironic because we got a text from Mom this morning saying how Rachael Ray went to this sketchy looking bridge to tape "$40.00 a Day". This was the bridge. Let's just say that this was the biggest tourist trap (aka 'TT') ever, and she definitely didn't pay to do it, because she would have had very little left over for her food. After paying $5.00 for parking, and contemplating over spending the $60.00 (with the discount), we decided to fork it over and go for it. It was definitely interesting. ALl of the kids that worked there were dressed in "period" costumes. There was even a Tom Haggerty look-a-like! There was an area there "dedicated" to the Native American tribes in the area. The park claims that they want to preserve the heritage of the tribes, but then build this monstrousity around and through it. They have this thing called the "Cliffwalk", which is basically a sturdier bridge, but takes you along the side of the canyon, instead of across, like the bridge. It was interesting, but there were too many people around to really enjoy it. So, we finished with that and headed over to the bridge itself. Now, even before going on the bridge, you can tell that they planned on it being touristy. They have their information plaques about the bridge, and unlike everything else in Canada, they had American measurements first, and then metric. They also compared the height to the Statue of Liberty, not something in their own country (it would come up to her shoulders and is as long as two 747's wing to wing). However, I'm pretty sure we were the only Americans around. Or, at least the only ones who spoke American English (I know there's no difference, but you can definitely tell who's who. Eh?) They can take claim to all the rude people who don't know how to follow directions.When the people in charge have to remind you not to run or purposely shake the bridge, follow their instructions. We couldn't get any good pictures because everyone else was in the way. Anyway, enough ranting. Once you get across the bridge, they have this other area they call "Treetop Adventures", which is basically a bunch of boardwalks and decks throughout the forest. We took that and got stuck behind a bunch of teenage girls on a lacrosse team, who, along with their parents, took up the entire walkway. We were able to get by them. Another sign of it being a TT- the fact that it was built to preserve nature, but there was so much garbage around, and there was an area where people apparently thought it would be a good idea to throw loose change. Not into the water, but onto a tree stump. We saw at least three people do it. I'll take your money, if you want to throw it out. We continued on and saw "Raptor's Ridge". The lacrosse team was there, so we kept going, but were able to see an owl and another bird of some sort. It was cool to see him turn his head all the way. After a painstaking hour or so, we were done with the park. Not even the employees looked very happy to be there. So, in other words, the bridge is awesome to walk across, but not worth the amount they charge.
We continued on to Whistler after that, since it was only 5:00. It takes about two hours to get there from Vancouver. It was a beautiful drive. We drove along Highways 1 and 99, which go right along the water. Highway 99 is known as the Sea to Sky highway, so you can imagine the views. It was a little cloudy on the way up, but the way down, it seemed to clear up a little bit. We had a brochure that listed places to stop at between the two points, so we planned to stop at a few of them. The first one, Shannon Falls, is a waterfall (surprise), but you can see it from the road, so we didn't stop. The next one was a look-out, but we missed it. The third was Brandywine Falls, which was another set of waterfalls. It was a .75 mile trail to a lookout over the falls. Luckily, it wasn't very long, but we had to cross over a railroad track to get there. This point is a pretty cool spot for pictures, because all you see in the clearing is the track. It was a pretty big and pretty, so we took a few pictures and then left. We continued on to Whistler, which is pretty much what you would expect from a ski town. Even the street names. The main road is called Lake Placid Drive. And you could tell that the people there had money. Since the sun started to peep through, we were able to see the mountain, along with the Olympic rings they have near the end of the slope. It didn't seem like there was much to do there, so we turned around. We decided to follow the signs for the Olympic Stadium, which was another 6 miles from the town. There was nothing to see, except for the mountain. When we got to the end, the gates were closed, so we weren't able to see anything, anyway. We probably should have figured that, seeing as when we were in Lake Placid, all of their stadiums were locked, too.
So, we turned around and headed back to the US. It took about another two hours to get to the border. It was 10:00, and we were afraid that it was going to be another challenge. Luckily, the gaurd was super friendly and had no problems with letting us back into the country. He told us that it would be a good state to move to, too, except that they are having budget issues too. Who isn't?! So, we drove on, back on our home soil, and arrived back to our spot at 10:30 and now it is way passed bedtime!

Provinces Visited: British Columbia, Ontario (2/10)

Monday, July 25, 2011

Day Thirty-One: A Month Already?!

I can't believe it's already been a month. It's going by so fast, but still tons of fun! We are looking forward to the next part of our trip, which would be down the West Coast. Like I said yesterday, we're in Vancouver (area) for the next few days, then it'll be down to Portland for a few more, and then to California.
Our day started as a typical Washington day. It rained this morning for a little. Oh, well. It's to be expected! Since it was a Monday morning, and it's only 2 hours between stops, we were able to start a little later, so we didn't have to travel through rush hour. We wanted to stop and see the Freemont Troll under the bridge, but missed the exit. We drove around and tried, but couldn't find it. Who knew it would be so difficult to find a giant sculpture?! We decided try again on the way out of Washington on Thursday. Hopefully we won't miss it this time!!
We got to our campsite in the early afternoon. It is in a town named Lynden. It's about 20 minutes, if that, to the Canadian border. That will be tomorrow's trip! We set up our area and it looks very home-y now. Everyone here is from Canada- I'm pretty sure we're the only Americans here. Actually, there might be two cars from Washington. We spent a few hours planning our stops in Oregon, which should be fun! Other than that, there's not much from today.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Day Thirty: A Little Break

Today was another little "break" for us. It was absolutely gorgeous out today! We had sunny skies and a high around 80. We spent the day planning for our trip to Vancouver this week. Thanks to Sarah, we decided to go north, instead of south to Portland. She said it was supposed to be Canada's best city. We shall see. We're staying there for a few days. We're not still quite sure of exactly where we'll go, but that's the fun of it! We have a few ideas, so we'll see.We are planing on staying at a campground in Washington, but it's only a few miles away from the border. We were able to refill our camping supplies, and so now we're all set for a few days!

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Day Twenty-Nine: Oh My Gosh! That was AMAZING!

We were fortunate enough to be able to start our day a little later today, since we didn't have to leave the hotel until 9:30.We were going to clean the room up a little before breakfast, but decided not to. After a nice breakfast, we went back to the room to get ready to go. With our Hudak Luck, the key didn't work. We went back to the front desk to let them know, and she reprogrammed it. Went back to the room- it still didn't work. Went back to the front desk and she came to check it out. Turns our that none of her keys worked and the battery in the lock died. Of course it happened on the one day that we had something amazing plans. She called the guy to come fix it- "It'll be about 5 minutes". Luckily, we were able to pass the time chatting with Annie, who was waiting too! (I hope they all came back to get you!!) We were able to get back in the room, picked up a little, and then left for Anacortes. Anacortes is where we picked up the ferry to go to the islands. It is about an hour and a half drive from our hotel. Once you pass the Seattle vicinity, the state goes back to being farmland. Anacortes is a small little area that lies on the water. It is such a cute little town! We got to the ferry in time for our boat, with some time to look around. Not too much around the ferry, a few stores and such, but that was it.
We got on the boat and decided to sit outside since it was such a gorgeous day! It was very breezy though, so it was a good thing we over-dressed! It takes about an hour to get from Anacortes to Friday Harbor, on San Juan Islands. The ride was absolutely breathtaking! The water was so clear, the sun was out, and so were the mountains (finally!) It was fun to see all the different boats on the water. We spent a few minutes posing, obviously tourists! When we got to Friday Harbor, we went to pick up our tickets for our trip. The lady in the shop said it was excellent day to go on the tour. It's a good thing I paid for them early, because then we wouldn't have been able to go. We had three choices for which tour we went on, but we made the best choice. We had about 45 minutes until we had to load the boat, so we walked around the area. It is a very touristy area.
We stopped for a snack and then loaded the boat. The boat was called the Western Prince. It was supposed to be a full boat, but I don't think it was, which was good. There were five or six small groups on the tour. After listening to all the necessary information, we left at 2:00. Since it was such a nice day, there were a TON of boats in the water. This changed our course a little, since a lot of them were looking for the whales too. So, we took the long way around. We saw a bunch of different animals. The type we saw was a group of harbor seals. They were soo cute! They were sunbathing on the rocks with the seagulls. There were some that swam right near the boat, checking it out. There were quite a few of them around. (They're probably my new favorite sea animal!) We also saw a sea lion. This thing was ginormous!! It was sitting on the edge of the rock, all by itself, and then jumped into the water. It tried to get back on the rock, but was having a hard time (I know how he feels sometimes...) He finally made it, and we continued on. We were also able to see a handful of bald eagles in the tree tops. Apparently they eat seagulls and leave the beaks. The Captain said that his friend has a pile of them in his yard. Kind of gross, but must be kind of cool to see! There were supposedly two babies, but they were difficult to see.
The last animal we saw, and the reason we went on the tour, were the Orca whales. It was so amazing! They are called killer whales, but they won't attack people. They only eat salmon. (Everything up here eats salmon...) They are also not whales, they're dolphins. There were many other tour boats in the area with us. Anyway, we saw about 8 different whales. Most of the time, all you could see were their fins, but it was so neat to see three or four fins up in the air at the same time. A few of them actually jumped out of the water! A few did cartwheels and somersaults (or at least that's what the Naturalist on board called them). We were able to drive alongside the pods, and when they stopped, we stopped. There was one point in which we stopped and just sat there. We lost track of the whale we were following, and then all of a sudden he popped up and was about 100 yards from us. It was awesome. The Captain wasn't happy because he was too close (people are supposed to stay 200 feet away from them). There wasn't much he could do, so we started up again and followed him. A few minutes later, we stopped again, and the Captain dropped the hydrophone so we could hear what was going on under the water. you could hear all of the noises they were making, and there was one whale that sounded really close. He was. He popped back up and was only 20 feet or so from the boat! We couldn't start up again, since it was so close, so we waited it out. It was so cool to see a whale so close! He came up a few more times. After that excitement, it was time to head back to the dock. The trip back was so much quicker, but then again, it was already 5:00. The trip was about 3 hours, but they went by so fast! The whole tour was absolutely amazing and totally worth it. I would recommend it to anyone! As long as you go at the right time!
We had a few more minutes till the ferry came back, so we grabbed another snack. We were going to stay to have dinner somewhere on the island, but didn't think we'd finish in time to make it back to the ferry. We got on board for the ride back. I think this was the only time that the ride back took longer on the way back. When we finally got back to Anacortes, we got back to the car (it was still there!) and headed out. We were nervous that with all the people on board it would take a long time to get out, but it didn't. We were getting hungry, so we were looking for somewhere to stop. Apparently everything out there closes early, since nothing was open. We drove back to the hotel and were going to stop at a few places, but they were closed too. We finally stopped at McDonald's for some coffee, which was disappointing, because it wasn't what we wanted to do. We got back to the hotel at 10:30. There were a bunch of military people in the lobby. They are having the McChord Air Rodeo this weekend. I'm not sure what it is, but they were all gone this morning. With that, we went to bed and slept very well.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Day Twenty-Eight: Super Sunny Seattle

We woke up today to no fog or clouds- just sun! Summer has come around this weekend. It is supposed to be absolutely gorgeous the next few days. Can't complain when it's 30 degrees cooler than at home. Don't worry, we are totally aware that we can't run from the heat on the rest of our trip, which would just bring us back here, hopefully! Alright, enough of the bragging....
We did the touristy thing today. We headed out to Seattle Center. Now, when you think Seattle "Center", this is not really what you would picture. There was a huge park in the middle, with a bunch of building on the outside. This is where the Space Needle is, and that is where we started today. A little history of the Needle: It was built for the 1962 World's Fair, a 1.5 horsepower motor turns the restaurant, it takes 43 seconds to get to the top (not counting the line you have to wait in!), and it was originally painted 4 colors (astronaut white, orbital olive, reentry red, galaxy gold; it was repainted because people thought it was tacky) (I learned that in school this year, too!)
Enough of that. Luckily, we were early enough that we didn't have to wait in line very long. The line looked daunting, but we decided to go earlier than later. You wait in line just to wait in another. We finally got in line for the elevator and up we went. There are a few cafes and exhibits in the inside of the top. We took a lap around there, just to look around. Nothing too exciting. We went outside on the observation deck and it was amazing. We chose to go today because we knew it would be clear and we would be able to see a lot. We looked out to Puget Sound and all of the ferries coming in and out. You could see the Seattle Skyline, which is nice because there aren't as many high-rises as other cities. If you look at most pictures in magazines of the skyline, you can see Mt. Rainier in the distance. Well, I think the giant 14,000 foot volcano is trying to hide from the two of us. We went yesterday, couldn't see it. Went today, still couldn't see it. Who knew! Pretty sure we saw the outline of it, but it was definitely not as dominant as it is supposed to be. Boo. But you could see all of Lake Union out in front of you. This is where the houseboats dock, including the one used in the filming of Sleepless in Seattle. It is a gorgeous city from above. And not too bad from ground level, either, with all of the water around the city.
After our Space Needle tour, we walked around the sculpture park that surrounds the area. Then we stopped to get lunch and eat in the sunny park. You could tell that summer's finally arriving here because everyone was out and about. After lunch, we stopped at the flower beds to get some great shots of the roses there. We continued walking around the area, to the Experience Music Project + Sci-Fi Museum. (Erik, when you come to visit, we'll have to go there. You're the only one I know that would be interested in a sci-fi museum!) The buildings are awesome. Definitely some very cool architecture. The monorail even goes through part of it!
Alright, time to figure out where we are going next week. Vancouver or Portland... hmmm... Any suggestions?

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Day Twenty-Seven, Part 2: Mt. Rainier...or Mt. Rain-i-er??

We went to Mt. Rainier today. A few interesting facts, since apparently we are all about the trivia today! It is the fifth-oldest National Park, is both a volcano and has glaciers, and the youngest person to climb to the summit was only 13 (it was a girl. Just saying.). As we were driving, it was kind of cloudy, so it made it difficult to see the peak. We figured that was pretty much our luck for the parks we've visited so far. We left around 10:00. There's not really too much in between here and there, except for a few towns. There was one stretch of road in which the stoplights don't flow nicely, and it took quite a while to get through that strip. We finally did, and got to the area surrounding the park. There are signs that say that gas is unavailable in the park, and since we didn't think we would be driving around the park a lot, we decided not to stop. We kept going and got to the park at around 12:00 and spent a few minutes looking at the map. We were trying to figure out how far it was in between the points of interest. Since we didn't stop to get gas, we didn't want to get too far in the park and get stuck. We agreed on driving a little farther into the park and taking a trail or two. The first trail we took was around a mile long. It was nice and easy, with a slight uphill. A lot of the walk looked like all of the other parks we've been to, especially the ones out here. So, after deciding to take the date off my pictures, they are all going to look the same and be hard to remember which is which. We kept walking and taking pictures, and finally we came to another trail-head. This one was called Carter Falls Trail-head. Since we've seen a whole bunch of other falls, we decided to take this trail. It was so much cooler than the other one. In order to get to the other side of the trail, we had to cross a bed of rock, and a bridge made from a huge log. The rocks were strewn about because of the glaciers melting and depositing them wherever. It was amazing to see that many rocks in the same area. You can see it in the pictures. It's neat, I promise!
As Robyn said, this state is so cool because around every turn there is something else that amazes you. We trekked through the rocks and along the bridge, and up the hill to the second part of the trail. This one was a 500 ft. hill. With rocks and roots to add to the fun! The first trail took about 30 minutes to complete. This one took an hour and 30 minutes. We also stopped a ton of times for pictures, but this one was obviously a little harder to do. We also saw a ton more people on this trail. We almost got stuck behind the group of old people, but shimmied our way around them. We finally got to the top and were able to see the Falls. They weren't necessarily the best we've seen on the trip, but they were pretty cool. It was neat to see how the water affects the rocks and everything around it.
Our way back was much quicker. It seems that the way back is always quicker. Granted, this was all downhill and there were parts that we ended up running down because we couldn't slow ourselves down. There were two older ladies who snuck up behind us and were running down the trail. They had their hiking sticks and boots on, so they looked a little silly. We lost sight of them, but when we got back to the clearing, there they were, taking a break. Robyn and I had to laugh because we ended up passing them anyway. (Isn't it awkward when someone passes you and then you end up passing them back? I find it awkward when it happens to me. Just wondering...) Our walk back only took an hour or so for the entire trail.
The reason why we chose this title was because our drive out there got us thinking. As we were driving, there were signs with directions (obviously), and it spelled like rainier (weather-wise). We walked through clouds, sun, and then the much-expected rain. So, we were wondering how it was originally said. Just a side note.
We had enough gas to make it out of the park, but it was a little iffy. People here don't know how to drive the speed limit. They either go too fast or too slow. We got stuck behind the slow person. We made it to the only gas station in the area. It was the sketchiest, strangest gas station we've been to yet. It seemed to have been stuck in the 60's. It probably was. I think that's when they stopped selling gas in the park, so it would make sense! After 5 minutes of Robyn fighting with the pump to start it, all of a sudden there is this rumbling. I thought the car was going to blow up, but apparently that's just the noise the pump makes when it's on. It was also $4.09 per gallon, which is, by far, the most we've paid all trip. I would think that with their position to the park, they do pretty well for themselves.
On our way back to the hotel, we stopped for a late lunch at the Time Out Ale House, across the street. After the long walk today (I find walking more-tiring, and harder sometimes, than running), we monstered through the meal, and the pitcher of beer. Even the waiter said we did a good job! It is now 8:00 here and we are going to watch a few movies before bed. We are planning on heading back into Seattle tomorrow and doing the touristy thing. Very exciting! Until later!

Life is a Highway (Even More Washington Pictures)

Day Twenty-Seven: Part 1 (Update from Yesterday)

We left the hotel rather early (or so we thought) because we knew that there would be rush-hour traffic, game traffic, and Katy Perry had a concert in the city last night, too. Put it all together, and it sounds like it would be a mess Fortunately, getting there wasn't nearly as bad as we thought. However, we ended up taking a wrong turn and drove farther into the city than we wanted. Luckily, we were able to find a parking garage and were able to walk. There were so many people in the streets, and I don't know if I've ever seen that many soccer fans just walking down the street! It was kind of far, but we figured if we followed the crowd, we'd be OK. And we were. I picked up the tickets, and the guy was like, "Oh, you're far from home." Yes, yes we are! We ended up walking around the entire stadium, but found our seats. Apparently our tickets we "All-Inclusive", according to the usher. We ended up sitting with all of the season ticket holders. Pretty sure they weren't the same tickets I bought on-line (according to that, we were supposed to be in row N, we were in A...oh well, not complaining, and no one kicked us out!)
As for the game, it was very exciting. They did two presentations at the beginning of the game, and then rolled out the red carpet for the players (no lie!) We also found a devil mascot that might be worse than the Central Blue Devil. We were a little disappointed when Manchester United wasn't wearing their red uniforms, but we got over it. At least they weren't the bright yellow the Seattle Sounders were wearing! You would think that with uniforms that bright, it would be impossible to pass the ball to the wrong team! The first half of the game was pretty good. Michael Owen and Man U scored once, but it was an even game. During half-time, they had the "necessary" challenges. The people who were out there weren't very good. Then they brought out the Champions Cup and paraded that around for a few minutes. The second half was a different story. Wayne Rooney came in for Man U and Seattle took Kasey Keller out of goal and that was pretty much the end of the game. Seattle left Rooney open too much and he scored three goals and assisted another. We told ourselves that we would leave either at 8 goals or 85 minutes. We left at 7 goals and 88 minutes. We didn't miss anything! Luckily, after realizing that we weren't really sure where we parked, and the ticket didn't have an address on it, we were able to retrace our steps and made it back to the car. We drove around the city, to avoid the nasty hills, and were back on the highway, back to the hotel. We got back around 10:00, which was definitely earlier than I would have thought.
Now, it's time to head out for the day. We are planning on heading out to Mt. Rainier and taking a look at that. Pretty exciting! Hope everyone at home is staying cool and hydrated. Hate to brag, but it's about 60 here and cloudy.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Day Twenty-Six: Hello Seattle!

We started early today, after a group of people went yelling up and down the hallways at 2:00 this morning. We spent the day in Seattle today. It has become one of our favorite cities, and we didn't even see it all yet! Our first stop was Pike Place Market. It is an amazing market. Everything you can possibly need, or want, is sold there. It is huge! We walked up and down a few times because we got confused as to where we had been/where we were going. Luckily, there were quite a few other tourists too! We stopped at the World's First Starbucks. It was crazy in there. We also passed at least five others on our walking tour today, including the one right across the street from the market. We didn't see any fish-throwing, though. They don't like doing it because "they wipe customers out"! But the seafood there looked very good. I wish we had some place to cook some. I guess it'll have to be dinner one night.
After about an hour-and-a-half of walking in circles, we decided to cross the street and walk along the waterfront. When you look directly across the Puget Sound, it is really pretty. When you look to the sides, you can tell it's a working port. There were oil rigs (I think. They were talking about oil rigs being in the way on the news) and a lot of buildings. You can't really see the buildings until you're on I-5 though. The other side looked to be more residential, or at least, a little "quieter". We passed the Seattle Fire Department, which has two boats in it's fleet, and the Seattle Aquarium.
We spent a few more hours in the city and then decided to head back to the hotel for a break. We are going to the Seattle Sounders game versus Manchester United tonight! We're very excited about it! Luckily we have the camera to take pictures from the Jumbotron because our seats are so far away! Good thing it falls just under the "professional" lens length! As we were walking around, there were quite a few Manchester fans walking around, and surprisingly, not as many Seattle fans! We'll update after the game!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Day Twenty-Five: A Day Off

Today was a laid-back kind of day. After camping for a week or so, it was time for a hotel. A bed and clean laundry are always nice! Their free 24-hour coffee also helps! We are staying in Federal Way, which is about 35 minutes south of Seattle. The hotel is across the street from the fanciest Wal-Mart we've seen. It has a drive-through pharmacy! It's a pretty good position for Seattle, Olympia, and Mt. Rainier, all of which we plan on doing this week. We didn't do too much today. We did figure out how we are going to spend most of our time here, though. We planned some exciting tours, too! (Don't want to give too much away!) Other than that, not too much for today. We are going to Seattle tomorrow and spending the day there. Until later.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Day Twenty-Four: I Think I'll Move Here...

We packed up our campsite (it's getting so much easier!) and were off around 8 this morning. We HAD to stop at the Olympic Bagel place one more time before we left, since they were so good the first time. After breakfast, we headed out to Hurricane Ridge in Olympic. I'm telling you, this park is absolutely amazing! After spending a few days in Yellowstone, I didn't think national parks could get any cooler, but they can! I think Olympic NP has been my favorite stop so far. It is spectacular. Yesterday we were in the rain forest, the day before in the old-growth forests and beaches, and today, in the sub-alpine meadows and snow! How cool is that? Hurricane Ridge is about 15 miles from Port Angeles. The road to the visitor's center takes you past some breathtaking views. The first 5 miles or so today were clear and kind of just tree-covered. The next 7 miles were covered in a deep fog. It was kind of scary only being able to see about a car's length in front, but luckily there weren't too many other cars on the road yet (or that I could see!). We stopped on the way up at a few pull-offs to try to look out, but the fog was so thick that you could only really see just the tops of the trees below you. The rest of the way up the road was clearer. You can see where the winter snows are still melting and the awesome waterfalls that it has created. It's pretty cool that you can stand in snow up to your shins in the middle of July, wearing shorts! Once we got up to the top, we stopped at the visitor's center. They have all your normal touristy things there (better than the one at Hoh yesterday, though) and a bunch of Native American art. I love looking at their art and seeing the intricate beadwork and basket weaving that they do. (Definitely not "Basket Weaving 101 for Jocks!) From the top, you can see out to Mount Olympus. It is the 3rd largest glacial area in the continental US. We were going to hike the trails around the center but they were covered in some pretty deep snow. So we decided to forgo the trails and just walk were there wasn't any snow. It's too bad that it was a foggy morning, though. The top wasn't as bad as the middle, but it was still pretty heavy. On clear days, you can see out to Canada!
The animals at the top must know that they rule the area and that people aren't allowed to bother them (even though there were some very amusing signs posted telling you not to feed them). There were at least 10 deer hanging out in the meadows. Some of them were grazing and some of them were laying down. We saw 2 fawns under a tree and one of the deer came about 4 feet from us. Didn't flinch or run or anything, which was pretty cool. They would never get that close at home.
After a few hours at the top, we decided that we should get going to head out to the Seattle/Olympia area. We had to follow 101 back to the other side of the peninsula. At one point, we were stopped for road work. We had a great time making fun of/feeling bad for the guy with the slow/stop sign. He had some great stretching moves and facial expressions! We were going to offer him a snack, but he was kind of far away and he had his lunch box next to him. I think he was all set. The rest of the trip to Olympia wasn't bad, but man, driving on I-5 was a little nerve-wracking. They drive kind of crazy out here. Will definitely have to get used to that! We are staying about half way between Seattle and Olympia in a city called Federal Way. (It is definitely a city in Washington standards- 89,000. Forks is a "city" with 3,000 and Port Angeles with 19,000. So I guess we can call this one a city too.) Apparently Apolo Ohno is from here. Who knew??
We expect to explore Seattle tomorrow. Maybe catch some flying fish at Pike's Place? Or at least some good coffee.
(And we saw our final license plate today. Wouldn't have thought that it would take all this time to see a Delaware one!)

Life is a Highway (Washington Pictures)

States Visited: Connecticut, Idaho,Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, New York, South Dakota, Washington, Wisconsin, Wyoming (13/50)
Provinces Visited: Ontario (1/10)
License Plates Seen: All 50 States!
Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Ontario, Quebec, Saskatchewan (8/10)

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Day Twenty-Three: 'Hoh' My Goodness!

If a tree falls in the forest, and no one is around to hear it, does it make any noise?! We spent today at Olympic National Park. We walked around the Hoh Rain Forest. It is amazing! Who knew there was (not one, but three) rain forests in the US?! We walked the "Hall of Moses" trail. It's a 3/4 mile long trail with a whole bunch of mosses hanging off of everything! The visitor's center and pay phone outside were covered in it! It's kind of a long drive, about 15 miles, off of Highway 101 (especially when there are no bathrooms around). When you think about it, there isn't much to do, really, except to gawk at your surroundings. They get around 142" of rain a year, which is why it's covered in green. There are also huge trees there. The Sitka spruces there can grow over 270 feet tall, be over 12.5 feet wide, and are up to 500-550 years old. We took a picture of one that fell, that was as wide on it's side as our shoulders. There was also one that was like 192 feet tall when it fell, but they have to cut them up so you can walk on the path. Then, over the years, other seedlings and trees grow out of the ones on the ground. They have a exhibit in the Visitor's Center that compares the spruce trees here to those in Alaska and the difference is amazing. The trees here are at least twice the size as the Alaskan ones. The area gets so much rain because of it's location between the Pacific Ocean and the Olympic Mountains. Of course, we got to the rain forest on the one day that it doesn't rain!After that, we went back to the camp to settle in for the night. It started to rain again. The rain isn't really too bad. It is a little chilly today, but apparently their summer hasn't arrived yet. It's kind of late- not sure where it is! Tomorrow, we are planning on doing the other side of the Park. Hopefully we will see some glaciers and Mount Olympus. And more forests! Then it will be off to Seattle and Olympia for a while!

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Day Twenty-Two: Port Angeles and Sequim

(We are aware that it has been a few days since we last updated, but the campground we are staying at only allows you to be online for 2 hours at a time, and has very few outlets hanging around.)
After our day out on the town yesterday, we decided that today would be a good day to kind of stroll through town leisurely. We started by going out to breakfast at a place called Olympic Bagel Company down the street. Mmmmm.... They had some delicious bagels! They come in every flavor, too! From Apple Crunch to French Toast to Pizza to Lavender Blueberry. Basically anything you want. Then, after breakfast, we decided to head over to Sequim (pronounced SKWIM). It's the next town on 101 going east, but it's 15 miles away! The towns are so far from each other, but not as bad as South Dakota or Wyoming... Anyway, they were having their Lavender Festival there this weekend. They have like 14 or 15 different farms that you can go to and check out their lavender fields. Apparently the town is the Lavender Capital of North America. And it grows everywhere. Not just on the farms, but on the side of the road, too. Our campground bathroom is decorated in purples and has lavender displays all over it. It's a pretty big deal out here. They put it in everything, too. Like the lavender risotto at the restaurant yesterday, lavender ice cream, and wine. I'm not sure lavender should be put into food... I think it should just be set out pretty. We went to one of the farms. Not much to see. Then found the Olympic Discovery Trail. It's like the rail-trail at home. It connects Port Angeles and Sequim. And then we found the Dungenness Wildlife Refuge. We tried to take some pictures off of the bluffs there, but it was so foggy, that you couldn't really see anything. You could see about a foot of water if you looked down, but that's about it.
After driving through there, we decided to head back to Port Angeles. We walked up and down a few of the main streets there. There is a lot of boutique shopping in town. (They call it a city. The population is only 19,000. It's a town.) We stopped at the Farmer's Market in the center. Not very big, but a lot of different things to choose from. After the market, we went to the Dazzled By Twilight store. We picked up some postcards and souvenirs. After that, we went out to a small section of their beach out by the ferry. We saw some big crabs washed up on the beach and some fish in the water. Again, it was really foggy so it was hard to see much. Then it was up to the pier to take a walk around there. It was pretty neat, though, to see the fog trying to lift off of the water.
Now that the sun is coming out, hopefully we can see Mt. Baker or at least some of the Olympic Mountains!

Life is a Highway (Washington Photos)

Friday, July 15, 2011

Day Twenty-One: Crossing the Treaty Line

Today was Twilight Day for the two of us. (For those of you who haven't read the series by Stephenie Meyer, you should.) Anyway, the story takes place out here on the Olympic Peninsula in Forks, La Push, and Port Angeles. So we did a tour of all of the places in the book.
We left around nine heading straight to Forks. Well, that was the plan at least. We were driving down 101 and saw a sign for Cape Flattery. It is the western-most point in the Lower 48. So of course we had to go, being from the east coast! No one told us that it would be an extra hour and a half drive with a 1.5 mile walk. Not that we minded either one. The road was pretty curvy and wet, and all you could see around you was trees and fog. Until you got to the Strait of Juan de Fuca. It's the body of water that separates the peninsula and British Columbia. It, too, was foggy, but we saw a bald eagle perched up on a rock, looking down into the water. So cool!! It was a little hard to get a really clear picture of it since it was far away, but we managed with a little zooming and cropping. After that, it was another 20 miles to the Makah Indian Reservation, where Cape Flattery is. The Native art that you can see right from the road is pretty cool. They had their totem poles and then the designs on their signs. When we finally got to the end of the road, there was a sign that said, "Cape Flattery Trailhead." Wasn't expecting that. We had driven all that way that we weren't going to turn back without actually going. We put on our raincoats and fit in with the locals! It was about 3/4 of a mile down to the Cape, through old-growth forests and really, really tall trees. Luckily the only sign of wildlife we saw was the sign posted about a previous cougar sighting two weeks ago, and the really, really, REALLY big slug hanging out on the tree. (It truly deserves those three reallys.) We were able to get some great pictures under the cover of the trees. Once we got out to the Cape, it was foggy and a little hard to see where the water and the sky met. The rock outcroppings were pretty cool, though. And the caves that had been carved out from underneath. We saw a seagull with her baby birds in the nest, too.
After Cape Flattery, it was back out to 101 and down to Forks. Our first stop was the Chamber of Commerce and Visitors' Information. For a small town, it sure was crowded in there. We didn't really need any information from there, since we had a map of all the places anyway, but we just wanted to sign the guestbook and see if they had postcards.(They didn't. Bummer.) Then it was off to the Thriftway/Ace/Outfitters. This was partly because we were hungry and wanted a snack, and because it is where Bella works in the books. Then we went to the other important book tour stops, like the Forks hospital, police station, the Swan house, and the Cullen house, (not really the two, but stand-ins used by the town). We went by where the former high school was. They still have the "Forks High School, Home of the Spartans" sign up, but not the school. They took down the last remaining pieces last month and are rebuilding a bigger one. Oh well.
My previous first impression of the town was changed after driving around a little. It doesn't look like much from the main street, but once you drive out a little, it ends up being a cute little area.
After our Forks stop, we went to La Push. I almost La Threw the GPS out the window. (I really hope we finish the trip with it in one piece. Every so often it gets really annoying. We've almost left it a couple of times already!) It, too, is off the main road, but not nearly as far as Cape Flattery. The first place we saw was Jacob's house. Unlike the other two houses on the tour, this one looks exactly like the one in the movie. Then we went to First Beach, which is at the end of the Quileute Reservation. They were setting up for their Quileute Days Opening Ceremonies that were later on today. We felt like intruders, so we snapped a few pictures and left. On our way out, though, we saw the Quileute Tribal School and their new, big resort.
When we were done with our tour, we came back to Port Angeles for dinner. We finished our Twilight-themed day with dinner at Bella Italia. (The site of Bella and Edward's first date. Again, read it if you haven't.) I'm glad we made reservations ahead of time. They are apparently very casual in an upscale setting. We were dressed up in our "Friday" school clothes, while others came in flannel shirts and jeans. We ordered the mushroom ravioli and salmon fettuccine. Two dishes definitely worth ordering again. It was the best meal of the trip so far. (I guess it's not saying much when you eat crackers and peanut butter for dinner.) The waitress was super friendly, knew a lot about wine pairings (very impressive), and sold us on moving to the area. Even though it's raining, she said that they usually have awesome summers and she loves the weather here. (She used to live in New York.) Their big snowstorms are 3" and everything gets shut down. Love it! After a filled day, it is time for bed, for another fun day tomorrow!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Day Twenty: Wet Western Washington

We headed out early today knowing that we had a long way to go. After trying really hard to pack up our tent quietly so we wouldn't wake up our neighbors (success) we left at 7. It was starting to rain lightly as we left, but luckily we were able to pack up without getting wet. The road out was a little different. It was definitely raining all day. I guess that's what you get in western Washington. It is pretty neat, though, how different the different parts of the state can be. We drove through the mountains and over the Snoqualmie Pass. We had to drive through the low fog through the mountains, so that was a little nerve-wracking. The drivers here definitely don't go the speed limit. Even through all the rain and fog. That's one thing that we'll have to get used to.
We decided to stop off in Tacoma to go to the visitors' center there. Man, those are some crazy roads. Definitely thought I was going to start sliding backwards at the red light. After Tacoma, we went to Olympia's visitors' center and did some house hunting to get a feel for the area. Once you get away from the main street, it is adorable! They have some nice looking communities around the city, like Lacey and Tumwater. I think this is the area that we will be looking in. It is gorgeous! And on clear days, you can look out over the city and see Mt. Rainier in the distance. How cool! We are going to spend some more time out there when we stay in Seattle next week.
After those quick detours, we continued on to the Olympic Peninsula. This is a really neat place. They have rainforests, beaches, old-growth forests, mountains, basically everything close together. Since we are staying in Port Angeles (at the top of the peninsula) we decided to take the slightly longer way around since we wouldn't see it otherwise. There were some small beach towns along the way, like Aberdeen. We passed through the rainforest areas (going to spend some more time there in a few days) and through the miles and miles of forest. This used to be a big logging and timber area, but it has kind of slowed down in recent decades. But you can still see the logging areas. They have signs that tell you when the trees were harvested and replanted and when the next harvest will be. It seems to be every 30-40 years. They are very proud of their sustainability practices. We followed 101 north towards Forks and La Push. We drove through Forks (home of Twilight) and will be going back tomorrow to do a more in-depth visit. After Forks, it's La Push, home of the Quileute Indian Tribe and some pretty cool beaches. (Again, tomorrow) Then after about another hour of nothing, we got to Port Angeles. It's a little tourist town with hotels, motels, and fast food restaurants. We found our campground and put up our tent. I hope it doesn't blow away tonight since the ground was kind of hard to put the stakes into. I think we'll make it though... Till tomorrow!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Day Nineteen: Willkommen in Leavenworth!

(I hope that means "Welcome to Leavenworth." That's what it says on the signs and what we are going with. So to those of you who speak German out there, ahem, mom, please correct me if it's wrong... It seems like it, but the "in" is the part messing me up.)

We have been in Washington for 2.5 days now. Right before bed, we were lucky enough to see TWO rainbows! It made our days! Pretty sure the lady next to us was laughing, though. Last night's sleep has probably been the best camping. The train only went by once, that we can remember. We experienced our first real rains last night. It wasn't too bad, though, except we woke up kind of early, which made for a long day today. We had to hurry back and forth to the bathroom, so we wouldn't get soaked, but it was totally worth it. It was probably the best breakfast we had all trip! Can't wait for tomorrow's!! After our oatmeal (bananas foster, yum!), we packed up our soaking wet tent, which is obviously not a good idea, but it had to be done. Our plan for today was to head to Leavenworth, which is right in the middle of the state.
It's about 4 hours from Spokane, so probably another five or so to the coast (that's tomorrow's trip!) It is amazing what different areas you find here. We passed through wheat fields, apple orchards, mountains, and then just miles of nothing. Parts of the drive looked like South Dakota and parts looked like Montana. There are little towns and then bigger cities. We passed through Grant County, which tags itself as "The World's Largest Potato Producing County". Who knew? It's not even that close to Idaho... Although the farms out here do look like the farms in Farmville. Probably the highlight of the drive was the town of George. Yes, George, Washington. We saw the sign, at first, didn't think anything of it, and then put it together. So, we took a detour and drove through it. Not much to look at. It is apparently a very Hispanic town, with many signs in English and Spanish. There is a huge bust of George Washington welcoming you to town. It took all of three minutes to drive through the entire town. Back on the highway, we passed through more farmland. At around noon, we got to Leavenworth. It's a very small town, who's claim to fame is that it is a little Bavarian village. Everything here is decorated like a village in the Alps (or, a least what I imagine it would look like), complete with huge mountains in the background. There are a bunch of specialty shops and hotels, along with banks, their post office, and what kind of Washington town would it be without a Starbucks?! The town's Ambassador is Woody Goomsba. His profession? Nutcracker. They have an entire museum dedicated to nutcrackers. Over 5,000 of them! We spent a few hours walking up and down the street. We were going to get a cuckoo clock, but decided against it for now. But we do know which one we will get for the kitchen!There was even an accordion-playing yodeller in the Town Center today.
After that, we went to set up our campsite. What a disappointment. Don't get me wrong, the camp itself is nice, but not our area. There is a lot to do there, but none of it was open today. First, we had to wait for the guy driving the golf cart to come "escort" us to our site. He never came. Luckily, it's not too hard to follow the map, so we were able to find it. We got there and the entire area is set on rocks and hard soil. It is IMPOSSIBLE to get our tent stakes in the ground. Which means that it is impossible to get our rain fly in the ground, so we are hoping that it doesn't rain tonight. It would be nice to sleep under the stars, though. Somehow the people next to us got theirs in, though... We took a nap and finished setting up. We decided to head back into town to charge everything up, which means that we are at Starbucks, of course! We were going to go to the Gingerbread Factory, but they, too, are closed. We may stop by tomorrow morning before we leave, unless we wake up wicked early again!
It's off to Port Angeles tomorrow, out on the Olympic Peninsula, and for our Twilight fans out there, maybe Bella Italia for dinner?? And, I promise, we are going to put up some more pictures today, since we have plenty of time tonight!!

Life is a Highway (Pictures)

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Day Eighteen: You Can't Ride in My Little Red Wagon

Even with the train across the way, last night was not totally unbearable. I think the train only passed twice during the night. The rain held off for the most part- it only drizzled a little. When we woke up, it was a little windy and I was afraid it would pick the tent up and crash it into the barbed wired fence behind us. Apparently, the campers out here wake up slowly, which made using the bathroom very convenient. We spent this morning at Riverfront Park today. It's a really cute park in the middle of downtown Spokane. There is a sculpture garden there, and it has some really amazing pieces. The first one we came to was a bunch of runners made from metal. There are a whole bunch of statues that are running around the corner to the finish line. Robyn elbowed the winner out of the way to win the race! The next one was the Red Flyer. Or, in this case, the very large red wagon! It is absolutely ginormous! You can also slide down the handle. I realized that I don't like slides very much. There are also a whole bunch of "real" sculptures. There is a large Chinese lantern and another in the lake (I'm not exactly sure what that one was supposed to be) Unfortunately, we didn't see the garbage-eating goat sculpture. The park has beautiful flowers all over the place, so we were able to get some cool pictures of them. There is also a clock tower that has bells that ring every hour. The park is also "home" to the Spokane Falls. Not quite Niagara or Grand Coulee, but it is apparently the largest falls in an urban area in the country.
After that, we spent some time in River Front Square, which is a shopping mall. It is a very high-end set of stores. We went to a store that was probably the coolest store ever! The store is called aNeMoNe. They have an entire store of paper flowers! They make all of their flowers at the store. They make bouquets, corsages, barrettes and hair clips, and anything else that has flowers on it. We went to a few other stores, but they were too expensive for our budgets.
We were trying to go to Riverside State Park, but decided we didn't want to pay for how long we were going to be there. It was only going to be a 10 minute deal, so we chose to forgo it. We spent the afternoon getting the car checked up, so we can continue our trip. We passed the time watching reruns of Friends. It's still funny! After about 90 minutes, the car was ready to go. They even washed it for us, for free! It's time the bugs got off the windshield. Gross, I know, but we tried countless times to get them off, and just couldn't! We then to Walmart to get some stuff for dinner and breakfast. We're going to give the grill another go around, and hope that it works this time. If not, we can always make oatmeal! They have everything you need at the Supercenters, even wine at $3.45 a bottle. The one thing that is weird about this area are the roads. There are quite a few that are one way, but they're like 4 lanes wide, so it makes it hard to judge where the car coming towards you is headed. After that, we came back to the camp and took it easy. As we are making dinner there is this little boy, like 15, who keeps running back and forth with his backpack, like he is going on some strenuous run through the camp. There are only 3 'roads' he can run here, and it's not like it's that hot...Just saying. So, now it's time for some dinner and wine, and maybe some picture posting!

Monday, July 11, 2011

Day Seventeen: Welcome to Washington!

Today was an exciting day! We travelled through three states today and hit 4,000 miles. We left Montana rather early this morning. We were planning on having breakfast at the camp, but apparently there was some miscommunication and it started at 8:00, instead of 7:00. So we decided to head out, so we'd be in Washington that much quicker. We stopped at McDonald's to get some coffee, and we were a little nervous, because the last time we went there, the kid couldn't get the order right. But the girl today looked competent, and made a good cup of coffee. Now if only that old man didn't cut me in line...
At around 10:00, we crossed into Idaho, and into the Pacific time zone. So, we are officially three hours behind everyone at home. Luckily, it was only about 80 miles through the state. There wasn't much to see there. One state kind of mixes into the next up here.
At around 12:15 (our time) we got into Washington. The first city you get to is Spokane, which is where we are staying tonight. They were doing some road work, but luckily we got the "Welcome to Washington" sign. Since it was too early to go to our camp site, we decided to take a drive to the Grand Coulee Dam, out in Grand Coulee (creative, huh?) It was only about 87 miles out of the way, but we probably wouldn't have seen it if we didn't go today. It was huge! It's like a mile long, 550 feet high, and it took 12 million cubic feet of concrete to build it. It dams up Lake Roosevelt, which is around 150 miles long, and reaches up into Canada, and the Columbia River. Apparently when they put it to use, they flooded out a whole bunch of towns. On the way out, we passed through a city named "Wilbur". Their mascot?? Wilbur, from Charlotte's Web, of course!
When we finally got back to Spokane, we went to the Visitor's Center, to get some information and to see what attractions we shouldn't miss. The lady there was super friendly. She gave us a bunch of different ideas and places to go. It's an interesting place, to say the least. The drive out is like desert/plains. The city is the second largest in the state, and the Capitol, but you wouldn't guess it. We went to the campsite, and the girl at the front desk tells Robyn that there is a lot to do here. Also, there is a train that goes by your site every once in a while. (Here comes another one as I write this) We pull up to our site and the maintenance guy is coming around with a wrench, turning off the sprinklers that have been watering our area. It makes it very difficult to dry off our already-wet tent... "It's OK, this area is on river rocks, it should be dry in a few minutes". Great, so now, not only do we have to sleep in a wet area, he failed to mention that it is very difficult to stake your tent in to an area with river rocks. We are just hoping neither of us gash ourselves with the half-in stakes.
After we set up our tent, we were looking through the books, to plan our stay. Some girl comes over, asking us if we know where the Air Force/Navy base is. And then asks where the bathroom is. Then tells us she "scored off the charts on the Air Force test". It was 3 minutes of our life that we are still confused about. We have to keep looking over our shoulder to make sure she's not around. I think I brought a lock with me...
So, for now, it is time to look for things to do tomorrow, hopefully with no disruptions! Hopefully we will have some time to put new pictures up tomorrow.

States Visited: Connecticut, Idaho,Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, New York, South Dakota, Washington, Wisconsin, Wyoming (13/50)
Provinces Visited: Ontario (1/10)
License Plates Seen: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Wyoming (49/50)
Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Ontario, Quebec, Saskatchewan (8/10)

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Day Sixteen: Glacier National Park & Northwest Montana

We travelled to Glacier National Park today. Like we said before, there's not much in between one city and the next here. Their state highways look like town roads back home, except you can go up to 70 (which I wouldn't suggest). It took about 4 hours to get there. When we finally did, we drove down the "Going to the Sun Road". Unfortunately, it was blocked after 16 miles. We drove as far as we could, but didn't see too much. There is a gorgeous lake there, Lake McDonald. The water is really blue, but it looks like there's a hint of green, but it's from the trees. There are mountains all over the place, too. Unfortunately, we did not get to see the actual glaciers, which was really disappointing. We would have had to drive around the perimeter of the entire park to get to the other entrance. We tried to go down one of the roads, but it was a roller coaster dead end. The potholes on the road were like a foot deep, spread across the width of the road. We only spent an hour or two there.
After that, we decided to stop at this place called "The Red Caboose". It's a little DIY frozen yogurt shop in a building designed like a caboose. It was delicious and totally worth it! We tried their huckleberry flavor, since that's the state fruit. It was OK, but I don't think it's something you can eat too much of. After that, we decided to go to our campsite and set up. We're all the way in the back. I hope there aren't any bears around! The camp has a petting zoo, with a llama, a baby cow, a miniature pony, two donkeys, two alpacas, and a goat with really long, scary-looking horns. But luckily they were all more interested in eating. We took a walk around the camp. It's surprising what some of these RVer's bring with them. There is one with a light-up palm tree and festive lights.
Now that we are all settled in, we're going to take some time to plan our stay in Washington. We'll be headed there bright and early tomorrow morning! So exciting! Not only will we get two more states on our list of crossings, but we'll also cross into the Pacific time zone. We'll be totally confused as to what time it is!

States Visited: Connecticut, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, New York, South Dakota, Wyoming, Wisconsin (11/50)
Provinces Visited: Ontario (1/10)
License Plates Seen: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Wyoming (49/50)
Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Ontario, Quebec, Saskatchewan (8/10)

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Day Fifteen: Week Three

We didn't do much today. There isn't much to do here in Helena. It's a kind of boring Capitol city. So we kind of just relaxed. We tried to go through the 1000+ pictures we took in Yellowstone. I don't think we finished, there were so many! We found some things to do out in Washington next week. And caught up on laundry. Nothing like a dryer that only half-dries your clothes, and then gets stuck so you can't add time to dry the second load. We had to spread the clothes out all over the room to dry them....annoying. We went out to dinner and decided that whoever lost rock-paper-scissors would drive to Glacier and the other would get to take all the pictures! So Dawn will be driving and I will have the camera. YES! (Another thousand to look through) Oh, and in the parking lot, we saw a maroon used-to-be luxury limo. Probably the most ridiculous car I've seen in a while. It looked like two cars that were fused together, but you couldn't tell where. If that was the case, it was pretty impressive. However, it was rather interesting last night as we were going to bed. The sun here doesn't set until 9:45ish, so it was still possible to see outside that late. Kind of screws you up a little. You think you'll go to bed once it's dark, but by then it's too late. Just an interesting tid-bit. Anyway, not much else here. Now it's off to Glacier, and then Washington!

States Visited: Connecticut, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, New York, South Dakota, Wyoming, Wisconsin (11/50)
Provinces Visited: Ontario (1/10)
License Plates Seen: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Wyoming (49/50)
Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Ontario, Quebec, Saskatchewan (8/10)

Friday, July 8, 2011

Day Fourteen: Big Sky Country

Today was not a very exciting day. We decided to take a few days to regroup and relax. We started off pretty early- even earlier than the kids next to us (turns out they were up, just waiting to yell and scream). After fighting with the tent for a good half-hour, we were finally packed up and ready to go. We stopped at Mammoth Hot Springs, in the Northwestern corner of Yellowstone, before leaving the park. It was impressive, to see the thermal terraces. It wasn't quite what I was expecting, but then again, I'm not sure what I was expecting. It took us two hours to actually leave the park. We entered Montana at around 9:00 this morning. The first town in Montana is called Gardiner. There isn't much in town, but it is very "Western".
We planned on heading up to Helena, the Capitol. There isn't much in between. There is a town called Bozeman, where Montana State University is located, so it's pretty big, relatively speaking. We stopped there for lunch- totally worth it! From there, it was another 90 minutes to Helena. If you want to know where your tax dollars are going, it's going to fixing the roads in Montana. There was at least 30 miles of road work, in remote areas. Not much to see on the drive, except for the historical marker that said, "Thar's gold in them thar hills!" There is a reason they call it "Big Sky Country"- because that is all you can see for miles. There are no buildings to block it.
We finally got to Helena and went to Starbucks to catch up with civilization. It was one of the nicest, friendliest one we've been to. We found a hotel to spend a few nights in- it's really nice compared to the ground. We also heard that there was a bear attack in Yellowstone a few days ago. The activities around the park all make sense now. If it happened when and where we think, we were pretty darn close to it...luckily we didn't go in the backcountry. Apparently everyone else knew about it before we did. We spent a little time trying to plan the next leg of our trip (and probably the most exciting!) Other than that, not much happened today. We're planning on relaxing tomorrow, so it's probably going to be another low-key post. And with that, it is time for bed!!

States Visited: Connecticut, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, New York, South Dakota, Wyoming, Wisconsin (11/50)
Provinces Visited: Ontario (1/10)
License Plates Seen: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Wyoming (49/50)
Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Ontario, Quebec, Saskatchewan (8/10)

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Day Thirteen: Grand Teton and Jackson Hole: One 'Elk' of a Place!

After a very uncomfortable night, and waking up almost every hour, we finally woke up around 8:00. It was probably a good time to wake up, seeing as the kids next to us were up and at it. We were planning on watching the sunrise, but didn't make it in time. Oh well. After wondering why the guys next to us didn't invite us over for coffee and eggs, we decided to hit the road and head to Grand Teton National Park. It is about an hour from Yellowstone to the center of the park. It, too, is an amazing place. We were going to turn around after a while, but like Yellowstone, around every corner is another gorgeous view. The mountains out here are nothing like the ones at home. And neither are the views!We saw what may have been a moose or an elk. I hope it was an elk, since we'd be very disappointed if we missed a moose. We stopped to take some pictures, but other than that, we didn't get out of the car. There are a few hiking trails there, but a lot of them were closed off because of bear activity. We didn't see any.
We continued to Jackson, Wyoming. It is a cute little town, with a lot in town, but not much around it. It's a small Western ski town, with an enormous mountain to ski down. Similar to what you would find in Vermont. It was pretty crowded. We went to the Visitor's Center and looked at their exhibit on elk. Jackson is home to the National Elk Refuge, so they have this huge area set up. There weren't any around today- the Ranger said they make their way up to higher ground to stay cool. I don't blame them! We stopped for lunch at the Betty Rock Cafe. It's a quaint cafe-type place. The prices were a little high, but the food was delicious! We were also able to catch up with civilization a little. After that, we decided to head back to Yellowstone. We were finally able to use our Parks Pass, and got our maps for Yellowstone. We are going to go back and check to see what we missed.
Tomorrow is our last day here. We will be off to Montana for a few days to regroup and get ready for our stop at Glacier National Park.

States Visited: Connecticut, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, South Dakota, Wyoming, Wisconsin (10/50)
Provinces Visited: Ontario (1/10)

License Plates Seen: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Wyoming (49/50)
Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Ontario, Quebec, Saskatchewan (8/10)

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Day Twelve: Thar She Blows!

After bragging about how well we set up our tent, it came in handy last night. It rained and thundered, but nothing leaked! We woke up to what sounded like a bear grunting. It startled us. It turned out to be a man blowing his nose in the bathroom. We decided to take a drive around the park today. The park is so huge and spread out that you need to drive from site to site. The first stop was West Thumb. We had to drive around Yellowstone Lake. It was so pretty. The snow-covered mountains in the background, with lots of blue water. West Thumb is home to a bunch of different geysers and hot springs. There is a big boardwalk connecting all of them. As you walk by a geyser, it gets so much hotter.
Our next stop was Old Faithful. It is on the other side of the park. As we drove there, we crossed the Continental Divide at 8,000+ feet in elevation. We stopped to take a picture of the sign and some guy asked us if we were from Central Connecticut in Hartford. Close enough. It was kind of weird. When we finally got there, it was very touristy. We walked out to the geyser, and luckily we got there just in time. We waited for about 5 minutes and then it erupted. It started off really slow, and then eventually went all-out. It goes pretty high. The whole thing lasted about 2-2.5 minutes. The next time was supposed to be in another 90 minutes or so, so we didn't have to wait again. We walked through the Visitor's Center, and they have an exhibit all about the geysers. We didn't realize that Yellowstone was actually a volcano, which is why they have so much thermal activity. I guess if you think about it, it makes sense.
From there, we took a 1.5 mile walk through a whole bunch of geysers, pools, and mud volcanoes. Along there was supposed to be the world's tallest and most predictable geyser, Grand Geyser. We saw the area, but didn't wait to see it erupt, it would be another hour- it was too hot to sit still. We passed through a few sulfur pits. It was disgusting. The last sight on the walk was the Morning Glory Pool. It was interesting because it looks like a rainbow in the pool, and the hole in the earth is pretty deep. After what seemed like three hours, we got back to the car and decided to head back for lunch next to the Lake. It was so peaceful.
After lunch, we went back to the campsite to plan the rest of the day. We decided to go to Yellowstone's Grand Canyon. We stopped by the Information Center and saw a whole bunch of stuffed animals. It was really neat, but kind of scary. They had a wolf, two otters, swans, and even a soaring eagle. As we were driving there, it was amusing that people would stop on the side of the road to take pictures of deer. However, we did see a herd of bison in the distance, and one really close to the road, just grazing. When we finally got to the Canyon, there was a line of cars. There was an elk in the grass, so they were all trying to get pictures. One crazy lady was really close to it... We walked the trail around the South Rim. It was about a mile long, but it was much quicker than this morning. We saw the Upper Falls and Artists' Point. It is a lookout that is definitely picture-worthy. On our way back, we were trying to outwalk the lady in front of us, but Dawn slipped, and somehow we lost her. I don't know where she ended up going. As we were coming out, there was a group of rangers, who looked like they were on a mission, and they blocked off the entrance, where we came in. I don't know what happened, but I hope everyone's OK. We also stopped at the Mud Volcano, which was probably the worst smelling place in the park. I would rather go to a porta potty after a race than go there again!
When we got back to the campsite, we started planning our adventure for tomorrow, but the sleeping bags are much more attractive! As long as the kids next to us are quiet. One sounds like they belong on Toddlers and Tiaras (except we're pretty sure it's a boy).

States Visited: Connecticut, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, South Dakota, Wyoming, Wisconsin (10/50)
Provinces Visited: Ontario (1/10)

License Plates Seen: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Wyoming (49/50)
Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Ontario, Quebec, Saskatchewan (8/10)

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Day Eleven: Wild, Wild, West

We decided to get an early start today. Apparently all campers wake up before 6. So we had to wait for the showers, but were able to leave by 7 anyway. We started by going to Sturgis, SD. Had to see what all the hub-bub was about there. Bikers don't have the same schedule as campers. Nothing was open that early in the morning. So we got our picture of the Harley Davidson store in town. Then it was off to Deadwood. This is where Wild Bill Hickok and Calamity Jane came in the summer of 1876 during the gold rush in the Black Hills. They are buried there, too. Everything you would imagine in a wild west town can be found here- casinos, saloons, and the town cemetary. From Deadwood, it was off to the Geographic Center of the United States. It's in a little town called Belle Fourche in South Dakota. Well, we put in "Geographic Center of the US" in our GPS. It sent us to a far out of the way middle of nowhere field. Turns out that we could've saved about an hour if we stopped in the Belle Fourche information center where all the flags were. We even said to each other as we passed it the first time, "That's probably the monument." I think we should listen to ourselves next time.
After all of that, we crossed over from South Dakota into Wyoming and were off to Devil's Tower National Monument. The first town we got to was Aladdin. Population: 15. We passed through Sundance, Wyoming, made famous by Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. Devil's Tower was the first national monument. It is pretty neat to see this huge rock formation sticking up in the middle of nowhere. We were driving along and all of a sudden, it pops up out along the horizon. Since you can see it from the highway, you think that you are close to it, but it takes another hour to actually get there. We took an hour hike around the base of it, and saw some climbers up the middle of the rock's face.
We didn't want to take too much more time up, since it was another four hours to Yellowstone, and we had reservations for tonight. We continued along I-90 and passed some more small towns. One of them was Emblem, WY, complete with it's own post office. It has a population of 10. Two houses. No lies. On our way, we passed through Bighorn National Forest. We went up and down the windy roads, and we got our first glimpse of July snow. It was amazing! The views were even better than the ones yesterday at Custer State Park. The next big city we got to was Cody, WY, named after Buffalo Bill Cody, who was supposedly buried in town, so they would name it after him. We were too early for the rodeo and didn't need anything from Walmart, so we decided to keep driving.We drove through the Shoshone National Forest, along the Shoshone River, passed the Buffalo Bill Reservoir and Dam.
Finally, around 9:00 we reached Yellowstone's East Entrance. It was still another 27miles to our campsite. A plus for arriving late was that we were able to see the sunset over Yellowstone Lake. I don't know if I have ever seen anything as cool as that! As we were checking in, the Park Ranger was going through all of the specifics, including bear protocol- how you can't have any food, cosmetics, water, etc outside. Made me really want to stay there... When we finally got to our site, we put up our tent. After all our practice, this is probably the best we've done! And with that, it is definitely time for bed!

States Visited: Connecticut, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, South Dakota, Wyoming, Wisconsin (10/50)
Provinces Visited: Ontario (1/10)

License Plates Seen: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Wyoming (48/50)
Alberta, Manitoba, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Ontario, Quebec, Saskatchewan (7/10)

Monday, July 4, 2011

Day Ten: As the sign said, "Happy Birthday America! You're Old!"

It's pretty neat being able to spend the 4th of July here at Mount Rushmore, or at least in the shadow of it. We spent the day in the Keystone/Custer area of South Dakota. We were planning to go on a "Mt. Rushmore Black Hills Gold" jewelry making tour, but it was closed for the holiday, so we went to the Crazy Horse mountain instead. We decided to forgo the $20 entry fee and see it from the road. With Dawn's big camera lens, we had no problem seeing everything. I remember back in like 5th grade being introduced to the mountain in a Time for Kids or Weekly Reader or something like that. Well, it looks exactly the same as it did back then. We were with about 35-40 other cars in the information center. We couldn't figure out why some people had set out lawn chairs facing the mountain. Apparently they were doing some blasting at 11:00. Well, 11 came and went. At about 11:20 a huge boom went off and a cloud of smoke. That was the extent of their blasting. Just one. Within 5 minutes, the entire park was cleared out- the ones who paid and the cheapskates like us. (Let's just say that after today's blasting, it still looks the same!)
After that, it was off to Custer State Park. We decided that our $15 was better spent here. And it was!! It is a huge park with all kinds of things to see. They had some AMAZING views all over the park. From really neat tree lines to cloud formations, to huge rocks and some of the windiest roads I have ever driven. We also saw all kinds of animals! Our parents told us to stop by so we could see the buffalo. I think the "Buffalo Burger and Brawt" cookout scared them all away. The park is home to over 1500 buffalo and we saw 1. Only 1. And we would probably have missed it if someone else hadn't stopped to look since it was all alone on the side of the road grazing. We did see a lot of burros (donkeys) in the middle of a road. They came right up to the cars and let people pet them. They were cute but their eyes looked glazed over like they were high. Maybe people should have followed the signs that said "Do not feed the animals. They may get sick from human food." Go figure. Then we saw some prairie dogs. Not like yesterday though. These were smarter ones. They kind of hid from people. They did pop up every once in a while, though. There were pronghorns, too. They are animals that look exactly like antelope but aren't. Didn't see any mountain lions, which is good since they are nocturnal! I guess we could spot them back at home since they have now made Fairfield County a "summer home." (I think they finally realized that there is not much to do here for fun so they headed east.) Or mountain goats. They climb the really steep rocks of the Needles Highway. I couldn't look out most of the time because I really didn't feel like going off the cliffs. Dawn got some great pictures of the Cathedral Spires and Needle Eye. We almost crashed into a big ol' truck from Texas that didn't want to move out of the way. Some crazy guys were rock climbing. You'd never catch me doing that from that high up. I had hard enough time doing the Wall at camp!
After all that time in the park, we decided to head back to the campground for our Fourth of July picnic. Oh boy. That was an interesting experience. At least the hot dogs were cooked through. If we get hungry later on, we still have some more... I knew I should have paid attention in Scout Skills. I could've made muffins or baked apples. Something slightly better than the hot dogs. Hopefully we will master our tiny little grill and be able to make some of that stuff later on! If our next attempt at hot dogs is anything like this one, we will have to end up asking our camping neighbor if we could borrow his propane grill and sit on the hammock that he has set up. Some of these campers are pretty intense! We've seen some with satellite dishes! Mt. Rushmore may not have fireworks this year, but there are some in Rapid City so we will watch those tonight (as long as the thunderstorms stay away.)
I think I'm still on Eastern time. It's only 6:45 here but it feels like 8:45. It's off to Deadwood, SD, and Devils' Tower and Yellowstone in Wyoming tomorrow! Hopefully we'll be able to update this, as long as no bears get us while we are camping! Better hide the extra hot dogs... breakfast anyone?

States Visited: Connecticut, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, South Dakota, Wisconsin (9/50)
Provinces Visited: Ontario (1/10)
License Plates Seen: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Wyoming (48/50)
Alberta, Manitoba, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Ontario, Quebec, Saskatchewan (7/10)