Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Day Thirteen

West Yellowstone, MT to Everett, WA
761 Miles

Yep, our last day of driving was one long day. We had been on the road a while and while Mum was driving a bit I checked out the mileage between West Yellowstone and Everett. Mum and I discussed making it in one day and decided we'd go for it. We were both pretty tired of being on the road and the car troubles and we just wanted the trip to be over.

That days driving was fairly uneventful except for having to stop for an hour or so for road work. Construction crews were blowing up a hillside in one of the passes and we had to stop for the blast and any clean-up work. Surprisingly the wait was really nice. We were along side a beautiful lake and it was a lovely evening. People got out of the cars to stretch their legs and let their dogs relieve themselves in the median. There was even a group of three people throwing a baseball around, mitts included!

We got to Everett at 10:00 p.m. or so and I called Eric. He'd had a suspicion that we might make it in one day, so he wasn't totally surprised to hear we were in Everett.

All in all it was a wonderful trip. I wouldn't hesitate to take another two week trip with Mum. Well, as long as she promises her car will function properly!

Total mileage - 5910 miles/9511 kilometres.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Day Twelve

Thermopolis, WY to Island Park, ID Via Yellowstone National Park
258 Miles

Please save me from the vileness of automobiles. More on that later.

The drive from Thermopolis to Cody to Yellowstone was very pretty. Again, lots of Pronghorn, a few deer and a new animal! The wee thing barely missed getting squished by the vehicle in front of us. I looked closely to see if it was a jackalope, but it moved too quickly to spot any antlers. I guess I'll have to call it a rabbit to be on the safe side. We also saw a dugout with a wooden roof collapsed into itself.

Yellowstone is gorgeous, of course. The fire damage is still quite visible, but that didn't detract from it. We saw Yellowstone Lake from several vantage spots - beautiful!

We saw a (dead) marmot and... bison! There were four spread out fairly near the side of the road. I hope that I got some good photographs as I had to take them out the window. I think they turned out okay:

Back to the bleeping car. GRAR! We had a few miles into the park (east entrance) when it started acting up. It was shuddering and bucking and being a general pain in the arse. We stopped at the Lake House Restaurant in Grant Village for lunch (okay food, lousy service). Having the car rest for a while didn't help it's disposition. We made it to a garage in Grant Village (the park has several service stations, some with mechanics). Al (the mechanic) checked the computer and it showed that it was misfiring in a couple places (I don't know the technical details. I'm a writer not a mechanic, Captain!). Lovely. He said it would be best if we got it checked out in West Yellowstone. Oh man, did we have several motorists who were following behind us pissed off. The car really bogged down to about 20mph going uphill. I pulled over as best I could and set the flashers going, but that was really all I could do.

I found Randy's Auto Repair (which is attached to Yellowstone Vacations) in West Yellowstone and they went above and beyond the call of duty. Jay stayed late to figure out what was wrong with the car. Heather called all over to find us a room. West Yellowstone was totally sold out at any price. That's how we ended up in Island Park, ID. The Sawtell Mountain Resort is about 20 miles from West Yellowstone. It has lots of different amenities and at good price. And Heather had a rental vehicle for us (a BIG YELLOW Suburban) but only charged about a third of the going rate. Oh, and I can't forget to mention Tug! Tug is a big brown Labrador Retriever who was quite friendly.

Jay thought he'd have the car done at 11:00 a.m. or so. Mum and I got back to the garage at 9:30 and the car was done! It had needed new coils, spark plugs and plug wires. There was talk of arcing and other scary stuff I tuned out. Anyway, we had already breakfasted near the hotel so we were able to get on the road much earlier than we thought we would! Yay! I was kind of sad that we had to turn in the BIG YELLOW Suburban because it was fun to drive, but Mum insisted. We gave Tug a couple pats and we were on our way.

Mum offered to stay another day and take in more Yellowstone (I didn't even get to a gift store!). I appreciate the offer but turned her down. I just wanted to get home.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Day Eleven

Ft. Morgan, CO to Thermopolis, WY
415 Miles

Ft. Morgan is a nice little town. Lots of nice houses and a thriving old downtown area. It's one of the towns both Mum and I said we could live in. It's the first time I've seen Spanish-style stucco homes since I left California. No, the atrocities attempted in British Columbia don't count.

We had an odd start when leaving Ft. Morgan. For a month or so the gas stations in town have had no gas. I don't know why, but that's what the attendant said at the station we filled up at just outside of town. Then I missed the signs to the highway we wanted to take. GRAR! With a bit of backtracking we got that sorted out. If we had continued on, it would have added many miles to our day.

We saw lots more deer and antelope playing. I'd guess at least 100 Pronghorn in various groups.

We also saw lots of beautiful wild flowers. It's hard to tell what much of it is traveling at 65-85 mph. We did note beautiful, bright blue lupin in several areas. Texas Bluebonnets have nothing on the lupin in Wyoming.

We entered Thermopolis through the Wind River Canyon. It has some of the most stunning landscape we've seen yet. I didn't get any photographs as the road is very winding and narrow.

I almost forgot to mention that Thermopolis is the home of the world's largest mineral hot springs.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Day Ten

Salina, KS to Ft. Morgan, CO
400 Miles

We finally blew the pop-stand known as Salina, KS. While the people were great, I think both Mum and I will be happy if we never see Salina again.

The trip to Ft. Morgan was uneventful. There is a terrible dearth of wildlife in Kansas. It's really strange but we saw one deer and nothing else. We did, however, see lots of wheat. Lots and lots of wheat. Yes, I took photos of a wheat field (and stole two stalks - shhh!). I regret that I didn't take a photo of an Iowa corn field.

Almost forgot to mention - no more problems with the car. The alternator is working like a champ! Many cheers for Mavis (we decided the car's name is Mavis based on it's licence plate)! Poor thing was ten years old before it got a name. Tsk tsk!

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Miscellany Part Two

- We're back from dinner and the car is still fine. I asked at the front desk if they had any goats available for animal sacrifice but they just looked at me and shrugged.

- I'm still collecting freckles on the back of my hands and lower arms. I should take a photo. Or sell them. Or something.

- I (we) can't get over how much the heat saps our energy. It was 103F today in Salina, KS. Blergh. At least Kansas doesn't have the humidity that Missouri was so nice to offer us. And we're down to one shower per day (per person) rather than the two that Missouri made necessary.

- Skype has been wonderful. It's great to actually see and talk to Eric every evening for free. I highly recommend it.

- Blog stuff: I've changed the publish dates on several entries to the day of the actual day. Meaning that the published date now corresponds with the actual date of the trip. I hope I'm making sense.

- Have I mentioned it's hot?

Day Nine

Salina, KS
-0- Miles

I should title this post "GRAR!"

The car started this morning without any hesitation, yay! We were on the road later than normal and were going to pick up a fast food breakfast. It was just after 11:00 a.m. so the quickie breakfast got nipped in the bud. We decided to gas up and hit the IHOP. You know what's coming, right? The car wouldn't start after the gas fill up. *pounds head on dashboard* We got a jump there from a kind local dude who directed us to a local parts shop (Advance Auto Parts) that would have batteries and be able to install it. Hector, the parts clerk, checked out the battery with a nifty gizmo and the battery was fine. GRAR! What now?! Hector (cute!) suggested it was the corroded battery cable. Oy vey. He then directed us to a local repair shop (Oard's Auto & Truck Repair Service) that might be able to get to us today. "Might"? Yikes.

We got to Oard's and the mechanic, Brian, was just leaving for lunch. Sigh. We decided to go to lunch while he did (the car started, yay!). We all got back to the garage and agreed that the battery cable was shot. Mum and I head into the not very cool waiting room and wait. An hour and 15 minutes later Brian pokes his head into the waiting room and says "oops". I started looking for sharp objects to poke my eyes out. It turns out the problem was the alternator (yes, Eric, you were right). So, $400 later we're ready to get back on the road.

We're staying in Salina again tonight. There will be a couple days of not much except driving and then...

Yellowstone! Hey, Booboo, where's the pic-a-nic basket?

Friday, June 25, 2010

Day Eight

Springfield, MO to Salina, KS
340 Miles

Technically, we've driven over 3000 miles. Whew.

We made it to the Little House on the Prairie, surprise! It wasn't a destination on this trip but it wasn't far from Springfield. The cabin is open to visitors and you can take photographs of the interior. The well below is the one Charles Ingalls' dug.

I didn't visit the schoolhouse and post office next door to cabin because, once again, it was as hot as Hades and I had seen what I wanted to see. I even skipped the gift shop.

As we were getting closer to finding our hotel, we stopped for gas in McPherson, KS. The car wouldn't start - shades of De Smet. GRAR! We had lunch at the restaurant next door to let it cool off for a while. It still wouldn't start - double GRAR! Mum called AAA and they sent out a guy to give the car a jump. It worked, yay! And the dude was there within half an hour, double yay!

The rest of the day was fairly routine except for lousy highway signage in regards to finding our motel.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Day Seven

Kansas City, MO to Mansfield, MO
225 Miles

Mansfield, MO to Springfield, MO
51.5 Miles

We left later than we wanted to this morning, so we didn't get to Mansfield until 3:00 p.m. The Laura Ingalls Wilder Historic Home & Museum closes at 5:00 p.m. Yikes. Not really, two hours was enough time for everything. We got there just as they were starting another tour of the house, so I paid my $8.00 and joined the group. It's a lovely home, most of the home was done in Craftsman style - just my cup of tea. The chimney was made of 41 wagons full of rocks from the Wilder farm. Here you can see photos of the interior as well as Charles Ingalls' fiddle (bottom of page).

After the house I toured the museum. There are lots 'n' lots of artifacts to ogle. The highlight is Charles' fiddle, of course. I also really enjoyed seeing a couple outfits that Laura made and wore. I knew she was short (barely 5') but it's something else to see it in person.

I also visited the Book/Gift Store. (Who can resist?!) I managed to keep my spending there to less than $23.00. I haven't listened to it yet, but one item is a CD with a recording of Charles' fiddle playing the songs Laura mentions in her books. I'm really looking forward to listening to it.

After finishing up at the store, we drove around to the Rock House that Rose Wilder Lane had built for her parents. I was pretty exhausted by then (it has been very hot and humid this trip, especially here in Missouri) and didn't want to tour it. I was disappointed it was screened off by a bunch of trees, but didn't change my mind.

We then headed to the cemetery and I placed a couple stones on their headstone (one for me, one for Mum). That finished our day and we headed to Springfield.

But wait, there's more! It was totally unplanned but we saw Robert Heinlein's birthplace as we drove through Butler, MO on our way to Mansfield, MO. It was a great surprise.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Day Six

De Smet, SD to Kansas City, MO
456 Miles

This section of our trip was uneventful until a couple hours after lunch in Iowa. I discovered I had left my credit card at the restaurant. Oh, f*ck (I said that many, many times among other curse words). Eric (my husband) called and got the card canceled for me, but not until after asking if it was possible to go back for it. I guess I didn't make myself clear about where we were (six hours away by that time) when I called him. I'm still feeling pretty stupid for leaving it behind. Oh, well. Mum and I worked the situation out and we're fine for the rest of the trip.


Iowa was pretty but flat until we got to southern end of the state. And yes, they really do grow a lot of corn.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Day Five

De Smet, SD
-0- Miles

Mum's car was fine. The owner of the B&B (Andy) had me pop the hood and he fiddled with the battery wires. That seems all the car wanted, much like certain people I could mention. *ahem* It has been fine since then.

First stop was at the museum/gift store right next door to the Surveyors' House. I purchased my tour ticket there ($8.00 per adult) and waited until our tour guide (TG) was ready. TG took an older couple and me through the Surveyors' House pointing out certain items and doing her spiel. We were not allowed upstairs in the Surveyors' House, but that was okay. They had a nifty set up with a mirror at the top of the very steep stairs reflecting the room back down to us.

The next stop on the tour was the Brewster/Bouchie schoolhouse recreation (it's a few steps behind the SH). It was pretty much as I imagined it would be. A few more steps and we were at the original school that Laura and Carrie went to school in. It had been moved around and used as a house, but it was finally bought by the LIW people and is the midst of being returned to its original state.

(For some unknown reason I didn't take photos of either schoolhouse. You can see a bit of the Brewster schoolhouse peaking out to the right of the above photograph.)

After the schoolhouse we got into our vehicles and followed TG to Charles and Caroline Ingalls' last home. You can see the upstairs in this house as there is a outside staircase. The interior staircase is too twisty and rickety for regular use. As it happens, it is only three doors down from the great B&B we stayed in. Those two homes and the schoolhouses are the only places on the guided tour.

After the tour ended Mum and I went to the Ingalls' Homestead. We, or rather I, didn't go to do the touristy stuff. All I wanted to see was the cottonwoods and marker stone at the site, so that's what we did. It's a very peaceful and pretty plot of land of about an acre. It was really awesome to see the five cottonwoods that Charles planted are still standing and healthy. It doesn't cost anything to see this area.

Last, but not least, was a visit to the De Smet Cemetery. Oddly enough there are no signs leading to it like you might expect with any regular cemetery (there are signs directing you to the Ingalls' graves once you're inside the cemetery). In spite of that we had maps and easily found it. Charles, Caroline and Mary Ingalls are interred there as are Carrie (Swanzey) and Grace (Dow). Also buried is the little boy of Laura's who died when he about two weeks old. I've always wondered why Laura and Almanzo didn't have any more children, but I suppose we'll never know.

No photographs are allowed in any of the homes, museums and gift shops. That was a bit of a bummer but understandable.

It was too early to have dinner, so Mum and I did a little driving around. We saw Lake Thompson but didn't go into the fee required area. The lake is much larger than I imagined it to be. The Lone Cottonwood still stands, alive, between Lake Thompson and Lake Henry. I didn't get a photograph of it as I didn't think about it until after we got back to the B&B. We also saw two pheasants which was the first time either of us had seen one in the wild.

We then headed back to the Surveyors' House so I could go through the gift shop. I managed to keep my spending just under $60.00.

A note about the Prairie House Manor Bed & Breakfast. Mum and I were in the bedroom with twin beds (Chantilly Lace). They were quite comfortable. There was a choice of several hot breakfasts that were really good. They have a total of six bedrooms with different sleeping arrangements depending on how many are in your party and if they want to share beds or not. The price of the B&B was comparable to a hotel/motel yet so much better. I can't recommend Andy and Jenny's hospitality enough. And no, they aren't paying me to write this.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Day Four

Keystone, SD to De Smet, SD
371 Miles

I've got to remember the time changes when calculating time on the road. We got to De Smet at 10:00 p.m. It's been a very long, hot day.

Mt. Rushmore was, well, Mt. Rushmore. Quite impressive, beautiful, etc. The grounds are really well done. There was a theatre, several exhibit areas, two bookstores, a huge gift store and an outdoor amphitheatre. Mum wasn't up for walking so I parked the car in a position so she could see the mountain.

The Badlands were awesome. I had no idea that they covered such a large area. The Badlands National Park only covers about 10% of the area.

We stopped at Wall Drug for lunch. What a monument to consumerism. But it was kind of a crazy fun in spite of it.

We finally made it to De Smet and are tucked away in the Prairie House Manor Bed & Breakfast. It's in the old Banker Ruth home, he was mentioned in Little Town on the Prairie.

We have a little hiccup to attend to in the morning. I went to move Mum's car to park it in the street and it wouldn't start. It's dead as a doornail. We're hoping it's just a loose battery cable. If that's the only bad thing to happen this trip, I'll consider us very lucky.


Just some stuff:

We did get a cell phone before we started the trip. Mum, who said hell would freeze over before she bought one, bought it. Note: hell did not freeze over.

A thing I've noticed: so many freckles on my hands and lower arms! Amazingly, I have not burst into flames due to being exposed to that weird glowing ball in the sky.

I am going to allow anonymous comments so anyone who doesn't already have a Blogger account does not have to make one. Please play nice. And, crossing my fingers, I'm hoping the sp*mbots don't find my blog.

I have added a Sitemeter so I can tell how many people are visiting the blog.

Note that I have changed the format/title of the posts. I've added a "to/from" and mileage in the body of each post. The mileage is from point-to-point, not our true mileage. I have no desire to have to check the odometer morning and night.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Day Three

Laurel, MT to Keystone, SD
354 Miles

Our first stop, which we almost didn't do but I changed my mind, was the Little Bighorn Battlefield. Wow. I've read articles and books about the battle, but being there was something altogether different. What really surprised me was how large the area was between the two major battle areas (the "Last Stand" area and the area where Reno's troops were). The white marble markers showing where soldiers dropped and the red granite markers showing where the Indian warriors dropped (of which there are too few, mostly due to lack of info) really brought home how much carnage there was.

And having the mental pictures of the battle overlaying the reality of today (beautiful day, heard crickets and meadowlarks and other small birds, smelled sweet flowers and grasses, saw butterflies) made for a disquieting juxtaposition. As it has been said time and again - war sucks.

As we left the Battlefield we took a smaller highway continuing east. We now know where the deer and antelope play! We saw several regular deer and lots of Pronghorn. Which, as it turns out, are not antelope at all. Who knew?!

We continued on to an even smaller highway and saw ... dun dun DUN! the Devil's Tower.

Yep, the monolithic remains of an upchucking volcano. It was very cool to drive around a curve and have it on the horizon. We didn't actually go into the National Park, but I was able to take photos from several vantage points.

After that we continued on (blah blah blah) and we're staying the night in Keystone, SD. Keystone is home to Mt. Rushmore and was home to Carrie Ingalls (Swanzey), one of Laura Ingalls Wilder's sisters.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Day Two

Spokane, WA to Laurel, MT
525 Miles

Laurel, MT, is just a few miles west of Billings.

Had a great trip through the mountains. And by the way - Montana is appropriately named - lots of mountains!

We didn't do much off I-90 driving. We toured through Butte, MT. Butte is the town on the "richest hill on earth". They've been taking copper and other miscellaneous metals and minerals out of the hill and they don't see an end in sight. We toured the area they call the "uptown" area. There were lots of cool old brick buildings from the late 1800s and early 1900s. Most of the buildings were either closed or in disrepair and the roads were torn up with construction. There were signs posted that they're working on "reclaiming" and upgrading the area. I'd like to see it in a couple years when it's back on its feet.

Somewhere along this route we saw a complete rainbow - from end to end. Neither Mum or I believe we've ever seen a complete rainbow.

We also saw these Pinto ponies. My favourite!

And did I mention that there are lots of mountains?

Friday, June 18, 2010

Day One

Everett, WA to Spokane WA
303 Miles

We made it safe and sound to Spokane. It was a beautiful drive once we got into the mountains and then into the eastern Washington prairies.

We stopped in Ellensburg to fuel up. It's a lot bigger than I thought it would be. It had several neat old buildings that appeared to be part of a campus.

We also saw a wind-farm with huge wind turbines. They either weren't working yet, there we're several being put together, or it wasn't windy. They were very futuristic looking with nothing around them except prairie. I should have stopped to take a photo, but didn't.

We crossed the Columbia River at Vantage. It's fairly wide there, but not as wide as it gets closer to the coast. [Click on the photos to make them larger]

Also at Vantage was a scenic look-out over the river as well as a really cool sculpture of wild horses. The sculpture is up on a ridge that you can climb too (neither Mum or I were in any shape to do so). I did take a few photos there.

We stopped at Ritzville (it ain't ritzy) for lunch (McDonald's). Not exciting but there isn't much to Ritzville.

We got to Spokane at 3:30 which is much earlier than we expected. When I got up this morning at 7:00 I thought it was much later due to how bright it was. It's amazing how bright it is when you don't have a gloomy cloud covered sky.

[I'll be posting photos at the end of the trip due to the lack of photo editing software on this Netbook. There is Paint, but it's worse than useless. I'll insert the photos into the correct posts and make a post to tell y'all that they've been added.]

Thursday, June 17, 2010

First Post!

Today's itinerary:

Eric (aka: the mister, my husband) is driving me down to Bellingham to meet up with Mum (aka: Dorothy). As a bonus: my favourite pizza for lunch! The best pizza in the world is Round Table's Italian Garlic Supreme (no tomatoes). NOM NOM NOM!

After the hand-off lunch, Mum and I will drive down to her place in Everett which will be the starting point of this road trip.

Things we have to do today once we're in Everett:

- buy a cell phone
- go grocery shopping (need drinks, snacks, cereal, milk)

Cereal and milk you ask? Yes, to save money we'll have breakfast in our motel room.

Plans for Friday are driving from Everett to Spokane. It's only five hours or so from Everett but I think it's a good start for our first day.

(Only geeks-like-me will get that post title.)