Category Archives: u.s. road trip 2010

u.s. road trip…day 17

well, i expected this journey to be worse than the one before…i’ve not seen much of texas, but the teensy tiny fraction i have seen took 16 days of 103 degree weather to drive through, and the only variation in the landscape was the occasional tumbleweed crossing our path, sent by god in heaven to preserve our sanity.  ok, that’s a slight exaggeration, and anyway, the point is that it was a really lovely drive down, with loads of pretty things to look at.

[the best part of the whole trip…deserves a little explanation…you know how lots of american shows were big in other countries just a few years after in the states, cuz they didn’t get aired until then?  kinda like how we’ve got 5-year old episodes of eastenders on pbs?  well, this is the reason that chris, in spite of being only a month older than me, knows dallas, while i have no clue because i am simply way too young (it feels good to say that).  but i could never have been prepared for quite possibly the funniest thing that he has ever done…as soon as we drove into dallas, he burst into song at the TOP of his lungs – DALLAS!  ton univers impitoyable! oui, madame et messieurs, that is indeed the french version of the dallas theme song.]

but my main focus at this point was my MOM – it was the day before her birthday and i hadn’t seen her in a year and a half!  and the drive google had informed would take 9 hours turned out to be a measly 6!  so we got to mom and keith’s new digs (landlocked cruise ship, their neighbors’ kids called it) before sunset.  mom had made an incredible dinner and then we went golfcarting (!), a pastime the locals partake in quite regularly, i understand.  and, for the next two weeks, my mom made absolutely certain that we didn’t suffer a nanosecond of boredom.


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u.s. road trip…days 14-16

got to my aunt mary’s in wichita pretty late (are you noticing that i skipped the drive from fort collins to wichita?  good on ya.  that’s exactly how exciting it was), but, as she’d earlier told us, she was away at a barbershop competition – she conducts one group and trains another…i think.  the woman is the single busiest musician i’ve ever met.  in addition to that, she teaches music at middle school and works with (conducts?) her church choir.  anyway, my aunt rita and uncle jack let us in, and hung out to chat for a while.  the next day we went out with my aunt pat, uncle frank, and their daughter susan to a kids’ museum called exploration place in which chris and i experienced the only good kind of tornado – a virtual one – and partook of their vegetarian option:  pb&j with french fries.  excellent.  we stopped for a piece of pie with susan on the way home, and as the family would be making their way over that evening, we decided to buy a pie.

the guy behind the counter heard us discussing whether or not it would be enough, and decided to throw TWO pies in for free!  that’s a lotta pie.  and typical kansas hospitality.  best part was, there was no showy stuff about it.  he even let us pick which kind!  not long after we got back, family started to arrive, and this was a reasonably big group.  7 aunts and uncles, 6 cousins, 7 second cousins, and that’s not counting me and chris!  needless to say, it was a full house…the kids ran around and played while uncle mike and aunt mary jammed…aunt pat showed us pictures i never knew existed of family i’m too young to have met but knew by name…a really good evening all in all.

next day my aunt rita picked us up and we went for lunch at a place that specialized in everything (le monde)  – delicious – and then took us on a tour of wichita, complete with history and a walk around the university – a really beautiful campus with loads of art scattered throughout.  then aunt mary and aunt pat took us out for mexican with susan (seriously…we ate this much)…and aunt mary must have read my mind, because she said, ‘you guys probably haven’t gotten to work out the whole time you’ve been traveling….you wanna go to my gym tonight?’  now, normally after 2 beers and a big plate of comida mexicana, working out is the last thing on my mind, but right at that moment, nothing sounded better.  so that was what we did!

on our last day, mary woke us up bright and early and had breakfast waiting, complete with jamaican blue mountain coffee – does it get any better??? and we were on our way into the state that’s bigger than any european country…the one you don’t mess with…think big hats and bigger steaks…


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u.s. road trip…day 13

i guess the most significant part of this drive was the vast horizons…the landscape changed pretty dramatically, from mountains and forest to prairies and shrubs.  but the colors were so striking – loads of this beautiful amber grassland, spotted with these eggplant (aubergine?) colored shrubs.  man, mother nature can seriously coordinate some colors.

we drove through wyoming and then shot straight south to fort collins to visit my grandma on my mom’s side.  when i was growing up my grandma was one of the most highly regarded real estate agents in colorado, and was an entirely self-made woman.  the years were good to her, thanks to a rigorous workout routine, a healthy diet and great genes.  so she worked right up until about 3 years ago, when she suddenly – and heart-wrenchingly – lost her ability to walk.  it’s been a difficult transition, to say the least, but she has made a home for herself and her lovely dog in an incredible apartment.  she gets along swimmingly n her chair, and while it would be untrue tosay she was happy about the situation, it has never been her modus operondi to wallow or whine.  so the sentiment that came across most clearly was her gratitude to others.

she put us up in a flat of our own with a window that looked out onto the rockies.  the evening we arrived she made sure that 2 of my uncles’ wives and my uncle tim’s three sons came to dinner – my uncles were all sadly away – and then we had a lovely breakfast the next day before saying goodbye and making our way to kansas.


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u.s. road trip…days 11-12

so one of the first painful realizations of our trip – we actually forgot to charge the camera before getting to yellowstone.  so i guess that it could have been worse, but that was a pretty big bummer.  and darren and margherita gave chris a freeloader for just such an occasion on his last birthday, but sadly we’d left it in france.  so while the experience was incredible, the pic’s are minimal.

we had no idea how big the park was, but we knew that we wanted to find a new campsite, and get at least one hike in by the end of the day, so we made our way to one of two more sites that were still open for the season.  along the way we saw a massive group of people staring out into the distance, complete with telescopes and binoculars…we wanted to stop, but the campsites had been filling up, so we decided to continue along.  later we found out that what we’d missed was a bear fighting with a pack of wolves over the carcass of a bison…discovery channel stuff!  bummer, but as we got the 2nd-to-last site, and as we’d have never made it to another campsite in time, not a lot of choice.  we did manage to squeeze in a 4-mile (should have been 5, but i got tired!) hike, whereupon chris laid eyes on his ‘first real cowboys!’  when we got back, i also had a first – i got a warning from a ranger!  i had no idea that bottled water was part of the long list of what campers have to stow away to keep bears away, but i had left a big bottle out to make sun tea, and the volunteer was none-too-happy with yours truly!

next day felt a bit warmer in the morning…still, breakfast was a continually difficult endeavor as we were functioning on less sleep than normal, our fingers ached from the cold, and even with all the layers we could add, the weather just put us in a cranky mood, at least until later in the day, as the sun and the temperature rose, bringing our spirits along for the ride.  we did a couple more hikes on the 2nd day – one in particular that seriously challenged my heights issues (and thank goodness for chris, or else i might still be up there plastered to the side of the side of the mountain, refusing to budge!).  we checked out old faithful, which really was cool, and then started to make our way south.  the idea was to camp out in the southern-most campsite at yellowstone, or better still, somewhere in grand teton, just south of yellowstone.  but then it started raining.  and seriously – i mean raining.  we got to the first campsite and the volunteer said he would recommend staying put, as the weather wouldn’t get better, and putting up the tent would be the hard part.  chris wanted to keep going, and i wasn’t opposed, but as we made our way, it literally started SNOWING.  and raining.  AT THE SAME TIME.  now, i’m rugged.  i’m hardcore.  and i’m smart enough to know when we’re severely under-prepared for weather.  so we decided to make our way to a motel…couldn’t be more than $40-50, right?  WRONG!  the third one we tried was $70/night…the draw to the tiny town in which we stopped?  hunting.

anyway, it was good to have a shower in time to see my grandma the next day.


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u.s. road trip…day 10

the night before we left, we sat down to look at the map with martha, and she showed us the best route to yellowstone, complete with the two things on our to-see/do list – hot springs and a ghost town.  so we stopped at jackson, a town of something like 17 (it seemed) and took an incredibly relaxing dip in the hotsprings.  just amazing, because it’s really pretty cold there, so the cool air on your above-the-surface bits, and the super warm (and even downright hot in some places) water surrounding…it would have been absolutely perfect except for some dude working on the decking at the precise moment we were swimming.  my theory is that he thought we would get up to naughty things, because i would put serious money on us being the only patrons that day, as well as the fact that he only came out when we did, and ‘finished’ just as we were getting out!  c’est la vie.

from there, invigorated and refreshed, we made our way to bannack, the former territorial capital of montana – a real bona fide ghost town.  as i’ve never been to a ghost town, i’m not sure how it would compare, but i thought it was flat-out kickass.  the buildings were erect, and you can enter the vast majority of them to explore – everything from the old hotel, bar, church and school house, to family homes..that was a bi creepy, but so cool.  i had to keep reminding myself that it was the real deal – not some universal studios set.  and anyone who’s watched a couple of episodes of deadwood – you know what i mean.

but eventually we landed in yellowstone, where we would stay the next two nights.  we got there before sunset, but then realized that we’d neglected to buy firewood – an essential as it was cold when the sun was up!  so chris ventured back out into civilization while i got started on the wine…and the tent.

TOTAL MILES:  approx. 2400 (forgot to write it down!)

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u.s. road trip…day 8-9

by the time chris and i pulled ourselves out of bed, my uncle was already in the process of putting breakfast together:  potato pancakes and hash browns, fresh oranges, his own homemade syrups (3 kinds!), and coffee.  wow.  uncle chuck took us on a tour of his land – i think he said he’s got 4-5 acres but i’m not 100% certain.  he’s got a beautiful cabin with a gorgeous deck outside, a berry garden of his own design (and from whence his amazing jams and syrups herald), loads of open space but lots of trees – my uncle loves trees – and all of it leads onto a big creek/little river, which feeds into the larger yaak river.  just stunning.  and just so you have the right image in your head, the inside of the house is so well and precisely decorated, it could serve as a B&B straight away.  is idyllic the right word to use here?  it came to mind in oregon, and at several more points along the way, but i think it was best suited to uncle chuck’s place.

chuck led us back to the highway (yes – that’s how tucked away it is!) and into town.  along the way he pulled over a couple fo times to show us some really nice views along the yaak.  then he bid us farewell, sending a map of western montana, jam, syrup, and a super fancy bottle of port along for our journey.

we continued along the route he’d suggested – montana is absolutely unreal.  everything feels just so freaking massive!  the trees, but also the mountains, and the number of trees ON the mountains!  the horizon sometimes stretches so far, you must be able to see for 25 miles…and you know, i think i’m seriously underestimating.

anyway, on we went, en route to hamilton, where my former employers, martha and duke, have been living the last three years.  mind you, i looked after ross and then kim for just over two years, and i think the last time i saw them, ross was just four and kim not yet 2?  or something like that.  at any rate, they are little no more!  ross is now 8 and kim is six, and they are both, to put it mildly, amazing.  duke and martha found this incredible home to live in, over a century standing, and reminiscent of a doll house from outside, but not in a gross way – it’s what comes to mind when i think ‘american victorian,’ but then i’m kind of an idiot when it comes to these things.  hamilton is a very hip town, with a yoga studio, coffee houses, a great burrito lunch spot, and a really quaint downtown area, which really is more like an ‘old town,’ although i think it’s the town, so.  after martha put the kids to bed, she told us that ross had requested we stay an extra night, so we did – who could say no to that kid?


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