Saturday, November 30, 2013

On Thanksgiving

Last week Felisa drew a picture of all the Thanksgiving foods, including something called Kirby.  When I asked her about it she said, "If you sat at the kids' table you would know." I love that! I love that they have special Thanksgiving memories of their own.

Julie, a friend of mine, is an Australian living in the States at the moment. She recently commented on Facebook that she was finally going to be at a regular American Thanksgiving dinner at a friend's house. When I read that, I instantly felt so sad for her. Thanksgiving to me is all about the people; more is better.  We travelled some as a kid to have Thanksgiving with my dad's family in Illinois and I have lots of great memories from those holidays together. We were (and still are) a military family so we moved a lot and didn't always have the chance to drive to Grandma's. On the years we stayed home, our door was always open to anyone we knew that didn't have a dinner to host or attend.  We have been fortunate since living in California to be able to travel to New Mexico to celebrate Thanksgiving with Ron's family.

I can't imagine a Thanksgiving dinner with just our core immediate family. All that work to prepare a meal and no other friends or family to share it with? How sad that would be, at least to me. So you can see why I felt sad that Julie hadn't been invited anywhere the first couple years. I can only hope that I am always aware and proactive in future years to notice anyone without a dinner invite so that I can invite them to celebrate with us any time we are not travelling for the holiday.  After all, what's Thanksgiving without friends and family and laughter? A few years ago we celebrated at Shani's house. The kids were downstairs while the adults were gathered around the table. Later my kids complained that the adults had been making way too much noise and laughing so much. Really?  Sounds like a perfect Thanksgiving to me!

Thursday, October 31, 2013

On military life

The hard goodbyes and wonderful hellos of the military life...

A comment made by a friend on Facebook, a career Naval officer currently serving a (recently extended) remote duty tour on Diego Garcia.  It just really struck me and resonated for me.  So true.  The goodbyes are so hard but the trade off is all the wonderful hellos that you never would've had otherwise.  A hard life in many ways and yet a blessed way of life too.  I am grateful to have had so many wonderful experiences and seen so many places thanks in part to the nomadic military life I have lived, first as a dependent, then as an active service member, and now as a dependent once again.

Sunday, October 06, 2013

Friendship Quote

A friendship can weather most things and thrive in thin soil; but it needs a little mulch of letters and phone calls and small, silly presents every so often - just to save it from drying out completely.
-Pam Brown

Friday, September 27, 2013

Day 10 (full version)

Day 10 – Thursday – July 4, 2013

 0630 Wake up.  Get dressed right away so I can get Rocco out for a potty break.  He still won’t go. I think maybe he’s still nervous from the fireworks last night.  Then  we spot some elk cruising through town, enjoying their breakfast and it’s a hopeless case.  He just won’t pee! So back to the cabin to see if anyone else is up yet.

0700 Felisa is up so she comes with me to walk Rocco again.  I have once again just about given up hope when he finally decides to pee.  Whew.  Talk about bladder of steel!

0800 Stop at the local small market to pick up some food.  We got fruit, muffins, hot dogs, bread and ice.

0820 Stop in town to get some coffee.

0840 Mammoth Hot Springs.  Mmm… smell the sulfur!

0855 Visitor Center.  We take turns going in and waiting outside with Rocco.  While I was outside I saw a 4th of July parade across the street in the lodge parking lot.  Rocco’s favorite part of this stop was sniffing the elk poop in the park.  What did we learn here?

Felisa – Otherwise known as song dogs, coyotes communicate through howls, yelps, and woofs.

Ryan – Elk cows give birth away from the herd and stay away for 2 weeks until the babies are strong enough to keep up with the herd.  They keep the calves hidden while they graze during this time.

Bella – Mountain lions eat bison and elk and sometimes also porcupines and marmots.

0930 We are on the road towards Old Faithful.

0937 Decide to drive through the Mammoth Hot Springs upper terrace on the way.  It definitely smells like sulfur up here!

0948 Orange Mound

0951 Angel Terrace.  Lots of dead trees here.

0952 Leaving the Upper Terrace Drive.

1009 Obsidian Cliff

1015 Roaring Mountain.  The 1988 forest fire burn area is across the street.

1034 Norris Geyser Basin.  Rocco and I hang around the parking lot while Ron and the kids go check it out.  It’s not too bad when we first arrive but the longer we wait, the crazier it gets in the parking lot.  Too many people and not enough spots.

1130 Leaving Norris.  They were able to see examples of all the main types of geothermal features – steam vents, hot springs, mud pots, and geysers.  What did we learn?
Felisa – Mud pots are sometimes called paint pots when minerals tint the mud various colors.
Ryan – Pork Chop was a friendly hot spring named for its shape.  In 1971 it turned into a continuous steam vent.  In 1985 it erupted violently shooting out lots of debris and has continued  to occasionally erupt since then.  Pork Chop is not so friendly anymore…
Bella – Hot springs are the most common geothermal feature in Yellowstone.

Our favorite parts of Norris:
Felisa and Ryan –the colors
Bella – the orange and green creek
Ron – Porcelain Geyser

1134 Elk Park

12:04 p.m. Fountain Paint Pot – a busy area so we didn’t stop but from the road it looks like a small colorful geyser.

12:12 p.m. Biscuit Basin

12:15 p.m. Passing Old Faithful.  We are worried about being able to find a campsite for tonight so we decide to skip Old Faithful and head for the campground.   We’ll come back up later in the day.

12:25 p.m. Continental Divide, Craig Pass, 8262 feet

12:33 p.m. Continental Divide, 8391 feet

12:44 p.m. Continental Divide, 7988 feet

12:56 p.m. Lewis Lake Campground.  The campground is pretty full already but we find a spot and get set up.  The group before us were total litterbugs. This place is a mess! After lunch Ron and the kids take Rocco for a walk and then we all relax a little. Ron takes the girls down to swim at the lake while Ryan and I stay at the camp with Rocco to read.  After a bit we hear thunder.  Not long after the swimmers are back.

5:13 The car is packed back up with our food and other items we don’t want to leave sitting out while we drive back across the park to see Old Faithful.

5:22 p.m. Continental Divide, 7988 feet

5:32 p.m. Continental Divide, 8391 feet. People are in front of the sign so I don’t get a picture.

5:43 p.m. Continental Divide, 8262 feet. I got a picture but it’s raining so not sure it will turn out.

5:55 p.m. Old Faithful parking.  It’s raining here too. We have arrived at a good time.  We can look around the visitors’ center for a bit before Old Faithful’s next predicted eruption.  I was worried we would have arrived just after an eruption and have to wait a long time.

6:47 p.m. There she blows! The estimated time was 6:39.  The show lasted 3 minutes.  We stood in the rain for at least 30 minutes waiting for the eruption but now we’ve all seen it and can check it off the bucket list. Even Rocco got to see it but he had to wait off to the side since he wasn’t allowed in the official viewing area.  He had a better seat though, at least for the waiting time, because he stayed dry under a tree!  After the eruption Ron took the kids shopping at the general store while Rocco and I went back to the car.

7:20 p.m. Leaving Old Faithful area.  As we drive back to camp there is a full double rainbow.  So awesome!

7:52 p.m. Finally got a picture of the Continental Divide sign.  We have crossed the Continental Divide 9 times today!

8:02 p.m. Back at the campsite. Throw together a quick dinner of franks-n-beans.  The rain held off but there are 6 million billion bazillion mosquitoes swarming us. It’s awful!  We start a fire hoping to scare them off with the smoke and we’re all covered head-to-toe and nothing we do seems to be thwarting them.  Our last defense – hide in the tent!

9:45 p.m. All of us are bedded down for the night.  No one is sleepy but it’s the only way to avoid the mosquitoes!

Wednesday, September 25, 2013


Stuck between a rock and a hard place.
Stand by for a session full of woe-is-me full-on whining.  It ain't pretty but sometimes I just gotta get it out.  World's tiniest violin, stand by!
1.  I have no energy.
I have no energy because I am not eating right. I also have no energy TO eat right.  Rock, meet hard place.  Hard place, meet Rock.
2.  I also feel lacking in the focus and motivation departments.  I suspect this is closely tied to #1 above.
3.  My photoshop program won't activate.  Because it's too old.  But I need the program to edit photos for a client's scrapbook project which is so far past deadline I can no longer even see the deadline in my rear-view mirror.  Also, the photo editing is one of the few off-line tasks I can accomplish when sitting in my home-away-from-home-old-faithful-God-love-it-minivan while waiting for my precious offspring to partake in the activities du jour.  I need to be productive while waiting in the parking lot because...
4.  I have no time.
Actually, I probably do have time.  What I really have is a time management problem.  This is a recurring theme for me and not really sure what the answer is to this.  It is also related to #1 and #2 above.  Sometimes I stand in my house thinking to myself that I have so many things I should be doing and I don't know where to start.  And then I give up and go back to bed to play games on my iPad.  See- time MANAGEMENT problems.   Lack of focus and lack of motivation and lack of energy also.
5.  My better half is halfway around the world.  None of these problems are new and he cannot solve any of these problems (well, maybe the photoshop problem.  And I've just emailed him about that.  He should be awake in another hour or two and I'm sure he will be quite happy(!) to see a cheerful computer problems email waiting for him.), however these problems seem easier to bear when there is a living, breathing, more-responsible-than-I, adult sleeping next to me.
6.  I'm feeling in limbo. 
Again.  Or still.  We have been here for two full years.  It is now our last year before we move again.  Which means it is time to start disengaging while also trying to experience all the "last time we will do (blank)" here.  But I also feel like there isn't much to disengage from since I never got fully engaged to begin with.  Not enough time.  Not so much interest from most of the people around us.  I feel like I have 2 friends that will miss me perhaps a tiny bit (and who I will miss and will be happy to have added to my lifetime of friends list).  And lots of acquaintances for whom we are just a blip on the radar.  It is time to look forward to what's next.  I find myself feeling ambivalent about what's next.  We're going back to somewhere we lived before.  I've never done that before.  I'm not sure how it works.  I feel like I should be excited (and would've been excited a year ago probably) but I'm not.  I'll be glad to see a few of my bestest friends again but that's it.  Everything else feels like a take-it-or-leave-it.  Which seems strange considering how hard it was to leave just 2 years (and a couple months) ago.
 7.  My house looks like a bomb exploded.  A really BIG bomb.  See #1, 2, and 3 above.  Are you seeing a pattern here?  Something along the lines of "life is hard so quitcher whinin' and get on with it already!"  The dishwasher is broken (still - since sometime last spring) and I have a pile of clean laundry in the living room and several piles of dirty laundry in the laundry room.  The floor hasn't been cleaned in months.  My carpet is dog-hair colored decorated with bits of string chewed off of Rocco's rope toys and littered with very sharp nylon bones.  But on the plus side, I made birthday snacks to take to school for Bella's birthday yesterday and got every one of them to every scheduled activity mostly on time and fed them dinner.  But that's ALL I managed to accomplish and that's just not enough.  I'm losing ground.  Sinking slowly in the quicksand of life.
8.  It's time to drive Bella to art and Ryan to guitar (where I will NOT be editing photos thanks for nothing you rotten photoshop) and back to art to pick up Bella then home for a nutritious dinner of beanie weenies and bakery-sale-rack corn muffins.  Then drive Ryan to church for a Boy scout service activity.  Then home again probably then back to pick him up an hour later.
But #8 is good news because that means the whine-fest is over!  Whew.  Such a fun ride, no?  Now move along people.  Nothing to see here...  move along...

Friday, September 06, 2013

How Quickly We Forget

So...  I was just cleaning out my email inbox of old, long-forgotten, and now mostly irrelevant, email messages.  I found a note, sent to myself, of an idea for a blog post.  My note was: How Quickly We Forget.  I find it completely hilarious that I now have absolutely no idea what I was worried about forgetting and have now forgotten.


Monday, August 19, 2013

Words from the teenager

"It's boring being dead."
- Ryan
(Thoughts on being the first one out of the game and having to sit watching the rest of the game)

*family game night!*

Monday, August 12, 2013

School Supply Shopping

S: Time to go.
R: But I haven't had breakfast yet.
S: Well then get to it.
R: Why do we have to do it today?
B: I've been waiting for weeks!
R:But if you do it today you'll have a big black hole in your schedule for the rest of the week.  Nothing to look forward to.  Nothing to do.
S: She can sit around admiring all her new supplies.
R: Noooooo! You should just dream about all the cool stuff you're not going to get and we can go another day.
B: I've already been doing that for a month!
S: It's time to stop dreaming and take action!  Let's go!

Added note:  I offered to pick out all his supplies for him.  He declined.  Though perhaps now he is wishing to change his mind...

Friday, August 09, 2013

National Lampoon Vacation

Clark W. Griswold: See, Honey. Despite all the little problems, isn't it great?
Mrs. Griswold: No. But each day offers fresh hope.

Funny movie. We should watch it for a family movie night sometime.

Day 9 (full version)

Day 9 – Wednesday – July 3, 2013

0605 Wake up.

0715 We are packed and loaded, ready to hit the road.  We’ve got a long drive ahead of us today so we didn’t even take time to make coffee.  We’ve got to get out of here!  Actually though, despite the fact that the campground was full, it was really a very nice, quiet campground.

0736 Bald eagle perched in the top of a tree enjoying the morning view of Lake McDonald.

0743 Leaving the park.

0824 Stop for gas, $3.63/gallon, ice for the cooler, and coffee for the drivers.

0839 Big Fork, MT and Flathead Lake.  Current temperature, 75 degrees.

0846 Woods Bay, MT.  This town features an all-weather concrete teepee and a place selling chainsaw carvings.

0856 Lots of orchards here along the lake and the highway.  It looks like mostly cherries to me but hard to know for sure when we are whizzing by at 60 miles per hour.

0858 Flathead Indian Reservation

0900 Runaway dog in the road.  The owner scooped him up just in time – a big truck was about to run him over!

0919 Polson, MT

0921 Miracle of America Museum.  Looks interesting for a future stop.

0924 Jolly Pack Rat.  What a great name for a second-hand store.

0926 Peoples Center.  Not sure what it is exactly.  An Indian museum/learning center maybe?

0931 An entire herd of cattle hanging out under the one tree in the field.  There’s just not enough shade for all of them!

0934 Suds-n-Duds.  It’s a Laundromat, carwash, and showers.  Get everything clean at once, including yourself!

0935 Stop at McD’s for more coffee and a late breakfast.

1004 National Bison Range.  Do you think we’ll see any bison?  (Spoiler alert – we didn’t.)  Also all the signs here on the reservation have the original Indian names in addition to the new English names.

1013 Bison hides for sale.  Hmm.  Maybe that’s why we haven’t seen any bison yet.

1020  An article in the local paper says that the yellow fields are actually canola plants.

1031 Arrive in Missoula

1045 Blackfoot River

1125 Gas, $3.53/gallon

1150 Headed up Bear Gulch Road looking for a ghost town.

12:00 p.m. Bella has pointed out that it is “high noon”.  That can’t be good.  Now the kids are reviewing all the Scooby Doo stories that involve being lost on dirt roads and ghost towns.  We’ll be lucky to make it out alive.

12:34 p.m. Still driving.  Now we are on the Cave Gulch Road detour.  This road is awful!  We’re never going to make it!  But on the plus side, there are so many butterflies.  Good omens?  I hope so.

12:41 p.m. Arrive at Garnet Ghost Town.  No flat tires.  No crashing off the mountain cliffs. We made it!  Not sure how we’re going to get back out though.  And where did all these cars come from?  We (thankfully) only met one car on the (very skinny) road.  Wait, what does that sign say?  Highway 200?  Where does Highway 200 go?

1:53 p.m. After a very nice visit in Garnet (even Rocco was allowed in all the buildings – wasn’t that hospitable of the ghosts to allow pets?) we are headed out – on Highway 200.  That road is much better than the way we came.  Our favorite parts of the ghost town:

Ryan – the hotel

Bella – the general store

Felisa – the blacksmith and the house that was just her size

Sheila – being able to go in and walk around all the buildings in town

Ron – Felisa’s house

Rocco – NOT the bugs.  He did like the treats from the volunteers though and being able to go inside the buildings to sniff around.

Looking at the map I see that we could have driven straight down Highway 83 from Glacier to Highway 200 saving ourselves time and grey hairs but then it wouldn’t have been such a memorable adventure!  Now we will always remember our visit to the ghost town.

2:31 p.m. Following the Blackfoot River back to Missoula.

2:37 p.m. Bonner Mill

2:44 p.m. Taco Bell in Missoula for a late lunch.

3:13 p.m. Caught a bit of cell signal in Missoula and was able to post a couple pictures to Facebook.  It was a roaming signal.  Really hoping the cell phone bill isn’t crazy this month.

3:29 p.m. Back to Drummond –the place where our 4-hour (111 mile) detour to the ghost town originally started.

3:54 p.m. Sign says local fireworks don’t start until 10:15 p.m.  So late.  But then again it doesn’t get dark very early here so that makes sense.  Not sure if I would be able to stay awake to see the fireworks though.

3:58 p.m. Grant-Kohrs Ranch Historic Site.  Hot and sunny here but a cool place to see.  It is one of the original ranches in the area.

4:39 p.m. Leaving the ranch.  Rocco wasn’t allowed in so Ryan waited with him at the car while Ron and the girls and I went in to look around.

4:41 p.m. Old Montana Prison is here in this town and a few other interesting things to see in Deer Lodge.  Add it to the list of places to come back to.

4:53 p.m. Anaconda Smokestack

5:01 p.m. Pass a pick-up truck with a bass drum in the back.

5:13 p.m. Butte, MT. Elevation 5767 feet.

5:15 p.m. Giant white statue on top of the bluff.  Who is it?  Jesus? Mary?  Whoever it is, it’s definitely biblical.

5:19 p.m. Beaverhead-Deer Lodge National Forest

5:21 p.m. Continental Divide, 6393 feet

5:38 p.m. Tobacco Root Mountains

5:40 p.m. Lewis and Clark Caverns State Park.  If we had more time we would stop.

6:03 p.m. Madison Buffalo Jump State Park – another place we wanted to see but there’s just not enough time!  The Indians used to drive the buffalo off the cliff here.

6:04 p.m. Construction zone

6:12 p.m. Gallatin River. Two dogs are out enjoying a swim in a river.

6:23 p.m. Bozeman, MT.  There’s a Target here- must be a big city.  Gas, $3.56/gallon

6:53 p.m. Bozeman Pass

7:03 p.m. Exit at Livingston onto Highway 89.  53 miles to the north entrance of Yellowstone.

8:00 p.m. Arrive at Yellowstone.  Only two campgrounds are still open.  The closest, Tower Falls, is 23 miles away.

8:04 p.m. Wyoming

8:07 p.m. Mammoth Campground – wow, that place is packed full!

8:40 p.m. Finally arrive at Tower Falls after a long drive, a buffalo jam (there were babies –so cute!), and a construction zone.  Sadly, the campground is full already.  We decide to go out the Northeast entrance to find another campground outside the park.

9:05 p.m. Never mind. Ron decided he’d rather go back out the North entrance and look for a hotel room in Gardiner.

9:06 p.m. Another bison crossing the road.  Slight delay

9:13 p.m. GPS changes to night colors. Must be sunset.

9:17 p.m. Wildlife we have seen so far here at Yellowstone tonight – bison, elk, pronghorn antelope, bears

9:24 p.m. Lightning in the distance.  Hope we are settled for the night before any rain catches up with us.

9:27 p.m. Stuck in the same buffalo jam with the babies but going back the other way.  There is one super slow baby who just won’t get out of the middle of the road.  So frustrating!

9:41 p.m. Finally get past the buffalo

9:43 p.m. Phantom Lake.  The buffalo that was there before is still there.

9:57 p.m. Mammoth Hot Springs

10:04 p.m. Back in Montana

10:45 p.m. Jim Bridger Motor Court.  Luckily they take dogs and they have a cabin still available.  While I am walking Rocco, fireworks start going off.  Rocco is NOT happy and pulls me back to the room as fast as he can.  He hasn’t gone potty yet so I really hope he can hold it all night.  Ron went out to find food and came back with pizza. Shower then bed.  What a loooooong day!

Monday, July 29, 2013

Day 8 (full version)

Day 8 – Tuesday – July 2, 2013

0700 Slept in this morning because of the time change.  Ron made eggs and bacon for breakfast.  Yum!  The garbage man came by while we were eating which was good because the dumpster was full to the brim!

0920 Ron and the kids leave to hike to Avalanche Lake.  Rocco can’t go and he was not happy to be left behind.

0935 Rocco and I go back across the street to McDonald Creek to explore for a while.  Then we go back to camp.  Rocco watches the squirrels and I read my book.

12:19 p.m. Everyone is back from their respective adventures.  We make PB&J sandwiches for lunch.  The kids told me about the elk they saw on the hike - hanging out right on the trail and not in a hurry to move despite all the tourist paparazzi taking their picture.  After lunch we are headed for Canada.

12:22 p.m. Stopped in a construction zone.

12:41 p.m. Made it through. Phew.

1:15 p.m. Continental Divide at Logan Pass.  Currently 82 degrees.  There are a couple bighorn sheep lounging on the snowy hillside.  We want to stop at the visitor’s center but this one is also way too busy.

1:33 p.m. St Mary’s Lake

1:45 p.m. Sinkhole on the side of the road

1:48 p.m. Stop at the visitor’s center at the St Mary’s entrance.  Not nearly so busy.  Unfortunately we don’t really get a chance to look around because the fire alarm goes off and everyone has to evacuate.  There are a few informational signs outside the center though so the kids can still tell us something that they learned:
Ryan – Four Native American groups in this area – Blackfoot, Sakish, Pend O’Reille, and Kootenai
Felisa – There is a straight line cut through the trees to mark the international border.

2:32 p.m. Almost hit a brown cow as we come around the corner.

2:40 p.m. Leaving the USA

2:42 p.m. Entering Canada.

3:15 p.m. Stop at Prince of Wales Hotel.  It is a resort hotel built in 1926-27 by the railroad to encourage travelers to use the train.

3:22 p.m. Visitor’s Center at Waterton.  Small but I got an unofficial stamp for my National Park passport book.

3:35 p.m. There is a lakeside village here inside the park.  Rocco tests out the Canadian water as we walk along the lake.

3:45 p.m. Decide to walk through town.  We bought postcards and then had a late lunch/snack at Trappers.  After our snack we went to buy stamps so we could mail the postcards from Canada which would make them that much more exciting to receive!  Instead of going to find the actual post office, we take advantage of the mail can at the postcard store.  Despite the sign declaring otherwise, it looks a lot like a trash can so we’re really hoping the postcards make it to their destinations!  Rocco even has time to take a potty break before we get back in the car.  His day is complete – he has peed in Canada!  haha

5:30 p.m. Stop at the scenic overlook.

5:34 p.m. Sofa Mountain fire area.  The fire was in 1998.  We have seen a lot of wildfire areas on this trip.  It has been interesting to see how things re-grow and how long it takes.

5:40 p.m. Border crossing back to the US.  It was much more stressful trying to get back in that it was to get out to Canada.  Rocco growled when the guards opened the back hatch of the van (without warning!).  Sure am glad he didn’t decide to bite the intruders.  That would’ve been trouble for sure.  We saw the line in the trees as we crossed through no-mans-land but weren’t quick enough to get a picture of it.

5:47 p.m. Deer by the road.

5:48 p.m. Person crossing the road.  This is the same area we saw the cow earlier. Quite a potentially dangerous stretch of back roads highway!

5:50 p.m. Chief Mountain, 9080 feet

5:52 p.m. Cow crossing the road.  See what I mean about dangerous!

5:58 p.m. Scenic overlook out over the valley.  There is definitely a difference in the scenery on this side of the divide.

6:12 p.m. Pick up some roaming cell service.  Get in a quick check of email (things are not looking good for the Creative Memories digital products as they continue through bankruptcy proceedings –so sad- but will have to get the specific details later) and post a quick blog update that we are still alive.  The blogger app that I put on my phone before we left has been good for quick updates along the way, especially this year since we are spending a lot more time off the grid.

6:21 p.m. Back at the St Mary’s entrance to Glacier.  The sign shows that most of the campgrounds are full.  Hopefully there will be less traffic on the road as we head back across to Avalanche.

6:35 p.m. Check my phone dictionary app for the official definition of “glacier”.  Maybe I will remember to check the park website for more interesting glacier tidbits when I finally get around to making my scrapbook.

6:50 p.m. Logan’s Pass.   The bighorn sheep have crossed the street and are wandering through the visitor center parking lot.  Nice to be able to get their picture after all.

6:54 p.m. A mountain goat is posing nicely at the overlook but I miss the shot. Darn.

6:56 p.m. Avalanche zone – unstable snow- no stopping for the next ¼ mile.

6:59 p.m. “Another One Bites the Dust” is playing as we head down the pass.  Uh-oh!

7:01 p.m. Pass the Weeping Wall.  It’s fun to drive through a waterfall!

7:05 p.m. The word “vast” comes to mind with the views in this park.  The camera can’t begin to capture it.

7:06 p.m. I like the cool stair steps the water carves into the rock as it falls.

7:07 p.m. Bird Woman Falls, 492 feet high

7:08 p.m. The river in the valley is shining in the sun. So pretty and so far down!

7:15 p.m. Back at the Loop and Heaven’s Peak

7:28 p.m. Deer jam

7:30 p.m. Avalanche campground – home sweet home.  That’s the end of our 7-hour field trip to Canada. There is a lot of campfire smoke tonight.  Or is that the smell of our brakes after driving down the mountain?  We ate beans and rice for dinner.  After dinner, Ron, Felisa, and I took Rocco back across the street for one more walk along the river.  I iced my hands and Ron iced his feet in the water.  Felt good!

10:15 p.m. Bedtime.  Once again, it’s not even dark yet.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Day 7 (full version)

Day 7 – Monday – July 1, 2013

0630 Time to get up.  Take Rocco out and get the coffee started.  Turn on the tv to see what’s new in the world.  The Weather Channel says it will be 90 degrees in the mountains today (yuck) and also has a story about the 19 firefighters (smokejumpers) killed in the Arizona wildfire. Yikes.

0730 Ron is up.  Time to pack up and load up.  Make sure every available water bottle has been filled.  Rocco is once again waiting in the car, refusing to get out.  He wants to be sure he doesn’t get left behind!

0935 Leave the condo.  It is 71 degrees.  We are clean, dry, and somewhat rested.  Ready for Part 2 of the big trip!

0941 Waiting in the lodge parking lot while Ron turns the keys in.  There sure are a lot of minivans with roof boxes here.

0946 – Best parts of the weekend at the condo?
Ryan – the chair lift and having a bed
Bella – same as Ryan
Felisa – same as Ryan plus the view
Ron – the scenery and relaxing family time
Rocco – the soft carpet and having his toys out to play with
Sheila – the scenery, the accommodations, and the chance to reset everything before we go again

1005 Sandpoint.  Stop for gas but the station cannot accept credit cards so we head on out.

1008 McD’s drive thru for breakfast and coffee

1025 Someone painted fish graffiti on the hillside

1026 Gas, $3.59/gallon.  There is a café inside. The sign says that bathing suits must be covered.  There is also a boat inspection station.  We have driven 1,817 miles so far.

1039 Elmira Store Café has the “best food in town”.  I think it also has the only food in town!

1049 Pass a big-rig RV pulling a giant trailer with a satellite dish on the roof

1050 Truck of pigs headed south

1052 More yellow fields.  I wonder what crop that is.

1053 Bonners Ferry.  Population - 2,515.  This seems to be the main town for this area.  There are two grocery stores, Subway, gas stations, carwash, etc.  They even have a barber ship (that’s not a typo!) and South Hill Lockers, a meat and game processing place.

1058 Kootenai River.  More yellow fields.  Maybe it is potatoes?

1102 143 long miles until our next turn.

1107 Moyie River

1108 Evergreen Elementary.  All the windows are boarded up.  Must no longer be operational.

1116 Sign for cheapest cigarettes for 500 miles. Montana must have high cigarette taxes.

1117 now 12:17 p.m. Mountain Time Zone and Montana state line but no sign!  We have now added 4 new states (Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana) to the kids’ lists and two states for Ron (Idaho and Montana) and I (Oregon and Montana).

12:24 p.m. Yaak River

12:28 p.m. Kootenai River

12:31 p.m. Troy, MT

12:39 p.m. Kootenai Falls and Swinging Bridge Historic point.  Oops – looked interesting.  Should’ve stopped.  Too busy though.  Oh well – next time!

12:50 p.m. Libby, MT.  Couple of cool eagle statues in town.  Elevation, 2066 feet.  Current temperature, 86 degrees

12:56 p.m. Granite Creek, MT

1:06 p.m. Construction ahead on a gravel road.

1:11 p.m. Flagman said there will be a 10 minute wait for the pilot car to get here.

1:14 p.m. It’s our turn to go already!  Not even close to a 10 minute wait.  Yay!

1:59 p.m. McGregor Lake, 89 degrees

2:24 p.m. Bike path.  Sign says rails to trails of NW Montana.

2:35 p.m. Stop at Jimmy Johns in Kalispell for lunch.  It is hot and sunny and Rocco is refusing to go potty but the food is good.  Well, except for Bella of course.  She doesn’t like Jimmy Johns.

3:05 p.m. Gas, $3.61/gallon.  Smiths for food.

3:35 p.m. St Richard’s Catholic Church.  Don’t see many of those.

3:37 p.m. Flathead River

3:43 p.m. Hungry Horse, MT.  Those are some really hungry looking horses on the signs around town.  Should we be worried?

3:55 p.m. Going to the Sun Road

3:57 p.m. We use the tall vehicles entrance to Glacier National Park.   Doesn’t look like our roof box would fit the other side.

3:58 p.m. Bear Country signs.  Also, all wildlife is dangerous.  You have been warned!

4:02 p.m. Apgar Visitor Center. This place is way too busy.  Decide to keep going.  It is 92 degrees here at Lake McDonald.  The Prius driving ahead of us has a San Luis Obispo license plate frame.

4:13 p.m. Rocco wants to get out and swim in the lake.  Are we there yet?

4:34 p.m. Arrive at our campsite.  It is 88 degrees – hot and crowded here at Glacier.  Not what I was expecting for sure.  I guess that’s what happens in the summer near a holiday weekend.

5:25 p.m. Tent is set up.  We walk across the street to check out the creek.  We saw a few elk in the woods.  The water is quite chilly.  Rocco wants to go in but keeps jumping back out again because it is so cold.  After our walk we play a couple rounds of Crazy 8’s.

7:00 p.m. Cooking dinner.  Tonight we are having rice-a-roni, chicken, broccoli, Caesar salad, and bread.

9:41 p.m. Sunset

10:00 p.m. Bedtime even though it’s still pretty light outside.  It sure is hard to see the stars when it won’t get dark before midnight!  I can’t stay up that late!

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Day 6 (full version)

Day 6 – Sunday – June 30, 2013

0630 Rocco and Daddy are awake.

0715 Everyone is downstairs.  Rocco is playing – very happy to have his toys and playtime again.  Felisa says that Buddy fell out of the top bunk last night but luckily no permanent injuries.  We told him to be more careful tonight.

0920 An update on the morning so far-
Rocco enjoyed a short, very hilly walk – mostly UPhill. Ron continued on up the hill to do a recon of activities at the lodge.  The kids were playing DS but Felisa got bored.  Rocco is apparently a country dog.  This condo living is stressing him out.  He has been barking at everything including cars driving on the road behind us.  We got a call from the renters back in Virginia.  Apparently the water heater is dead.  Of course it is.  Because it’s a weekend and we are away from home with minimal cell service which makes it harder for everyone to deal with the problem.  Chores this morning include laundry, dishes, and drying out the tent, chairs, and other camp gear.

1135 Getting ready to head up the hill to the lodge for lunch and activities.

1:30 p.m. Rocco and I are back.  It is hot out there!  The others are planning to go rubber duck hunting (a fundraiser raffle thing) and ride the chair lift to the top of the mountain.

2:20 p.m. A call from Flood Plumbing.  Cost to replace the water heater is $2500.

2:45 p.m. Ryan and Felisa are back.  They thought the door was locked so they rang the doorbell.  Rocco was not happy about that!

2:46 p.m. Bella is back.

2:47 p.m. Ron is back. Everyone enjoyed the chair lift ride but didn’t win anything in the duck hunt.

5:00 p.m. Ron and I head down to Sandpoint for dinner.  The food is good but it took way too long.

7:00 p.m. Back at the condo with frozen pizza for the kids’ dinner.  After dinner Ron takes them up to the pool at the lodge.  Rocco and I stay home to do more laundry and dishes and to take a walk.

10:30 p.m. Last load is in the dryer.  Bedtime!

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Day 5 (Full version)

Day 5 – Saturday – June 29, 2013

0700 Wake up.  It is wet outside again.  Thunderstorm rolled through about 5 a.m.

0853 Almost on the road.  Ron’s wallet was left inside the tent so we had to dig it out before we could go.

0857 Stop to take pictures of the lake and the creek.

0906 Sign says: Delay of 5 vehicles or more is illegal.  Must use turnout.

0907 Diablo Lake Overlook.  Great views here!  It is 62 degrees and the sun is hot already.

0948 Granite Creek

0956 Porcupine Creek

1000 Rainy Lake Trail in the Okanogan National Forest.  Rocco seems to like walking on the snow.  Even when he could go around, he doesn’t.  The lake is beautiful with many waterfalls on the far side.  Definitely worth the stop and the short hike.  At one point, Rocco was pulling Felisa, a la Marmaduke.  Luckily she didn’t fall.  Unfortunately the bathrooms here were disgusting.  There were also no fee envelopes out so people couldn’t pay the use fee.  Seemed like a neglected trail head.  Budget cuts or bad management?  Not sure.

1135 Back on the road.  We are about 2 ½ hours from Grand Coulee Dam.

1154 Klipchuk campground

1156 Leaving North Cascades Scenic Highway and the Okanogan National Forest.

1157 Hitchhiker on the side of the road.  Sorry but we are full to the brim.  There’s not even room to ride on the roof!

12:04 p.m. Very pretty valley with lots of horses

12:15 p.m. Winthrop, WA – a nice, cool old town.  The main street is a shopping district and there is even a cool pedestrian bridge on the edge of town.  We pick up lunch to go from Carlos 1800 Express (no dogs allowed at any of the restaurants in town).  Yummy Mexican food even if we did have to eat in the car.

12:44 p.m. Shafer Museum in Winthrop.  Also looks interesting for a future visit.

12:47 p.m. Methow River

1:13 p.m. Loup Loup Summit, 4020 feet.  There are lots of motorcycles on this road – must be the scenic route.

1:28 p.m. Big net covering the entire orchard.

1:29 p.m. Curtis Sheep Slaughter historic marker.  Hmm. Wonder what that was about. (Looked it up – apparently some angry cattlemen killed a bunch of sheep one night in 1903 to protest the increase in sheep farmers)

1:36 p.m. Canadian border is just 50 miles away…

1:40 p.m. Omak, WA

1:43 p.m. Coulee Corridor National Scenic Byway

1:54 p.m. Two cop cars chatting.  Must be the afternoon break time.

1:59 p.m. Rocco is thirsty.

2:02 p.m. News on the radio is talking about the current heat wave.  The forecast high for Death Valley today is 128 degrees, close to the hundred-year record of 134 degrees – the highest recorded temperature on Earth.  Death Valley is on our California bucket list but I’m thinking we probably shouldn’t visit in the summer.  The entire west coast is in the heat wave.  There have been lots of Facebook posts from friends back on the Central Coast lamenting the hot weather.  It definitely has not been as cool and refreshing on this trip as I was expecting considering how far north we are.  So I guess the good news is it would be worse if we were south.

2:04 p.m. News report – searching for a lost hiker on Mt. Hood

2:05 p.m. Disautel Pass, 3252 feet

2:06 p.m. Deer roadkill.  It looked like it had been smooshed and stretched – eew!

2:14 p.m. A hawk just swooped down to the road.  Looked like it was trying to grab us!

2:21 p.m. Colville Indian Agency

2:29 p.m. Spirit Ridge RV Park has teepee rentals!

2:30 p.m. Grand Coulee Dam in the distance

2:41 p.m. Arrive at the dam.  Whoa!  That’s a lot of water!  I haven’t seen that much water flowing over the spillways since Hoover Dam in the 80s.  What did we learn?
Felisa – Grand Coulee Dam is one of the largest concrete structures in the world.
Ryan – This dam has 11,975,521 cubic yards of concrete compared to Hoover Dam which has about 3,500,000 cubic yards.

3:19 p.m. Gas, $4.03/gallon

3:40 p.m. Wilbur, WA – had a giant Wilbur statue and a covered wagon.  Too bad we missed getting a picture of Wilbur.

4:28 p.m. Our 3G cell service has returned.  Commence the Facebook updates!

5:07 p.m. Idaho

5:15 p.m. Coeur d’Alene

5:41 p.m. Passed the Silverwood Amusement Park.  Lots of rollercoasters.

5:59 p.m. Lake Cocolalla

6:10 p.m. Sandpoint, ID

6:14 p.m. Safeway for provisions

6:30 p.m. Leaving Safeway and heading up the mountain to Schweitzer Ski Resort

7:00 p.m. Waiting at the lodge while Ron checks us in to our condo

7:15 p.m. At the condo.  Which has an insanely steep driveway.  No way would I tackle that in the winter. Yikes!  Everyone is very excited to have a house instead of a tent, even Rocco.  We unload the car then make dinner – rotisserie chicken, rice-a-roni, Caesar salad, and French bread.  Rocco tried to steal a chicken bone from the trash. Bad dog!  After dinner, showers for all.

10:00 p.m. Bedtime.  In beds!  J

Friday, July 12, 2013

Day 13 etc

Yes, we're still alive. Really. It's just that the exciting adventure part of the trip is over. We've had two nice visits with Dad and then with Mom. A night of camping in between near Park City, UT. Headed for Sparks, NV tonight and a hotel room. The tent is dying and my little campers are revolting so my travel agent booked us a room at Holiday Inn Express. It'll be Rocco's first hotel. Hope he likes it and doesn't bark at all the strange noises.
Off we go across the desert...

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Bella's update

Wednesday, July 10. We're still alive.

Tuesday, July 09, 2013

Day 12

Up and out of camp by 7:30. Breakfast and coffee at McDs. It's too early for the museum so we hit the road. First stop, Territorial Prison Museum in Laramie. That was fun. Then heading south. Colorado Springs or bust! Lunch at smashBurger. No Colorado Dog on the menu so I am sad. We did not stop at DSW but we did stop at Peloton Cycles. Made it to Grandpa Ford's house around 2. Relaxing and showers for all then dinner at Saltgrass Steak House. Yum!  Bedtime in a real bed. Or a couch. Or an air mattress. But not in a tent on the ground.

Day 4 (full version)

Day 4 – Friday – June 28, 2013

0600 Wake up. Take Rocco for a morning walk on the beach.  While we were gone, the kids started packing up the camp.  I was a little surprised but very impressed with their initiative.

0806 Leave the campground.

0810 I need my sunglasses this morning – yay!  That means it is sunny!

0812 Sign says “Elderly People”

0817 Doing a search for Powell’s Used Book store that I’ve heard is so great.  Oh darn.  It is in Portland, not Seattle, so we missed it.

0824 Starbucks Drive-Thru.  Lots of food choices here that they don’t have at our Starbucks.  There is a scary bug hanging onto the driver’s side mirror and he won’t leave!

0845 Bremerton Shipyard

0847 Navy Federal ATM won’t take my check.  I need to deposit the rent from our tenants so we can pay the rent to our landlord!

0858 Found a branch. Deposit is a success!

0913 Arrive at the ferry terminal.  $16.40 for the van.  There are some cool sculptures outside the Navy Museum next door.

0935 Start your engines!  It’s time to load the ferry.

0938 On board. Ready to cross the Puget Sound.

0947 Rocco is scared!  He liked the ferry just fine until the started up the engines and pulled away from the dock.  Time to go hide in the car where it is safer.

1010 While waiting with Rocco I have written a postcard to Allie and gotten it ready to mail whenever I find a post office (Foreshadowing- not for several days!).  I emailed a couple pictures to Mom and to Dad.  I sent a text to Lana.

1021 Shift change.  Ron is going to sit with Rocco and I get to go sit up above with the kids.

1041 Pulling in to port in Seattle.

1045 Off the ferry.

1054 At Pike Place Market.  Very hot and busy.  The parking was super expensive.  Rocco was feeling overwhelmed by it all as were the rest of us, even more so after spending the last few days camping.  We saw the first Starbucks, also ridiculously busy.  Clicked a few photos as we walked by.  Ron took the kids into the Market while Rocco and I hung out at the park across the street.

1142 Leaving the parking lot.  Gave the rest of our 1.5 hour ticket to someone else to use the rest of.  Whew – it was so busy and stressful there.  Let’s get out of here!

12:33 p.m. Lunch at Five Guys in Arlington, WA.  There are lots of police cars in the parking lot and 7 officers inside having lunch.  Ron took the van across the street to get an oil change.  It was so fast he was back before we finished our lunch.

1:13 p.m. Leaving Five Guys.  Rocco took Felisa’s seat and wouldn’t move.  Finally got him back on his side.

1:16 p.m. Safeway and gas, $3.75/gallon.

1:36 p.m. There’s a carnival in town causing a traffic jam.

2:26 p.m. Darrington, WA.  There is a big lumber mill in town.

2:27 p.m. Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest

2:28 p.m. Skagit County

2:32 p.m. Sauk River

2:44 p.m. Skagit River and Rockport, WA

2:46 p.m. Rockport Quarry.  Hmm, I wonder if that’s why they call this town Rockport.

2:48 p.m. Cascadian Farm.  Is it THE Cascadian Farm or just A Cascadian Farm?  It is THE Cascadian Farm (the organic branch of General Mills).  They have a little farm stand set up here with coffee, fruit, and ice cream.  The kids get giant ice cream cones and Rocco gets a potty break.  Iced coffee for mommy.

3:20 p.m. No services for the next 74 miles.  Good thing we stopped for ice cream!

3:27 p.m. Bacon Creek Road

3:37 p.m. North Cascades National Park Visitor Center.  What did we learn?

Felisa – Without predators for population control, mule deer would multiple past the food available which would leave them vulnerable to starvation in winter.

Bella – Moss grows between rocks to avoid the wind.

Ryan – We are currently between just 500-600 feet above sea level (which explains why it’s so hot and not cool like the usual mountain areas.  Also, we can see snow on the mountains ahead which really makes it seem like we are at a higher elevation.)

Sheila – There are lots of glaciers here in this park (I guess that’s the snow we see).  Glaciers are like volcanoes to me – they seem like something that existed a long time ago.  Of course, when I think glacier I always imagine big giant sheets of ice covering large areas like during the ice age, not the bits of ice that really just look like snow that hasn’t quite melted yet which is what these glaciers look like.

4:04 p.m. Skagit General Store.  It’s the Seattle City Light “Company Store” right next to the company town.

4:11 p.m. Firewood on board.  Ready to find our campground.

4:15 p.m. Passing a river gorge with barely any water in it.  Who stole the river?

4:16 p.m. Tunnel

4:17 p.m. Stop at the overlook to see the dam.  The dam view was better from the road but we missed the pullout to take a picture from there.

4:33 p.m. Wow – that’s a big waterfall!  Looking at the map that must be Gorge Creek Falls.

4:34 p.m. Tunnel

4:42 p.m. Colonial Creek campground

4:45 p.m. We have found our spot for the night.  Campground elevation is 1200 feet.  Camp fee is $12.  For dinner we made a dutch oven recipe (Creamy Chicken Rice) on the campfire. This method lacks the controlled heat and temperature of using charcoals but other than some burned rice on the bottom, it turns out fine.  After dinner we went to the program about Lucinda Davis presented by Ranger Katie.  On a side note, it turns out that Ranger Katie once caught giardia from improperly filtered stream water.  That is the first person I have ever heard of that has actually contracted giardia.  I guess it’s not a mythical disease after all.  Don’t drink from the stream – always filter the water!  At the end of the program, Ranger Katie brought out her guitar and sang a song about home.  Rocco didn’t make it through the whole program.  He wouldn’t stay still so I took him out for a walk then left him in the van to wait for us back at camp.

9:25 p.m. Campfire #2 for the night. Then bedtime.  It is staying lighter much later the farther north we go.