Michael and I are currently on our way to Portland, OR with brief stops in Coos Bay and Eugene. Driving through the fog and the redwoods on the 101 Highway is a relief at this point on our journey. I was over ambitious about how much we would accomplish on this road trip and I am very happy to be on the final stretch to our Seattle destination. We left Durango, CO on September 9th. It will be 4 weeks since that risky moment tomorrow. The lack of wifi and electricity at our many camping destinations hindered out ability to charge the phones regularly, check emails, post photos, write blogs of the events of the day and youtube all our silly adventures. I believe that this was, all in all, an excellent side effect of being in a car or campsite all day. Yes, we had our stops in friend’s and family’s homes on the journey, but until we got to Danville outside of San Francisco, we spent those days on the run, being tourists, or in my case – recovering from a cold that won’t let go.
Our journey began in Montrose CO celebrating my dad’s birthday. He is “recently retired” and I believe is finally coming to terms with what life means not working away the prime part of the day. This has been on the brink for a while and it was a reassuring thing for me to experience. I will be farther from home than I have ever been and am grateful to know that mom and dad will be okay.
The next stop was Fruita CO to see one of my best friends from childhood and her family. Krista is happy. She is with a man who loves her – more importantly likes her – and is branching out in her own life and career, message me if you need pampered chef stuff and I will get you in touch with her. I know I will be as soon as I have a kitchen and income again. Her parents, on the other hand, are currently on vacation in Panama, potentially a life changing trip for them as well…time will tell!
These were stops that Michael and I made to nourish my need to get back to my roots with the people I love before being states away. I thank him for that.
Of course, because we managed to stretch out this journey as long as we could, we stopped in Denver. Here we did the things we love. Check us out on the Reel Nerds podcast here, ate at Denver Biscuit Co. and drank beer in LoDo – this became the beginning of the beer tour side of our trip hashbrownGreatDivide hashbrownRaggedMountain (we went to 3 Rascals in Montrose too). Thank you to our friends Stephanie and Jeramiah for making us dinner, impressing us with their home bar and letting us crash there.
These were the parts of the trip we anticipated and planned. We had a good idea of what we would do, where we would end up and that I would be an emotional mess when we leave them. After these steps…all bets were off.
On the morning of Sunday September 13th we began our drive to Yellowstone and Teton. This was a LONG day! Michael drove and we listened to an innumerable amount of Freakanomics radio, so good if you like to think while you drive. There were a lot of comments from Michael, who had never been in Wyoming for a substantial amount of time before, about how flat it was. It’s true! From Denver to Wyoming there really are only cows to see and antelope. That was cool – we don’t have antelope at home. We stopped in Pinedale WY to camp. This was by far the coolest campsite we found until we got to Limekiln. We were about 20 ft from Half Moon Lake, so we blew up the duck and sat by the river to drink our wine and eat the roasted garlic and pepper cream sauce penne. This was by far still the most successful dish I made with the cook stove (the second batch in Yellowstone was better though). This is also the first morning we used the French press. That little coffee maker saved our asses. I was cranky just about every morning of camping, and there were a lot of mornings of camping, having to not hunt down coffee was infinitely helpful. Pinedale was beautiful and was a great stop on the way to Jackson.
By the time we got to Jackson we didn’t have a plan. We did the tourist thing in Jackson for a while. The required stop, per Dave, was to have a beer at the cowboy bar. Now, for those of us on this journey who had been living in Durango for a substantial amount of time, we were shocked that the beer came in bottles…WHAT!? This is a famous bar, unbeknownst to my traveling partner. So we sat on our saddles and drank our beer out of a bottle and a can. Tourist note: There is a spirits, oil and spice store over by the fancy gemstone and fossil store. In this store they have just about any fancy liquor (including tequila, whiskey and bourbon), oil and spices you could imagine that you can sample for free – we did not test how far we could take that on the liquor, but I was super close to spending way too much money on something that I would drink way too quickly. Eventually we had to leave since we still had to find a place to put up the camp house. There wasn’t really a lot of camping we knew of outside the park. I figured all of that out after we accidentally bought our park pass. My mom had told us to drive up the back road from Jackson to Moose WY by the ski resort. I was entertaining Michael, the driver, by reading to him from the Jackson WY Sotheby’s RE Guide. Oh yeah we were totally shopping for and $18,000,000 ranch. Um. No. That is the luxury estate for some other dreamer. Eventually we happened upon an entrance to the southern end of Grand Teton National Park, so we bought the pass, but the road was closed…merrrr. We made it into the park found a campsite, bought some wood and passed out. The next day we got up early and got a spot at Jenny Lake. A tent only campsite, WOO HOO no noisy generators! This turned into hiking day. If you ever get the chance to hike up to Inspiration Point in Teton, you can do it if you feel so inclined, but the waterfalls that are right over there are super cool!
The rest of the time on our seven day pass was spent in Yellowstone. We made just about all of the geyser stops that we could – not all geysers look the same…kinda. Please note that Yellowstone is a “dormant” HUGE volcano. There are notes all around the park saying that the ground in not safe and sometimes new hot springs and geysers appear OVERNIGHT. How is this not terrifying? At West Thumb one of the hot springs ate the boardwalk, ATE THE BOARDWALK. This will forever be an anecdote.
By far the best part of our trip to Yellowstone was camping at Tower Falls. We were lucky that by the time we got up to this campground at about 1pm, they still had a site available for us. We found out later that they are usually full by 10am. Sharon took us to the last site she had open and got us all taken care of. I don’t recall in what order we explored the park after that and how many bison we saw each day, but Ralph, Sharon’s husband could probably tell you. He got the play-by-play every morning or afternoon that we found ourselves back at the campsite. These people lovingly refer to themselves as Grandma and Grandpa. Sharon told us later that Ralph had adopted us as his kids/grandkids. He would get up every morning and look up to our campsite to see if we were up making coffee yet. If we weren’t he would wait. As soon as one of us was out of the tent, he was there. He told us pretty much the same stories all three mornings we were there and we were happy to listen to them. These were some of the coolest and most caring random people we have ever met.
Ralph told us a story from when they owned/managed a motel: They had gotten a reservation for a large family group, a family or reunion or something. Most of the family had checked in and gotten their keys. Grandma came down to the front desk, prior to them closing for the night, to get the key for her granddaughters room since they just found out that her and her boyfriend were running behind schedule and won’t get there in time for check-in. This was not that unusual and Ralph didn’t think anything of it. Grandma came back down grinning with a little spark in her step to return the key saying that her granddaughter will in fact be on time and can come get her key. She continued on her way back up to her own room. A little later on the granddaughter shows up at the hotel and all goes as planned and she gets her key. Within 5 minutes she was calling back down to the front desk claiming that half of the lights in her room were out. So Ralph, being the diligent owner that he was went up to the room to investigate and get replacement bulbs as needed. When he arrives in the room he checks the light bulbs, all of the ones that were not working had been slightly unscrewed. The granddaughter then remarks, “Oh Grandma she’s done it again.” he later discovered that apparently this is normal behavior for her and she had put cracker crumbs in the bed.
I want to be that old woman.
Needless to say it was, once again, difficult for me to leave these lovely people who made sure we had a wonderful stay in Yellowstone and that we will have people to visit in Montana if we ever go to Glacier National Park!
I have family in Idaho Falls ID. These are people that I don’t see very often, but it was by far a perfectly timed visit. My uncle Paul and aunt Shirley welcomed us into their home and were happy to spoil us. I use this to thank them for their love and time.
The drive to St. George UT, where we stayed briefly in a shitty hotel, was a brief necessity. I had the worst couple days of the cold bookmarking this sleep. But this didn’t stop us from having lunch and gelato in Las Vegas on Wednesday Sept. 24th! We had about two hours of a tourist stop where we didn’t gamble and didn’t get lost. I do love Las Vegas in short doses, but on the way out of town we saw a billboard that epitomizes the side of the city that gives all of us – I hope – the heebeegeebees. I don’t recall what the image was, but all it said was “If at first you don’t succeed, buy her another drink.” I believe that this was an ad for a liquor store, not a bar, but I could be wrong. Regardless, WHAT!!!??? This is an atrocious advertisement. Side note: We also saw a billboard in Salt Lake where we stopped for lunch with a good friend of mine that I met from working at digs…yeah I’m that kind of waitress. It had the silhouette of an elephant with tusks. It had a saying similar to “Its time for you to have some ivory of your own”. I’m paraphrasing, but once again, WHAT!!!??? This ad was for Ivory Homes, probably a construction company or something. But really, who at that agency thought this would be a positive association for their company? Yes, let’s “promote” the poaching of elephants to get more home building business, YEAH! That’s a great idea. Um. No. I have a hard time with offensive advertising.
San Diego was next on the docket. These were days of beer and family. Yes, we had a memorial service for our host Teri’s brother-in-law. From what I can tell, a very wonderful loved man. But this, and the phone call efforts of the amazing Amy, we got all the family all of the time. Lynchs and Ledfords for the win! These were great days with great people.
We also spent a substantial amount of time drinking…beer…again! Alesmith, Ballast Point and Green Flash were recommendations of friends and family, I would recommend all of them! We ended up at Green Flash again to do the beer tour, an excellent choice for sure! Now, one of my favorite things about going to taprooms is food trucks! Outside of Green Flash, the second night we were there was what they called the Sushi Bus. It was not a bus, it was a van. It was a normal looking, perhaps on the verge of a hippie van with a tent that they make the sushi fresh to order in. There is a guy who walks around with a bundle of cash to make change for people, it seemed kinda sketch. THAT IS SOME OF THE BEST SUSHI I HAVE EVER HAD! I chose a salmon ginger roll and if you are ever in San Diego and can find these sushi folks…go there! The food has definitely been a highlight of this long journey.
Now, the next meaningful stop of our trip is one of Michael and I’s favorite camping stops…EVER! Limekiln State Park. We stayed there for three nights on one of the beach side campsites. From our spot we could walk 30 feet and watch the waves while you enjoy your drink of choice. On the other side, a short hour long hike will get you through the redwoods to a beautiful waterfall on a lush green trail. If that doesn’t sell you, we saw both whales (at least the water and air coming out of their blowholes with the binoculars) and dolphins during our stay! Thank you Limekiln for your existence. The campground host also gave us a tomato for our dinner when we asked her where the closest place to get tomatoes was.
We drove up and down the coast visiting our friends the elephant seal (selelephant, as we so lovingly call them). We also went up to Monterey one day to go through the MirrorMaze and visit Cannery Row Brewing. They have burger sliders with French brie, fried onion strings and garlic aioli, so good! This is a great stop.
While on the 1 we also decided that we must find a way to stay at Treebones Resort, look it up! There are a remarkable number of Ford Mustang convertibles on this road. Most of the people that live on the coast must be hermits.
From Idaho through Limekiln we filled our days with The Leviathan Chronicles (downloaded them from iTunes). If you have a long time to drive and feel like an odd science fiction story, look it up. Not all of the episodes are released, but the 39 they have at ~45 min each, will get you pretty far.
San Francisco was break and crunch time. We spent our first day there sitting on the couch, watching the BBC, searching for houses and jobs in Seattle. Second day was let’s go battle city traffic and see if we can find the Sutro Baths – I’m a literature kid. We then proceeded to make a list of all the other things we must see when we go back to San Francisco. On the morning that we left we made it down to the market and I made Michael walk with me to find the City Light Bookseller and Publishers – thanks BuzzFeed. This was a journey on foot through what I’m assuming is only one of the sketchy stripper districts, yea culture!
So for the last few days we have been abbreviated tourists stopping at more breweries, Speakeasy and Magnolia in San Francisco and Sierra Nevada in Chico. Now we are ready to find our own places to go. I’m done with driving/riding and happy to go through the stress of trying to find an apartment.
I hope this fulfills all of the blogs I was supposed to make on this trip. Michael and I have been kind of boring in the car…but are planning my next novel for National Novel Writing month and are far from killing each other.
Thank you all for your support and love!