Sunday, February 28, 2010

New Visitor

Introducing Rusty! The senior-aged, doberman/beauceron/or something mix. Rusty needed a place to live and when do I not need another animal around the house?

I need to quickly finish a project so he can pose with something - although he does tend to be overly interested in dragging my knitting or anything else around the house. Today's items so far have included of course his favorite - the dirty laundry (honorable mention to towels) a book, a shoe, a pen, and finally a gallon jug of Nature's Miracle.

Rusty has a weak back end and seems to be missing some fundamental training. Today we had a giant break through when he went to the front door on his own and stood. I ran him outside and he peed. I was much more excited about it than he was.

We did a potty training showdown yesterday so I was glad to see some progress in that area. If he does it again, I will know it wasn't a fluke. :)

The weather was so nice we spent some of the day working on his dislike of being in the yard alone. This involved me being armed with a lot of treats and Rusty being left in the yard alone while I would do work in the garage or just out of sight. My approach was somewhat similar to the beginning work on a stay. You keep the reward coming, in Rusty's case, in short/varied intervals. For this exercise, the rewards was for no whining/barking. He seems a little confused by my use of positive reinforcement but he doesn't mind the food. We kept it to about a 15 minute session. He did some exploring of the yard on his own, but doesn't last long though before he starts running the fence line in search of me.

Right now I am working on rewarding him for response to his name and assigning words to an action: like a "sit" when he has started sitting, or a "come" when he has initiated heading towards me.

I moved on to yard work within the fencing and then he was far more brave and willing to be further from me. I actually witnessed him running - unfortunately it was because he was spooked. He had got tangled up in my clippings and it scared him to have them dragging behind him.

Thursday, February 25, 2010


The night of February 23rd we actually spent in a small city called Superior, not Missoula as planned. Superior is west of Missoula and I actually missed all the stops which is why we kept going. We had driven from about 7am that morning and didn't stop until about 11pm that night.

The morning of February 24th we got going again around 7am and started to make the crossing of the Bitteroot Range into Idaho. It snowed most of this stretch and into Idaho but didn't significantly accumulate. At Lookout Pass we crossed another time zone and got to do the 7 o'clock hour all over again.

I wish the weather had been clear for both Lookout Pass and 4th of July Pass in Idaho. That is a twisty stretch of I-90 through Idaho but I suspect the views would have been amazing. You can tell how tired and home focused we were from Montana on due to the lack of photos.

We got into home around 1pm. I thought I would wake up rested and energized this morning but actually I woke at 5am, unable to go back to sleep and in bad shape. It has been a slow day...

So what all did we do?! In 13 days we saw 16 states - some more than others: Washington, Oregon, California, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Tennessee, North Carolina, Kentucky, Missouri, Iowa, South Dakota, Montana, and Idaho.

The long day by day summary:

Day 1 - February 12 - Friday
Left Washington around noon and made a stop in the Castle Rock area to visit our Grandpa. We spent the night in southern Oregon.

Day 2 - February 13 - Saturday
Left Oregon and crossed into CA. Made a pit stop in San Francisco for some sushi. Stayed the night in Bakersfield.

Day 3 - February 14 - Sunday
Got off I-5 and began our east trek along I-40. Ran out of gas in the Mojave Desert. Experienced our warmest weather of the trip in Arizona at about 75 degrees. Actually pushed hard and made it into Albuquerque, NM that night - which is where we stayed. Of all the road construction we encountered, I believe that stretch from Flagstaff, AZ to Albuquerque, NM had the worst.

Day 4 - February 15 - Monday
Had an easy morning breakfast with a friend in Albuquerque. It made us someone lazy the rest of the day and we were easily distracted. Amarillo, TX turned out not to be the place the billboards made it look, but we enjoyed TX all the same. We actually made it well into Oklahoma that night in which we stayed at the worst motel of the entire trip in Henryetta, Oklahoma. I am sure there are good things in Oklahoma...just not in the stretch we did.

Day 5 - February 16 - Tuesday
We ran from Oklahoma and crossed into Arkansas which for me was one of the more enjoyable states. We took a detour route in Arkansas, avoiding Little Rock and experiencing more of the smaller rural towns. We made it into Knoxville, TN that night.

Day 6 - February 17 - Wednesday
Leaving Tennessee and heading for North Carolina; which by the way is a pretty state and where we started to see more trees. We got into Virginia around 7pm I think and unloaded my moving sisters and had a quick dinner together. Then three sisters and one car left that night to try and put some mileage down on the return trip. The three of us spent the night in North Carolina. We learned that three adult-sized sisters in one room with only 2 bed is just too tight.

Day 7 - February 18 - Thursday
One sister wakes up not feeling too well but assumes it is heartburn or just the stress of the travel which we were all definitely feeling by now. We make it out of North Carolina and as far as Nashville Tennessee, were we stopped for the night when it became apparent she was actually quite sick.

Day 8 - February 19 - Friday
We opted for a slower start since we all had a long night. It was rough travel for the sick sister. The permit driver and I broke up the driving pretty well. We made it out of Tennessee and into Columbia, Missouri. This was probably the more pleasant hotel we would stay in. The town was almost completely booked because of a high school wrestling tournament so it was lucky to get a room at all.

Day 9 - February 20 - Saturday
We decided to take the day. The sick sister needed to sleep and the high schooler and I tried to eat better, rest and work on homework. We saw some of Columbia, especially around the college. It was the most rain we really had encountered since leaving WA/OR.

Day 10 - February 21 - Sunday
Knowing full well that the storm that had formed in South Dakota was going to sweep across our route we still trying to see where we could get. We got as far as Kansas City, Missouri. All my experiencing in Missouri were actually really nice and friendly ones. Good people. Special mention to the Bed, Bath and Beyond employees just prior to Kansas City that let me know what I was up against in driving conditions and helped me make the hard decision to stop for the day. Kansas City really took care of each other and their guests.

Day 11 - February 22 - Monday
We admitted defeat and put the high schooler on a plane to get her home. The other sister was feeling a lot better and we started some serious driving; leaving Missouri, crossing Iowa and getting into Rapid City, South Dakota for the night. The snow was piled on the sides but it was absolutely beautiful and sunny most of this stretch. It was so incredibly cold. I don't know how the residents do it.

Day 12 - February 23 - Tuesday
Decided that darn it we were going to see SOMETHING. Made very quick stops at Rushmore and Devil's Tower that I will never forget. We some some great highway doing these two stops as well. It was again sunny and beautiful but painfully cold. We left South Dakota, went through Wyoming, and into Montana. We stayed in Superior that night because I was not paying attention as I blew through Missoula.

Day 13 - February 24 - Wednesday
Got up nice and early to leave Montana and cross into Idaho. Truly, truly a stunning area of highway. It was rough because the clouds were low and it was snowing but what I could see of it was amazing. An area I would like to drive again for sure. Finally we hit Washington and as my sister put it..."I have never been so happy to see eastern WA." WA didn't disappoint, lots of fog and rain.

It is actually a little overwhelming to look back and realize what I have seen and the driving that was done in 13 days. I am sure that is why I feel so drained today. This trip absolutely wouldn't have been possible without the support of our parents and I am grateful they let the high schooler go. I think of what it would have been like for me to have done something like this at her age. At my age (20 years older) I know that I was really aware of the different ways of life and personalities in all the states.

South Dakota, Wyoming, Montana

I made us hit the road by 7am so we could attempt to squeeze in Rushmore, Deadwood, and Devil's Tower. I was sad we had basically driven the badlands in the dark of night so we didn't get to see that.

Really, I can't recommend this area enough: it is made for visiting. There are small towns and great educational and entertainment stops and really nice wilderness. I really was regretting having no time (or proper gear) to hike around and see more of it.

We got a really helpful map from the hotel of the Black Hills which included all our planned stops. This neat bridge and the tunnel above is both on Highway 16.

And from Highway 244 - Rushmore!

Here is a little secret to getting Rushmore all to yourself because as I hear it, the crowds are normally pretty awful: go off season, before 8am, and let it be 3 degrees outside. You have no idea the self-talk it took to get me out of the car.

I didn't really have time to stop and read these pillars but it appears to be each state's information like when incorporated, etc. And then the state flag.

Look at Rushmore...oblivious to the cold.

Notice how my sister is trying to look all serene and happy when really; we are in agony.

I may have taken the exit shot of the flags while running. :) 3 degrees feels awful. I do regret how rushed we were though. I think that was a once in a lifetime opportunity to see that monument complete on our own like that.

So we left Rushmore and continued along Highway 385 into Deadwood but that was a disappointment. The biggest problem with the snow and the cold and probably also that it was off season and too early in the morning. We did see a sign for Buffalo Bill's grave site and I know there are tours but it will have to be another time.

It was time to get into Wyoming. We actually crossed Wyoming on Highway 34/24 - this was a loop for the Devil's Tower.

Apparently this area of Wyoming raises turkeys the way some states raise cattle. There were a lot of dead ones on the highway as well which was unfortunate. They are sort of like free range turkeys I suppose.

Similar to Rushmore, photos really don't capture Devil's Tower. It was about 20 degrees for this stop, and once again, we were entirely alone. It was really annoying not to be remotely the correct conditions or time to take the 1.5 mile trail around it. There is other trails in the area as well. But it was very icy and cold.

Driving back down from the Tower I spotted this little hill with a great backdrop so I sat in the heated car and sent my sister up it. I believe in that photo you can see she can no longer feel her hands.

As it turns out, my little hillside was also rather muddy and slick.

Beautiful reds in the hills in this area. Makes for a very red mud as my sister found out.

We left Devil's Tower thinking we were home free for stops now and could race on for Montana with a plan to stay in Missoula only as we were getting on the highway we spotted a small dog against a fence of nothingness and it spotted us. Then it ran for the car. So I opened the driver-side door and the darn thing rolled over and put its legs up. Yes. It should come as no surprise that this was a miniature Australian Shepherd.

I picked it up and shut the door. No cell service. So we had to turn back to this little post office that very well knew little Koda. Turns out Koda is not always so good about staying at his home. I drove him around the corner to his dwelling which is also on the side of the highway.

Then we speed off to Montana...

Did we ever leave Kansas City, MO?

As you can tell, blogging went completely silent after our 3rd night in Missouri.

We got home yesterday afternoon so I can tell you we did eventually leave. Now I will catch up the rest of the journey.

Sunday evening, February 21st, Kansas City Missouri, it was time to face the reality that the high schooler wasn't getting home anytime soon so we booked her a flight for Monday with a connection in Minneapolis. She did absolutely amazing. Never missed a beat as I left her at security Monday morning. By the way, I learned some interesting things about flying minor kids while researching flights out: on some airlines, she would have still needed some type of note, fortunately on Delta she did not. We talked to her during her layover in Minneapolis and she was a confident traveler.

Meanwhile, the sick sister (who was no longer as sick) and I started doing some serious driving. The snow was cleared off I-70 and it was safely drivable but the amount of spun out and wrecked cars was stunning. While we stayed in the hotel, a lot of people had a very bad day. We connected on north I-29 and I was almost emotional as we crossed into Iowa. Finally we were out of Missouri. It wasn't even a bad state; we just didn't plan on 3 nights there.

At first the best thing I could say about Iowa was that it wasn't Missouri, but actually as you travel north it has more hills and apparently it got more snow. There was a lot more of it drifting on the side of the road.

Yah! Crossing into South Dakota...I-90 here we come!

Finally we hit Sioux City which meant we were into South Dakota and I-90 was within reach! The Missouri River around Sioux City was very beautiful:

The exit we have been waiting for:

South Dakota definitely is a state I will return to - although at a warmer time of year. I actually don't understand why more families don't travel there because especially the Rapid City/Black Hills area seems completely geared towards families with children and there is just so much to see and do.

We stopped at this neat rest stop in South Dakota and unfortunately it was already dusk but you are looking out on the Lewis and Clark Memorial Bridge over Lake Frances Case. This Web site has a chapter about kayaking sites in South Dakota and has photos of the bridge.

The South Dakota sunset was beautiful. It was way too cold out there but truly a gorgeous state. I-90 into Rapid City got very icy and so once we reached Rapid City, we stopped for the night. We had talked a lot about pushing on through since we were going to get in about 10pm and gain an hour but we finally made a decision to try and fit at least one thing on this drive that was actually vacation-like; even if done at impossible speed.

So we crossed into another time zone, gained an hour and stayed in the freezing Rapid City. The hotel was attached to some water park (a common theme in this area) and so there was a ton of younger kids. The high school wrestlers in Missouri were definitely easier. :)

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Going Hotel Crazy

This has been an interesting day. This is a lot of snow for this area and it is hard on them. I think we ordered Chinese about an hour ago - which finally arrived only another group took it because they were so desperate. We just got it back.

By PNW standards, this isn't a lot of snow, but it is a slick snow and it is icy cold. It took me forever to pry a car door open to just get into the car. The news is still saying this will move through tonight and we will head out in the AM. I noticed a lot of schools are already closed so I am sure it will just take them time to clear the roads.

I spent some time in the hotel lobby. Because everyone is stuck it is more like a small community and everyone is social and helping each other.

Missouri; will we ever leave?

For the first time we are actually in winter driving weather and after stopping in a town to get a sense of what was ahead of us, we decided to give up.

So we are staying at a Marriott near the Kansas City Airport. Yes. We are spending a third night in Missouri. We were supposed to be continuing up I-29 towards South Dakota and probably if we could have got to South Dakota we would have been home free. We have lots of company right now. Between conferences and stuck people all the hotels seem pretty full.

I don't know much about the people of Missouri or what normal winter is for them but either they don't have much snow driving conditions or they have a ton. Everyone just automatically slowed down and spaced out. I did find it interesting that an inch of rain was newsworthy though.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Still In Columbia, MO

Good evening all. We ended up taking another night in Columbia. Hopefully we will get up at a good time tomorrow and get another full day of driving. The sister is still sick and I just couldn't drag her on the road again.

Permit driver and I have taken the opportunity to try and seek more real food for our meals while we are in an actual town.

Exploring in the light of day, I realized that the Quality Inn is across I-70 from the College (I think the University of Missouri). Anyway, when we went in search of food it was a lot like the U-district; difficult parking and lots and lots of pedestrians. The store fronts were considerably cuter though.

I couldn't figure out why the streets were so packed on a Saturday until I overheard a student and realized it was orientation. I am assuming early decision orientation or something? So many of the cars had parking tickets. I felt bad for them. By the way, you can get about 30 minutes on the meter for $.25. I was stunned the parking was so cheap. I got so excited I accidentally put 2 hours on the meter when I finally found one I could get the Suburban into.

This is the atrium outside our room with the pool. I know the photos are way too dark to really get a sense of it, but it is actually a very peaceful and nice area to walk out to. These views are literally outside our door.

Drizzle Morning in Missouri

The weather is like Seattle weather right now, although I am willing to bet it is probably colder outside. You would think staying in a hotel full of highschoolers might be a problem but actually them seem to have really good adult supervision and I think like a lot of kids in sports, these ones are very focused on the event for the weekend. After 11pm (pool and video games closed) the hotel pretty much went completely quiet.

Right now the permit driver is swimming in a nice little hotel pool. I haven't tried to wake the sick sister yet. I was able to start a load of laundry - adverting a building underwear crisis. On that subject; I publically owe the permit driver an apology for teasing her excessive underwear packing - they almost needed their own suitcase. Sometimes the highschooler is very wise. :)

Friday, February 19, 2010

Busting out of Tennessee

Kentucky. Where have you been my whole life? I only drove a small portion of it but what a pretty area. I wouldn't even say that I am that into vast farmlands, but this was a nice state and from when we stopped, really nice people. There was this whole Land Between the Lakes area I would have liked to explore and there is the Museum of the American Quilter's Society.

One sister sleeps through Kentucky.

One drives through Kentucky.

Our permit driver got us across the Kentucky/Illinois border and drove a fair amount of Illinois. Also a really pleasant state. It is almost surprising when you know so little about a state but then get to see some really nice parts of it.
It rained a small amount in Illinois. We visited this small town called Nashville, IL when we needed to make a stop and switch drivers which had some great house styles in it. A very nice town and seemed like some nice people.

Continuing to sleep through Illinois...

Continuing to drive through Illinois...

Why oh why do we seem to hit the major cities at traffic time? You have no idea how many major cities we hit at evening traffic. The exception being Oklahoma City that was really late at night. I hit St. Louis, MO about 5:30. That is a BIG city. Going in across the Mississippi River was truly beautiful. By the time we did the crossing on the Missouri River it was already getting dark. We picked up I-70 around St. Louis and that was a really busy highway. Even past St. Louis it was congested and lots of trucker traffic. We also got our first really significant rain since OR/WA.

Tomorrow is a big unknown right now. I am starting to rethink I-90 because of the Montana/South Dakota snow storm that should come tomorrow. So now I am considering I-80 again. Time to catch up on the weather forecast. :)

Yesterday: North Carolina and Tennessee

So yesterday started with a plan to make it to Paducah, Kentucky. One of my sisters woke up in North Carolina that morning with what she thought was heartburn; but as the drive and the day progressed she got more sick, despite all efforts to treat different symptoms.

North Carolina was beautiful that morning. Warmish and sunny, and it is nice to see the trees.

We cross the Appalachians again earlier in the day. She was ill but not as bad as she was going to get. I talked them into getting out of the car and exploring with me on the pass at a view point.

Compared to the first time we crossed, this day was beautiful. It was clear and not actively snowing.

This is the path to the viewpoint that I had them walk with me. None of us really had the shoes for the snow so there was a lot of slipping.

This is the first viewpoint. I edited out the feet which are in flip flops. :)

As we got further into Tennessee it became more and more obvious that my sister was probably sick and not suffering from heartburn or any other food stuff. We probably should have stopped in Knoxville again, but decided to push to Nashville. By then she was physically ill and we needed to stop for the night.

Tennessee as a state is so far not a favorite. In fairness, I have driven it twice on the same route, through Nashville - and I am not a city girl. Nashville is a big city and the street system reminds me a lot of the confusion in Seattle. I find it strange that so far the only state I have stayed two different nights in - one in Knoxville and one in Nashville - is the state that is probably my least favorite so far.

Columbia, MO

Tonight I am writing you from Columbia, MO. Missouri. Seriously not a state I ever thought I would see in my life. Anyway, there is some HS wrestling thing going on in town and almost all hotels were sold out. We feel lucky to be here and off the highway early for the night.

Hopefully all the past states will be updated later tonight. :)
The photo above was taken yesterday, February 18, 2010 on our return trip over the Appalachians.

Good morning from Nashville, TN (again)

We ended up stopping in Nashville, TN last night. We have a pretty sick member in the party and the stopped was very needed. Today we are going to head out again and keep aiming for Sioux Falls, SD but are probably limited on how far we will get. We are also down a driver for at least today.

Fortunately the permit driver got a good night of sleep and had a good dinner the night and will be ready to step up in the driving. :)

More later; we will start by going through Kentucky today and see where we get. We have some pretty major towns roughly every 2 hours on the route we are taking.