Home Again, Home Again

Two thousand, four hundred and fifty-four miles and we ended up right where we began.  Perhaps a bit wiser.

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Milestones and Milestones

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Happy birthday, sleepy head

Today is May 23rd.  We are at my sister’s home in Kingston,Washington, and are heading back to Salem tomorrow morning, which means our road trip is almost at its end.  We’ve put a lot of miles on our car . . . about 2100 so far and they’ve taken us through some incredible parts of the northwestern United States.  It makes us want to do more of this type of travel in the future in different parts of this large country.

We are ending our trip in the Seattle area where we have been able to visit (and impose upon) good friends and family, which is the perfect way to end this trip.  However, the major milestone of the trip is not the miles traveled or people visited; the major milestone is happening today as Michael celebrates a very understated 70th birthday.  I think that is one of the main reasons he wanted to be on the road right now; so he wouldn’t have any conspicuous displays of seventieth anything.  At 70, a person should be able to have the kind of birthday he wants . . . I won’t complain just as long as I finagle a piece of cake out of it.

Happy birthday, Michael.  Here’s to many more birthdays and travels.

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Snoqualmie Falls, Washington state

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Ferry from Edmonds to KIngston

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Long Miles and Brief Impressions

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Wayside flowers

Today was a day to put some miles behind us as we enter the last couple of days of our spring road trip.

We began the day early in Kalispell.  We began early because the Holiday Inn Express at which we were staying was the location for not one, nor two but THREE little girl birthday parties.  We really didn’t want to be in the breakfast room when they all arrived and began making pancakes and scooping up cereal, etc..

We ended the day in Ellensburg, Washington.  In between, we drove through a wide range of landscapes from mountains to wide open plains to river gorges.  There were masses of bright yellow flowers, great swaths of blue larkspurs, huge hillsides of spring green new growth and lovely deer here and there.

We also encountered reminders of the high price long highways and high speed limits can extract.  In Montana, a white cross is erected at the place of a highway fatality.  On some stretches of road you see lots of them; some in groups of two or three or even more.  It is as heartbreaking as it is scary.  And today we drove past another horrible accident scene so recent that a body was still lying by the side of the road covered with a cloth of some sort, the car upside down right beside.  That was horrifying.

We still have a couple of days left before we get home but we are beginning to look forward to being off the road.

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Ho Hum

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Looking down McDonald Lake, Glacier Nat’l Park

Oh, my gosh!  Another beautiful day in paradise.

Day six of our road trip took us up to Glacier National Park.  We hadn’t done any research about the park and, so, didn’t know what awaiting us there.  Michael wanted to go just so he could use his lifetime, geezer national park pass again.  We weren’t planning on doing any hiking, which meant that our experience would be from the roads and pullouts.

As most of you undoubtedly know, Glacier National Park has one of the “most beautiful highways in the world,” if the promotional literature is to be believed.  It is called the “Going to the Sun Highway” and makes its way along huge glacial lakes and roiling rivers and up up up before going back down down down.  The road connects the west entrance of the park, where we entered, with the east entrance.

Unfortunately, the road was closed sixteen miles in from the west entrance.  If the midpoint of the highway, which is about 50+ miles long, is the sun to which the highway is going, I figure Michael and I got just a little bit beyond Mercury.  And, even without achieving the high pass, it was a gorgeous drive.

We are breaking our journey for the evening in Kalispell after encountering a brief deluge on the last little stretch.

 

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Missed Opportunity

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Butte, Montana

Today, Michael and I followed the recommendation of the fellows we met over beer yesterday and drove from Helena to Missoula via Butte, Anaconda and Phillipsburg.  It was a gorgeous drive.

Interestingly, the road took us past both Opportunity and Wisdom.  We didn’t stop at Wisdom and that is probably why I ended up buying almost a half pound of assorted licorice candies at a sweet shop in Phillipsburg!  Probably a mistake but such a delightful one.  Who knew there were New Zealand Allsorts as well as English Allsorts?  We didn’t, but now we do.  Travel is broadening . . .in every sense of the word.

Shortly before joining Interstate 90 just east of Butte, we crossed over the Continental Divide again.  I had hoped there would be an opportunity for a photo.  I wanted to get Michael and Buster straddling the divide.  I had visions of a photo with a caption like:  Depending on which way they wave their willies while having a wee, it may end up in either the Mississippi River or the Pacific Ocean.  Much to Michael’s relief, no convenient pullout was provided.

We took a stroll through Missoula after we checked into our room and managed to find yet another microbrewery.  This afternoon’s beer of choice was from Kettlehouse brewery and was their Cold Smoke brew.  Almost as tasty as the licorice.

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Our lunch stop

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New Directions: Day Four

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Buster, Andre and their first snowman

We did get the promised three inches of snow overnight but the sun began to shine around 8 a.m., which made all the difference.  We decided to head north and explore a bit of Montana rather than heading east to South Dakota.

Our drive was beautiful with lots of snowy landscapes brightened with sunlight.  The roads began wet but became dry as our morning wore on.  Easy driving for Michael. We began the day thinking we would go to Butte and then explore but we changed directions once underway and ended up in Helena for the night.

En route, we were following (roughly) a part of Lewis and Clark’s path.  We had lunch on the banks of the Missouri River just downstream from where Lewis and Clark spent the night of July 24, 1805.  What a difference a couple of centuries make.

Helena, although the capital of Montana, is quite small.  We wandered through the downtown and stopped into two local breweries, a nice relaxing afternoon.  We met a couple of guys in the first pub and they gave us some ideas for tomorrow.  It would have us going to Butte, which is kind of almost backtracking but we will see.

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WINTER WEATHER ADVISORIES! REALLY?

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May 17th, heading towards the Continental Divide north of Idaho Falls

Day number one:  Sunny and warm.

Day number two:  Raining and low visibility.

Day number three:  Snow and more snow!

Day number four:  We shudder to think!

We headed out of Pocatello early, 6:53 a.m., in order to get to West Yellowstone and into the park in time to enjoy some of its sights.  Within a very short distance from Pocatello we began to get snow and then more snow and then even more snow.  Michael was miserable as the driving was treacherous for those of us who just aren’t used to these conditions.  We were behind a snow plow/de-icing truck for quite a while, which was very reassuring and we were saddened when it pulled over to the side of the road to let all of the backed up traffic pass.  Once we got over the Continental Divide, the snow diminished but was still present.

We finally made it to West Yellowstone about 10 a.m.  After a comfort break, we headed into Yellowstone for the day.  Although there was snow to one degree or another all day, travel was much easier in the park and we were able to see the sights we wanted to see.  Of course, most of the park roads were closed, which made it easier for us to limit ourselves.

We saw elk and lots of bison and one big coyote, which was in one of the smaller parking areas.  We saw plenty of thermal activity with steaming and spouting geysers and springs and splattering mud hotpots.  We spent about an hour in the Old Faithful Inn and enjoyed a revitalizing, fortified coffee while sitting in front of the blazing fire.  Our last walk of the day was to the Artists’ Paintpots, which was about 2 miles round trip, and by the time we got back to the car, my hair was full of snow and my shoes were full of muck.  Time to head back to our not-so-opulent lodgings at the Desert Best Western.

The temperature never got above 28 degrees today.  There are winter weather advisories for almost all of the highways we need to take to continue on our eastward journey.  We are contemplating aborting our trip and heading back home.  The weather is truly awful for driving and there doesn’t seem to be much point in being miserable just for its own sake.  We’ll see what tomorrow morning brings; according to the weather forecast, it should bring about three more inches of snow!!  REALLY?!

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80 MPH with Zero Visibility

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Grand geezer grooming at Geiser Grand

Okay, I exaggerate just a skosh.  We had some visibility today but not much.  Today’s weather makes us just that much happier about yesterday’s sunshine.

We began the day with a leisurely exploration of the historic downtown of Baker City and after that 35 minute stroll, we drove up to the Oregon Train Interpretive Center.  The center is very well done and looking at the wagon ruts that are still visible and knowing that those folks were lucky if they made 20 (very hard) miles a day, it really gave a different perspective to our mode of transportation.

Because the day was very wet and the clouds were almost to the ground obscuring anything we might want to see, we decided that it would be a good day to just cover some miles.  To that end, we charged into Idaho with its 80 mph freeways and just drove.  You might think that 80 mph and limited visibility is a bad thing but, in a twisted logic sort of way, not being able to fully appreciate just how fast you are going can be a good thing.

We had rain for all but out last hour today but, in spite of that, we made it to the Holiday Inn Express in Pocatello, Idaho by 6:30 (and that includes having to advance our watches by an hour in recognition of the vast distances we have already covered on our mini-, reverse-voyage of discovery.

Tomorrow, weather permitting, we hope to get a peek of Yellowstone.

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Comparing chin whiskers at the Oregon Trail Interpretive Center

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Go East, Old Man!!

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Between John Day and Baker City

It’s the quintessential American vacation:  A road trip!  There is nothing as liberating as getting in your car, knowing it has a full tank of gas and you have ten free days, and heading down the road with no particular destination in mind.

Michael and I set out this morning from home with only one day planned;  we knew we were going to spend the night at the Geiser Grand Hotel in Baker City, Oregon.  With that in mind, we headed east using rather minor roads to get to Sisters.  Very sadly, we encountered two extremely bad accidents before we even got over Santiam Pass, which delayed us almost an hour but left us very grateful that we were only momentarily and not permanently delayed.

Weather was supposed to be not so great, so, our clothing selection bordered on wintery.  Wouldn’t you know we ended up with sunshine for most of the drive and we kept shedding layers as the day progressed.  All of the reservoirs we passed were full and the rivers and streams were gushing down, which was a delightful change from what we have seen in years past.  The trees are just leafing out and the fields are gorgeous spring green.  It was an astonishingly beautiful day to drive across Oregon.

We stopped in the microscopic burg of Mitchell for a lunch break.  Mitchell has little to boast about but it did have a magnificent lilac in full bloom.  I would say that it was a lavender colored lilac but how can a lilac be lavender colored?  Seems like it has to be lilac colored . . .but there are so many colors of lilac that to say a lilac is lilac colored isn’t very helpful.  Therefore, I will say that the gorgeous lilac in Mitchell was of the pale purple variety.  There was also a beautiful chokecherry tree, which reminded me of our old Alaskan home on King Road.

Lunch came out of our cooler.  I had cut up a bunch of veggies to empty the crisper and had made a BIG batch of egg salad to empty our egg cartons.  A friend commented that we were brave, indeed, to be heading off on a road trip with three days worth of egg salad to consume given that the weather forecast did not bode well for driving with open windows.  Happily, as mentioned above, we were able to open the windows wide pretty much from Mitchell to Baker City to facilitate air circulation.

And speaking of potty humor:  We saw a motel that is called the “Scoop and Steamer.”  My first thought was that it sounded like a VERY pet friendly motel and, really, not at all attractive.  But, I realized that the references were to a nearby mining dredge, which scooped up gravel, and a little steam train that hauled who knows what to who knows where.  Still, not a good choice of names as far as I am concerned.

The Geiser Grand Hotel is fun.  It’s housed in an 1889 building and is lovely.  We are told that “it enjoyed a reputation as the finest hotel between Salt Lake City and Seattle; offering the western frontier the social grace, elegance and opulence that came with the Gold Rush.”  Okay!  From here on out, we will probably be staying in places closer to the Scoop and Steamer than the Geiser Grand, so we will take full advantage of this opulence while we can.  To that end, I will sign off for now.

 

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Udaipur: Part Two

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Lake Palace Hotel from the main palace

I can’t end my brief coverage of Udaipur without a special entry for our hotel.  Hashmat really did save the best for last and, although this may be a bit indiscreet, we were blessed by being upgraded a room category.  All of the rooms, I think, were excellent, but I think ours was particularly elegant.  It comprised a bedroom area with a good sized seating area off to one side, it had a separate closet/dressing area, and a very nice bathroom.

You know a hotel is particularly nice when:

It showers you with rose petals when you arrive on its dock.

It changes its stunning floral arrangements a couple of times a day.

Waitstaff bring you finger bowls before your dessert course.  Make certain you don’t unwittingly drink the water thereby showing just what a rube you are.

It charges an arm and a leg for a cocktail but the drink comes with enough nuts and raw veggies to eliminate the need for dinner (not that I didn’t eat dinner, too).

In the rooms It provides:  Both bathrobes and dressing gowns; extra slippers if housekeeping thinks you have misplaced a pair (instead of having secreted them in your suitcase); a new tube of toothpaste when the staff notices that your tube is almost out; a fresh bottle of moisturizing lotion each evening along with a little soothing poem; and, best of all, insect removal service (if you have an insect in your room, you are requested to call hotel services for its removal).

 

 

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