Saturday, March 3, 2012

(Not)On the Road

  The unsuspecting eagle watcher, Yellowstone National Park

So homeward bound we blasted, through the northern part of the country, I think perhaps the only part of the United States that is feeling winter. Steady temperatures ranging from twenty to well below zero in the states of Montana until around Ohio we froze. Our pillows froze to the sides of the camper in the morning, and we would wake with the sound of our own movement under sleeping bags and a down comforter making a crisp potato chip crinkle sound with every toe twitch and roll over. After leaving Yellowstone (where we had trouble starting our car everyday because it was so cold and diesels get crabby in the cold) we headed farther east. Making the choice to head back home I will not lie and say was easy. While thawing out in our one and only hotel room stay of the whole trip on a cold night in South Dakota we made the choice that it was time. When all of your water is frozen and you can pick up a pan with a fork because the ice froze inside the pan, and when your seven gallon water tank freezes and so does the water pump and drain, inspiration runs thin and wallets open for restaurant food. I don't know exactly how we would have prepared for this differently but I wish we could have. The complete and total absence of any campground being open in South Dakota didn't help as we spent a couple nights in a beautiful National Parks for seven dollars a night (record cheapest, and personally I don't think you should have to pay more than seven for a parking space) and the other nights in some not so scenic parking lots of a certain national chain which has been mentioned before on this blog.
This is a brief snippet of how our morning looked when ten below...
Patrick, waiting for  the second half of the intrepid duo to get on the road

5:30 am
I wake up, a tiny bit of light sneaks under the curtains in the camper but there is so much diesel soot and dirt and salt on the back window of the camper(the bed folds out underneath the window) that it is still pretty dark even in the middle of the day.

6:00 am
Pat wakes up and turns the heater on by reaching a few feet away. We watch our breath rocketing in huge plumes of warm air up to the top of the camper, which has over night gathered on all of the metal rivets and there hang icicles. Oh I have to pull one of my dreads off the wall of the camper as it has iced over (still attached to my head) don't forget the pillows!

6:30 am
The camper is starting to warm up, small droplets start to form and icicles and frost return to their watery state and begin to drip onto our sleeping bags. Quickly stuff away sleeping bags so they don't get wet for the next night. Oh wait the bottom of my sleeping bag is stuck to the side of the camper. Stand for five minutes while holding it over the heater and dry it out. Look for the long johns you've worn for a week. Why do my socks smell so bad? The dishcloth that landed on the floor? A good hockey puck if only we had some ice. I chuck it into the parking lot of the campground to test it's strength hoping it will break just to provide some humor.

7:00 am
It's so cramped in the camper with wet sleeping bags and a curious array of the un needed junk we always keep in the camper with us that we both hurry to put on winter boots and warm socks and put everything that can fall on the floor (food boxes, lanterns and headlamps and water jugs) down there so it at least starts on the floor. I get in the car and look at maps and see where we're going, whether that means we're going hiking or driving. Then in a cloud of cold exhaust we take off, sometimes with the camper attached

My favorite shadow rolling down the road, Badlands National Park South Dakota

Since returning home and I realize I have incurable wanderlust. Is that so bad? Perhaps our lives are meant to pay tribute to our nomadic forbears. How settled we all have become. The highly romanticized version and often repeated truths of traveling youth? Not at all, this is a wish based highly in reality, perhaps not in the reality of western culture but in the reality of my heart. Isn't the point of travel in the first place to fulfill the curious mind, to expand your consciousness so that we can see how we all relate to one another in the world?

 Toward the end of our trip I found this quote in a magazine and copied it onto a paper which I stuck to a wall in the camper so we could read it frequently. I think it stands out as a wonderful mantra for the traveling life.
“If you're really listening, if you're awake to the poignant beauty of the world, your heart breaks regularly. In fact, your heart is made to break; its purpose is to burst open again and again so that it can hold evermore wonders.”
-Andrew Harvey

Please do keep reading, just because we are home does not mean that we don't have more to share if you're still willing to listen. I'm hoping now that we actually have five minutes to stop and think about all that we've accomplished in the past three months that I'll be able to write more. And we do have adventures all the time you see. Till next time,

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Slowly East

Beautiful rolling river, these next few pictures are from Olympic National Park in Washington.
 Huge logs on the beach carried there by the sea from area rivers

 Coho salmon swimming up stream very late in the season

 For my honey!
 Clouds rolling on in...
We've had an incredible week and a half since leaving Olympia, our first stop was in Idaho in an un ceremonious parking lot before reaching Montana. We got a large portion of the Rocky Mountains out of the way before getting to the park which was a bit of a relief. After a days drive through Montana we curved down south to Yellowstone National Park. Everyone says it's a beautiful park and amazing and transformative and it really really was. We connected with a great group of folks who were there to witness wolves in what is apparently one of the best places in the world to watch wolves since their re introduction to the parks in the mid nineties. Thanks to the researchers that are there all the time who help to locate wolves, and to the friends we made (especially Dennis and Pam!) that let us look through scopes to see these magnificent animals. We got to see a lone wolf howling at the moon, met film makers from the Frozen Planet movies, watched a wolf eating a buffalo carcass, and on our last day a whole group sleeping and lounging on rocks. It reaffirms so much to know that there are still wild creatures like wolves and bison and elk and eagles that live in one big beautiful environment. It also shows just how domesticated and far we've come as a civilization that we have so few of these creatures left. We don't fully understand everything that happened during our stay there, but we both feel that we've changed in some way.
Loving Montana, we checked out the Bozeman Hotsprings and loved our drive through this incredible state. Even with the Rocky Mountains the sky feels so big.

Making their nightly migration up the road, some fifty bison take up the road for a miles, this was one particular big Papa Bison. We were in the car, but you don't really feel that much safer due to their size and height which translates into 2000 pounds and taller than the car.
A Grim warning!

This is the scene that makes you want to move to Montana. This is a few miles outside of the park.

After Yellowstone we checked out Wind Cave National Park, the Crazy Horse Monument and The Badlands National Park, all in South Dakota. Tomorrow we're visiting the homeland of a lifelong inspiration of mine, the one and only Laura Ingalls Wilder. I read her books growing up, From Little House in the big Woods, to Little House on the Prairie, of churning butter, building log cabins and sod homes. Her books taught me so much as a little girl about self sufficiency and a simpler time when people did things themselves. She was one of my favorite people to pretend to be, in my old fashioned dresses I would sit on the bench in our backyard and pretend to drive an oxcart or a buggy and I spent endless hours in my old fashioned dream world! I'm excited to get to see where she roamed around as a little girl on the prairie. Hope all is well, we're making our way eastward in larger stints now,
Till next time

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Head on home!

 Kalaloch Campground Olympic National Park
This will not be a fast retreat, but after a visit to Olympic National Park, Port Townsend Washington, Seattle, Olympia, Nisqually National wildlife refuge, we've headed back east again! Drove from Olympia to Smelterville Idaho yesterday (I wonder what the history of that name is) and then from Idaho to Bozeman Montana yesterday. The past week we've seen hunting bald eagles, temperate rain forest, the Space needle in Seattle, a sculpture garden, beautiful mountains, and snowboarders using kites like kite surfers along the ice and snow
Last night we checked out some incredible hot springs in Bozeman Montana, which included seven different pools with varying degrees of temperature, a steam room and a sauna. After a couple of ten degree nights with frozen water and frozen pillows it felt so good to thaw out. We've been staying in a few too many chain stores that allow you to park for free, the place that we shall not name but I'm sure you know where I'm talking about. Not the most picturesque, but to have a free place to sleep when you've been driving all day is just a convenience until we get to the true beauty!

Montana has been absolutely beautiful, I can see why people fall in love with this place and I think we already have. We're headed into the snowy and beautiful landscape of Yellowstone National Park next a short drive away into Wyoming. I have a feeling it's going to be amazing this time of year. Most of the park is closed to non snow vehicles so we'll see what we can see, but we manage to pack a lot in even when conditions aren't optimal!
We've got snow chains and zero degree bags and plenty of winter gear so no worries folks! Wish us luck, three degrees tonight is the forecast with a high of twenty five! Since most of the country isn't having much of a winter we've got to take it where we can get it.
Till next time,

Thursday, January 26, 2012


Beatrice in Louisiana

In our travels over the past couple of months there are certain things that come up. Lots of people want to know what our favorite place has been. Others try to hold back expressions of horror that we live in a thirteen foot trailer and how could we possibly still be together! Lots of people are so eager to share their own travel experiences and the best places to check out up the road. These conversations have mostly guided our trip, and we've been able to allow ourselves the fancy of following these suggestions for the best places to eat, hike, sight see, hear music, you name it. Everyone's got their own likes, but we've tried pretty hard to check out the things that people tell us about and it really is true that it's better than whats in the guidebook.

So what have we learned from this trip? What kind of invisible merit badge do we walk away with when this is all over? Are there things that we would have done differently thus far? I'd like to think that we've learned a ton about our country. There are few things that I would have done differently, and those things are all just a matter of attitude and very from person to person. And I have high hopes that we get the merit badges at the end because they would make a beautiful and colorful display to show where we've been. So here are a few things that we've found useful, and if you're thinking about trying this kind of trip out for yourself, maybe some of this will be useful to you too.

1. Always follow suggestions! People really want you to have a good time in their town, state, National Park etc. Most folks won't lead you astray when it comes to good food, a great campground, or the best route to drive on. Being a lover of travel memoirs and reading guidebooks to countries I'm not even planning on going to in the bookstore, I brought a ton of travel books. Some have been handy and have really saved us some nights, but for the most part just being friendly to people will be your next step and best guide on a long trip.
Starry and cold night in Kings Canyon National Park

2. So after saying that, I would have brought a guide or at least a printed map of state parks in the states we'd be traveling to. Not knowing our route ahead of time made this hard however. When we haven't had internet it's been hard to find our next place to spend the night. The big road atlas has some state parks listed which is helpful, but then you've got to get the right number and reach them during business hours, which is easy enough when your working from a library or home or have a cell phone connection but lots of places don't have any of those to work with. And that's when you want a guidebook! Usually state park entrance areas have a good pamphlet or two about that entire states park system. A few highway welcome centers have this information but usually just a big rack of advertisements for tourist attractions.

Guadalupe Mountains National Park inTexas
3. Have a good tool kit and know how to use it! This is the one area where I think it's good to bring the stuff you don't think you'll need. An axe for chopping firewood. Water jugs that are easily refillable as lots of parks don't have safe drinking water, so we try to fill up when it's good. We have a big seven gallon container but that's a big one to carry around if a water source isn't right near by, so we have a few smaller ones too. When we left, we had a pretty good idea that we wouldn't have power in the trainer very often so we're set up for that. Good headlamps and lanterns and a propane heater. So if you were to pursue a different style of trip, the tools necessary would be totally different.
4.If your going to buy a used trailer, read up on what repairs you might have to do. What supplies you'll need to work on the trailer. We wound up installing a water holding tank, getting a new pump faucet, and water proofing, Pat did a lot of fiberglass work etc. So know what you're willing to get yourself into, how much money you have and how much time you're willing to spend. We had more time than money so we were lucky and got a good price and put in the time to revamp the trailer a bit and get it ready for a big long winter time trip!
There will be more to come I'm sure, but these were a few big ones for us, we could also get way more detailed about where we've gotten parts, what seem to be common issues for these particular trailers and all kinds of things involving this little rolling house of ours!
Hope all is well,

Monday, January 23, 2012

Here in Portland

Hello all!
Pat and I arrived in Portland! We've been enjoying visiting my family, it's a rare treat getting to visit my west coast relations and have been having so much fun with them. There has been much galavanting around the city and the surrounding area, we've got to really take advantage of the things that Portland has due to getting to stay with family. One of the best parts of traveling has of course been our visits with people close to us, and you always get the inside scoop that can sometimes take a long time to learn on your own.
 Multnomah Falls in a heavy rainstorm
Multnomah falls lies outside Portland by half an hour and is quite the tourist attraction apparently, we went during a heavy downpour day and had the place to ourselves (yet another product of our winter trip) and spent about an hour roaming around and taking pictures.

We've had delicious food at the house here, we've been working in such a small kitchen for the past month and a half that we were so excited to get to use an oven and be able to make whatever we wanted. A warm bed, no condensation dripping on your nose, you get the idea, it's nice to stay in a house and take a break from travel, and in such a cool city too. It suits both of us due to the small towns we grew up in and it's the kind of city that just dosn't feel that big, but has the benefits of a city.

A highlight for me has been taking classes at Yoga Bhoga in the South East quadrant of the city. Up on the second floor of a refurbished industrial building it offers a beautiful view of the city. It is a very fresh and colorful studio and has a very friendly atmosphere.
Some other highlights if you'd like to read about some unique Portland business's check out Rejuvenation a great company (where my uncles happens to work!)that makes reproduction vintage and also new lights and lighting. They have a really creative retail store featuring all kinds lighting, antiques and vintage items. Check out their store online.
 The Lodekka vintage clothing bus and Wanderlust camper two women who have teamed up and sell vintage items and clothing out of a double decker bus and a vintage camper!
Ristretto Roasters. I'm sure it's a big debate in Portland as to who serves the best coffee, but we've had many chances to try these folks out and all I have to say is that they are so so good.

So this is a bit of a link heavy post, but they're all worth taking a glance at. Our time here is wrapping up and we're headed for Washington in a couple of days now to hopefully meet up with some folks there as well. We've been gone for over two months now which seems so unbelievable even just writing it. We miss everyone back home. Our stay here has made us a little lonesome for the comforts of home, staying with family and all. During our whole trip I've been trying to keep a mental list of the "things we've learned" practical and otherwise. I try to keep a tally of these things anyway, even when not traveling, but I've been meaning to share them with all of you at some point soon. This is quite the trip, and it's not over yet! I was showing my little cousin some photos of our journey and we've really covered a lot of ground. I showed her a map of the United States so she could see just how far we drove I think she summed it up the best. She asked me to show her on the map where I live, and she said "All that way! That's so far!"
So hello everyone from far away!
till next time

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Humor and Misadventure

Pat doing a mean door repair San Francicsco Streetside!

So all of this travel has certainly been met with a few challenges in the way of car repair or trailer repair. We can just be honest and say that it happens, and sometimes it aint pretty. The camper door flying open as we cruised the suburbs of San Francisco looking for parking was not the ideal time for a door failure but hey. It's a 1978 trailer, made of fiberglass and held together with rivits and hope, so something is going to have to pop out at some point.
There appears to be a strange creature on the top of the Scamp...The Ocean calls in the distance but our fearless repairman has consented to using the sunny day to skylight repair.
We recently watched the movie 180 Degress South when we were visiting in LA about a month ago and the famous climber and adventurer Yvon Chouinard is quoted in the movie "It's not really an adventure until something goes wrong" and we try to remember this saying when things do go "wrong" usually nothing has really gone wrong but when it feels as though all plans have been dashed something really cool is waiting on the other side. Cliche as it might sound, what a lesson it has been in rolling with the punches and remembering that it really will be all right in the end, and thanks to these mishaps we've met lovely people and had quite a few laughs, and that is always worth it.
Till next time,

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Up the coast we go

Seals in Monterey sliding into the water!

Hello all, we're up in Fort Bragg California right now headed up the coast to see some more big Redwoods.
In the past weeks we have....
Made some wonderful new friends thanks to the Kirk Creek Campground in Big Sur, we can't wait to visit with you all, you know who you are! We've gotten invited over for dinner by our generous host Carol in Monterey. Visited with sea lions and dolphins. We've seen elk, and huge waves, and redwood country. Tasted delicious beer from the Russian River Brewing Company(thanks Peter and Rachel for the most excellent suggestions) and visited with friends in San Francisco. We've seen the Golden Gate bridge and had the most delicious mexican food and coffee, and seen huge alleyway murals.
Jellyfish at the Monterey Aquarium

We've met other campers and traveling musicians and the lovely wild sort. I've read way to many maps and descriptions of campgrounds that my brain hurts. We're a little more caught up on the news from some great radio stations in Fort Bragg, and a little more well fed than when we arrived. We've been to Monterey, San Francisco, Santa Rosa, and Fort Bragg. Thanks to Sierra and Tom for putting us up in San Francisco, and showing us great food and a good time, and a most fabulous driving tour and bi coastal experience. Thank you to the lovely Annette for showing us around and sharing some great city history and ice cream while we were in town as well. We're having a blast and trying to soak up all our experiences on behalf of those not on this trip with us!
Golden Gate Bridge New Years Eve
 Patrick and Emma at Point Reyes National Seashore

Just to let you all know too, if and when we have the ability, I will be adding pictures to previous posts, so check back sometime if you get the chance to old history, and there might be a little extra something from some of our previous travels. Hope you all had a great holiday time and New Years. We spent Christmas on the sunny cliffs of Big Sur, and New Years checking ou the beautiful seashore of Point Reyes.
Till next time,