Monday, May 24, 2010

Canada at last!

We made it!

This 2700+ mile trip was not for the faint at heart. We made it with smiles on our faces and a new found appreciation for the distance between our families.

Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Colorado, Wyoming, Montana, Idaho and Washington were each diverse and magnificent in it's own unique way. The people we met along the route were friendly, helpful and hospitable. All traits to which we are thankful.

We actually are looking forward to the trip home. This time it will be a trip with exprience. Since we know what to expect and what we (and the kids) can handle it will be a bit more relaxed.

I have always wanted to drive across America, and now that I have I want to see more!


Well, we made it to the Pacific Ocean! Washington State is so diverse. I didn't realize how much of it is consumed by farmland. Much of it reminded us of Kansas and Wyoming.

As we crossed the Cascade Range We encountered the typical drizzly rain that is so common in this area of the Pacific Northwest. Some people might find that depressing, but after living in the tropics and semi tropics I welcome it. It feels cozy and makes everything so lush and green.

Today we lucked out because it is sunny in Seattle! We've stopped at Pikes Place Market for dinner and what a treat!! We watched the fishermen sling fresh King Salmon and tasted some smoked salmon. It's a really cool place to check out if you are ever here (you may have seen it on Food Network). Seattle is a cool city. We are gobbling up our dinner at a place in the market that overlooks Puget Sound. On the way in we went through loads of tunnels...some with houses on top! At the market you can buy luscious bouquets of flowers for only $10! I wish I could bring some to my
Mom but they won't let us Take them across the border.

Now we are off to BC!!

Missoula to Coeur D'Alene

Today is our last day on the road! We woke up this morning with a desperate need for coffee. After breakfast we grabbed a fresh cup of Komodo Dragon at Starbucks before hitting the road.

We sailed over the Bitterroot Mountain range unto gorgeous Idaho. I never had a good reason to come here, but it is beautiful. It's amazing how much the forests change from the Piney Woods in Texas to the northern forests of my youth. Twilight fans, be jealous!!! I get to live a Forks fantasy for the next month!

Juli and Syd had a great time feeding out of their hand some ground squirrels at a rest stop on the Montana-Idaho border. They were really cute, friendly and gentle...although I kept thinking in the back of my mind that they might bite and have rabies!

Lots if old mines line I90 here. Perhaps another time we will have to take a tour. I am sure the kids would find that very interesting.

Off to picnic by Lake Coeur D'Alene before pushing through to Seattle.

Yellowstone and Beyond

Today we hit the highlight of our vacation. Yellowstone. After we enjoyed a great breakfast at the hotel we set off down the Buffalo Bill Scenic Highway. It is just as Theodore Rosevelt proclaimed, "the most scenic 52 miles in America." The roads and tunnels follow the Buffalo Bill Reservoir and Shoshone River through deep gorges and mountain passes. The Shoshone National Forest lines the route.

Two miles before we reached the East Entrance to Yellowstone NP we arrived Pahaska Teepee, which is not a teepee at all, but instead the name of Bill Cody's original lodge. Now, it is a gift shop, restaurant, hotel and gas station. So we gassed up and bought some souvenirs.

It was cold. Not too surprising since we had checked the forecast. It was 27F degrees when we crossed into the park. The girls were delighted to see that snow (sometimes over a foot deep) still blanketed the ground. The one item at the last minute that I decided to leave in Texas was their snowsuits. Still we were able to improvise and they did have long johns on. They made snow angels and giggled in delight when they fell into a deep part.

Because it is still so cold, Yellowstone Lake was still frozen over. Just mind boggling since it is already late May. The Ranger told us that it was the perfect time to see Grizzlies, but we were not so fortunate. However in Hayden Valley we got to watch a coyote hunting some small mammal while the buffalos grazed and lounged nearby. They still look so thin from the harsh Yellowstone winters.

Inside Yellowstone you start to absorb the energy from the land. It was invigorating and is probably why we are all exhausted now. We saw gurgling and bubbling thermal springs, Roaring Mountain, Canyon if the Yellowstone, Upper and Lower Falls (the lower being twice the height of Niagra!!). There were Elk, Mule Deer, Chipmunks and Squirrels. And a special and rare treat...wolves!! The sulphur springs that create interesting formations in Mammoth were also a sight to see!

I am so thankful we are returning there our way home. We hardly made a dent in all there is to see and do in Yellowstone. I mean, come on, we didn't even see Old Faithful!

15 or so miles from the North Entrance we crossed over into Montana, our sixth state. Montana is another gorgeous place. Valleys and high mountains with lots of beautiful rivers. It seems like every few miles there was a public river access for fishing. We were reminded that A River Runs Through It takes place here. We crossed where the Missouri River Headwaters meet in Three Forks, which was also the birthplace of Sacajawea, Juliane's favorite historical figure. The Lewis and Clark Expedition came through this area with her guidance.

In Butte, we crossed The Continental Divide. Sydney could have cared less and Juliane was napping so that was more of a cool landmark for mom and dad.

So, tomorrow we make the last leg of our journey north. It has gone by so fast, it's hard to believe we are almost there!!

We wish you sweet dreams from Missoula, Montana.

Saturday, May 22, 2010


Wyoming is everything you think it is. Gorgeous mesas, endless grasslands, deep gorges, sky high mountains and abundant wildlife. All that and we haven't even entered Yellowstone yet.

Wyoming is incredibly unpopulated. I had learned it was the least populated state in the union during my trip research, but that did little to prepare me for how desolate it is on the plains. I can't imgine how isolated the folks are that live between Casper and Cody the winter. One can drive for an hour without seeing a house. Some of the "towns" only consist of a few houses in the middle of nowhere.

Yet I can also appreciate why people settled such a beautiful place. Wyoming has already become one of my favorite places which I know we will visit again and again.

Our final destination today was the Yellowstone "gateway city" of Cody. Founded by Buffalo Bill Cody himself this quaint western town has so much character. Shops sell western and Bill Cody items and restaurants feature 'Cowboy Cuisine'.

There us so much to do here that we could spend a whole vacation here,o but since we are just passing through this time we planned only one special stop. The Old Trail Town (unbeknownst to us, was right across from our hotel). The authentic cabins circa 1820-1890 that line the original town street were collected from historic sites all over the State. They boasted such famous dwellers as Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. More wagons than we could count filled the street and boarded the town. It was worth the stop and I can't wait to share the photos when I get to BC.

Juliane and Sydney couldn't wait to get to the hotel and go swimming, so we skipped eating out so we could enjoy the hotel. They just LOVE hotels. I don't blame them. This hotel is really nice!

I am so thankful that I plan for every situation. It is COLD! Bone chilling. The wind chill had us running for our gloves and toques. Tomorrow the lows for Yellowstone are near 20 degrees so I am relieved that I packed the winter stuff. The forecast is just as exciting as the trip itself. Snow tonight here in Cody and snow today and tomorrow in Yellowstone just add to the adventure.

I bid you all a great night from Cody!

Denver to Cheyenne

We left Denver with hot Starbucks and Micky D's in hand. The Band was playing on the radio as we cruised the Colorado farmlands to Wyoming. We bid farewell to the snowy Rocky Mountain peaks. We will see them again later today.

Well, Wyoming doesn't disappoint! Immediately we saw Pronghorn just grazing by the roadside. While getting gas in Cheyenne a little Red Fox hopped along nearby. Cheyenne is a beautiful quaint city. It is out last Starbucks stop until Montana. We love our coffee so hopefully we can find some strong java in Cody and Yellowstone.

Off to enjoy the Wyoming grassland and watchout for wild horses!

Friday, May 21, 2010

Wichita, KS to Denver, CO

Wow. I don't even know where to begin. We have put some serious miles between Denver and home. Over 1100, in fact.

Kansas is beautiful. Vast and spacious. So far it is the cleanest state I've been to. From rolling hills to endless plains, wind farms to buffalo ranches. It was what I expected and yet so much more. Tornado Alley only produced sunshine, friendly people, sweeping winds and the occasional tumbleweed.

Now we are well into Colorado. Sunny bright blue skys with fluffy high clouds. In the distance we can make out the Rocky Mountains, which will be our home over the next 2 days of travel. In a way we won't really leave their majestic peaks for a whole month as they will be in our sights for awhile.

Many of you have wondered how the girls have been faring. They have been real troopers. I guess most people wouldn't take their preschoolers on such a long journey, and if you asked me a year ago I would have laughed and said, "no way!" This adventure began months ago when we first decided to take this trip. The girls have been researching along with me and so have a sense of the distance and the sights we would see. They have been journaling by drawing pictures of the sights they've seen: the wind turbines, buffalo and rolling plains today for example. I will admit we've had a few moments (1 each day) where a certain someone was not at her best...but we recovered and won't let that ruin the adventure.

So onto the mile high city, where the swimming pool and dinner await!

Buc-ee's in Texas

Sent from my iPhone

Oklahoma City to Wichita, KS

Today we are really on the open road. What a beautiful and relaxing drive we are having this morning! The rolling Oklahoma hills and lush green fields have given us a new perspective on the state. Don't get me wring, I will never drive here at night again...but today is looking much better. Despite the bad roads, I have to say Oklahoma has a unique way to promote tourism. Every now and then we pass road signs announcing the next town coming up and what interesting things there are to do there.

We have decided to stick with our original itinerary even though our Garmin keeps reprimanding us for going the wrong way. Sometimes you just have to rely on an old fashioned map. So, Kansas here we come!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Dallas to Oklahoma

Pheuf! Well, we made it to Oklahoma! After getting a jolt of Starbucks in Gainsville, TX we crossed the Red River into Oklahoma. The sun started to set and we were entertained by the beautiful hills and plains that contrasted with the red sky. I didn't know OK had so many casinos! Gotta remember that for a quick getaway.

Unfortunately, the beauty around us was tainted by the horrible road conditions. What a contrast to Texas! I had the nasty job of navigating I-35 to Oklahoma City. There are NO reflectors at all whatsoever! NO street lights. I have to say it was terrible driving here at night. Besides that the entire stretch of I70 is under construction with most of it down to 1 lane! So far Oklahoma is not winning any votes for a pass through on our way home.

At the very least the girls were good sports. A little impatient at the end, but all our nerves were frayed as you can imagine!

So, day 1 is over! We made it through a tornado, Dallas traffic and navigating Oklahoma at night. I bid you all sweet dreams from "The Sooner State".

Houston to Dallas

We are on our way! 252 miles under our belts already. Hello Dallas!  

We passed the Sam Houston  Statue (1st President of TX when it was it's own nation) and stopped for Icees and spotless bathrooms at the famous Buc-ee's in Madisonville.

I drove the first leg of the trip and despite putting the peddle to the metal I didn't get a ticket. The Texas State Troopers are out in full force today. Love to see those tax dollars at work! So, with my perfect driving record still intact, I've turned over the reins to Paul. He promptly changed my news radio to his new Robert Earl Keen and has the cruise control set. I always forget about cruise control. I will have to try it out when it's my turn again.

In Corsicana we encountered our first "hiccup". We entered a super cell and barely missed a tornado!! Yikes. Check out the pictures on Crazy!

The girls have been totally chilling out. Just a few 'are we there yets". They've watched a movie, colored, made drawings in their journals, played car bingo and now are playing on their Leapsters. It's all good!  

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

The Ultimate Planner

I am "The Ultimate Planner". It is not enough for me just to relax and "enjoy the scenery" (although I like that too). For months I have been learning everything one could ever need to know about every mile of our trip. I find it a richer experience when I know if I might see Elk, Bison or Bears there. I enjoy it more when I can imagine a historical figure or event that occurred. Of course, it helps that the good old USA is abundant in history and nature.

I don't think it's reaching very far to say I got that trait from my Dad. I guess the history buff doesn't fall far from the tree. :) And now, I get to pass that on the girls. We have been listening to books on tape, watching documentaries and reading all kinds of stories over the past few months as the anticipation for this extended vacation has been building. They are so excited to see the many different animals in Yellowstone and fascinated by the mountains, forests and lakes. But more so they are interested in seeing the town that Buffalo Bill Cody created, or the birthplace of Sacajawea, where the Oregon Trail blazed its way west and the great Missouri River where Lewis and Clark made their expidition.

This is a trip of a lifetime. I hope it goes as well as we anticipate. If it does, we will traverse it again and again I am sure. Here are a few of the sites that we look forward to seeing on our 2,500 mile journey. As long as I have access to Internet, you will find pictures and posts here throughout the next week.

Sam Houston State Park
Tornado Alley!! (hopefully that isn't as exciting as it sounds)
Fort Hays, KS
Oregon Trail, Mormon Trail, etc
Independence Rock
Douglas, WY - Home of the Jackalope!
Cody, WY - Buffalo Bill's Town
Shoshone National Forest
Yellowstone National Park
Three Forks, MT (Sacajawea birthplace)
Coeur d'Alene Lake, ID
Pikes Place Fish Market, Seattle

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Mother's Day Camp Out

We started a new tradition last year (along with 4 other families) that we would go camping for Mother's Day. I imagine many of you are thinking that you wouldn't want to be camping on the day you're supposed to be pampered, but my feeling is it is all about the kids. I would not be a mother without them and a camping trip is a great way to have some fun family time without having to worry about my other domestic duties.

The weather in Texas in May is perfect for taking advantage of the great outdoors. Not to say that we were out in the middle of the wilderness. This camp trip was quite the contrary. The campground has waterslides, and pools, mini golf and...Yogi Bear! Yes, for those familiar with the site in Waller, TX, we enjoyed a tent weekend at Jellystone Campground!

It was the best Mother's Day I could have wished for. And I felt very pampered upon returning home when I got my first real shower in 3 days!

Sydney volunteered to say the pledge of allegiance!

One of the giant waterslides!

Thursday, May 6, 2010

First Signs of Summer

Summer comes early to Texas and the kick off event is the opening of public pools. Our neighborhood pool, among many others, opened up last weekend for the summer swimming season. The girls have been gearing up for it by taking swimming lessons at Houston Swim Club and were THRILLED when the pool opened up. What a fun day!