Sunday, May 29, 2011

Are we there yet?

Are we there yet? Not yet...almost. It's so hard to be patient, especially when you are so close and everyone is excitedly awaiting your arrival. We are all so ready to get there!!

We are covering our last stretch of highway to the Canadian Border. The passports are out and ready for immigration. Barely a word is being uttered as we all longingly stare out the window for a glimpse of Mt Baker or a border crossing sign.

Next post will be written on foreign soil!

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Location:Washington State


Last night we finally pulled into the hotel at 10:30. Imagine our exhausted, rag-a-muffin family arriving rumpled and more than ready for bed at a lovely riverside Doubletree. Oh were we a sight to be seen!

Our exhaustion was quickly remedied with some warm chocolate chip cookies, beautiful hotel room, comfy beds and squishy pillows. The hotel was a 1970's Red Lion that had been gorgeously remodeled by Hilton into this well appointed Doubletree. They took care to modernize and upgrade without loosing the fabulous retro charm. To top it all off we really were riverside. I guess that is why the hotel is so aptly named Doubletree Edge Water. We wish we had more time to enjoy this hotel and location. Missoula is a perfectly picturesque mountain town situated alongside the Blackfoot River.

The drive through the Idaho panhandle was quick and gorgeous. The hills are lush and green dotted with azure lakes and clear roadside streams. Lake Coeur D'Alene was as stunning as last year. Of course it helps that the weather is perfect. 65 degrees and sunny. Just before we crossed into Idaho we stopped at a cool rest stop that has a large number of Ground Squirrels. We spent or wasted depending on your view 1 hour feeding pretzels to these fuzzy little guys.

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It's a beautiful sunny day in Washington State. Last night seems to have transported us back in time. We stopped at the rest area at Sprague Lake and they had powdered soap!! Paul tells me it is just like the pink powdered soap he had in elementary school. This was my first experience with the stuff. Imagine my shock when I pressed the dispenser expecting liquid! Now Paul is singing along to Rhinestone Cowboy. We are getting the full 70's experience!

Dispute only getting 4-5 hours sleep last night we are all in great moods. It's the home stretch, the weather is fantastic and we are making great time!

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Location:Medical Lake,United States

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Driving driving driving

I am so thankful for happy girls. They are both in delightful moods today. It couldnt be better timing as it has been a LONG day.

Right now we are trucking down I-90 at breakneck speed. Montana has fantastic roads and the speed limit is 75mph. You really can't do more than that safely through the mountains. Not too long ago, the speed limit signs said "Reasonable and Prudent", which what 75 is.

The GPS says we will arrive at the hotel at 10:22pm. And darkness is starting to fall over the valley. We are marking a record today in how long we have been in the car: 14 hours!! It is a record we won't soon repeat...we hope!

We are all looking forward to the last leg of the drive. The girls are eager to see their Grandparents, Great-Grandparents, Aunts, Uncles, and Cousins. Paul and I are too, but we are also dreaming of sitting on the back patio at my parents house in the waning twilight overlooking the Sumas Valley and Mount Baker with a ice cold Sleemans Cream Ales in hand!

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Location:Interstate 90 Business,Butte,United States

Just go with the snow.

Sometimes the elements don't work with your plans. Sometimes you just have to work with the weather or mother earth or both for that matter. When you just go with the flow, a huge hiccup can become a fantastic adventure!

Today we unexpectedly have to take a REALLY long detour to get to our next destination. Heavy snow in the mountains has caused an avalanche on two routes and the third has had a mudslide from snow melt!

We checked the Yellowstone road status before we left and with an "all clear" we headed north to the Silver Gate Entrance in northeast Yellowstone. It was a lovely drive through Sun Valley along the Chief Joseph Scenic Highway. We stopped to take pictures and walk along the highest bridge in Wyoming that towers over a dizzying 1200 foot gorge. We played in the snow just outside the entrance and took a great family picture.

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Everything was set up for an awesome day. And then ranger spoke, "have you heard about the mudslide?" "No," we responded in unison. She kindly described that there was a mudslide between Tower-Roosevelt and Mammoth, which was our intended route and exit from the park closest to our destination. She also reminded us that the route to Canyon was also closed because of snow. We were trapped.

Let me explain, to get to the Silver Gate and Cooke City, Montnan from Cody, WY you have to take the CJSH and then the Beartooth Highway. There is only one way to get to Cooke City and that is via this route from Wyoming. Now thus wouldn't have posed such a huge problem had the Beartooth Pass been open for us to just zip up to Red Lodge, MT. It may have been an hour or so longer than our plan.

So, we are going with the snow. At present we are backtracking 1 hour 30 minutes to Cody, and then getting on the roundabout route to Missoula via Laurel, MT. Hopefully without any more hiccups we will be there by 9pm.

Now it can't all be bad. We are in one of the most beautiful places on earth! Although this is what we would expect from a ski vacay not a summer one!! We did tour the Lamar Valley and saw FOUR Grizzlies!! We did get to play in the snow. That sled we brought got some serious use! The vistas have been amazing and we are all still in a good mood!

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Location:Crandall Rd,Cody,United States

Are we at the North Pole?

To say there was some snow today in Yellowstone would be a huge understatement. The drifts were taller than our Honda Pilot!

The breathtaking drive to the northwest Silver Gate entrance to Yellowstone is forever imprinted on my mind. The hairpin turns and layered landscape made for an adventurous trip! It was beautiful and sunny until we reached the Bear Tooth Highway. Shortly after we made the turn the snow started to fall and in no time we were transported into a winter wonderland. "Are we at the North Pole?" Sydney asks. "No," replies Juliane, "they don't have THIS much snow!" and indeed it was deep, steep and coming down in sheets. What a sight!! Cooke City was blanketed in fresh white snow and some small houses were nearly covered completely!

We passed through the Silver Gate with ease. No lines or problems. Once past the gate we began our decent into the Lamar Valley. As we dropped in elevation the snow became less and less. Finally on the valley floor we only saw it in patches.

The Lamar Valley we were told is like the Serengeti of Yellowstone. This is where most animals make their winter home. We missed this area last year so it was at the top of our list this year. We spent three hours watching wildlife. First we saw a group of friendly Ground Squirrels. They kept coming up to the girls to see if they had food to share with them. Then just down the road from that we saw...a MOOSE!!! A huge deal for me. I have never seen a moose in the wild! So cool. Check one more thing off my bucket list! We saw plenty of Bison (Buffalo), Pronghorn and Elk in small herds. Some bison roam away from the herd (probably males) and those we saw dotting the landscape and munching grass along the roadside. Then we came across a huge group of people watching the woods. So we stopped and watched with them. It was a young black bear cub. So cute. We never saw it's momma, but I am sure she was not far off. A good reason the rangers were keeping people from getting too close. At the same time a pair of bighorn sheep ambled down the hillside right beside us snacking on grass as they went. What a great experience! Can't put a price on that.

On the way back we stopped at a roadside info station to play in the snow. That sled came in handy!! What fun we had taking turns down the hill and making a snow lady.

On the way back we hit the snowfall much earlier. Those fun hairpin turns became slick and a little scary. A few times there was a complete whiteout. But we made it back safe and sound.

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I could go on and on. It was such a great day, but I am exhausted. (we all are) and so I bid you all sweet snowy dreams from Wyoming.

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Location:Yellowstone Ave,Cody,United States

Friday, May 27, 2011

Too much snow?

Well, we headed for the East Entrance and it was closed! There was an avalanche earlier today making the road impassible. Yellowstone, as usual, is full of surprises. Lucky for us, this forces us to enjoy a drive along the Chief Joseph Scenic Highway to the northwest entrance in Silver City. It also offers us a new perspective on the Buffalo Bill Scenic Byway. We have never driven it back to Cody. It was deemed 'the most scenic 52 miles' by Teddy Roosevelt and it really is!

We saw three buffalos so far AND snow!!

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Location:N Fork Hwy,Cody,United States


Wow! We made it to Cody. What an amazing trip!! The Wyoming Dinosaur Center was really cool. Both kids enjoyed it, but Juliane was particularly excited. "Best trip ever!" she exclaimed when we were finished. It was nothing much to look at from the outside. A large plain steel building looming off the road to seemingly nowhere on the edge of town. We were surprised and amazed at the extensive collection of fossils they had. Many were dug locally, but they also had obtained some incredible specimens the likes of which we had never seen before.

Leading up to Thermopolis, we traveled through the Wind River Valley. It is our favorite part if the drive even though it only lasts an hour or so. The road hugs every curve and bend of the eroded mountain side along the Wind River. As we snake along it through tunnels, high peaks and endless valleys our faces are pressed against the windows exclaiming loudly what wonderful sight we are witnessing. "Look at that!" "Breathtaking!!" "I see a Pronghorn!" The scenery rushing past seems like it would take years to fully appreciate. You know you cannot see it all the first time, and so you must return again and again. That is how we feel about Wyoming.

As we exit the valley we turn our eyes to another site to behold: Yellowstone! There in the distance we can see the towering snow capped ridge of this living volcano. It beacons us with promises of adventures we will not soon forget.

And so we plod along (although it is easy to speed in WY. The speed limit is 75, but you find find yourself creeping close to 85 or 90!) coming to our final destination of the day in Cody. We made it with smiles on our faces and the wind in our hair. We enjoyed a hearty steak dinner and then took a dip in the pool.

Tomorrow promises to be epic. Yellowstone has had record snowfall and the entrance (East) that we are using is only open at 10am and then again at 8pm. We have brought the girls snow gear and snuck in a sled!! We plan on a full day of fun seeing animals, geysers and springs and playing in the snow!

(please note I have been having trouble with BlogPress uploading pictures and videos the past few days. My apologies.)

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Location:Yellowstone Ave,Cody,United States

Thursday, May 26, 2011

The Meandering Route

Ahh! Relax! What a beautiful chilly day it is in Wyoming! We started the day with a yummy breakfast at the hotel and then hitting Starbucks for what we thought (experience from last year) was our last Starbucks until Montana in 3 days. It's not that we only drink frothy sugar laden delights made to order by a 'professional' barrista. We just like...perhaps even need...strong rich coffee. It seems like the more north we drive the weaker the local stuff is. We even go as far as to bring our favorite brew with us. Which we will be cooking up in the hotel room tomorrow morning. For us though it more for the convenience whole traveling. So you can imagine our delight when we spotted a brand new Starbucks in Casper.

Today we are meandering across the State from south to north. There is so much we could see along the route. We made a few sight seeing stops along the way. A few for potty breaks. Thankfully we have that portable potty for the kids. Sydney is still working out her "situation", so some of the breaks have been long. A must see for us is the Jackalope in Douglas.

We have see hundreds of Pronghorn Antelopes.

We stopped at Hell's Half Acre for a spectacular sight and a little history lesson.
Now we are entering the Wind River Valley. It is our favorite part of the drive to Cody. We will stop in Thermopolis to see the Wyoming Dinosaur Center! Juliane is SO excited!! What a fun day!

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Location:Shoshoni,United States

Wednesday, May 25, 2011


We have finally arrived in Wyoming. It felt like it took forever to get here from Wichita. We stopped so often for potty breaks and crabby kids...okay kid...I started to wonder if we had lost our travel mojo.

Well, it turns out that if you sit for a long time, drink more milk than usual, eat only meat and breads you get constipated pretty fast! And well if you're constipated it makes you irritable. And if, oh I'll come right out with it, if Sydney is irritable we are ALL irritable. Unfortunately for us we didn't actually figure out what the problem was until we got to Fort Collins. Poor kid!! Tomorrow we start anew with lots of apples and raisins!

It's never all crabbiness. Check out Sydney's backseat moves:

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Besides a case of backseat crankies, we spent most of the morning driving through rain across the sweeping plains. (seriously wind swept!) Every so often checking radars on our iPhones for any rain wrapped tornadoes we couldn't see, but were lurking in the back of our minds. Once we started nearing the Colorado boarder the sun shone in abundance.

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It is a misconception that Kansas is flat. Indeed it is flatter than say the Rocky Mountains, but not nearly as flat as Texas. It is a pleasure to drive there with the rolling hills and vast prairie. Sometimes it looks like you can actually see the curvature of the earth. Alas, it is only those lively hills. But the scenery certainly becomes boring after you've driven in it's hypnotic repetition. For this, I am so glad to be in Wyoming!

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We love Wyoming. This small unpopulated state is simply glorious! I really could live here and I eagerly look forward to our three days in the state. The only negative is that I have horrible cellular reception here. If I am MIA you'll know why.

I update often to Facebook with pictures and videos from the trip so if your on FB send me a friend request. Otherwise, check back tomorrow for an update!!

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Location:Missile Dr,Francis E. Warren AFB,United States

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Day One - Part One

Texas goes on forever. If you have never traversed it's great expanse it's hard to imagine how enormous the lone Stat state is. Today we are traveling 604 miles. It is one of the longest legs of the drive. At Conroe, Sydney started asking, "Are we in Kansas yet?" and by 7am they were asking, "When are we having lunch?"

We stopped at Buc-ee's in Madisonville for clean bathrooms and in following our Buc-ee's pee-break tradition we bought the girls Icees. Yes, they had icees at 6:45am. And well, that's okay when you have to "be good" for 12 hours while chained to your car seat. All in all Juliane and Sydney have been very good. They have enjoyed the activity books and new art supplies I brought for them...but what they are really antsy for is the new DVDs. Not until Oklahoma, I told them. And so patiently they wait.

You might wonder "what could you possibly do in the car for all that time?" In this rat-race busy world we live in we have less time to connect with each other. The girls tell us stories and marvel at the world rushing by their windows. Paul and I take it all in. The scenery, the slower pace, each other. And we talk. Just talk. About nothing and everything. And it's wonderfully free!

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Location:Dallas,United States

Monday, May 23, 2011

Final School Farewells and Packing Packing Packing

I had forgotten how much effort and time I put into our cross-country trip last year. We decided to drive from Houston, Texas to Abbotsford, BC Canada in January. By March we had the trip planned out and our hotels booked. I researched every possible interest along the route and took out piles of guide books and books on various topics from the library. The girls and I listened to books on tape about the Louis and Clark Expedition and Sacajawea. We read stories about the Oregon Trail, prairie life and Indians. DVDs were rented and watched with awe about Yellowstone National Park. By the time April rolled around, I had set up our guest room as a staging area. We pondered and packed and repacked our clothes, toys and goodies. Being our inaugural trip, we wondered what to expect from the girls. Did we have enough entertainment for 8-12 hour car rides for 5 days straight? We followed weather patterns (tornado season) and road closures online. Days before our departure the bags had been packed and were staged by the door. We conditioned our body clocks by going to bed earlier and waking earlier so we would not be tired. And on that beautiful day in May 2010 we set off on the adventure and found ourselves well prepared, but slightly over packed. We experienced and we learned.

This time around we booked all the hotels at the last possible minute and didn't even consider packing until...well, yesterday. Looking back, I can see the difference in the stage we were in. In 2010 we had TIME. I didn't realize how much time I had! Truth be told, as your kids get older (and I know some of you are nodding "I told you so's") you really are busier! The private school Juliane attended, otherwise known as The Land Of Milk and Honey, kept me VERY busy. Somewhere between the 100 page scrapbook and the almost monthly field trips I gave up the notion that I didn't have time...I MADE time. Funny how that works, isn't it? I was also the Class Mom for Sydney's preschool. It was not nearly as demanding, but I wanted to give them as much attention (the students --I love reading to kids) and show as much appreciation for her wonderful teachers. I also took advantage of my wonderful Mother In Law since I am unable to clone myself...yet. Evelyn was there every step of the way helping take care of Sydney so I could be at Juliane's school. With a 100 page scrapbook and pictures for the DVD to fill the moms formed a sort of Mommarazzi and practically camped out at the school. Of course, none of us wanted to miss a second of their Kindergarten Year of Magic either. Oh the friendships we have formed this year. Already missing those Kinder Mommas!

Then, in the midst of it all we put our house on the market. Whoo! That's a task. I tell ya, keeping things looking model house perfect is barely possible...but it is possible. Don't worry...I am not a supermom...although I am certainly trying! I did burn the midnight oil on many occasions. And now that we have said our good byes (last year for us at the most amazing preschool, Cornerstone UMC) and have dried our tears -- mostly mine -- we are faced with the daunting task of packing.

How much do you have to pack for a month? Do you pack the snow pants and boots for the snow in Yellowstone where the temps have been in the upper 20's at night and it is still snowing? Do you even bother to pack summer items with the weather being so wet and mild in BC in June? Then you remember you have to drive all the way back in the soaring temperatures in Utah and Texas on the way home. a little bit of everything.

I hope you will all join us again on our cross country trip. We are staying some extra nights in Cody, Wyoming. Remember that from last year? Oooooh its our favorite place! And on the way home we will be coming a different way. (I am going to have to research all that from Canada) So exciting. :) I plan on blogging up a storm with my new iPhone 4. Let's see if we get better reception in Wyoming and Montana!