Enjoy My Adventures and Discoveries
As I Drive Across The Country.
As I Drive Across The Country.
The book is finished and sent off to several agents to be reviewed and picked up to present to publishers. I can't wait for that phone call. I was also able to get some self-employment/freelance work to help along the way. Both allow me to work from home, make money, flexible hours and work on my photography, writing and painting. But even then, I still need to get out of the house for a few days.
My book was complete and within a day or two ideas flashed in my head about future stories I could talk about with the same theme. A mysterious death with a parnormal twist which lead me to think about Montana and a place I haven't been too in a really long time, Glacier National Park. This also triggered an idea for a story and to help get the facts straight I decided to go and see the place for myself and this time I wouldn't be alone. Aria would be coming along and even though we can't hike any trails together the drive through the park will allow us to enjoy the time and scenery together.
Next came deciding the when and a review of the schedule, to go before or after 4th of July was the biggest question. It was decided, after seeing prices, it would be done before the 4th of July before hotels hit the peak of summer vacation and so did their prices. Even the prices now were a bit high but nothing I couldn't handle which also lead me to using my Choice Hotels points to help pay for a few nights and ease up on the cost.
Choice hotels can be a hit or miss property chain but for the most part their Quality Inns and Comfort Inn & Suites have been really good and a lot of them are dog-friendly and easily accessible to major highways and attractions. Choice hotels also has the easiest and most promotions for discounted stays that I have ever seen with any hotel chain. They also have the lowest pet fees so they are worth checking out. Plus their website is user friendly, with both email and text reminders of your upcoming stays and the notes you leave on your room reservation are actually seen and read by the hotel you will be staying at and if there are any issues they call you before you arrive.
Finally, those paid nights paid off and I was able to keep my room costs low. Even if you aren't a Choice Hotels fan, any chain you use reguallary I highly recommend getting onto their rewards program, check-ins are easier and quicker, your acknowledged and thanked for being a member by the staff and when prices are high you can use those point to reduce the rate or get it for free.
Well we all know that when the snow leaves, out comes the construction equipment and we often joke here in Wisconsin that the two seasons we truly have are Winter and Construction everything else is just fluff. So here I am, the end of June, before a major Holiday heading out to Montana and construction is in full swing. The first one occurs shortly after I leave the Twin Cities area and was given an alternate route by my Dad who travels the area frequently.
I'm still not sure how much time would have been added if I had stayed on the main route but this side route did add 20 minutes but it was through the countryside of Minnesota which for some reason always makes me feel happy and calm. The large fields and rolling hills, with an occasional small town to drive through with only a few buildings. Rain was always on the horizon and at times the pollen was blowing so thick it looked like snow.
This time of the year also makes it hard to regulate the temps. Humidity is high outside and inside the car it is eithr too hot and sticky to go without air or too cold to have air. It was put to the floor often to keep the inside and Aria cool. Once back on the main road and through the town I had entered I crossed over and eventually ran parallel to the Minnesota River. It was high. Northern Minnesota had experienced a lot of rain with washed out roads and it was finally flowing down to our area. A pullover area/park was completely under water and at times it was kissing the bank of the highway. Any large amount of rain would cause it to go over and another section of road would be flooded.
An hour or two later and I'm now entering into South Dakota. The trip is a little over ten hours but today I'm not tired and enjoying the views and the drive. Thoughts of my writing, photos and shop drift through my head and plans of the future flash before me. Everything is changing and I am open to receive it all. A quick stop in Mitchell, about the half way point to Rapid City, reveals that this area is still under construction.
It has been almost two years and this road doesn't look any better than it did two months ago, let alone over a year ago. Now this is an area that has no clue what they are doing except that they are tearing up the road and making it extremely inconvenient to get to the businesses along this route. I pull into a travel center which is packed, big surprise, it is early afternoon on a Sunday and everyone is either going home or heading out on vacation. I pull up behind one car that appeared to be moving from the pump, I wait and wait and wait and there is no indication that they are going to move. So I move along and around them to get to another pump only to have them move as I come around the bend. This now, of course, she does. Ugh!
But now there is another car that is turning into the same area and when she sees me come around quickly pulls in next to the pump, the one I was going to take, and parks. Now I'm in between two pumps and the one that is open is on the wrong side of my gas tank. Around the car I go and quickly pull in next to her and an open pump. I gas up, go in to stretch my legs and when walking out see a pick up with a camper trailer sitting in the parking lot in front of the door. I walk out in front of him and back to my car only to have him pull forward and block me from moving so that he can get the pump next to mine.
Oh, really? So because you have a truck and trailer you get to do whatever you want and not only block me but block others from parking and moving from the parking lots behind you. Well, alrighty then. I'm in no hurry to get to my final destination but I don't appreciate being forced to stay put while you wait for the lady who cut me off to decided whether or not she is going to move. Finally, she does and he pulls forward.
Next to the travel center is an area for dog-walking and pull in for Aria to stretch her legs before we finish the last part of the road trip. Not far away from this area is a small picnic area with a couple of picnic tables and an older woman with what appears to be a sheltie sitting next to her feet underneath the tables. I walk back to the car and as I do she turns in my directions and I ask her if that is a sheltie, she says yes and Aria peeks her head around the side of the car. The two dogs quickly lock eyes and begin pulling us towards each other. Aria is on the large side of "the average" sheltie size scale and upon a formal greeting it was determined that this one was too. Both are full-blooded shelties and for the first time ever Aria was able to look her own breed right in the eye. They enjoyed their greetings and did a light play before we went our seperate ways.
Its always nice to meet nice travelers along the way and it was a good change of pace to the day. Now I had to weave myself through the construction in order to get back out to the Interstate. It wasn't as bad or took as long as I had feared but it was still a pain in the butt. We're back on I90 and heading West towards Rapid City. For the most part the drive is uneventful and a blur as I drift in and out of my thoughts and listen to the music and radio stories I have playing from my phone. It isn't long before I pass the small town of Murdo, SD which is about halfway through the state and about 3/4 of the way to the hotel. A few twists, turns and miles later I come over a hill and before is a sky so dark blue that it almost looks black. There is a flash of lightning which confirms I'm about to head into a storm. A few quick shots and I grab hold of the steering wheel and get ready for what is about to come.
A glance over at the dashboard shows that in the last ten miles or so the temperature has dropped 15 degrees and is still dropping. A look up at the clouds has me checking my phone for any alerts, only a notification that rain will begin around 310p, it is now 253p which means...the rain starts now. A large amount falls on the car and it is heavy only to have it stop a few feet later, this happens for the next couple of miles until it finally decides to keep a steady and heavy downpour for the next few miles.
I tap on the brakes to cancel the cruise control because as we all know people don't get cautious in these situations, they get stupid and dangerous. The rain falls so hard at times that visibility turns to zero, the wipers can't keep up and I can't see the lights on the car a few inches ahead of me in the lane beside me. People are starting to slow way down and some I think even pulled over but I know it is going to end soon and I can still see the yellow strip of paint on the road . I keep going. Then it lifts and cars can be seen as well as the road before us.
This happens one more time before I'm finally free and clear of the storm. Warnings of flash flooding fill my phone but nothing about tornados, thank the Universe. I'll never understand the tow trucks of South Dakota. Twice I came across a tow truck helping someone out and either they or their tools were sitting out in the lane. Are you looking to get hurt or cause an accident? All it takes is one person to not be paying attention and all of you will be severly hurt if not dead and the second was just after a major storm! Anyways, I digress.
The wind has picked up and is pushing my car towards the side of the road and a few raindrops occur the rest of the way. I don't mind driving in the wind but it is killing my gas mileage and admittingly I am taking advantage of the 80 MPH speed limit unfortunately no one else is. So as I'm fighting a strong wind I'm also canceling my cruise control every mile or so because no one goes even a mile over 80 and always want to stay in the left lane. Truly, I don't know who your trying to fool because I know that you are the same driver who is doing 80 in a 65 so why are you not going that fast now? Maybe you don't have a long drive ahead of you but at this point, I've been on the road for over 8 hours and I will do all that I can to safely make this trip goes as quickly as possible. In other words, MOVE OVER!
Finally Rapid City begins to show itself in the far distance and so does the indicator on my dashboard saying I'm low on gas. Tough! We only have a few miles left before we get to the hotel and then I will fill up and you WILL get me to the hotel without issue. We're at slower speeds with a decreased wind it will make it just fine. I decide before I get to the hotel to pull into a fast food place and get supper, this is not without a bit of a growl from the car. The hotel is a block away at this point, calm down Ella.
As it is in most places I'm once again staying at a Choice Hotels Property, this one is another Quality Inn. I've stayed here at least two or three times in the last year or so and I can honestly say that everytime I do the place keeps getting better. The staff is always friendly and efficient, the hotel is near resteraunts, downtown Rapid City, about an hour from Mount Rushmore, and a nice grassy area to walk Aria. The beds are comfortable, rooms are clean and the neighbors are quiet. It doesn't get any better than this. It will also be my first night using my reward points.
I stated in another blog the benefits of being a rewards member and today is no different. I got a hotel snack on arrival which was trail mix, snack cookies and bottled water. My room was already held on the first floor as requested and when entering into the room realize I had been upgraded to a jacuzzi suite. Sweet!!
Even Aria had to do a double take on the room. Needless to say once I was unpacked and we had eaten our supper I fired that baby up and enjoyed feeling the jets on my back after a long day's drive. The only other thing that would have been better would have been an herbal massage. But I will gladly enjoy this jacuzzi tub.
The night ends with one final trip which is over to Culvers for a custard cookie dough sundae. Hey it is humid out and we're going to be having storms throughout the night. I think I've earned this special little treat, although, if I knew it was going to take almost ten minutes to get it I might have reconsidered....
Just like last year, this road trip ended the same way with little to no excitement on the drive home. It was almost like the Universe didn't want to delay my return or maybe I was anxious to get home. Regardless of the reason, it was always nice to be able to sit back and relax.
It wasn't all smooth sailing, the early wake-up had Aria and I ahead of schedule and even though I thought of leaving around 7a I decided to leave an hour earlier. I reached Las Vegas a few minutes before 7a which was when things started getting fast, slow and downright ridiculous; hello rush hour. Truly if you have been through one city's rush hour, you've been through them all.
A few miles later and I was out of Las Vegas and heading as far away from it as I could. Some of the areas I passed seemed familiar but a majority of it was not and I was pretty sure I had to cross into Arizona for a few miles but there was nothing on the city signs that showed it. About an hour or so later I saw the sign, “Welcome To Arizona” and just pass the border was the Virgin River Gorge.
The rocks that surrounded this pass were large, jagged, red and beautiful. There was no place to pull over and stop to take pictures, which was the biggest tragedy of this drive, emergency stopping only. A few miles later I crossed into Utah where from this point to Provo I dealt with inconsistent speeds, hills, and sharp turns. Just when I got the cruise set I had to cancel it because someone was going slower than me.
After a fill-up, I was finally in a flow of traffic that allowed me to set and maintain my speed for several miles at a time instead of a few feet. The winds were picking up which made some areas a bit challenging. I entered into Provo and knew there were some neat mountain scenes in the area but the GPS decided to keep me on the Interstate and bypass that route. Such a bummer!!
The day ended at Rock Springs, Wyoming and the area didn't seem to be like I remembered it or maybe I was just mixing towns up. At any rate, the hotel was still the same and so was the location. Two more days of driving and one more night in a hotel and then we would be back home in Wisconsin. I love traveling and being on the road but it was nice to get back home and not have to eat out and spend money every day. But the experiences, growing, and learning that happened along the way made it all worth it.
I woke up early due to an intense headache that made sleeping difficult. The pain was bordering on a migraine and the temperature in the hotel room was fluctuating from a comfortable cool to boiling hot. Aria was also pacing, drinking water and pushing me to get up and do something. We both chilled on the bed a little longer waiting for the a/c to cool down the room, but within an hour we were both up and ready to get going. A glance at the weather on my phone showed the area was under a weather advisory. A high warm front was coming that would lead to accessive snow melting, possible flooding and an advisory was out for fires. Fires, melting snow and flooding; really? Well, that explained the headache, this was going to be a long day and drive but I had no choice. We left before the sun was up and made my way to South Dakota.
Traveling through Wyoming was best experienced off of the Interstate and onto their Highways. Even though my GPS wanted to stay on the "fastest route". I decided to be a step ahead of it and looked up alternative routes and found the one that only added a couple of minutes to the drive and offered a whole lot of scenery. The mountains and rocky hills could be seen all the way to the South Dakota border, there were plenty of small towns with services along the way and the roads were quiet.
The views were amazing on this sunny and warm day and the various livestock and gazelle could be seen as far as the eye could. As I got closer to South Dakota the rocky hills gave way to more rolling hills with green grass and still an occasional spot of snow. Old man winter still didn't want to go away. Snow became non-existence the closer to Murdo I got and the temperature remained close to 65 degrees. Heaven!! I was truly blessed with great weather this whole trip.
I end the trip here on my last night, a year later, on the road and headed back to my home state of Wisconsin. This trip meant a lot to me in that I felt more confident about myself, articles, traveling, and photos that were taken along the way. A lot of personal doors were closed as well to allow the new ones to open.
The next day was going to be another early one. I only had an eight-hour drive ahead of me but I also had a lot of work to do when I got there. Even when on the road, the work never stopped. Aria and I did our morning routine and then headed out to the Las Vegas area.
It was mountains surrounding the route the entire way, which I was surprised to see. I thought for sure after entering into Nevada, this time from the North, it would flatten out to the desert and open views but it didn't. There were always mountains and hills that surrounded me, at times, they did fade away and were in the far distance but they were never out of sight.
This route took me on 93, straight South, all the way through Nevada. The one thing I did learn, very quickly, was that even though there might not be a desert view there was the desert feeling. Large towns were far and few and the areas between these places didn't offer many services and that included gas. Which thankfully the state told me as I left the town, there was a posted sign that said where the next gas station was and it was never less than a hundred miles, one was almost two hundred miles. In case you didn't pick up that last part, I write it again. The sign was posted AFTER I left the city and after I had passed all the gas stations.
At one point I had to pull out my phone and determine where the gas station was because the sign had posted for my current route, not the route I was going to be turning on and thankfully there would be a gas station along that route. As I came up to the turn I saw the sign that posted it was about seven miles away. That was the only sign to indicate where the gas pump was located and for as big of a sign as it was, o.k. it was a billboard, I expected the place to be a lot bigger. It wasn't. There were a total of four pumps, a cafe, and a hotel and the name was changed. I was passed it before I knew that was what I wanted and had to turn around.
The remainder of the drive was uneventful and boring. It only became interesting when I had to go through the mountains and got to do my twist and turn driving. However, that was short-lived because this entire route was two lanes. Only twice did it open up into three lanes and even that was only for a mile to allow for passing, otherwise, it was playing chicken with oncoming traffic as I passed a slow driver. Two lanes for over two hundred miles.
Signs of construction were all over during the final stretch of this route and before it got too thick I pulled over at a gas station to grab some snacks from the trunk. Aria was up on the backseat doing a bit of a dance which meant she had to go. I let her out for a walk and instantly she saw the cows on the other side of the fence and began barking. They did nothing but look at her. Aria's hair was up on her back, acting all tough, the cows looked at each other back at her and then went back to eating the grass. She finally did her thing and with one last bark at the cows walked proudly back to the car. I mean really, whatever helps her sleep at night.
It wasn't long after this stop that I came onto the construction with a nice bright orange sign that said one-lane traffic up ahead, another said, guide truck being used and the final one, the delay could be thirty minutes. Of course, it could be, I mean it was like 90 degrees in the sun, even with the a/c on, the heat could be felt.
Up ahead the flagger could be seen and I was a bit of a distance away from the truck in front of me and had to slow down, even more, to allow a construction driver to move from one side of the road to the other. I thought I was going to have to wait but the flagger quickly waved me through.
We weaved, maneuvered, slowed down and sped up for the next several miles. The shoulders were torn up and it appeared the goal was to make the road wider but at this stage, who knew. I felt sorry for the flaggers having to stand outside in this heat. I15 was up ahead and I was in the final stretch to Boulder City but not without one more push from an impatient truck driver as we both moved to get onto the ramp.
Just like the other towns, I went through, Las Vegas from this direction was no different. There was no indication that I was coming into the city until I came around the corner, between the mountains, and there was the city before you. Today offered a little more than just a city view, fighter jets about five of them, were out doing test flights through the canyons and around the city.
The heat of the day could be seen as I looked out towards the city. Dust was everywhere and the city looked dirty from where I currently was and even seemed to disappear as the wind kicked up more dust and dirt. There also seemed to be heavy traffic, almost a rush hour feel, which seemed odd because it was only 230p and on a Tuesday. Well, I would hate to drive through any city and not deal with their traffic, I mean what fun is there to just coast on through without having to slam on the breaks. I made it through and headed out to Boulder City.
Which was still under construction, the same section with the same confusing signs from a year ago. Do they even have a plan or are they just making it up as they go. I remembered the correct way to get to the hotel which, unfortunately, hadn't changed much either. This time, it wasn't a good thing. The room at least locked and the a/c was working great but the tv channels were limited and fuzzy, the cleaning was half done, the beds poorly made, the a/c unit was missing buttons and I was sticking my fingers into questionable holes to adjust the temperature. And I can only hope that the white powder on the sink was from a sugar packet. At least I was on the first floor with a walking area out front.
I enjoyed visiting and staying in Boulder City for the main reason because of the heat. I'm one who can't stand extreme hot or cold temperatures and when they are present I will stay indoors to be more comfortable and only go out when necessary. This made it perfect for me to catch up on my writing for books, articles, review and post photos to my Etsy shop and personal website.
A few hours later I took a break and Aria and I left Boulder City and headed towards Las Vegas, the drivers were spread out, courteous, and driving was stress-free. I maneuvered my way to the downtown area where after a couple of turns everything changed. Every single block had people honking horns, yelling and pulling out in front of others. It continued all the way back to Boulder City. I blamed the heat.
Back at the hotel, the work continued and Aria enjoyed the time outside of the car by napping or cuddling up next to me. The guy in the room next to me had me on alert. Not sure what it was but I just made sure to be alert when he was out and walking around. Aria picked up on it too so her walks weren't always when she wanted them to be. Later that night, I was woken by the sound of an alarm going off which was quickly silenced, followed by voices nearby. I could see in the darkness that Aria's head was up and looking towards the door but didn't respond. Part of me wanted to get up and peak while the other part thought they might be breaking into my car. Not that I could do much if they were, I rolled back over and fell back to sleep.
A few hours later I woke again to look at the clock and heard the silence, I walked up to the window and peeked out. The car was still there and looked to be in good shape. Another car had appeared alongside it which I assumed was their alarm going off and they were the voices I heard. I returned to bed with a relaxed mind and less than an hour later I felt movement on the bed. A body pushed herself up against my back and ahead laid on my forearm, followed by a long sigh. I turned slightly and could hear the patting of her tail against the bed, it was still too early to be up. I rolled over and she laid her head on my chest and we laid in the darkness while the remainder of night disappeared.
The day started out early, as in before 5a early. Two brown eyes were staring down at me and up I went. Aria and I had breakfast, checked out and made our way South. We did have a final stop in Cannon Beach to walk the beach one last time. Aria knew this area before we even got there and was anxiously jumping up and down in the back. She was in love with the ocean, the beach and chasing the birds along the way.
One of them wanted to take her up and over the cliffs, while another out to the ocean. It took several calls to get her back with a warning of going back on the leash if she didn't stay close by. Problem solved. A few more photos were taken of her enjoying the last day. Another 10 hour day of driving was ahead of me and I was dreading every single moment of it. I really needed to stop pushing it so hard, eight hours of driving was long enough.
The first part of the trip took me towards Portland, Oregon and I was going to be driving through it to continue on. I use to live in Portland, Maine and had always wanted to visit Oregon's Portland. The first part of the trip was driven through hills, forests, and mountains. Clearly, a logging community with signs posted throughout showing when the trees were planted. The drive was going smoothly but about ¼ of the way fog could be seen in the distance. At first, it remained high near the treetops, the sun was burning it off but then I dipped down into a low part and the fog covered the road and the visibility. It didn't last long but it was enough to slow down, and mystery stories popped through my head which almost always included a foggy scene.
I continued on and a few more twists and turns had me leaving the mountains and into the city of Portland, Oregon. Which I got to experience during rush hour; lucky me! The city was definitely bigger than I had anticipated. There was construction everywhere and when you've driven one city during rush hour, you've driven them all. People were pushy, anxious, reckless and inconsiderate to everyone but themselves. I even had a semi-truck behind me that kept wanting to ride in my trunk.
Finally, I made it out of the city and up ahead was Mount Hood. It loomed over the city and helped make the rush hour not so bad. I left Portland only to see the mileage sign for the next town. Plenty of miles on the gas tank to get there but some of these posted towns, as the past has shown me, don't have much in the way of services. A quick turn around, and much yelling from my GPS had me going back to Portland for a fill-up.
It was a good thing I did gas up the next two hundred miles were through the mountains, sharp turns, and no accommodations and what exits did have them required going away from the interstate for several miles in order to reach them. The view was beautiful, the mountains were enormous and the rocks were huge. The whole way followed Hood and Columbia Rivers. They varied in color from turquoise to deep blue. Road construction continued for most of the way and between the interstate and the water was a railroad track. On the other side of the river was another road, from this distance, it appeared to be a two-lane road, probably a local highway. But it too was busy and full of semi-trucks and cars.
After this section came one hundred miles of nothing. The road I'm describing was Interstate 84 which ran all the way through Oregon and took me all the way to Twin Falls, Idaho. After the one hundred mile stretch the remainder of the trip, approximately two hundred miles, the mountains, twists, turns and great views returned.
The hotel I had chosen, Quality Inn, had an interesting entrance but even more intriguing was that the hotel was two separate buildings long. Building A had the lobby and breakfast bar while Building B had the pool and hot tub. But I'm happy to report that this one did have grass and a nice walking area for Aria. It was also a popular place for construction workers which, I had a feeling, took over Building B. Thankfully I was in Building A.
Once again, I hit the city during rush hour and going out for supper took twice as long as it should have. I finally reached the Dairy Queen in one piece. I quickly saw that this Dairy Queen was used for "certain hangouts" and was glad there was a drive-thru. Even though that didn't stop one of them from almost falling into my open window when I made the order. The staff was pleasant but I also had to question their mentality.
Upon return the parking lot was almost completely packed, clearly, check-in time had arrived. Aria and I made our way to the hotel room, had supper, did a walk and not more than an hour later I was in bed fast asleep. Change in elevations and a ten-hour drive dealing with rush hour traffic and mountain driving wore me down. The drive itself wasn't easy and even the usual tricks of staying awake weren't helping and the temperatures kept climbing which also didn't help but the sleep felt good and I barely remembered turning off the t.v.
The morning greeted Aria and me with dark clouds, a cool breeze, and a few sprinkles when we stepped out for our morning walk. I was glad we left before the rain started and the sun disappeared. After leaving Spokane Valley, not only did the clouds and rain disappear but so did the mountains which opened up to large, rolling hills and open fields. This made for a very slow drive on I90.
However, the further West we went the stronger the wind came. It wasn't noticeable until I was in an area that was extremely flat and open. Brown dirt from the fields was being kicked up and almost looked like a dust storm in front of me. Everyone's lights went on and speed slowed down as a section of it became zero visibility. It felt like miles had gone by before I was able to see the vehicles around me but it was only a matter of seconds. No wonder sandstorms were so dangerous, it was like driving through thick fog.
Once on the other side, the hills became larger and so did the twists and turns that followed which took me up and around towards Vantage, Washington and over the Columbia River. The River was wide and turquoise with high rock-covered hills on either side that dipped down and over a bridge that offered a panoramic view of the river. Once over the bridge, it was a steep climb to the top which was covered in windmills which were enjoying the strong winds.
Originally I was going to dip down further into the state of Washington and cut through Ranier National Park but a missed turn prevented that and I remained on I90W a bit longer. I was disappointed at first until I saw up ahead that the mountains were getting bigger and closer. I was about to enter another series of climbs, twists, and turns through the mountains before reaching the West coast. It started out slow but the further in I went the more twisted it became. A welcome sign up ahead informed me I had entered the Mt. Baker National Forest.
I will never get bored or tired of these types of drives that I loving call, a rollercoaster on a race track. Taking the corners just a bit faster than the rest, feeling gravity surround me and the car, pushing and pulling but able to keep it square between the lines in my lane. Looking up ahead and quickly planning my next move as others slowed down or moved aside. The slight tilt of the road, allowed me to see all the cars around me and when keeping pace was a picture-perfect moment. While I calculated every move, my heart beat a bit faster and the adrenaline slowly crept in because all it took was one bad move and I would be in the guard rail, under a truck or over the cliff. I gripped the wheel tighter and continued forward and when the ride was over, smiled, patted myself on the back, and thanked the Universe for dry roads and smart moves.
After I left the National Forest, things began to get dull and long as I turned onto I5 and had to pass by Tacoma. Even at 11a, traffic was a nightmare and people were slow and dumb the entire way. Even when we were out of the city, traffic still remained thick, slow and the drive took forever. I realized halfway through that today was Saturday and people were taking advantage of the nice weather. A sign ahead pointed to the Washington/Oregon border and I crossed over the Lewis & Clark Bridge. The port was full of cargo ships, some were anchored, some were coming while the rest were leaving.
It was a steep climb up and traffic, once again, remained slow. Thankfully there were a few spots where it opened up to three lanes and the slower drivers respectfully moved over to let others pass. I was almost to Astoria now and there were a few more sharp twists and turns before I headed into the city, once again the thrill of it hit me and I glided through them and into the town of Astoria.
The last section of the drive into Astoria was on Highway 30 and even though it couldn't be seen for most of the drive the road did run parallel to the Columbus River. There were a lot of small towns to drive through before getting there and were your typical seaport towns. Crowded, buildings that offered little privacy for the neighbor and most consisted of a couple of stores, a gas station, and a bank.
I jumped onto the Oregon Coast Highway which started out as a bridge to take me over to the Pacific coast and then followed it South through a few more towns and eventually into Seaside. It was then I realized my hotel was in downtown Seaside which had festivities going on. A low groan and grumble made its way through my lips. This wasn't going to be the most fun place to stay not because of the festivities but because of the hotel's location.
A few minutes later, after I checked in, Aria & I got into the car and took a drive. I headed out of town to Cannon Beach and knew there was a park near the ocean we could walk. This town also proved to have festivities going on and the beach was crowded. It was a short and quick walk but enough to stretch our legs and enjoy the scenery. People and dogs were everywhere enjoying the warm day and gentle breeze. Many were also flying kites which added color to the sky. Time to head back and get settled in for the night.
The hotel I was currently at was considered "pet-friendly" however its location wasn't. This was another Choice Hotel called Comfort Inn & Suites off of the boardwalk in Seaside, Oregon. There was no place to walk Aria, unless, she liked to walk on rocks and pebbles with a couple of prickly bushes; which she didn't. There was no amount of persuasion or begging that could be done to get her to go under these conditions, and unless I wanted to get yelled at for walking her on private property this is what we had to work with.
Even though I knew it was a useless effort, I still walked her and as predicted she refused to go. She did take advantage of the Cannon Beach park while we there which had me feeling good but at 430 that morning she was asking for a walk. We went out and the conditions hadn't changed, which I told her before we left, she stopped only for a second before walking back towards the hotel. I knew she was miserable and upset but there was nothing I could do about the situation. Pet-friendly accommodations weren't easy or cheap in this area which was funny considering a lot of places, including the beaches down the coastline, were pet-friendly. Coastal towns, I'll never understand them. I said the same thing about Maine when I lived out there
I couldn't help but laugh when I looked at today's schedule and saw that it was only a six-hour drive and thought to myself today's going to be an easy drive day. When did a six-hour drive become an "easy day" to me? Knowing this I was able to sleep in, finish up some work, and run a few errands before taking off. Aria was also enjoying the lazy morning and had curled back up on the king size bed and fell back to sleep a few seconds later.
After errands were run, I packed the car and headed out to Washington. As I drove away from Bozeman, which was always emotional for me, I slowly realized how much I had forgotten about this route from last year. In fact, I would say over half of it, I didn't remember.
I remembered it being kind of a long drive up to Washington but I didn't remember the many rollercoasters on a race track sections there were along the way, in fact, about half of the drive was through the mountains with this type of driving. Blind corners were all over these sections and one turn could have me behind a semi-truck, camper trailer or someone who wasn't used to mountain driving.
I didn't remember the many towns and communities that lined the route as well as the many exits that didn't have service at all. No road trip would be complete without a little bit of sweat from my forehead and today was no different. Because I had forgotten all of this, I let the gas gauge drop and it was gracing the "E" mark in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by mountains, limited to no signal and no safe pull-offs. I had plans to stop in the small town of Superior but road construction had me more focused on that than the signs around me and I blew right by it.
When I passed the next sign showing how many miles to the next town Superior was gone and the next one was 10 miles away. If they didn't have a gas station the town after that was another 15 which would bring my gas tank down to an even redder area. I held my breathe as I came around the bend a blue sign showed the symbols of what the town had and one of them was a gas tank. Whew! I stopped at the Conoco and it was a mini-mall, that had clothes, gambling, the usual gas station snacks, a small diner and decent size bathrooms. Throw in a few showers and it would have been a mini-truck stop.
Temperatures were rising and the heat was starting to kick in. Down went the windows, and open went the sunroof and we were off again. I didn't forget the twists, turns, and hills that welcomed me into Idaho, I did forget how sharp those curves were. Yellow signs with suggested speeds were posted all over, and even though they were more for the trucks this was the biggest warning that everyone, including me, had to slow down in order to keep the vehicle on all four wheels.
I did forget that once in Idaho I was in the state for several miles but when dealing with rain, sleet, and snow with limited visibility it made the surroundings non-existence and focus on that prevented me from seeing anything else that was going on around me. Now that I had unlimited visibility, blue skies, shining sun and dry roads I was able to see it all and the route from Bozeman to Spokane Valley was beautiful and the mountains were majestic.
I didn't forget that Idaho drivers, in a pick-up or SUV, didn't like to be passed on their mountain passes, least of all by a sedan, certainly not by one from another state and definitely not by a woman who could handle the passes with one hand better than they could with two. Once the Idaho driver moved over and saw I was going to pass him we were instantly in a speed race to see who would give. I passed him and he disappeared into the dust and never saw him again. Sometimes a woman just has to show a man how it is done.
Lastly, I didn't forget about Coeur D' Alene, ID which was a beautiful town and scenery that also made me feel like I was in heaven. I slowed down for this town. Unfortunately, there weren't any good pull-overs to take pictures but it was still a piece of heaven. The bridges intertwined and below me was the lake that was a turquoise color that stretched and expanded as I drove past it. Not long afterward I entered Washington.
Here the mountains took a step back to make room for Spokane Valley and Spokane. There far in the distance but still remained close and added character to the busy cities that were between them. More errands were run before Aria and I headed in for the night. Tomorrow Oregon. Two days by the ocean, sightseeing and photographing. I was looking forward to it.
The next day the sun was shining, the temperature was above 32 degrees and the hotel was quiet the entire night which made for easy sleeping for Aria and I but come 5a someone was up and ready to get the day started. She allowed me another 10 minutes before insisting it was time to get up and go. We went for an early walk where the sun was starting to peek through and then went back in for breakfast.
One more walk and we were back on the road headed towards Bozeman. The sky was blue and the sun was bright and warm. I was in love with this day, no bad weather or heavy clouds as far as the eye could see and the road was smooth. This could turn out to be a pothole-free day.
The route to Bozeman involved leaving I90 for about a hundred miles and taking Highway 212, which could also be called the truck driver's highway as I always saw more of them along the way than any other kind of vehicle. This was one of my favorite parts of the route, the road was smooth, speed was 70 MPH and there were a lot of small towns and communities along the way to help pass the time. In fact, it was the only part of the route where the miles ticked by like seconds. It was around the halfway point I entered the Custer National Forest.
There were signs for pull-offs and camping along the way but the roads became steeper, curvier and chain up areas was more frequent along the way. It was a fun change to the road but towns were also hidden and it wasn't long before the speed limit had dropped from 70 to 35 and then back up to 70 less than a mile later.
Highway 212 came to an end next to the Little Big Horn National Monument and up ahead lied Interstate 90 to take me the rest of the way to Bozeman. At this point, I was about 60 miles from Billings and speed was back up to 80 mph. It could be 100 mph and to me, this would still be the longest and dullest part of the ride, there was nothing along the way to keep me occupied. Heavy eyelids began to cloud my vision and down went the windows, up went the radio and another pull on the soda to get me through this portion.
Billings, an extremely Industrial City, finally lied ahead and in the far distance were the mountains. Traffic had started to gather and speeds were changing but I still had a hard time waking up to stay focused. It took traffic slowing down and road construction before I was fully awake and aware of all that was going on around me. I made it through the city, without any issues, and continued on to the final stretch before Bozeman. The day had been going great and the weather had been cooperating. However, the wind had also picked up and a few times made driving difficult but the sun and the snow was non-existent except on the mountains.
After leaving Billings there were about 2 hours left of the drive, the views only got better and I was revived to make it the rest of the way. About ¾ of the way I passed through a small town called Livingston, which was still under road construction the same area as a year ago, and down to one lane.
This section, after Livingston, is best described as a rollercoaster on a race track with speeds as slow as 60 to as high as 85. It was the most fun part of the entire trip and I loved taking the curves just a little bit faster than the rest. I climbed past the others and the slight tilt of the road made for a nice “photo op” with the towering mountains around us. Most of these curves were blind so it was imperative to be alert and aware of all the vehicles and trucks on the route as well. One blind curve could have me reading the small print on the back of a tractor-trailer or in the backseat of a slow-moving car. Which is why, when possible, I stayed in the left lane and coasted effortlessly past them.
It was also the scariest and most heart-stopping route I had ever been on. A year ago, I came back to Bozeman for a visit and a storm had moved in. I left the day after and the roads were only slightly cleared. The slush covered sharp curves and blind corners would pull me into the side or the shoulder without any warning. I was scared the whole way and was never so happy to see the sign for Livingston which was where the front had broken apart and opened up to cleaner roads.
Through the pass and up ahead were the signs for Bozeman. I was earlier than anticipated and the weather was still warm with temperatures near 60 and no stop was complete without a visit to Big Sky Country. This was also a route I could never get right the first time. I always think I know it but end up going in the opposite direction and have to pull out my phone to guide me back to the proper road, and today was no different.
On the way to Big Sky, there were a lot of Trailheads for hiking as well as turnouts to pull into for pictures or to allow others to pass or get out and go for a walk. One such trailhead I enjoyed was Lava Lake and was determined to find its entrance this time and find it I did, along with the many, many water-filled or snow-covered potholes along the way. The drive was one car wide and no turn around until I got into the main parking lot. Every bump and hole was felt with me apologizing to my car the entire way, a large and deep water-filled hole lied ahead before the parking area and I was afraid there would be no support when I went through.
Thankfully, looks were deceiving and it wasn't that deep but the snow I had to straddle to continue forward was high and scrapped the bottom of the car which had Aria jumping around in the back seat and whimpering. I made it through that up on the packed snow and was making my turn around when the car sunk down into a hole and I was stuck.
Snow, ice, and slush spat out as the front passenger tire spun freely without finding any grip. I put it in reverse, then forward, back to reverse at one point it didn't even bunch an inch. Panic started to set in, but it didn't overrule my stubbornness and I kept trying and finally, the tires gripped and pushed back. I still had to go forward to get out and giving it extra gas had me lurching out of the snow and slush and back on to the soft and wet gravel. Several thank yous to the Universe and more apologies to Ella and I slowly made my way back to the main road.
I pulled in to the turn around a short distance away and allowed my nerves and shaking hands and body to settle down. A few deep breathes later, I got out of the car and Aria and I took a walk around the area. A great place to take photos, stretch our legs, calm the nerves and enjoy the gentle breeze that flew past us. A few minutes later Aria and I left the turnaround and continued on towards Big Sky stopping along the way at other turnarounds for more photos, the final one allowed Aria to get out as well.
It was a good day for hiking and photographs, the breeze was gentle, temperatures were warm and that combination with walking made it ideal for a light sweater and no jacket. This was my idea of heaven and for it to be in Montana was icing on the cake. I made a u-turn and headed back to Bozeman for the night.
After supper and a few more walks, Aria and I were officially done for the night. Tomorrow we would be on the road again and in Spokane Valley, WA
Expect the unexpected and you will never be surprised. The one thing that I have never experienced before and hope to never experience again happened today. Driving along Interstate 494 through the Minneapolis suburbs found me needing to change lanes and upon doing so hit a massive pothole that took out two of my tires on the passenger side, one of those tires was only a week old.
A small twinge of hope began to creep in until the dash indicator came on that I had a low tire. Damn. I moved all the way over to the shoulder and put on my four-ways. Conclusion: not going anywhere, anytime soon. A call to AAA and being on an Interstate made me a priority and within the hour a tow truck had arrived and began taking an assessment of the damage and getting the car ready to be towed to my dealership a few miles away.
Aria was with me the whole time and got to enjoy the ride in the tow truck and hung out in the waiting room at the dealership where from the moment we walked into the shop until our departure everyone had to stop what they were doing and come over to say hello. Three hours later I walked out of the dealership with new tires, a nice bill, and a delayed departure. It could have been a lot worse on so many levels, to sacrifice time and money for my safety was well worth it.
Finally, we were on our way, however, I wasn't deaf to the weather report that showed Southern Minnesota was going to get some snow that day, between 3-5 inches, and the heavy stuff was right through my route. Knowing what lied ahead I maintained a higher speed as long as I could but the further South I went, the clouds became darker and thicker and sleet began to hit the window. I was happy to have four new tires on because the road went from dry, wet, to slushy to snow covered in a matter of a couple of miles. Visibility was also dropping and the wind picked up. I knew the further West I went, the better the weather would be so I kept moving forward and the sign for I90 appeared ahead.
I took the ramp and, Oh My God!, it was riddled with potholes. There wasn't an inch of road for the next two to three miles that wasn't torn up or holed up. I could have cried and slowed down to avoid any repeated issues. A few exits later the Interstate finally smoothed out and cleared up enough to get back up to speed and the rest of the trip through Minnesota was snow showers, blowing snow and strong winds with roads that went from slushy, wet to dry.
After the stressful morning, this drive was hard to stay awake and focused on. Coming down from the excitement of the day, low visibility, which meant nothing to look at and an eight-hour drive ahead lead to a lot of yawning, stretching, seat adjusting and window opening to make it through. The miles clicked down slowly. I was never so happy to finally see windmills, dozens of them, that lined the road and the field, at least it was a momentary distraction that woke me up for a few more miles.
It felt like I had done a 6-hour drive, which was only 3.5, the "Welcome To South Dakota" sign appeared before me. Thank you! For a moment I thought the state had moved away from me. I pulled over at Sioux Falls, gassed up, revived up and walked Aria. She too was getting tired of the drive and ready to be out for good. Five more hours to go. The good news was, once I crossed over into South Dakota the speed limit increased to 80 MPH and the roads were dry. Blessed be! I set the cruise and away we went...for about two miles then I hit road construction which brought us down to 55 MPH and a four-lane road went down to two lanes.
The wind was a factor for the entire way to Rapid City, the car was being pushed to the side and at times it felt like I was being pushed back from the head on wind. Passing trucks was always a wake-up call as I came out from being next to their trailers a gust of wind passed us causing a sway and tighter grip on the wheel and just when I thought I was going to get bored again the town of Crow Creek lingered ahead.
It was a beautiful area to drive into and coming from the East it offered a panoramic view of the rolling hills that, today, were sprinkled with patches of snow that looked like cotton. The massive lake that laid below with a beautiful railroad bridge off to the left and a local car bridge on the right.
The sun was setting in the distance and thanks to the wind I had to fuel up one more time and the usual stopping spot was closed. I finally pulled into a small, deserted town that had a gas station that closed before 7p on the weekdays. There was a tall, thin older gentleman that was walking the property, I pulled into the gas station and hoped these were 24-hour pumps and inserted my card. The gentleman walked to the end of the store looked around, turned and walked back in the direction he came. He didn't acknowledge me once, nor did he even look up in my direction. I looked away for a moment and when I looked back he was gone.
A gust of wind blew past me and there was no sound of a car being started or driving away. Nor were there sounds of footsteps along the dirt parking lot. He was simply there one moment and gone the next. It was something that made me perk up and felt I should be getting on my way sooner rather than later.
I remained outside while the gas slowly pumped and looked around if this area were in the South I would have expected to see a tumbleweed roll across the road. Old equipment and run down buildings were all that I saw. The sound of the Interstate in the distance and the wind were the only noises that could be heard. The town was completely deserted.
The pump continued to click away and I kept looking around, a glance at the car showed Aria was up on the seat as well. She was watching me, watch all that was not going on around us. I was not frightened or nervous, just curious about this area. It finally clicked off and I was back in my car, getting ready for the last hour and half of the drive. By the way, the parking lot was also full of big, deep, water-filled potholes. Damn.
I90 was under construction in this area so I took one of their detours which was a smooth side road and change of scenery for a few miles. The GPS freaked out and told me to "turn around when possible". I would not.
I knew I was heading West, the direction I needed to be going, and knew that I was running parallel with the Interstate. Just calm down GPS; it did not. Only when I saw the Interstate next to me did it finally give up, recalculated and guided me back to it. Where there was a large truck stop I could have gone to instead of the deserted one a couple of miles back.
Back on the Interstate, I drove towards the remaining sunset which had a pink glow near the horizon and up towards the sky it changed to a light blue, with a hint of purple, a little red in the back and a darker blue made up the clouds that were blocking out the sun. Beautiful, calm and peaceful.
A short time later I was in complete darkness, the sun had gone down and cars were far and few. Once again the miles ticked down slowly and the feeling of exhaustion started to kick in but before it could take control a huge line of twinkling lights began to shine through the darkness and line the horizon ahead. Hello Rapid City. The stomach was growling, the head was hurting and I hadn't eaten since 6a this morning and we were now nearing 10p. My body was locking up from the lack of food and soda wasn't making the hunger go away.
Just before the hotel, I pulled into a fast food place, grabbed supper and headed over to the hotel but before the night and day were over. Wham! One last pothole as I pulled into the parking lot. Enough already! Aria and I headed in, got checked in and she was greeted by guests who, once again, said how lovely and beautiful she was and Aria took it all in with the, "I know" look she was so good at giving. A night walk, supper, and relaxation ended our first long day on the road heading West.
"Because The Greatest Part Of A Road Trip Isn't Arriving At Your Destination. Its All The Wild Stuff That Happens Along The Way." - Emma Chase
Any drive can turn into a road trip and any road trip can turn into an adventure. For the tax season I would travel over 80 miles, one-way, to a small tax office during the peak of winter season. Every single day brought about new experiences, near misses, sights and open roads. If I didn't love the road so much I would have hated the whole time I worked there.
It starts out small, the changes, along the way. Like life the changes are subtle and then all of a sudden your wide awake to see how much has changed in a short period of time. The first change is the length of day. By the time tax season begins we have also begun to lengthen our days by mere minutes every single day. I wake up early to all darkness and by the time I leave from work it is, once again, dark. Thankful for the windows so I can see some sun on the days that don't include overcast skies.
Same spots, different days, show the sun coming up a little sooner than it did the day before. Same spots, different days, show that when the sun is peaking up over the horizon it casts its rays on blanketed, pure, white, snow that cover the farming fields as far as the eye can see. It takes my breathe away to see such beauty so early in the morning. On the way home, the sun stays up a little bit longer bringing in more light to show me the way home. Now the rays shine long and bright over the blue sky and the different shades of yellow and red show how cold it really is outside the car.
Then comes the falling of the snow, an inch or two can be handled but not several inches. Trying to drive, in the winter, during the dark hours can be interesting enough but now add several inches to unplowed roads and a nightmare with a large potential for spinouts, and accidents makes me wish I had called in sick and not even dealt with this weather. I curse mother nature but thank the Universe above when I finally get to work safe.
As the season comes to an end, the time change has occurred the days are longer, snow is less and traffic begins to increase. It's April and schools are starting to come to an end and everyone is preparing for the summer. Traffic which was usually a steady speed now races past me and then comes to a slamming halt a few feet in front of me. More than once I have to swerve or slam on the breaks, and put on my hazards to warn others behind me we're stopped. Blinkers to alert others that I'm merging are answered with speed ups or keeping pace because some are too selfish to let others in.
This lovely dance that is so often played when coming into the city will not be missed and still is not missed months later. I now have a commute that is over half the distance shorter and it feels amazing. However, this route takes me on the back roads which can lead to cars going anywhere from 5 to 10 miles below the speed limit, farm equipment, road equipment, and construction workers.
A roll of the eyes when I get behind any one of these is quickly forgotten when a bald eagle soars overhead and then later that same day is seen again, hanging out in a dying tree overlooking the land around him. I never grow tired of seeing them and this one is seen often along this route.
Homes are far and few along this route but it is an easy, feeling to drive along this road. Very little traffic is ever found and it is quiet as I drive along the rolling hills and curving road to my place of employment.
The next morning I was greeted by rain, but it held off long enough for us to take a walk and grab breakfast. There was one thing in this town I wanted to do before leaving and that was see the Corn Palace, located in downtown Mitchell, South Dakota. In 1892 the Palace was originally built as a gathering place for the fall festival which has now become a tourist attraction. Every year it is redecorated with naturally colored corn to design the theme and murals that make up the Palace. It is known to be the world's only corn palace.
It wasn't easy to get to due to the construction that was going on, in and around the town but eventually I got there and it was a neat site to see. I had visited it years ago and coming back to it brought back memories. By now the rain was falling down harder and time wouldn't allow me to go in and visit it. I was able to take a few shots from the street before heading out and back towards Wisconsin.
The rest of the way home was spent driving in rain and at times it was blinding with hydroplaning becoming a factor every few miles. Speeds were up and down the entire way and even the lightening up of rain didn't help. The drive seemed to take forever and the chill from last night was still lingering which brought about sleepiness and fatigue, it begged my eyes to close for just a moment.
This would also lead to a few more pull-offs to stretch the legs, muscles and to get out and wake up. Eventually, I crossed over into Minnesota which gave me a little boost of energy for the next few miles but just as the towns gave way to open fields and no scenery there was another tap on the eyelids. Sickness and a long drive don't make a good combination. There were very few cars on the road as it was the middle of the week, which was nice in that I didn't have to worry about anyone coming up behind me or going slower than I was. Bad, as in I didn't have anything to be on the lookout for which lead to just sitting back and driving. Thank you Universe for good, upbeat music and caffeine it would have been a lot worse without it.
Once again I found myself going through the Twin Cities during rush hour, actually, this time it was slightly before rush hour but thanks to the rainy weather that was still happening it might as well have been. People drove crazy during dry weather and are even crazier when precipitation comes into play. An hour later, I was finally through the cities, made a stop for supper and continued home. The rest of the way, the rain didn't stop once, and the last hour of the trip felt like three. Even though I was off of the Interstate and took local highways it still felt like I wasn't going to get there any time soon.
Finally, up ahead was the sign for my hometown and not long afterward I was on the back roads and pulling into the driveway. Aria was instantly up on the seat, looked around, and whimpered with excitement. I pulled in, shut off the car and let her out. She bolted for the front yard, ran around and quickly ran into the breezeway where she excitedly barked at the door to let everyone know she had arrived safe and sound.
I unpacked the car and it wasn't long before I was in my room, flat on my bed and finally let sleep take over. The tension in the muscles relaxed, a slight fever could still be felt but it was soon forgotten as blackness took over and I was out for the remainder of the night. Aria could be heard in the distance also making herself comfortable and with a long sigh, she too fell asleep.