from the road

Day 35: The Redwood Forest

I’m getting in a short, quick post before we go out for the day.

Yesterday, we drove down Routes 1 and 101 to get from Crescent City to the Bay area. It was an intense drive with some long stretches of non-stop hairpin turns, but Harrison got us to our destination safe and sound. And neither of us got carsick and puked, so that’s a win too.

The scenic (foggy) view from Rt. 1, the Pacific Coast highway:

View from route 1

Kitsch we found along the Avenue of the Giants:Harrison on California bench Mica & Bigfoot Statue

We climbed inside some redwoods. They are immense, though even that seems like an understatement.

Mica in redwood Harrison in redwoodOh, hai, Golden Gate Bridge (what we could see of it):

fog on Golden Gate Bridge

We’re staying with Matt (Harrison’s college friend) and his wife Emily in Mountain View, CA:

Bubble tea with Emily & Matt

They have two super-spastic cats who went for a ride on a spinning chair last night: Cats on chair

I also made the mistake of taking a Claritin before bed for some allergies and was up ALL NIGHT. Not awesome. I may be taking a nap in Mountain View this afternoon….

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Day 34: Down to California

Pastries from Boulangérie Nantaise

 

Before he went to work today, Steggy picked up pastries at Boulangerie Nantaise down the street from his apartment. What a great host, right?

Then it was time to get in the car and drive down Route 5 to Olympia, WA, to the State Capitol building. I was getting bored of pictures of our faces, so I shoved my iPhone in Harrison’s hands and proclaimed, “Take a picture while I jump up and down!!!!”

Washington State Capitol

And lunch at Cafe Yumm in Portland, OR. We wanted to go by the famous Voodoo Doughnuts, but the line was way out the door. Instead, we went to Stumptown Coffee Roasters so Harrison could get a teeny-tiny mocha for the road.

(Check out the creepy gloved hand on the door behind him…)

Stumptown Coffee Roasters

We continued down the coast to Salem to photograph Oregon’s State Capitol as well. Steggy’s girlfriend Megan had warned us that it’s pretty ugly, topped with a golden lumberjack statue (which, from far away, resembles a giant golden dong).

Harrison is not sure how he feels about the building. I like it a lot!

Oregon State Capitol“Suddenly” (but really, a long time later), we entered Jefferson, the 51st State, northern California and got our first glimpse of the famous redwoods.

RedwoodsAll day, the temperatures outside had been climbing steadily. Somewhere in southern Oregon, the car thermometer reached 100 degrees. Once we crossed the mountains in northern California though, the temperature dropped precipitously. When we emerged from the redwoods on the coast, it was in the mid-50’s and gray as a zombie apocalypse movie.

Gray skyWe’re spending the night in Crescent City, CA, which is a small town of 7,500 right on the coast of California. It’s apparently quite prone to tsunamis, so that’s just awesome.

I have to say, this town gives me the willies. Even though I’ve seen plenty of gray skies, the fog and clouds are oppressive and make everything look desolate–like out of a horror movie. And being somewhere that’s just so far away and different from “home” just gives me an uneasy feeling, even though I know that’s totally irrational.

Our hotel (The Curly Redwood Lodge) is a time machine to the 70’s. There’s brown shag carpet, and the interior is all “rich,” dark wood. According to the sign out front, the entire building is made from wood sourced from just one curly redwood tree, hence the name.

And it is no way creepy that our room has a locked door! (No worries, parents, the hotel has good reviews! We’re safe!)

Locked door in hotel Tomorrow, we drive down the Pacific Coast highway. Harrison will enjoy this immensely. I will be clinging to the “Oh shit” handle on the side of the door!

Also, we discovered today that the windshield has developed a significant crack (about a foot long) at the bottom. Any advice on how to deal with this? How much does replacement cost? Does insurance cover it? How long will it take to get this replaced?

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Day 33: A beautiful day in Seattle!

We woke up to this view this morning:

Elliott Bay, Seattle

And then to this:Steggy with Top Pot doughnuts

Andrew was the perfect host. He walked down the street and brought back a dozen Top Pot doughnuts. They were, as expected, delicious!

Then he took us around Seattle Center and pointed out all the cool things.

Fountain in Seattle Center

 

Fountain in Seattle Center

I really liked this little park garden. There are so many lavender bushes around Seattle, and they are all in bloom right now!

Lavender in Seattle CenterWe also saw a superhero!

Woman in Superhero costumeIn the afternoon, we drove down to the Ballard area to visit the Hiram M. Chittenden Locks.

Chittenden Locks, boats

It’s summer, and the Cohoe (salmon) are running. Okay, swimming, but it’s called running. A very opportunistic seal was waiting on the other side of the locks for some free and easy lunch.

Seal at Chittenden locksYou can watch the salmon swimming up the ladder through big observation windows. It was surprisingly fun to watch the salmon struggling against the intense current, trying to get upstream to SPAWN. Every time one made it through the little opening, we cheered loudly and without shame. Go, salmon, go get some!

Salmon on salmon ladder

Also, I squealed with delight about this pug going on a standup paddle boarding adventure:

Stand-up paddle boarding

After the locks, we walked around a seafood festival and had lunch in the Ballard district.

Selfie with Steggy

On the way back to his apartment, Steggy pointed out the Lenin statue in Freeport.

Lenin Statue, FreeportThis evening, we met up with my great aunt (I think? My grandmother’s sister-in-law…) Susie and her son Jimmy for a tour of the “UW” (“You-Dub”) campus:

Husky statue at UW

 

While the mascot is now the Huskies, it used to be a “sunny” gnome. Less fierce, to be sure….

I really liked the little glimpse we had of the UW campus. The view of Mt. Rainier is amazing, but Jimmy said that Seattle residents just take it for granted.

UW campus

Check out where we ate dinner! (Ivar’s.) I loved all the Northwest coast art and decorations!

Ivars, Seattle

 

I kept saying how much I love Seattle weather. Jimmie and Susie insisted that the nice weather we experienced today is not the norm. I’m not sure how I would do with nine months of gray drizzle, but I LOOOOOOVE the low humidity. We walked all around in mid-July, and I barely broke a sweat! By comparison to hot, stinky city summers (New York, I’m looking at you!), this seems like paradise.with Jimmie and SusieJimmy also really wanted us to see the famous troll under the bridge, but we are sworn to “secrecy” as to its exact whereabouts.

Giant Gnome, Seattle

Another thing we really like about Seattle is how casual everything is. (“I once heard rumor of a restaurant that required a tie. I don’t think it exists,” says Steggy.) It’s such a nice, walk-able place with a relaxed atmosphere. I feel like we’d really fit into Seattle in this respect.

Thanks to our wonderful hosts in Seattle! We really enjoyed staying here and catching up with friends AND family! It was a memorable and impressive first visit, and we hope to come back soon!

WVT, SeattleAnd we could not have asked for better weather! Thanks, Seattle, for delivering!

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Day 32: Across Washington to Seattle!

Greetings from Seattle, WA! Wedding Victory Tour has officially made it to the west coast, and it is AWESOME. I am so relieved to see a coast again; I was not a fan of the brown mountains and scrubby terrain of the last few states.

Today, we drove to the Grand Coulee (pronounced “Coolie”) dam. We recently watched a TV special about how all dams are dangerous (Johnstown Flood, anyone?), but fortunately, this one did not break.

Grand Coulee Dam

Harrison at Coulee Dam

There is actually nothing around the Coulee dam. I do not recommend going there hungry. A few hours later, we had lunch in Wenatchee, WA, Apple Capital of the World.

Wenatchee, WA

 

We also passed through Leavenworth, WA, a former mining town which has now rebranded as a Bavarian Village. Everything is old German-themed! I saw “Der Heidelburger,” and the Bank of America had a charming wooden sign.

Leavenworth sign

 

And now we’re in Seattle, WA, staying with our high school friend Andrew/”Steggy.” He has an amazing apartment.

view from Andrew's apartmentLook at the view. LOOK AT IT!!!

We did a short walk around Steggy’s neighborhood before dinner.

Hey, look, the original Starbucks! I didn’t realize that the original mermaid logo was so, uh, breast-ful.

original StarbucksAnd we saw Pike’s place, which wasn’t open at 8:00pm.

Pikes Place market

 

Wow, Steggy is tall. I forgot about that!

Harrison & SteggyHarrison wants to drink a lot of coffee while we’re here, for good reason. Steggy’s girlfriend Megan assures me that there is lots of good tea in Seattle, so I will also go hunting for tasty beverages.

coffee at Uptown Espresso

 

Okay, I have to say something: So far, I love Seattle! Granted, I have only been here for a few hours, and it could just be that the Pacific Northwest is a welcome relief after the seemingly unending stretches of Montana, Idaho, Wyoming. It’s just so nice to see water again, and the lack of humidity is awesome. AWESOME, I TELL YOU!

clotheslines, SeattleI’m excited to see some of the city tomorrow. We can walk all around, and I won’t get all sweaty and cranky!!!! Seattle is awesome.

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Days 30-31: Glacier National Park

Wow, Montana goes on for-evaaaar! We visited its capitol building on Thursday on the way to Glacier. To be honest, most of the capitols we’ve seen are running together; they’re all some variation of a big symmetrical building with a dome. Fortunately, Montana’s says “MONTANA” on the front in case you forget.

Montana State Capitol

Montana is not a densely populated state, so we deemed it prudent to grab lunch while we had some food selection in the capital city. This is how we ended up at the Helena branch of the Staggering Ox, which serves sandwiches in hollowed out bread cylinders. Very strange!
Staggering Ox Sandwich

Harrison read that Montana is larger than the entire Northeast but is less populated that the city of Hartford, CT. I was amazed at how many fields and mountains we passed with no civilization, just a cows and fences as far as they eye could see.

However, when we stopped for gas in Choteau, MT, we drove by the Old Trail Museum. I’m a little sad that we didn’t stop to explore the dinosaur exhibit.
Dinosaur Statue, ChoteauBut there was no time, we had to get to Glacier!

Glacier park sign(Total disclaimer: I have no idea who these kids are, but they were in the way when I wanted to take a picture.)

Harrison was most excited about seeing Glacier National Park. Once again, I had no expectations for this portion of the trip because I didn’t even know that it existed.

The scenery is pretty breathtaking. The mountains are so tall and rocky, nothing like I’ve seen in Appalachia!

Glacier mountain

Right outside the park entrance is the Park Café, which was highly recommended by our guidebook. Their motto is “Pie for Strength,” isn’t that cool? The boysenberry did not disappoint.

Boysenberry pie, Park Cafe

After we set up camp (all of ten minutes of work), we went for a hike to the Beaver Pond:

Hiking in GlacierSome of the trail was quite overgrown:

Tall flowerThere are signs everywhere, warning that you are entering bear (and mountain lion) territory! While on the path, we followed good “trail etiquette” by clapping our hands and yelling “Hey!” (à la Will Ferrel’s Harry Caray) every so often. We also made sure to dispose of all food trash and lock our food up tight in the car at night. I guess it worked because no bears bothered us during our time in Glacier:

Bear Country sign

 

We’ve gotten quite good at “glam-ping,” I must say.

Campsite, St. Mary's campground

Unfortunately, our marshmallows were in a bad way after several weeks in a hot car.

Marshmallows melted in bag

My s’more was literally a hot mess last night:

Messy s'more

We got up early to hit the Going-to-the-Sun Road in Glacier National Park. Our guidebook proclaims this to be “the most scenic route on the planet.” It’s hard to take in so many breathtaking and beautiful sights at one. I think I was on scenery overload!

In general, my photography policy is “must include people or animals.” I don’t fancy myself a photographer by any means (just good at taking snapshots!), so any attempt I take at capturing beautiful scenes just falls flat. It never looks as impressive as really being there. Fortunately, some of the views in Glacier offer themselves up nicely for photos.

Glacier collage

It was quite cold at the Continental Divide (at the Logan Pass), and the other hikers around us were serious: hiking poles, fancy clothing, big cameras. In my hoodie, Nike shorts, and running shoes, I did not feel at all equipped for hiking. Not to mention we overheard a ranger saying that there was so much snow on one trail that using crampons would be necessary.

Since we mostly did a driving tour of Glacier, we didn’t get to see any grizzlies or cougars. We did, however, see tons of ground squirrels, much to my delight.

Ground squirrel

 

The best part of the day was seeing a family of mountain goats! The adolescent one even pooped right in front of us!

Mountain goats

It was really cool to see them run down the side of a mountain. Even though it is implied by their name, I could not believe how easily they just run down a vertical rock wall as if it ain’t no thang!

mountain goat running in snowThe baby mountain goats (“mountain kids”?) were really cute…until they started behaving inappropriately!

inappropriate goat behavior

 

Because it’s so cold in the mountains, there is still a lot of snow that is melting away. As you drive along twists and blind turns, you pass tons of waterfalls that are funneled under the road. At one point, you can stick your hand out and touch the running water and let it clean your windshield.

The water runs down out of the mountains into a really beautiful blue-green river along the road. That melted ice water is frickin’ cold though. Even though I didn’t take a shower this morning, I was in no hurry to get clean in the stream.

Waterfalls in Glacier[The left photo is a tunnel…for Kim!]

Once we exited the park, it was an afternoon of driving to Spokane, Washington, where we are spending the night. We’re officially on Pacific time, though we’re still quite far from the West COAST.

So that’s our last (third–aha!) camping adventure on Wedding Victory Tour. I have to say, I like camping more when it’s just a dedicated camping trip–no worrying about all the other crap and things like, uh, showering. Oh well, as Harrison keeps saying, the purpose of this trip is not to spend a lot of time in any one place. It’s a preview for things that we want to remember to do later, like glam-ping! (Harrison said today that he wishes to become a proficient hiker of bad-ass rugged trails.)

As I keep saying, we might be unemployed forever, so then we will have tons of time to squat in the wilderness and glamp. Yay!

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Day 29: Wyoming & Montana

On the way out of South Dakota this morning, we saw a lot of sick-looking trees. As we are very nearly city slickers, I have no idea why all these trees have been reduced to trunks on the ground without needles. Is this the evidence of a fire or a controlled burn where the grass has grown back?

fallen trees in SDSo Wyoming is rather empty:

Wyoming from the carJust miles and miles of scrubby hills and buttes and rolling plains. Harrison really likes all the scenery because it’s so different from the deciduous forests and green spaces on the East Coast. He likes things that are different. I prefer things that are the same, so I’m viewing these landscapes with a…wary eye. (Not really, but I am weirded out by how scrubby everything is here.)

Speaking of plains, we visited the monument at Little Bighorn, “a place for reflection.” We reflected on how awful it would have been run up and down the hills, in hot military uniforms, among other things. I don’t say this is as a joke. I really can’t imagine being in this landscape without an air-conditioned car and paved roads. It seems so inhospitable here. The car thermometer reached 100 today!

Little bighorn

 

In the early evening, we visited Prairie Dog town, which I kept calling “Meerkat Manor.”

Prairie Dog town, MontanaAnd suddenly, the rolling plains gave way to mountains (and also, pizza flags outside the restaurant where we ate dinner).

MountainsWe’re staying in Livingston, Montana, at the Livingston Inn, a hilarious Western-themed motel. It’s interior is mostly wood, with tons of pictures that the owners have taken of wildlife in Yellowstone. There is also one channel on the television with a looping six-minute movie about the motel, including the time the owners brought a grizzly bear into the motel to take pictures. Unfortunately, the video does not appear to be looping right now. Oh, thank goodness, it’s available online!

Livingston Inn Motel exteriorPeople in Montana are quite proud of their state, apparently:

"monfuckintana" bumper sticker

I finished the day with a milkshake from Mark’s In & Out. Now that the sun has set, it’s quite pleasant outside.

Mark's In & OutLet’s hope for good camping weather tomorrow when we hit up Glacier National Park!

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Day 28: Hitting all the South Dakota Sights

We traversed the great state of South Dakota today on our trek to the West Coast.

Our first stop? The Corn Palace in Mitchell, South Dakota. I imagined that this would be a structure built entirely of corn, so suffice to say, I was disappointed when I realized that the palace is only decorated with murals made of corn. Impressive, still, I guess….

Unlike, um, everyone else, the Corn Palace is quick to advertise how awesome it is that tons of non-edible household products are made of corn. Bottles and shampoo made out of corn? That’s just a modern marvel of technology, says the Corn Palace.

“Hi!” says this giant anthropomorphic ear of corn.

Corn Palace, South Dakota

 

From there, we drove to and photographed the SD State Capitol in Pierre (the second smallest state capital in the US!).

I’m not sure how/when we’re going to photography the North Dakota State Capitol because I don’t see us coming back to the plains any time soon.

SD State Capitol

SD State Capitol

All along the state’s highways, there are signs for Wall Drug, a huge roadside attraction. By the time we arrived, I had lost count of the number of signs we’d passed for it.

Wall Drug started as a drug store in the 1930’s and became famous because its proprietor offered free water to any passersby. Today, it is a gigantic tourist attraction with enough gimmicky shit to make your head spin. We got free water, but we passed on the plaster eagle busts and Native American statuettes.

Wall Drug pictures Note to newlyweds: Wall Drug Café gives you two free doughnuts if you’re on your honeymoon!

Free doughnuts at Wall DrugHoneymooners also get free coffee, but as a cup normally costs $0.05, that’s not a huge deal. In fact, we both paid for our two cups of coffee; I guess we donated $0.10 to Wall Drug. So generous, I know…

5 cent coffee at Wall Drug

Then it was time to enter Badlands National Park, which was free to enter with the annual parks pass that we purchased in Maine. Here’s what I knew about Badlands before entering: Absolutely nothing.

Badlands collage

The carved out rocks were amazing to look at, and we had some excellent vistas from the many lookout points around the park loop. I kept thinking about what a miserable and inhospitable place this must have seemed like for the settlers who crossed this area.

If I were just trying to get to Oregon, I’d see this and think “Shit.” (But let’s be honest, I probably would have died of dysentery by this point anyway.)

Badlands National ParkI was ready to write off Badlands as a hot (sweat in my bra strap, ewwww!) and rough-hewn place, but I followed the park pamphlet’s instructions to let “the Badlands reveal themselves.” In the <60 minutes that we sped through the park, several prairie dogs revealed themselves to us, and I was very excited. (No pictures though.)

Rocks in BadlandsThe final stop was, of course, Mt. Rushmore. (I say “of course,” but I had no idea it was in South Dakota. My knowledge of US geography is the absolute worst.)

DSC_1337

I was pleasantly surprised by how cleanliness and nice layout of the viewing area. It’s “free,” but you have to pay $11 for an annual pass to park in the lot. I mean, what the frick?!? The man who sold us the pass smiled when he said that we could use it for the rest of 2013, but I don’t think we’re coming back to Mt. Rushmore this year.

But anyway, I made us practice our “serious” faces in case they one day want to add our likenesses next to Washington’s.
IMG_0599And now, we’re in Custer, SD, where we had an infuriating dinner involving a bait-and-switch “stout” beer and a clueless waitress. (I’m talking to you, Buglin’ Bull Sports Bar!)

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