Earthquakes and Fog

I’ve been wracking my brain trying to figure out a way to wrap up this blog.  I meant to do my final post last week but then a combination of laziness and busyness got in the way.

Quick recap on the drive from Jackson Hole, WY back to Oakland, CA…  The first day’s drive to Elko, NV was fine.  The route took me primarily through Idaho.  I hit insane wind (big surprise) heading south on Hwy 93 once I crossed into Nevada.  Other than that, no issues.  Elko to Oakland was supposed to take 7 1/2 hours.  It ended up taking me almost 9 hours.  And it was painful.  I hit crazy wind, rain, snow, hail and horrific traffic going through Sacramento and again between Davis and Dixon.  But at 4:30pm, I got to my friend Jason’s place and all was right with the world. Juno dive bombed the bed and I took care of feeding a random feral cat that sits on the roof of the bungalow every night waiting to be fed.

I spent a couple of days in Oakland catching up with friends, hitting some of my favorite haunts, grocery shopping at Berkeley Bowl (best grocery store EVER!!), getting Juno groomed  and going running in my old ‘hood.  But the best part was sitting in Jason’s hot tub every night.  I cranked it up to 102 degrees and after all the driving, it was pure heaven.

I’ve been back in Carmel-by-the-Sea since last Thursday and got right to work unpacking the MoHo and settling back in at my mom’s place.  My friends Chris and Mary (whose house I stayed at last year when I kicked off the first trip) were down from Healdsburg so I got to spend some time with them on Father’s Day.   This is crazy but I’ve known them for nearly 27 years… Juno is also happy to be back – getting strolls on the beach and playing with his toys.

 

I started back at Foxy Couture earlier this week and it’s awesome being back at the shop, styling the mannequins, reconnecting with clients and checking out all the fab new Chanel bags that have come in since I’ve been away. Plus it’s fun getting dressed up again!

For those of you who are wondering whether there will be a third road trip in the MoHo, the answer is no.  I’m actually selling the MoHo to my friend Dave (he and I crossed paths last year in South Dakota and he loved the Roadtrek) – I will be delivering it to him next month. BUT!  This doesn’t mean I won’t hit the remaining states at some point… Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, North Carolina and South Carolina  ( I don’t necessarily have to do Florida and Louisiana since I’ve been to both states many times over the years).  Most likely, I will fly into one place, rent a car (or an RV), drive around and then fly out of another place.  Maybe this will happen next year – maybe the year after.  And then there’s still Alaska…  But I will absolutely see all 50 states before I turn 50.  That’s the new and improved goal.

So it’s time for final thoughts and observations.  The first observation is that people are comfortable with what they know.  When driving through the south and being confronted with scary tornado and flash flood warnings, I’d remark to people I met that I much prefer earthquakes as my choice of natural disaster.  Of course they would respond how awful earthquakes are and how they’d take tornadoes and/or flooding any day.  See what I mean?  It’s all about comfort level!  After a lifetime in California and 20+ years in the Bay Area, I am used to earthquakes and fog.  65-68 degrees is my happy place.  The kind of weather where you should bring a sweater, just in case. And sunglasses too, just in case.  I love traveling to hot places and cold places – I just don’t want to live in any place that has extreme weather.  And humidity?  Hard pass.

I said this when I wrapped up the first leg of my American journey but I want to reiterate that America is full of wonderful people.  With all the amazing places I visited, nothing compared to the people I met along the way.  Every day I met someone new and it was a joy to spend time talking to people about the places they live and getting recommendations on things I should do. I want to take this opportunity to thank all my old friends that put me up along the way and to thank all the new friends I met for their hospitality and kindness.

Now here’s the big revelation…  Before I started on this journey, I felt that because I lived in big cities, traveled extensively both domestically and internationally, had made good money, had a nice house, etc etc, that I was better than others.  Even during the first leg of the trip, I’d roll through these small towns, see people’s homes – sometimes in the middle of nowhere – and think why anyone would want to live like that. That they couldn’t possibly be happy being in a place so far from anything.  But as time went on, I came to realize that these folks have rich, fulfilling lives too – theirs are just different from the life that I’ve led.  There are the families who would haul their 5th wheel to a lake or the mountains and that’s how they’d spend a holiday weekend or even the whole summer. There was the couple I met last summer in Iowa that spent their honeymoon weekend at a state park, joined by their friends and family.  So many people that have never been outside of the country have no interest in doing so. Are they unhappy? Absolutely not. Anyway, it took some time but I finally realized that despite our differences, we are all equals – because we are fortunate to call America our home.

We are all more alike than we realize.  We like to get ice cream when it’s hot, we appreciate the arts, we enjoy spending time with friends and family, we visit our national parks and monuments, we love BBQing on a warm summer’s night.  But most important, we are free to take advantage of all our country has to offer – whether’ it’s a 5 mile drive from home or a 2,500 mile drive (I always enjoyed looking at the license plates when I’d be at a national park or monument to see how far away people had come). While our country has politically become more and more divided over the years, I feel like this road trip gave me a chance to see what our country is truly made of – and newsflash, it’s made of really good people.

There’s a part of me that wants to get into politics now that I’m back – I want to figure out a way to bring our country back together.  So who knows? Maybe you’ll see my name on a ballot at some point (“my name is Bee and I approved this message”). Until then, I’m going to continue to work at Foxy Couture, find a more permanent residence in the area and get eyelash extensions again (priorities).  I’m going to sign off with one final pic of the MoHo fridge.  These stickers are just a smattering of the places I visited.  I hope that you’ll have the opportunity to see these places at some point.  Our country is truly magnificent and I feel both blessed and lucky to have had this incredible journey.  USA! USA! USA!

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Final state count – 40

 

Got bear spray?

I arrived in Jackson Hole yesterday afternoon after spending the last few days in Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks. And I am happy to report that, with the exception of the 2,763 mosquito bites that I sustained, being in the parks was awesome.

If there was any kind of theme, it would be the title for this post.  Because anytime I spoke to anyone – ranger, fellow hiker, etc – the question would always be the same… “Got bear spray?” And every time, I would answer “Of course!”  Because the only thing that would have ruined my time in the parks would have been getting attacked by a bear. Personally, I think it was my horrible singing of Duran Duran’s Reflex at the top of my lungs while I was hiking that kept the bears at bay.

For this post, I thought I would switch things up. Instead of day by day recap, I’m dividing my pix into three categories with minimal description – animal (including selfies with or without Juno), vegetable (all scenery) and mineral (geysers and thermals). Minimal description because the pictures speak for themselves!

Starting with vegetable, here are my favorite pix from Yellowstone – Eleanor Lake, Lewis Falls, Absaroka Mountains, Mystic Falls, Lewis Lake.

And my favorite pix from Grand Teton NP – various shots of the Tetons… Fave is the reflection shot with the kayakers on the right:

Next up – animal pix.  First, there was this little guy.  I came across him while climbing Observation Point next to Old Faithful. Not sure what he is…

Then there was the lone bison chilling by a stream. Note the bird perched on his back.

A few pix of Juno and me by Yellowstone Lake and the Continental Divide.  Plus a couple of me solo – in front of Mystic Falls and while hiking the Taggett Lake trail…

And now, the money shots.  Yesterday morning I got stuck in two bear jams.  For those that don’t know, a bear jam is a traffic jam that occurs when there’s a bear near the road and everyone slows down to look at it.  The first bear jam didn’t amount to much.  I parked, ran back to the site of the bears but they were far away so no good pix.  The second bear jam?  Bingo!  Mamma grizzly and her two cubs. Watched the cubs climb a tree, watched mom forage for food – but the best was watching one of the cubs snuggle with mom and also watching the cubs play with each other. Not the best shots since I could only zoom so much but you get the idea…

Finally, mineral pix. I spent all day Thursday on the west side of Yellowstone checking out the “thermals” as they are called.  There are boardwalks to keep people above the ground (and safe).  Some of the smaller pools look like colorful hot tubs with their constant bubbling and I really wanted to jump in.  But then I learned the temperature is around 199°F so best that I stayed on the boardwalk.

I ended up watching Old Faithful erupt twice and videotaped both – once from Observation Point and once from ground level.  You be the judge but I think the view from up top was way better:

So that just about does it.  It’s cold and rainy here this morning so a good day to be in the MoHo…  The plan is to reach Elko, NV tonight and Oakland, CA on Sunday evening.  I’m excited to get back to NorCal – Juno needs to get groomed and I am in desperate need of a mani/pedi after all the hiking. In other words, we both have mangy paws.  I’ll be doing a final recap once I’m back home so be sure to tune in again early next week.  Leaving you with a final pic of Juno and me here in Jackson Hole at one of the famous antler arches on the Town Square.

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Have a great weekend!

Close Encounters

Howdy from Cody!  The last few days have been so much fun – lots to get caught up on so will just jump in.

I crossed the border on Sunday morning and two things greeted me upon arrival:  a nice turn-out for picture taking and a bronze sculpture of a bison on a hill.  Welcome to Wyoming!

Cheyenne is only about 10 minutes from the Colorado border so rolled into town and discovered that almost everything was closed.  Even the state capital was under renovation – the only part I could see was the dome and a bit of the roof – the rest of the building was encased in scaffolding and sheeting with big fences surrounding it. Bummer.  So Juno and I strolled around the downtown, found some of the painted boots, and discovered one of the coolest/biggest pieces of street art I’ve seen.  Absolutely incredible so I’m doing a separate pic so you can appreciate it properly.  For you train lovers out there, I also found another Big Boy steam engine.  You might recall I saw Big Boy when I was in Omaha, NE.  I assumed (wrongly) that this was the only Big Boy – turns out there were 25 of them.  Hot snot.

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I had planned on parking in town overnight but then I heard that Curt Gowdy state park was only 30 minutes out of town so headed out there.  The teenager park rangers weren’t exactly the most helpful in terms of figuring out the parking situation on the first-come, first served camping sites but I managed to get an excellent spot on my own little bluff overlooking the lake.  I did the Stone Mountain circuit, a 3.75 mile loop the next morning trying to get my mountain lungs back in shape.  Initially I thought Juno would be up for it but within 10 minutes, his tongue was hanging out and he was dragging behind me.  So I put him back in the MoHo and off I went.  No pix from the hike but here’s where the MoHo was situated.  Also a pic of the park map the rangers gave me – is it just me or did she draw a penis on it?

From Cheyenne, it was off to Casper with a little detour to see the Ayres Natural Bridge.  I’ve never seen a natural bridge before – I guess there aren’t that many.  It’s a really pretty area and a lot of people get married under the bridge.  There’s also a mini trail so you can stand on top of the bridge but the best view is from below.  The Oscar the Grouch trash can lids were also a nice touch.

Casper turned out to be complete surprise. Not because of the town per se, but because of Shawn, Shane, Kyle and Cathy.  Without going into all the detail on how I met them, the short story is Shawn owns a gallery – he creates these awesome one-of-a-kind antler chandeliers from elk and deer sheds (I learned they are called sheds because the deer and elk actually shed their antlers every year). He’s also a photographer (he gave me a beautiful photo), interior designer (he’s decorating a mini house) and a bunch of other stuff.  Shane is Shawn’s brother.  The only way to describe Shane is cowboy nerd (or nerd cowboy?)  I mean this in the best way possible.  He is an avid toy collector and I was lucky enough to see his toy room.  The pix do not do it justice.  I gave Shane my Star Wars cutting board and he gave me some cool stickers and a Chewbacca keychain.  Kyle and Cathy both work with Shawn and Kyle and Cathy and had some of the more memorable lines I’ve heard this trip.  Upon telling Kyle I drink tea and not coffee, his response was “Tea is for sick people.” And I overheard Cathy telling her son to “hit a ditch if a car is coming” while walking down the road to the neighbor’s house.  This crew made my time in Casper so much fun and I promise to get back there soon – Cathy invited me to stay at her house out in the country with the pigs and polish chickens and Shane said I could sleep in the toy room. Notes: the pic in the lower left corner is in Shawn’s workshop – those are bullet casings around the Wyoming sign.  The pic in the lower right corner was seen in a shop in town.  Good stuff.

I sadly said goodbye to Casper yesterday for Cody with a stop in Thermopolis. Thermopolis is known for its dinosaur museum and the world’s largest mineral baths.  I hit up both!  The dino museum was super cool with tons of fossils that were uncovered near by and the baths were super hot – 104 degrees!

A quick side note on driving through Wyoming.  I mentioned the buffalo sculpture earlier…  that was the first of several sculptures I saw along the highway. There was also a cowboy on a horse, a bucking bronco, a jackalope and a triceratops.  But even better was the sign for Wall Drug!  Yep – one of their 5-cent coffee ads appeared right along Hwy 25.  If I hadn’t been going 80 mph, I woulda gotten a pic.  But trust me, seeing the Wall Drug sign made my day.

Okay, so I got to Cody yesterday afternoon.   Just enough time for a stroll around town and dinner before the nightly rodeo.  Yessiree, I saw my first rodeo last night.  And it was fantastic! I sat just above the chutes so I got a great vantage point for the bucking broncos and the bull riding.

Here are three videos – bronco riding, calf roping and bull riding.

So here’s the situation on Devil’s Tower…  I want to see it.  Really badly.  I had all these plans to go there, make a bunch of mashed potatoes, then do my best Richard Dreyfus impersonation and take a bunch of pictures. But it’s located in the NE corner of the state, and I’m in the NW corner.  I would have lost an entire day going there.  But here’s the kicker – when I drove from Montana to South Dakota last summer, I was about 30 minutes from it. And had no idea.  Yeah, I’m kicking myself now.  So that was my close encounter.  Sigh.

Okay, time to wrap it up.  Big day, big day.  Grocery shopping, Buffalo Bill center and then I’m off to Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons for the next few days.  Woo hoo!  I will leave you with this video taken by Shane. For those of you wondering what people do in Wyoming on a Saturday night, here’s your answer:

 

State count:  40 !!!!

I Iike Ike! Mushrooms too!

I wrapped up my time in Missouri with a visit to the Nelson-Atkins Museum in Kansas City, home of the Chefs (not a typo).  Another wonderful museum with an impressive collection of Asian art, a beautiful sculpture garden (the Claes Oldenburg shuttlecocks on the lawn were awesome) and all for the low low price of $0!  Yes, like Crystal Springs and Saint Louis Art Museum, N-A Museum was also free!

As you know, there are two Kansas City’s – one in MO and one in KS. So getting into Kansas took about three minutes once I got on the highway.  Here’s the official sign welcoming me to the state, albeit slightly blurry.  I’m also including a pic of the last exit in Kansas as you drive to Colorado, aptly named Kanorado.  Hilarious.

Let’s talk about Kansas.  Everyone that I’d spoken to said pretty much the same thing…

“Drive through as fast as you can since there’s nothing to see.”

“You thought Nebraska was boring?  Wait til you drive through Kansas.”

And so on.  So the plan was just to stay on I-70 all the way across.  But me being me, I still consulted my Off the Beaten Path book, in case there was anything of interest near/along/close to the highway.  Sure enough, there was Mushroom Rock State Park. Sweet.  Love cool geological formations.  A few back roads and one dusty road later, I was there!  This is the smallest state park I’ve ever seen – plus there were only two mushroom rocks.  But it was still really cool to see and Juno enjoyed being a part of the action.

I made a reservation to stay at Kanopolis State Park which was about 15 minutes from the mushrooms.  Right on a lake, the place was packed with families up for a weekend of fishing, boating, etc.  While walking Juno that night, I met Jolene and Chris.  I told them this was my first time in Kansas and asked them what else I could do that was in the vicinity. Chris told me about Coronado Heights – a castle on a hill (hills in Kansas??) that was about 30 minutes away.  And Jolene reminded me that Russell Stover is based in Kansas and that I should hit the company store. Done and done!

Re Coronado Heights – according to Wikipedia, this is alleged to be near the place where Francisco Vásquez de Coronado gave up his search for the seven cities of gold and turned around to return to Mexico.  So yes, there are castles in Kansas.  Note the pic in the lower left hand corner – that was the view… flat flat flat.

Since I had already backtracked a ways, I figured I might as well continue my tour of Presidential Libraries and check out the Eisenhower Museum/childhood home/burial site in Abilene, Kansas (because when am I ever going to be in Abilene again???) There are plans for a major renovation next year that will include more interactive exhibits of WWII.   Really enjoyed the visit though I unfortunately had to miss the D-Day concert they were having last night – I did get an I like Ike sticker for the MoHo fridge.  Also, it’s interesting to note that back-to-back presidents Truman and Eisenhower were basically neighbors!

Time to mosey on to Limon, Colorado which was a five hour drive.  First off, the drive wasn’t boring at all – I listened to Serial podcasts and some Elton John.  There were all the ads for KU Athletics – Chalk Rock and other assorted phrases that rhyme with Jayhawk. There was the one weird piece of farming equipment that I passed – it looked like an    AT-AT except green and on wheels.  No clue what the hell that thing was. My favorite thing was seeing the Lion’s Den (an adult store) right off the highway, with a religious sign right next to it saying something to the effect that God sees everything. Right…  But despite the fact that Kansas is supposedly flat, I must have been climbing because as soon as I got to Colorado, I passed a sign saying that I was at an elevation of 5,200 feet. Can’t recall if I did a Colorado state sign last year but here’s another one, just in case.  The blurriness is actually dead bugs on the windshield.  Sorry about that.

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A quick note on Colorado.  For those of you who followed my first adventure, you might remember that I blazed through without stopping.  Well, I’m doing the same thing again this time too.  The reason why is I’ve spent a lot of time in Colorado over the years including camp when I was a teenager and doing business in Denver/Boulder for at least 10 years.  The first time I got altitude sickness was in Colorado.  Also climbed a 14,000+ peak here when I was younger.  Bottom line – I’ve checked the box that is Colorado. So off I go to Wyoming!  Finally finally finally…

I will leave you with this pic of the MoHo (and Juno) by the lake at Kanopolis state park at sundown.  See?  The moral of the story is there are good things in every state – even Kansas!!

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State count:  39

From MOsaics to MOnuments

Before I get into my latest update, I thought I would share a fun fact that I learned today at the Truman Presidential Library.  Out in front, I noticed a replica of the Liberty Bell. You know the one – in Philadelphia – Pass and Stow – there was a movie with Nicholas Cage about it…  Anyway, it occurred to me that I’d seen the same replica on the grounds of the capital in Jefferson City.  Same thing in Oklahoma City.  So I asked one of the docents about the bell (these guys are always a wealth of information).  And here’s what I learned – there are 49 bells + the one original.  48 for all the state capitals and one additional one for the Truman Library. Intriguing!  So these bells were made (forged?) before Alaska and Hawaii became states!  And as far as the Truman library bell? Well – that was the only Presidential Library in existence at that time so it’s the only Presidential Library to have a bell.  And that concludes today’s history lesson!

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Right.  So as I mentioned in the last post, I had gotten a huge to-do list from my friend Charlotte for St. Louis.  Saint Louis Art Museum was first on the list and it was fantastic – and free!  There’s a great Chagall painting of Adam and Eve that I’d never seen before. Wondering it they would do a trade… they get my soul and I get the painting.

From SLAM, I headed to the St Louis Cathedral to see the mosaics.  OMG. Never seen anything like this.  Ever.  I’m including a few pix here but let me dazzle you with a few facts as well:  41.5 million (not a typo) glass tesserae pieces covering 83,000 square feet. And it took almost 100 years to complete.  It is worth a trip to St Louis just to see this place.

After all the walking around, I headed over to The Hill, which is the Italian neighborhood.  Even the fire hydrants are painted red, white and green – kind of adorable.  Had the “Little Bit of Italy” sandwich at Amighetti’s – salami, two kinds of cheese, olives, and onions on toasted bread with garlic oil.  Oof – so stuffed. I needed to walk off the sandwich so I crossed the road to the Botanical Gardens.  Loved the gardens but it wasn’t Juno-friendly.  I got hot walking around in the sun so it was time for my daily dose of ice cream.  Off to Ted Drewes for a “concrete.”  I didn’t know what this was – it is vanilla soft serve with a bunch of stuff mixed in. It was delicious but I felt bad – my concrete had chocolate fudge mixed in so I couldn’t share with Juno.  He was mad so I gave him some sliced chicken and I told him that I loved him.  That seemed to cheer him up.

While all this was going on, I was in touch with Charlotte’s mother and brother who live in Elsah, IL which is about 45 minutes away, right on the Mississippi.  I was invited to dinner and so off I went!  Being in Elsah felt like being in a small New England town with its quaint houses and bed ‘n breakfasts along the main road.  Spending time with Sun & Colin, Christian and Candy was delightful – as was the home-cooked dinner.  I ended up parking the MoHo right in front of Sun’s house in this tiny parking lot which is literally across the street from the river. Awesome view when I woke up the next morning!!

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Before departing Elsah the next morning, I took a quick driving tour around Principia College. The campus is gorgeous and I encourage anyone that is a Christian Scientist to check it out.

The rest of yesterday included a visit to Fulton to see the Winston Churchill Museum and church.  Long story short – after WWII, Truman had invited Churchill to speak at Westminster College in Fulton.  As a tribute, the college had the wreckage of a 12th century church that had been bombed out by the Germans sent over to Fulton where they rebuilt it in his honor. The church is still in use by the college and the museum is in the basement.  I learned a lot – mainly that Churchill was a total badass.

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Then it was off to Jefferson City to check out the capital. Very impressive as it sits atop a hill overlooking the Missouri River.

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I’m in Kansas City now.  After visiting the Truman Library, I cruised over to the WWI Monument and Museum.  I did NOT go to the Museum but I did take in a photography exhibit surrounding the monument about the Doughboys from 1918-1919. And I also enjoyed the view – KC’s downtown is quite striking.

Alright – time to wrap it up.  NBA Finals start in 5 minutes and I booked a room at a hotel so I can watch the game live on a normal sized TV.  Had some Chinese food delivered earlier so all is well.

Off to Kansas tomorrow!